Jesse Brewster The Lonely Pines Crooked Prairie Records
Full to the Brim with Imaginative, Classy and Personal Country Rockers of All Hues.
Where to start? This album intrigued me as soon as I took it out of the packaging; primarily because of the beautiful painting that makes up the cover; but ‘alas’ it had arrived after the Release Date and the Team and I were beavering away trying to hit future deadlines; so there it sat until last Friday night when I accidentally uploaded it to my IPhone then serendipitously played it on the second half of my constitutional walk on Saturday morning (this after listening to 6 other opening tracks that didn’t appeal). Some days; that’s how I select albums to review ….. it’s not Rocket Science! There was something Tom Petty/ John Mellencamp that instantly caught my attention on and during Let’s Run Away …….. power chords, catchy Country Rock melody and slightly edgy lyrics about star crossed lovers ……. come on; that’s all we love about Rock and Roll in four minutes; isn’t it? It certainly did Springsteen no harm. While Track II Kicking and Screaming doesn’t exactly live up to the title; it’s an intensely brooding and claustrophobic song of rejection that runs parallel to that pot-boiling opener; that’s for sure. To some greater or lesser degree Brewster’s nomadic childhood and subsequent life ‘on the road’ effects the way he constructs his songs and songwriting; with no two sounding the same; but pulled together create a series of fascinating stories that reflect a life well lived; broken hearts included. After all these years you’d think there would be nothing left to say about love and said ‘broken hearts’ but Jesse Brewster seems to have taken this as a personal challenge and comes out shining like a beacon with No One To Blame and the delightful Woman In My Mind (does she really exist or is she a fantasy in his mind? Who knows?). I certainly wasn’t expecting anything as articulate and reflective as Follow It Down, with it’s punchy Folk Rock stylings; but looking back at what comes before it; why not and it fits in perfectly; especially that sublime guitar playing. Although five albums into a longish career, Jesse Brewster is a new name to me; but a welcome one as my dilemma for selecting a single Favourite Track suggests, with all three sitting slap bang in the middle; coming one after the other like a Summer storm. There’s a glorious Honky-Tonk/Roadhouse feel to Bitter Pill that reminded me of Scot Daniel Meade a couple of albums ago; but when I listened again a few days later the story unravelled and I was left going “Oh!” …… “Oooohhh!” check it out yourself …. it’s an absolute belter; in an understated manner. Then there is Southern, which immediatly follows. The mournful Southern, with the chorus “Sometimes it’s tough being Southern” is a lot less Skynard as it is Jason Isbell, American Aquarium and Drive-By Truckers in the way Brewster spells it his love for the much maligned Southern States that have produced so many things that have helped make America Great; but are sadly more known for the darker aspects of the inhabitants behaviour. Sad but true. Then; there is Close To Home; one of Brewster’s ‘Covid Songs;’ written and recorded during Lockdown and giving this World Wide Wanderer the time to reflect on what he really has in his life, and that’s the people around him that allows him to be who he is …….. a song many of us can relate to as the New Dawn beckons; making it my actual Favourite Song on an album full to the brim with imaginative, classy and personal songs that will make your pulse race then melt your heart.
The Future of Southern Rock is Safe in These Hands!
Any band carrying the monikers Allman AND Betts has a lot to live up to, and it also has to be an exciting prospect for a reviewer who was a huge fan of Southern Rock, and in particular The Allman Brothers Band in his teenage years. This incarnation of the franchise consists of Gregg’s son Devon, Dickey’s son Duane plus Berry Duane Oakley; offspring of Allman’s bassist Berry Oakley Sr. alongside a bunch of stalwart and road ready pro’s. I may lose some readers here when I state that this band don’t even try to sound anything like their forefathers; and while this is Southern Rock Deluxe ……. The Allman Betts Band have their own distinctive ‘sound’……… which sounds hardly anything like the Allman Brothers…… or anyone else, thankfully. I smiled when I first heard opening track All Night begin with its mighty clarion call ….. “1, 2, 3…..4!” followed by some seriously crunchy guitar from two leads and a rhythm player who all know exactly what they are doing and whoever that *singer is has a deep, dark voice that could frighten a horse! (*my download doesn’t detail who sings what here ….. and the actual CD won’t arrive until Thursday). While I’m sure all three guitarists will get to noodle to their hearts content when they play these songs in concert; mercifully the solos here are measured in seconds not minutes; and when they arrive in the tightly wrapped Try or the monumental Long Gone and even the magnificent Autumn Breeze you know that the genetics have been passed down safely by the Gods of Rock. I’ve loved the laid back way the band casually drop in quality songs like Good Ole Days and Down By The River with a nonchalant ease; when we all know that creating songs like this barely come along once in a generation; if at all. There’s also the obligatory ode to the South, which we’ve come to expect from any band hailing from South of the Mason-Dixon Line; and while The Allman Betts Band aren’t exactly waving Old Glory, the ballad Southern Accents (which features Mr Chuck Leavell on piano) and its sentiments just might divide opinion across the States; like Skynard and to some degree Tom Petty did back in the day; but hey ……. it’s only Rock & Roll kids; don’t sweat it! Finding a Favourite Track hasn’t been as easy as it could have been; as Long Gone has all the hallmarks of being a Classic as the years go by; but I’m closing my eyes and crossing my fingers and selecting the boogielicious stomper Melodies Are Memories, which is absolutely everything I’ve loved about Southern Rock for nigh on 50 years encapsulated in four wonderful minutes …….. especially Oakley’s tremoring bass-line that will drown out the broken suspension on your truck! Although I have reservations about the band name, which will raise expectations far too high in the wrong direction; The Allman Betts Band have rekindled a fire that has lain dormant for far too long; and I firmly believe they will take the Festival Circuit by storm this Summer and the future of Rock is safe in their combined hands.
RHYTHM OF THE RAIN
White Wolf Records
Mmmmmm, Smokey and Sultry Songs of Love, Life and Grief.
Sometimes it’s difficult to put into words why you like a particular singer or band; but with Amelia White her voice tugged at my very heartstrings the first time I heard it 5 or 6 years ago; and the stories she tells and the way she sings them makes me go weak at the knees every time they come out of the office Hi-Fi. RHYTHM OF THE RAIN is Amelia’s 8th album in nearly twenty years and ( #SpoilerAlert ) is by far her most mature and probably the best I’ve heard. The intro to opening track Little Cloud Over Little Rock sounds like a cool Indie Alt. Country band is about to kick in; them Amelia’s haunting and slightly smokey voice filters out of the speakers and a whole new aura envelopes the proceedings. The story is full of intimate detail you’d normally associate with writers like Dylan and Joni or maybe Springsteen; not someone you’ve probably never heard of before. The character in the song has ‘dyed black hair and ear feather rings/she’s gotta put three kids through school/she’s sipping on the sly/to keep her cool’…..see what I mean? And it’s got a cool melody too. Songs like Sinking Sun and Yuma probably sum up my feelings about Amelia White best; not quite Southern Gothic, but pretty damn close and with a swampy Country feel to them too; sort of as if Bobbie Gentry was singing her saddest songs with Creedence backing her. There are Love Songs here aplenty; but not the ‘Moon in June’ type; these are dark and mysterious; the type you find later in life……listen to Sugar Baby and Supernova without getting a shiver down your back, and you are a stronger person than I am. If this is your type of music; and I presume it is if you are still reading this far; you will absolutely love the title track Rhythm of the Rain; and my personal ‘favourite’ song here…….Let The Wind Blow, which closes the proceedings. In theory a simple enough song until you listen a second time, and even more intently the third and fourth times as a gorgeous story unfolds and unravels like a magical fairytale. While these songs were written long before Amelia went into the studio; but when you realise that this album was written in the four short days between her Mother’s funeral and her own wedding; you will find an extra special spirituality in the way she delivers these beautiful songs.
#UPDATE This is finally being released in the US of A with a brand new cover and the the addition of one new song, Pink Clouds a charming duet with RMHQ favourite Will Kimbrough which, if you’re patient runs out into a rather special treat for Amelia White fans…….
Thoughtful and Inspirational Observations on the World Around Us.
To some degree Kate Campbell is a ‘child of the 60’s whose father was a Baptist Preacher and an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi; and it’s fair to say that background has been the backbone of her career as a singer-songwriter for the last 40 years; but be assured she ain’t no hippy-trippy Flower-power Folkie; she uses everything in her musical armoury to get her message across to ears and minds of all persuasions.
There’s a heavenly blend of Southern Blues and Country Folk that comes across like a Savannah breeze in the articulated sadness of opening song Damn Sure Blue, when Ms Campbell tries to make sense of the crazy world we find ourselves in in 2018.
On the next song Change Should Have Come By Now she carefully uses a couple of classic couplets from People Get Ready and Sam Cooke’s Change alongside her own astute observations aligned to a Gospel backing to ally even more sadness and despair; but with a golden thread of hope weaving through the lyrics too.
DAMN SURE BLUE certainly isn’t a ‘Concept Album; but most if not every song here has a restrained anger about the way that while plenty of the world has got richer and richer, not a lot has changed apart from the names over the last half century for plenty at the bottom and even the middle of the pile.
If you listen carefully and two songs in particular draw your mind to Johnny Cash in the politics that Kate includes in her tales. One of the songs most associated with Cash, The Ballad of Ira Hayes gets a new lick of paint here; but baring in mind it was written in 1962 it still has a relevance in 2018; which is truly sad. Towards the end a song from the pen of Cash is also included; but one I’d not heard before. Forty Shades of Green is a winsome Celtic Folk song that fits in perfectly well as the storyteller dreams of better times back in Olde Ireland; but it’s not going to happen.
As well as that she also brings new life to the Louvin Brothers The Great Atomic Power too; making it a powerful force of nature again; with a punchy Memphis style backbeat as she herself takes on the role of a Baptist Preacher in the way she sings the words from the pits of her heart; and then she follows this with a brittle adaptation of the Eric Katz/Paul Simon song Christ, It’s Mighty Cold Outside which will stop you in your tracks.
Perhaps it’s the way Will Kimbrough has added his special flourishes to the production; I love the light and shade in the way songs like When You Come Back Home are juxtaposed with the gorgeous Sally Maxcy to hit the listener with poignancy of the finest order; but always keeping your full attention.
While this is a fully fledged ‘grown up’ album that demands that you sit and listen intently from start to finish with no distractions; two particular songs stand out, with the haunting Peace, Precious Peace being the perfect choice to close this record but I’m choosing the Delta Country of Long Slow Train as my Favourite Track; as it encapsulates everything that Kate Campbell is trying to get across on this album but happens to be a perfect example of what modern Country Music can achieve when it puts its mind to it. 10/10 Miss Campbell.
In my humble opinion Kate Campbell is always described as a ‘Folk Singer,’ but believe me she is much, much more than ‘just a Folk Singer’ as this, her 19th album (NINETEEN!) proves, she can melt all of her musical influences into something that transcends that rather tired and cumbersome writing style with ease and grace.
James Scott Bullard
FULL TILT BOOGIE.
Big Mavis Music
Bourbon, Beer, Bar-B-Q and This Album as Your Soundtrack to Saturday Night.
I was nearly up to date with this Friday’s releases and had played a couple of tracks each from four albums that didn’t quite catch my attention then, slightly disheartened I pressed ‘play’ one more time. A sound akin to Richard Manuel fronting the Old 97’s arrogantly strolled out of the office speakers, as if to tell me Lord Have Mercy should have been my first pick; not my last.
WOW! Bullard has a delightfully leathery voice and his band are red hot, to the point of melting the CD Player on that opening track; and it’s fair to say……things only get better from then on in!
WOOSH! If track #1 reminded me of ‘The’ Band, it’s The Marshall Tucker Band on the next song Wicked Ways; which is Southern Rock at it’s finest with a wailing Hammond Organ fist fighting twin guitars and a thuggish bass for prominence…….and winning.
Recorded in Florida you can virtually smell the sweat on the walls and taste the shrimp and oysters on the sultry Warpath and the sassy Evil Lovin’ which somehow starts where Skynard left off; but without the long drawn out guitar solos.
Hell! I don’t know if this is Southern Rock or even Country Rock or if either even still exists in 2018; but if they don’t…… they should, because songs like Hey Hey Mama! and Jesus, Jail or Texas sit comfortably in both categories that I grew up loving in the 1970’s and 80’s, with James Scott Bullard crossing both divides like those cool Outlaw bands did on my tin pot FM radio; but couldn’t get played on today’s Country Radio if they attached a $20 bill to the record.
Although Bullard sounds nothing like Dale Watson or Sturgill Simpson, it was those guys who kicked open the door four years ago for this type of cross-bred music; which comes unashamedly from the past but with a razor sharp 21st Century contemporary edge to the stories behind the actual songs, which are every inch as important as the crashingly Twangtastic guitars and boiler-house rhythm section which may not have been the case twenty or thirty years ago.
Where the Hell to go for a Favourite Track? The Honky-Tonkin’ Next Tear was an early contender but as the sun goes down over the yard arm, and a second empty beer bottle sits beside me I’m going for Back To You, which contains a little bit of everything that is good about this album; wailing and anguished guitars, a voice that sounds like it’s been steeped in bourbon, beer and bar-b-q sauce and a story that’s a bit of a weepy too. What’s not to like?
FULL TILT BOOGIE is definitely the soundtrack to one helluva Saturday night; but many years ago I remember the term ‘driving music’ and that’s exactly what this album is too……especially on a hot Summer’s day when you have your Wayfarers on and Baseball cap pulled way down low on and a long road ahead; with a loved one waiting for you in the distance.
Laura Benitez & The Heartache
WITH ALL IT’S THORNS
Articulate Backroads Southern Country Music That Will Break Your Heart.
I’ve said this more than once over the years, but even in this Digital Age, good or at least interesting Album artwork is still a key to the overall experience of buying new music; and here is another case of a cover that would make me pick it up if I was in a Record Store.
Then, if I was to ask the proprietor to play the first track (as we did in the olden days) track #1; the sublimely titled Something Better Than a Broken Heart would easily make me part with £10.
Sounding uncannily like a young Laura Cantrell fronting the coolest ever Texan Country bar band. The song is a doozy; bittersweet and beautiful in equal measures and boy oh boy; can that band swing.
This is followed by the spine tingling Easier Things to Do; which shows Laura Benitez ain’t no one trick pony. A perfect song for when you need to turn the lights down low and stare at the telephone; praying it will ring and that ‘certain someone’ will be on the other end.
Oddly enough only yesterday I read an interview with a singer who mentioned a reviewer complaining that his album had ‘too many different songs’ on it; and I agree with the singer; how is that a bad thing? Here Laura sings some gorgeously deep ballads (In Red and the sparse Ghostship about a fire in a artists collective that caused the death of 36 souls) and balances these with a a very danceable Twangfest on Whiskey Makes Me Love You and The Fool I Am Right Now, which is surely Patsy Cline inspired, and to round things off there’s even a lovely, but sad Bluegrass song Nora Went Down The Mountain to close the record.
Then of course there has to be an RMHQ ‘Favourite Song’ and with so many delights to choose from I’m going for the one with the softest centre; and it’s another heartbreaker….. Our Remember Whens; which truly showcases her warmly translucent voice and The Heartache in all their majestic glory.
Often when I write about songs on albums by new artists to me, (this is her third album since 2010), I occasionally imagine them sung by major stars. That certainly isn’t the case here as Laura Benitez has a really special singing voice; which is perfectly matched for her own heart-shredding songs of love, loss and hope which must all come from the experiences of a life well lived.