Judy Collins’ Amazing Grace re-released with The Global Virtual Choir in aid of the WHO Solidarity Response Fund
Judy Collins’ historic recording of Amazing Grace was first released half a century ago. Amazing Grace is back with us. Over 1000 singers from across the globe — professional and amateur — have answered Judy Collins’ call to sing Amazing Grace with her as a sign of solidarity at this very difficult time. Steve Earle, Tift Merritt, Mandolin Orange, Judith Owen and Madeleine Peyroux are just some of the 1000 singers who participated — plus internationally known choirs including The Sixteen, New York Choral Society, Voices International and GOA University Choir. It all started in London. First there was the Facebook video filmed from a house in Coronavirus lockdown near London’s Charing Cross Hospital.
Judy Collins’ Amazing Grace is heard — as if by magic — a thank you to hospital workers.
That first video garnered more than 5 million views. But what had happened remained a mystery. Then we came across an awe-inspiring second clip of the same event…
All proceeds in aid of the World Health Organisation Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
This time a fuller story emerges… Judy’s recording was played by the now famed priest of Notting Hill, Pat Allerton aka The Portable Priest. The footage shows people coming towards the music and standing in awe… see these videos here…
Watch moving messages from Ringo Starr, Steve Earle and Tift Merritt, about what Judy’s recording of Amazing Grace means to them…
Quality Canadian Folk Music That Transcends the Generations and Borders.
For some reason the name Jason Romero is familiar to me; but not the more ‘memorable’ Pharis; which is odd as I can’t find either in my extensive music library ……. who knows where or if I’ve come across him before. Which brings me to the second album of majestic Folk Music from the couple. Even without reading it; my highly tunes ears would have guessed that the Romero’s come from Canada; the quaintly named Horsefly in British Columbia where they own a bespoke banjo shop. While this could easily be labelled ‘Americana’ in a record shop; but there is something quintessentially Canadian about the way Pharis sings; I’m no linguist; but Hometown Blues just sounds ‘Canadian’ to me ……. perhaps I should get out more. If you can put my semantics to one side, it’s a gorgeous Folk Song with the couple harmonising like Gram and Emmylou while Pharis takes the lead while Jason does things with his banjo that are still illegal in Alabama! I’m no fan of the banjo, never have been; and in fact once coined the expression #BanjoFatigue; but when played really well it can be a fabulous instrument; and Jason Romero plays his various instruments better than most I’ve ever, ever heard. The key to this album is not just Pharis Romero’s endearingly rich vocals; but her sensitive and captivating songwriting too. When I first played the album last week I wasn’t really ‘in the mood’ for Folk Music; but by the time I’d got to track #4 Right In The Garden I was engrossed. In some ways Pharis reminds me of Joan Baez and Judy Collins, the way she inhabits her stories and occasionally leaves words hanging in the air; especially noticeable on New Day, We All Fall and Kind Girl, which all have a dreamy and timeless feel to them. Even by Nu-Folk standards, BET ON LOVE is very easy on the ear; although Jason’s banjo and guitar playing can be extremely complex at times, with the instrumental New Caledonia being an album highlight; and his own weathered voice takes us into a whole new hemisphere when he sings lead on Roll On My Friend and the endearing love song World Stops Turning too. Just when you think you can’t be surprised anymore, Pharis and Jason come at you like an early morning Spring mist when they harmonise on the charming Old Chatelaine. For a Favourite Song it’s a coin toss between A Bit Old School and the more traditional New Day. Both certainly have their own charm and merits, but when placed side by side show the depth in not just Pharis’s songwriting but the way the couple can comfortably bridge the gap that links their 1960’s New Folk generation with today’s Nu-Folk with ease and grace; so I’m saying it’s a tie. Don’t get pinned down with any particular thing I’ve said here; Pharis and Jason Romero aren’t particularly Old School or Nu-School, nor deeply rooted Canadian in their musical outlook ……… this is an album for Music Lovers of all persuasions that appreciate quality and class in any and every form.
Courtney Marie Andrews IT MUST BE SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT Loose Records
This is the third single to be taken from the new album OLD FLOWERS (released July 24th) and Andrews shares, “Old Flowers is about heartbreak. There are a million records and songs about that, but I did not lie when writing these songs. This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with. It’s about being afraid to be vulnerable after you’ve been hurt. It’s about a woman who is alone, but okay with that, if it means truth. This was my truth this year—my nine-year relationship ended and I’m a woman alone in the world, but happy to know herself.”
The release of Old Flowers continues a series of breakout years for Andrews following her critically acclaimed 2018 album, May Your Kindness Remain. The album was featured on several year-end lists including Rolling Stone, who called it, “a vital roadmap of grace, forgiveness and compassion during a year when the demand for such virtues has never been higher.” Additionally, NPR Music proclaimed, “a collection of songs, borne from interactions with others, that strives for healing and empathy in the midst of division and discord.”
Gretchen Peters The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury Proper Records
Treasured Musical Gems Lovingly Restored For a New Generation.
To say that Gretchen Peters newest album is a labor of love would be an understatement. Heck, anytime a songwriter produces an album full of another songwriter’s songs you can rest assured that the reason is because these songs are highly treasured gems. Now, just because you love a song and admire the songwriter doesn’t mean you can pull off a capable version yourself. YouTube and Facebook of late, are chock full of—not exactly horrible covers of songs (but there are those also)—but cover songs that are limpid enough to leave one wanting to hear the original instead. Thankfully we have an artist as mature and passionate enough as Gretchen Peters to fully immerse herself in the songs of one of Nashville’s brightest, and even quirkiest writers, Mr. Mickey Newbury himself. Peters is honest enough to not mess around too much with the arrangements of these classics, instead giving them a feminine bent; and her decision to record these songs in familiar territory—namely the very same studio in which Newbury recorded many of his best albums: the famed Cinderella Sound, utilizing several of the musicians who helped Newbury record his erstwhile classic songs—tells me she’s chasing that elusive element that made Newbury’s songs stand out so much from most other Nashville songwriters. Some of these tunes were made famous by other musicians (“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” was a hit by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye” by Ronnie Milsap, and “San Francisco Mabel Joy” recorded by Joan Baez as well as John Denver.) but many of these are from Newbury’s back catalog, the songs that fans such as Peters would dig for gleefully, and they’re worth the extra work. Peters, being a noted songwriter herself, doesn’t need to put in the time to record an entire album of someone else’s songs, she does it because she WANTS to, and that’s her gift to us. “Sailor” is a piano-fueled slow burn, Peters voice dripping in mystery and reverb. “Leavin’ Kentucky” starts with pure country fiddle before the band kicks in, Peters voice to plaintive perfection, on a sad song about that favorite mistress of many a songwriter: unrequited love. She kicks it up a notch with “Why You Been Gone So Long?”and “Three Bells for Stephen” is a fitting tune to end the album, with it’s repeating phrase of “Do you remember me, dear hearts and gentle people?” This is a song about mortality, legacy, and a hope for a better tomorrow no matter what, and Peters does it justice, holding back perfectly while the string section tugs at our heartstrings. If nothing else, this entire album is a reminder of the sad state of affairs of modern Nashville where songs are written to be disposal money-making hits, not remembered decades down the line, such as these gems from one of songwriter’s top writers of his time. Thank you to Gretchen Peters for reminding us of the talents and heart of Mickey Newbury.
It’s been quite a while since a full album release from Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy; 2012’s soundtrack to “Being Flynn” and before that “It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 – Photographing Snowflakes” from 2010. In that time, it seems as though a lot of life and growth has occurred in the BDB household and this naturally reflects itself in “Banana Skin Shoes” – one of the aurally striking things is how technology has bettered itself in the last ten years too – and Badly Drawn Boy – always a musical magpie – has, along with many others, access to a veritable smorgasbord of sampling opportunities now and he’s not shy of using them. That’s particularly true of the opening title track Banana Skin Shoes, which seems to use all his favourite sampled instruments at once in a lively, dynamic opener. From there on, the listener gets songs of maturing and maturity, love and relationships – and Manchester. Closing track “Do My Best” summarises many of the messages in the earlier songs. “It’s Hard to Start a Fire When it Rains” – that relationships are about work and responsibility – also seen in “Funny Time of Year” where BDB sings “I don’t want to let you down… this time of year”. “I Need Someone to Trust” and “Colours” both deal with the admittance of the fact that love is a human necessity whereas “Fly On the Wall” and “Never Change” focus more on the sacrifices, difficulties and compromises, but ultimately it’s “You and Me Against the World” mid album, which again sums up the emotional security of being with someone. The less pleasant sides of life are book-ended by the second from the start track and the second from the end – Track 2’s “Is This a Dream?” poses questions about coping with modern life in a musical context that sounds like a chirpy Morrissey fronting Electronic, whereas 13th and penultimate track “Appletree Road” remarks that “the sands of time how they blow the edges of our dreams” in a more wistful and reflective moment, acknowledging the passage of time. Elsewhere, musical motifs from the 80’s and 90’s drop in and out – a Strangler’s “Golden Brown” bass-line on “I’m Not Sure What It Is” and an Orange Juice “Rip it Up” style riff on “Tony Wilson Said” (the aforementioned Manchester name-check and tribute song) punctuate this collection of intelligent and very radio friendly songs. It’s been a while for Badly Drawn Boy and when you’re away, one wonders if the muse has disappeared – but if you write about what you know, then you get “Banana Skin Shoes” – an album about settling (down) but realising that in a certain kind of normality there is a certain kind of beauty.
The Silky Smooth Essence of Darkly Romantic Americana
Although this is their third album I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of husband and wife duo, The Danberrys, but you know me ……. nothing if not open minded and musically adventurous. YEE and indeed HAW! Dorothy Daniel hadn’t even opened her mouth when I knew that this album was going to be right up my metaphorical street! Ben DeBerry’s hauntingly strummed guitar made my head pop up like a meerkat; but when Dorothy’s smoky and ethereal vocal slid in like Spring mist I couldn’t do anything other than sit back in my chair and let it all sink in for the next forty plus minutes; without moving an inch. I-Tunes dubbed this Americana/Blues when I downloaded the CD to my laptop; and I can’t totally disagree, but even that description doesn’t come close to what you actually hear, here. There’s as much Country and Folk as there is anything else, with The Road and Never Gone evoking memories of both Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou at times; but Rain is beautifully harmonious Hill Music that will send a shiver down your spine. There’s even a Guest Singer in the mix too; none other than Darrell Scott who joins Dorothy on The Mountain which at only four minutes long, has all the hallmarks of an Epic Story; and I’m sure can be stretched out on stage, with even more evocative guitar playing and intense drumming. I’m still at the stage where some songs are unravelling to reveal hidden depths (Love Conquers War?) and others have already left me marvelling at not just the storytelling (Maddie’s Ghost) but also what a truly special voice Dorothy Daniel has and certainly knows how to use it to entrap unsuspecting listeners (The River is Wide & The Coals Glow?). Which brings me to choosing a Favourite Song. Perhaps I should close my eyes and just stick a pin in the track list on the back cover; but I like to give the illusion of being more professional than that (which will make some people laugh!) so I’m finally selecting the shimmering Holding The Bag which is perhaps the most ‘Folkish’ of everything here; but in a true Country-Folk manner, combining a heartbreaking tale with evocative singing and a perfectly subtle accompaniment from the musicians in the background. SHINE certainly isn’t a ‘concept album’ in any shape or form; but ………. the way the moods change from song to song in the character driven stories give you the sense that the couple have sequenced the tracks in such a way, as to make you feel that you are joining them on an emotional journey from somewhere to here.
Marshall Chapman SONGS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Tall Girl Records
A Deeply Personal Soundtrack To a Life Well Lived, Regrets And All.
Oh dear! This is Ms Chapman’s 14th album release and she’s also a famed actress (I have watched Mississippi Grind btw) but …… I had not heard of prior to receiving this disc last month. Now; without this being a #spoiler after listening to this; her intimate re-invention of some of her favourite songs in her record collection I am now an unmitigated FANBOY …… swoon …… and have already delved into her back catalogue. Cover Albums often split fans opinions, as they can regularly be used as ‘contractual obligation releases’; but when done well (Harry Nilsson, Brian Ferry, Bowie even) they can be an insight into what makes the artist tick …… this is one such case. Although somewhat brave, it’s no surprise at all that Marshall starts with Leonard Cohen; and even then Tower of Song would be in my Top 3 guesses; but when I heard her winsome and world weary interpretation I was left astounded; and I still am today. I’ve only heard one better version of a Cohen song; and that’s Joe Cocker delving deep when he sings Bird on a Wire; and this is right up there with Joe and Leonard himself. Just as you try to catch your breath, the staggering Turn The Page presses down even firmer on your already tight chest. What a beautiful song; and one I certainly didn’t recognise ….. but hey! I already have the original …… only Bob Seger from BACK IN ’72, but also the Greatest Hits that I still have on LP and CD. Marshall Chapman not just has fantastic taste in music; but like myself (it’s always about ME, ME, ME!) she has eclectic taste too, which I admire. For the uninitiated Marshall has a voice in the mode of Lucinda and Bonnie; so when you hear her ‘performing’ Don’t Be Cruel, with it’s tsch, tsch drum beat, honey dripping harmonies and Honky-Tonky piano and guitar; you totally forget the famous version ….. trust me here. I’d not heard it before, but I love the way Marshall inhabit the character driven narrative in Bobby Charles’ Tennessee Blues; then again the Classic After Midnight, which becomes rawer and rougher ’round the edges than either JJ Cale or Clapton’s versions. While instantly recognisable, Cash’s I Still Miss Someone becomes a dark, and almost Gothic Southern Opus here when sung from the female perspective, which makes it quite chilling, especially when the softly weeping organ seeps into the mix. When I first received the album and scanned the track listing I was genuinely surprised and perhaps even a tad disappointed to see that it all ended with that hoary old Folk Song, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands; and the first twice I played it my pre-conceptions were well and truly lived down to; then …….. HALLELUJAH Brothers and Sisters, the scales were lifted from my eyes on a car journey to work in the bright sunshine! There’s a twist in the tale that caught me totally unawares and I sure as Hell ain’t gonna spoil it for ya ……….. trust me sugar; this will not just make you smile, but cry and punch the air with a clenched fist as you howl along with the chorus!!! That leaves two more songs to tell you about and at one time or another both have not just been favourites of mine for aeons but in their own little way, influenced areas of my musical taste that live with me today. So it’s a tie for RMHQ Favourite Song status between the Jazz standard, I Fall In Love Too Easily and the Goffin and King Classic; Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Like myself, Marshall discovered I Fall In Love Too Easily via the God Like Genius of Chet Baker; but her rich and intimately acoustic rendition is totally unlike his version; and the inclusion of a haunting Flugelhorn is as touching as it is brilliantly creative too. It’s actually in my will that Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow will be played at my funeral; and while I will probably still go with The Shirelles single; I may be swayed to use this instead. The melody is the same; but slowed down to suit Marshall Chapman’s seasoned voice, that sounds like someone who has made mistakes in her life; but still loves her man; which is me in reverse. I really don’t know if this is a good place to start discovering Marshall Chapman; but as a stand-alone record it’s simply outstanding and I can only thank her for recording such a personal album.
Classy and Thoughtful Northern Irish Singer Finds Her Southern Soul
WOAH, WOAH and indeed, thrice WOAH! As is my won’t I only glanced at the E-Mail that accompanied this download and was only really intrigued by the title; who doesn’t love Muscle Shoals music? So yesterday; when I read it in more detail after falling in love with the album over the weekend I’m staggered to find that Amanda St John is …… Irish …. Northern Irish to be more exact! Why the surprise? Well, my friend well not exactly sounding ‘American’ she sounds ‘authentic’ the way she sings these Southern Soul gems. The sultry Bring Me, which starts the collection has a gorgeously earthy feel to it; somehow bridging the gap between singers like Dusty and a more contemporary Bobbie Gentry; on a song that grabs you by the heartstrings and then smothers you with the dark passion that only unrequited love brings. Phew; both you the listener and it sounds like Amanda will be emotional wrecks as it fades to a close. The pace immediatly picks up on Don’t Think You Know, which follows and it’s innovative mix of Swampy Country and Southern Soul that you only ever hear coming out of the famed Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals; and that’s a fact. The studios themselves even get their own song too; Muscle Shoals which finds Amanda singing of her story and love for this amazing establishment; and it’s a doozy btw. Two more deeply personal songs are the anthemic This Is My Life; which simply fizzes along like the Prosecco at a feisty Hen Party; whereas the mood on Truth which follows straight drops down into ‘mascara tears territory’ which is always bound to follow in real life too. For a woman on only her second album; which are four years apart Amanda St John has an extraordinary singing voice. She can can kick up a quiet storm on Made Myself a Name then drop down into an acoustic ballad like the incredibly sensitive Take A Leap with consummate ease then punch you straight in the heart with the forcefully intense You Got Me, all with expressive ease and; it has to be said; crystal clear grace. Thinking about this album last night; at work, two songs sprung to mind which is why the Rootsy acoustica of I’ll Be Here and the more sexily and breathy Southern Soul of Walk Away tie for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song. Both; like the album itself are timeless, in as much as they will bring back memories of the great (female) singers who previously graced Muscle Shoals Studios and went on to enrich our lives; but be under no illusions this is very much a Contemporary Album ‘for our times’ that crosses over genres in a way I’ve not heard in a long time.
Dion’s Blues With Friends, CD out June 5, represents the fulfillment of a lifelong vision. Dion explains the album’s impetus, “I wanted an album of songs that were strong and memorable and told stories that were worth telling.” His songwriting efforts were supported by a cadre of great players, each of whom jumped at the chance to collaborate with a music legend they think of in heroic terms. He’s quick to point out just how enduring this creative relationship has been, “The blues have been at the heart of my music since the early 1960s. ‘The Wanderer’ is a twelve-bar blues and I was covering Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed in my early years at Columbia — much to the dismay of my corporate masters.” That’s the way it’s long been for the man Lou Reed inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than thirty years ago. That night the normally taciturn Reed exalted, “And then there was Dion — whose voice was unlike any other I had heard before — a voice that stood on its own, remarkable and unmistakably from New York. Bronx soul.” Dion’s Blues With Friends ALBUM will be released on June 5th through Keeping The Blues Alive Records, a new label started by Joe Bonamassa and his manager Roy Weisman and is an offshoot of Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, Bonamassa’s non-profit that aims to conserve the art of music and the rich culture and history of the blues. The label’s objective is to provide a platform for musical talent in blues and blues-rock based music and to help encourage the careers of extraordinary musical talent. 10% of all profits from the label will be donated back to the Non-Profit for promoting music education to students and schools in need.
As my regular readers know; my modus operandi is to play an album a couple of times before reading the attached Press Release, so as not to pre-judge my own feelings about the music. Well; when I did read the PR I had a wry smile, as Maya Rae first recorded an album of Jazz/Pop covers at the tender age of 13 and has subsequently sung and toured with many of Canada’s Jazz elite; which is why this delightful ‘crossover’ album has plenty of Jazz stylings, phrasing and even melodies; but just like RMHQ Favourites Allison Russell and Jeremy Lindsay aka Birds of Chicago who feature on a few tracks; this has just as many Folk leanings and even some Commercial swoops and swooshes too…… making the album very difficult to pigeon hole ….. so let’s go for Singer-Songwriter? The title track Can You See Me? opens proceedings in the most delightful and charismatic manner. Even from her opening bars you know that you are in the presence of someone special, and then the way Maya Rae uses her voice, which can only be described as an opaque mix of satin and lace; is spell-binding at times. When you listen intently to the words in the songs you will be stunned to find that Maya is still by 18 years old and her co-writer brother Gabriel; only a smidgen older. For ones so young their songwriting is very ‘mature’ and Steve Dawson’s sublime production really brings songs like New For Me and Storm Leaf to sparkling life. When you first hear Dawson’s scary guitar breaks on Freedom Fighter you may be forgiven for thinking the song is going into Soft Rock territory; but when May’s tragically beautiful vocals kick in; you are whisked away to the Whiskey – A – Go Go circa 1973 and you are sitting watching the new Reprise or Warner’s act among the musical cognoscenti. I’m still shaking my head at the idea that Maya Rae is still only 18 …….. how can one so young write something as powerful as Lonely Ones or Mountain Angel? Or album closer Here too, for that matter? Presumably Maya and Gabriel’s parents had a great record collection that the pair were brought up listening to; but so did my sons and they couldn’t write a song like The Sun Will Come Out Again; which captures the angst that a teenage break-up causes so intimately …… and beautifully. Which easily leads into my Favourite Song here; Moon Girl. Part of me wants to dissect every single line in this tragic tale for you and another wants to keep it all Top Secret and let you feel the full force of two exceptional songwriters colliding like a Supernova when you are least expecting it ……. trust me this song will take your breath away; just like the first time you heard Beautiful on TAPESTRY or River on Blue; and if you are under 40 and not heard either ……. I urge you to do so, the day after buying this album! It’s bizarre to think that at 18 Maya Rae already has the ‘road miles’ under her belt; but she has and with only a fair wind to ease her along, this album has the ability to blow her out into the Musical Stratosphere in 2020.