Here is a selection of album and live reviews, from our team of correspondents,
if you wish to join the team, please contact us


Ron Noyes : Mosaic
John Davey gets confused by the Noyes..

Sounding very like David Gray (a Good Thing in my book) , Ron Noyes sings
with a warmth and sincerity that invests his songs with depth and meaning.
This is just as well because in cold print his lyrics make no sense to me at
all. Try this, from "Breakdown" :

Im gonna breakdown the hills today mama
gonna feel the breeze myself
gonna take away all the curtains
and pull clockwork from the shelf
- or this, from "Up on Silence" :
So bring me a hammer or bring me the key
either way now it dont matter much to me
ah this lock, this deadbolt bridge
they dropped down my earth and they made me a ledge

It kinda makes more sense sung , and I guess overall you get an impression
of the lovesick blues, and a world weariness so overwhelming that it's a bit
difficult to stick with him for the whole ride. The introspection is
lightened by the music which is fine throughout , with a range of
instrumentation that gives colour to the prevailing mood. The soft, bluesy
organ is especially welcome as is the upright bass on a handful of tracks. I
think that in performance some of these arrangements would escape the
constraints of the production sound and really come alive but on record
they too easily become aural wallpaper. I've got another gripe about the
production: so much of it is really professional with a smooth warm sound,
but the drums, almost throughout, sound like they come from a different
album - a sort of hollow sound - and the same problem seems to affect some
of the guitar parts.
Still, as late night, downbeat music it fits the bill and if I hadn't read
the lyric sheet I might have liked it more.It was recorded in 2002 (though
there's no clue as to where) so perhaps a new Ron Noyes record is due soon,
and I'd be interested enough to want to hear it.

John Davey


Chris Jagger : Channel Fever
David Blue takes a roll on the rolling cajun seas ..

For those of you that don't know, Chris Jagger is Mick's younger brother. But, to be quite honest, there's not a lot that they have in common musically. Channel Fever is a blend of Cajun/Zydeco, Blues, Rock & Roll and Country as Jagger hedges his bets with this series of self or co-written tracks. Having said that Chris and Mick don't have much in common there are a couple of songs in the good time title track (up to the Cajun accordion at the chorus) and Baby Is Blue that do have Rolling Stones sounds to them. The latter certainly is in the Waiting For A Friend mould.

Law Against It is a slowish catchy boogie on which Jagger gives us a taste of his drawl but the following, atmospheric Still Waters will have few fans. He's In A Meeting is straight up old time country whereas Funky Man is the first blues track and delivers some snappy guitar and organ as well as the first outing for the horn section. The first of my favourite tracks is Monique, which is sung in French and straight out of the Louisiana bayou. This is Cajun music played to the highest standard.

The Arms Of Kari-Ann is a straightforward, medium paced country-rock effort and the tempo is raised again on the rock and roll style, Crazy. We get full-on country, fiddles and all on the foot-tapping Rodeo before moving on to the aforementioned acoustic Baby Is Blue. Back to the favourite songs with Libido Blues and Blanchishears, the former being standard rhythm & blues but with just that little something extra and the latter is just another good time, bluegrass influenced track.

The best vocal on the album is saved for the final song, C.J.'s Blues. This shows off his voice majestically and may show him the future path. He is very good at the Cajun and Country offerings but surely he must devote more space to gritty blues in the future.

David Blue

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Jan Smith : Tin Heart
James McSweeney follows the girl with the tin heart and is smitten..

A gem of a debut that on first listen falls in Gillian Welch territory with a little Natalie Merchant and Tracy Chapman thrown in. And Smith's good melodic sense keeps her to paths familiar but previously untrod. The biggest difference however, is those folks didn't have as many great songs on their last albums. From the winsome "Your Moma Don't Care" to the elegiac title cut, there's a wealth of good songwriting, the kind of in-the-moment storytelling that can make a CD a trusted friend. Both the band and musical guests are superb. But all those guitar fills and solos ain't hardly necessary. On the other hand, flat pick fans often can't get enough so, enjoy.
Smith's voice is softer, less angular than Welch's and the subtle way she uses it to stretch your attention brings Margo Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies to mind. These tunes, like life, seem to unfold on their own rather than as the result of anyone's volition. They insinuate themselves into your consciousness the way clouds do. So yes, you can hear the influences; and there's nothing shockingly different going down here. But in a world of CDs with only one or two strong cuts this release stands out because nearly everything on it won't let go. Smith is truly her own singer/songwriter and that's the best compliment there is. Anybody comes out the gate this fast gets the 'rare & recommended" rating.

James McSweeney


The Mercy Brothers : Strange Adventure
John Davey takes a walk on the Whitfield side..

Here's a bit of a treat. The Mercy Brothers are fronted by Barrence
Whitfield on vocals and Michael Dinallo on guitars and songwriting, and they
bring us an album of songs that are essentially blues - they cover "Another
Man Done Gone" and Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine" - but coloured
with a lot of country and soul. Three songs in, I was thinking : so far, so
o.k. but then that sense of everybody trying a bit too hard evaporated and
things just got better and better. There's a swing to these blues, and a
grace and ease in Whitfield's vocals that's just lovely - plenty of soul.
too and the odd well-judged exuberant yelp. As for the band, they're just
great: the rhythm section drive along powerfully, Tim Kelly's dobro playing
provides a lot of the interest that a slide guitar might in another blues
band and the guitars on the top of everything seem endlessly inventive,
subtle and...right, as if there's not a note out of place. And best of all
they save the best two tracks for last. "Misery Train" (not a misprint)
builds and builds till you want it to go on all night, and "Mister Johnson"
is just a humdinger, a complex, rolling, wistful blues that might be the
best new song I've heard this year. It put a great big smile on my face and
sent me straight back to Track 1.

John Davey



Frogholler : Railings
David Blue encounrters some thoughtful hollering...

Frogholler's fourth album opens in a low-key, downbeat fashion with the laconic, melancholy Unlock The Door. This is a strange one to begin with but it sets the mood for the rest of the album and should start to win you over before the end.

The favourite tracks, such as Virginia, The Sweetest Sound and Idiots just keep on coming. Virginia, with its hint of bluegrass and surprising upbeat tempo (considering its about suicide) will creep into your subconscious and you will find yourself, just like me, whistling it when you least suspect it. The Sweetest Sound has an eerie beginning but fades into a powerful vocal with blues/gospel influences reminiscent of Mark Knopfler & The Notting Hillbillies and Idiots, which should have been on their critically acclaimed album of the same name from 2001, has Crash Test Dummies sounds with electric guitars making their first appearance and is laid back in the extreme.

Unfortunately, the standard is too difficult to maintain and the album suffers a little with the slightly strange What Went Down and the effortless but lacklustre Suit & Tie. Good times are back with Glory, which returns to electric guitars, is strangely familiar and will have you singing along at the chorus. About Time and Mine are straightforward songs with the former exuding sunshine and country drives and the latter nearly overwhelmed by the regimented drumbeat.

God's Children is, quite literally, electric but still manages to continue the laid-back laconic feel of the album and is followed by Second Hand Smoke, which is possibly the most laid-back song on offer. The set finishes with Hole In The Ground, which is a fitting end to a very good album. It builds and grows on you and the vocalist even goes up the range. If you like your music to be melodic and thought provoking then Frogholler may just be the band for you.

David Blue
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Bill Wence : California Callin'
Tony Burger gets carried away and heads west...almost

Bill Wence is a keyboard player originally from California but now a Tennessee resident. Over the years he has probably appeared on hundreds of recordings and played in numerous road-bands, most notably those of Tom T Hall and Bobby Bare.

'California Callin' is Bill's first recording under his own name, he has written all the songs himself and shares production with the wonderfully named Joe Funderburk. The names of the most of the musicians he has called upon mean very little to me but they are, without exception, a talented bunch. The album is awash with great pedal steel and if, like me, you're a sucker for a Hammond there is some great organ bubbling away in the background on a couple of tracks. Bill has also called upon four different female backing singers, most notably Kimmie Rhodes who appears on two tracks.

So, we have a musician with a good CV and years of experience, a band with great chops and a bevy of backing singers - should be a recipe for a great album. Unfortunately it is the songs that let it down - not that they're bad, they're just in need of a bit of spark. Just when you think Bill and the band are going to go off into something a bit dangerous and unusual musically, they reach for the obvious chord change and are straight back into predictable, everyday territory. Lyrically there are no surprises either; it's pretty standard stuff.

For me, the track that stands out from the others is "Break Away", one of the tracks on which Bill shares the vocals with Jonell Mosser. Her name is not familiar to me but she has a fine voice that lifts this song above the rest.

Without a doubt Bill Wence has paid his dues and has probably waited years for the opportunity to record and produce his own songs. Even if it's not going to set the world on fire, 'California Callin' is something that he can regard as a job well done. It's a pleasant enough album to listen to, but I don't really hear anything here that is going to lift Bill from the ranks of 'sidemen' to the centre of the stage.

Tony Burger


Drive By Truckers: Decoration Day
Rob Ellen hops on board...

Athens Georgia should check the water, what is it that produces rockin
country quartets that have the ability to create anthems for an age, where
REM may have been kidnapped and captured by the coffee table set, the Drive
By Truckers give off a "don't even think about it" air to any would-be
hi-jacker. This band are full of guns blazing twang and crunch, harmony,
southern soulful pride and spirit, rot gut bourbon a bible and those blazing

I first heard the Drive By Truckers, on Andy Kershaw's radio 3 prog doing
their powerful take on Alabama thinking, in The Three Alabama Icons from
Southern Rock Opera. A politically charged rant setting the record straight
about Governor George Wallace, Ronnie Van Zants and Neil Young....

The BBT track was sandwiched between Young's Alabam (which had caused the
fuss) and Ronnie's bands Sweet Home Alabama (which was Skynard very public
repost) Neil Young's incidentally was asked by Zants family to take a cord
at his funeral, the two were good friends in life and respected each other

It was one of those moments when only the music you are hearing was of any
import, I was driving and immediately pulled over to be able to listen to
every succinct word more clearly, it was like a public service broadcast,
answering a raging imbalance and telling you at last, why you could be into
both of these songs and still feel sane, or in DBT way of thinking grow up
in the south and keep right minded.....

So with some glee I opened a package from their European Promoters with the
new album Decoration Day in it, asking me for my opinion, which I am
delighted to impart to y'all now....

As dark and broody as Mike Cooleys voice but also as consciously deep and
cavernous too, its as colourful, enlightening and entertaining as its
wonderful cover art and booklet. The imagery has two cartoon crows cawing
over a flower covered grave with shafts of light illuminating the scene
against a dark boiling sky, like gods fingers, in a forgotten place, that's
how the wisdom is offered in this marvellous piece of work, you'll encounter
blood boiling Southern Rock, heart tearing Blues and gut strangling Country,
you have your neck hair ripped out by scything steel guitar, your foot moved
to stomping by twin lead assault and your brows bent to frowning by the
uncompromising truth you can only experience when you find your self staring
into the gaunt eyes of a southern preacher telling you to , ""repent sinner
REPENT""!!!!. Mike gives you the impression he has stared in those cavernous
eyes and then brought his full bearing and experience to bear on that scull
shaped form and cast the very devil from that who would have him repent,
that's how this album will give up its intoxicating potion. Ever minute is
way beyond just mere entertainment.....

Anyone interested in the music development of The South need to get a Drive
By Truckers CD to still be able to comment with any commitment regarding the
21st century and the music of the south.....

Rob Ellen

David Childers and the Modern Don Juans : : Room #23
Jon Davy waltzes around Bob Childers' bar-room philosophy
I'm not quite sure where David Childers' musical heart is at. The bulk of
this album is bar-room country, robust and mature like his singing voice.
What you hear first time round is pretty much what you get and there aren't
many subtleties to be teased out in repeated listenings, just good solid
songs performed well. However, maybe half the album veers off in other
directions, with his singing working well in every new context. There's rock
songs with an early 70's feel to them (I was reminded of Free, Family and
Steppenwolf in turn) and then slower numbers with simpler arrangements,
sometimes just the man and his guitar. For me, they're probably the
highlights of the album, but Room #23 is a broad church and there's
something here for most folk. I'm sure, too, that these songs would come
over really well at a gig, and you'd be needing your dancing shoes; worth
checking out at Celtic Connections if you can get there.

John Davy

Thomas Fraser : You and My Old Guitar
Rob Ellen explores the work of the Shetland Jimmie Rodgers
Its the 60's/70's and we are on Burra Isle part of The UK's most northern
Island chain of The Shetlands and we are in the company of Thomas Fraser and
"You and My Old Guitar". This is the second release of the lost recordings
of Shetlands yodelling fisherman Thomas Fraser and further proof in a wider
scale, if needed, that this finger of rocky outcrops pointing to the north
pole is our most musical sensitive region.

Until his sad demise in 1978 at the age of 50, due to injuries he sustained
while doing his job as fisherman, Thomas had reared a family and worked a
croft, while pursuing his life's passion of recreating the songs of Jimmie
Rogers (and other country greats, Hank, Lefty etc) as well as writing his
own songs, in the blue yodelling style of the singing brakeman.
Since the release of the first volume "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" Thomas has
become a minor cult, and his charming and remarkably authentic music has
enthralled all who have old timey ears to listen. I had the good fortune of
being able to send it to Texan broadcaster Eddie Russell, to a rave revue
from the influential DJ, and airplay on his Country Eastern West Radio Show.

The cult was born out of the discovery of Thomas's lifes work on reel to
reel tapes in the loft of his cottage, on Burra Isle, and the loving
remastering of Karl Simpson, his grandson. This really is as enchanting a
story and musical project as it is possible to imagine, these recording have
a warmth of experience that could not be reproduced, not with all the
technology the 21st century could offer, this is a look at the pure heart of
a man loving what he is doing and doing it for that love alone.

Thomas Fraser learned this craft, listening to US Forces radio and from the
complete back catalogue of Jimmie Rodgers which he ordered form the music shop
in Lerwick. Though Thomas performed, only for himself and his (for its day)
state of the art Bang and Olufsen tape recorder, and only when pushed, for
family and friends, I have it on good authority he did one live concert, in
which the story goes, due to intolerable stage fright he never appeared from
behind the curtains and played his set out of sight of the audience from the
wings of the Burra community hall. If this gives you the impression you are
dealing with an unaccomplished amateur, forget it, Fraser's hillbilly guitar
playing (and in fact his fiddling) are of the highest standards, his singing
is astounding and highlighted by the best dam yodelling you will hear this
side of The Pecos (or the other side come to that!!).

What we have here is a unique experience, these are Thomas's own personal
documents of the music he loved, and played for his own appreciation alone.
Lost documents of one mans musical quest. An impressive mimic and musical
clone yes, but what is really important here is that we have a chance to
enjoy a master, devoid of any self promotion, or even the slightest
performance issues, freed from any hint of ego corruption. That's what makes
this a truly rare experience, these wonderful recording are a songster
singing for the sheer joy of hearing his own voice and guitar recreating the
music he loved, imbued with the atmosphere of his own life and times, pure
reflections of in a older time half a world away.

Highlights Blue yodel #1, T for Texas, Carolina Moon, Abilene, Unwanted Sign
Upon My Heart, on which he is joined by his wife on Guitar, Mule Skinner
Blues, Careless Hands, the comprehensive and entertaining sleeve notes will
guide you through the story further, and bring you closer to the music and
the man as you read and listen to the 25 tracks on offer.

As a postscript to this story and indication to the importance of his
unlikely legacy, I have a story of my own. I was doing the sound for Mark
Dean The Yodelling Mix Master at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and had slipped
a Jimmie Rodgers track on for pre gig audience edification, when a young lass
no more that 18 came up to me and asked in a broad Shetland drawl, "Who Ist
dat tyour playin"? I had the presence of mind to say "No its not Thomas
Fraser" and she said without hesitation "Oh Its Chimmie Rodgers den"

It turns out the Burra Isle people have an annual Thomas Fraser day and they
come from far and wide to sing and yodel on Thomas's birthday, I'm going to
make that pilgrimage one of these years. I suggest you buy this album ASAP,
I'm told the first one is nearly out of print, and I believe this will prove
more popular as this story and music spreads around the world.

Rob Ellen

Chuck Brodsky : Baseball ballads
Country Music Scotland review by Rob Ellen

Brooks Williams : Nectar
Rob Ellen finds sweet honey in the Williams hive

For 15 years (or more) Brooks Williams has been recording, in that time I've noticed his string of albums fondly mentioned in dispatches, in places like
Rolling Stone and Mojo, but conversely have never heard much on the radio, or met a real fan come to think of it.That might all be about to change, this is so radio friendly, it would be a travesty if it doesn't fill some
worthy spots on that medium. This is the first opportunity I've had to get up close and friendly with Brooks's music and I'm here to say from the onset the listener is warmly invited to do that very thing. If you like honey
smooth vocals, honestly presented and harmonically arranged with thoughtful lyricism, in a frame of distilled blues and country oriented feels, Nectar is worth checking out.

Worthy of note is his choice of covers, four of them, Memphis Slims "Mother Earth", Roddy Frames "Birth Of The True" Dougie MacLean's "She Loves" as well as that round old chestnut John Martyns "May You Never". The diversity of cover choice is in its self an indication of the sort of flavours you can expect to permeate this album.

I don't ever criticise an artist for including some better know songs on an album, it offers the new listener the opportunity to gauge exactly where they are coming from, even if it encourages dubious comparisons with the
original. So lets get dubious, and not even resist the temptation to make the comparison between versions of "May You Never" the best know of the

Haunting pedal steel guitar and that familiar rift brings in the aforementioned smooth vocal and the well kent song is with us again, and as familiar as ever, nicely massaged into being by that floating cloud like steel, with very understated percussion bouncing the piece along on that familiar guitar rhythm, maybe lacking the power of performance of Martyns version but soulful none the less, and pristine picking is prevalent. I always thought that line "may you never loose your temper if you get into a bar room fight", had a sinister under tone, my experience is you have to loose your temper to even consider getting into a bar room fight. However with singing like this its conceivable that indeed, Brooks couldn't ever loose his temper what ever the circumstance, and he may as a consequence, "never loose his woman over night" either. If accessibility is the main reason for the covers then I applaud the choices and commend this whole album for its easy performance and that obvious accessibility.

Amongst my favourites, and its hard to dislike any of the self penned songs, are "Humming Bird" which goes on to advise on what it is like to actualy loose your woman over night, how hummm, it only goes to show!!! and "Great Big Sea" bobbles effortlessly along on a Bo Diddly rift while the narrative drowns in deep feelings of yet more love lost.

A sensitive album created with a delicate touch and lovingly presented in an open spirit. Nectar

Rob Ellen

Moon Over The Downs :
The Trailer Star Tribute

Dave Tonberg goes looking for the late great..
First of all buy this album as a minimum of £8.00 goes direct to Cancer Research UK. Secondly buy this album because it is simply excellent.15 Alt. Country stars , some new to me , covering the songs of the enigma that is Trailer Star. On reading the trailer notes (excuse the pun) I was completely taken in by the sad demise of Trailer Star.On further investigation however , all is not as it seems.This is indeed an urban legend worth looking into.O.K. I’m digressing slightly from the point but I would invite you the reader to take up the challenge to find the real Trailer Star. Back to the album,15 tracks penned by Shaun Belcher, English poet , songwriter a.k.a Trailer Star? Whoops I’m digressing again! I listened to this album cold without reading the liner notes or even the track listing. I was convinced that the songwriter was an American Alt. Star in the making. Wrong! He’s British Hooray! Many of the songs do conjure up images of dust bowls,one horse towns, the devil and heartache, so it was great to see that Shaun is from our own fair shores. There are no duds on the album although I found the closing instrumental maybe a little surplus to requirements. Stand out tracks for me were ‘ Clown’s Car’ by Jim Roll possibly the only upbeat number on the album although still tinged with sadness. ‘Drowning Moon’ by Brian Lillie ‘ Made a cross out of sticks and bones’ images of bayou moons , shadows and things not of this world left me feeling slightly uneasy, a theme running through this whole album. The wonderful Bob Cheevers leaves his inimitable mark on ‘These Wishing Fields’.Ronny Elliot’s rendering of ‘Devil’s Address’ is just a classic angst laden song about heartache and loneliness.
I could go on and on about the quality of this record so please do yourself a favour and go out and buy the damn thing! To sum up ,a quote from ‘The Lynton Flood’ sung by Kevin Meisel ‘Nobody knew where the water came from on that fateful day.’ Then again any quote from any song would sum this superb compilation.
Trailer Star= Five Star.
David Tonberg

Neil Cleary : Numbers add up
Dave Tonberg falls for Neil
and his charming record
Neils first album for Shoeshine Records is an absolute cracker. From the opening track "Nobody`s Fool" to the final cut " When All Of Us Get Famous" this album is packed with great material.
There seems to be a recurrent theme of loves lost and a sense of loss of direction running through the whole album. It`s as if the ghosts of his past are living in the songs and trying to escape through the lyrics.
Stand out tracks for me are the country -rock "Reckless And on Target" and "When All Of Us Get Famous", a song I think everybody can relate to. The country classic "I Want You To Leave Him" if done by one of the "Big Hat" boys is a sure-fire hit although it would lose all its originality if done Nashville style .
Although mainly an album about yearning and loss there is no "poor me" in any of it. Neil sings with a warmth and affection which lifts you up and says " Hey get on with life there`s plenty of good times out there for everyone".
This record is excellent and to my mind there is a hint of Gram Parsons running all the way through, no bad thing in my book! All the tracks are self-penned except "Automatic Blues" which is written by Tom Cleary ( Neils brother?).
To really appreciate this mans talent you need to check him out live. He is a great performer with a lot of strings to his bow. I was fortunate to catch him at the Caley in Portmahomack where along with his drummer Adam Sorenson Neil played an acoustic set of country blues, material from his latest album and a whole lot in between! Accompanied by his own harmonica playing, his live work shows you that there is more to Neil than just another Alt. Country performer.
The album is terrific with, something for everyone, go out and buy it right now and make Neil into the star he deserves to be! Still not convinced? Check him out live you know it makes sense! Oh and by the way he`s a thoroughly nice bloke too!
Yours in all that is good about music
David Tonberg

A Day at the Farm with Farmer Jason
David Tonberg and Robbie check it out
Well what can I say! With my usual mix of excitement and trepidation I opened the jiffy bag to be confronted by a vaguely familiar face in cartoon character driving a souped-up tractor. Then I noticed the Parental Advisory sticker claiming that this will have you singing along with your kids. Confused ? Yes ! Surprised? Not really. This was indeed the Godfather of Alt.Country himself Jason Ringenberg with an album of kids songs about life on the farm. As I said there is no real surprise in this as anyone who knows Jason knows he is a great family man as the picture of him with his three beautiful daughters on the inside cover confirms.If you've seen Jason live and heard him singing the lovely ballad Addie Rose dedicated to his youngest daughter you will know that this is just a natural progression to Jasons long and varied career. O.K. lets get down to business. The album has eleven tracks about chickens, tractors, horses, cows ,hogs and a whole lot more .It may be directed at three to seven year olds but with Jasons fine vocals and some excellent picking by the musicians I was soon singing along and tapping my feet and indeed doing some mighty fine Guitar Pickin' Chicken air guitar to the record! Enough of my ramblings. Suffice to say if you have kids of that age they will love it..If you don't it would be great at parties .Anyone for the Doggie Dance?! As I am far to under qualified to say more I'll hand over to my seven year old son Robbie to sum up. .......
'My favourite one was 'Whoa There Pony' because it's my favourite farm animal and it's really jumpy like I am.I liked the whole record and I liked dancing to it...' .Robbie
David Tonberg

John Lilly : Last Chance to Dance
Mark Dean finds out why so many broadcasters in the Americas are playing John Lilly
"Last chance to Dance" is dance music of yesteryear.and damn fine dance tunes at that. We got polkas & waltzes.. and not a "Beat Box" in sight. John Lilly has put together an excellent collection of both original tunes and covers of lesser know songs by artistes such as Jimmy Rogers, Hank and the Louvin Brothers. John's own songs such as "Whodunnit", "Some Years Ago" and the afore-mentioned "Last Chance To Dance" (actually a song about a stag night") are time-less. With much humour and a hint of tongue in cheekiness. I particularly was drawn to John's Stripped down version of Rod Stewart's "Gasoline Alley".. It actually prompted me get my almost ornamental mandolin down off the shelf. An accomplished yodeller, Johns' live renditioning of " A Little Yodel Goes A Long Way" is just so good. He relates to the audience that he has been performing this song for twenty years and still loves it. The audience reaction proves to me that even the most doubting amongst us has a yodel somewhere in their soul. John sings great.. In a real hillbilly style. kinda BR549 stripped down. An accomplished guitarist and "inspiring" mandolin player the accompanying musicians on the CD are first class. In particular Sonny Landreth on slide guitar. The package on this CD is just great. no expense spared. He takes you through a guided tour of each song in the liner notes, explaining what he was thinking about when he wrote the song or the history of the revived songs he performs. As he writes in the liner notes... 'Somewhere in my wildest dreams lives a world where the past and future dance cheek to cheek.'
Mark Dean Ellen

Paul Burch : Fool for Love

John Davy proclaims his ever lasting  love for Paul Burch
If you don't know and love Paul Burch's music by now , then it's high time you did. You might have heard that he plays vibes for Lambchop and think that a vibe-player's solo album isn't going to be worth putting on the player. How wrong you'd be. His five albums to date are full of sweet love songs, a lot of fun in the lyrics and in the playing, and a singing style that originally reminded me more of Jimmy Rodgers than anyone. Now, though, To me he's a musical hero in his own right and a Paul Burch album is just a fine place to be. This new one has all the trademark qualities: quite a lot of chug-a-lug rhythms like early Johnny Cash, a heartachingly beautiful slow song of yearning, a stand-out upbeat song that could be Beatles circa 1965 and lyrics that from first to last don't come near a cliche. It's love lost, love found and love enjoyed, and it has subtle slow-burning hooks that'll creep up on you unexpectedly and you'll wonder where you picked them up from. Try this album and if it does anything for you at all get the back catalogue. All of it.
John Davy

Chris Stuart & Backcountry
Saints and Strangers
Mark Dean Ellen gets on board
My initial impression was the excellent packaging of the product. A good reason to not to download a pirate but to buy it.
A blend of Traditional and contemporary Bluegrass. Ricky Skaggs meets Earl Scruggs on a level playing field. Chris Stuart has assembled a fine team of his contemporaries based in California. Experts in their individual fields. Each musician is a master of their instrument. The band includes traditional music teachers and lecturers on early Americana. Tracks on the CD include 'Jimmy Brown Revisited….'A clever and poignant tale of the passing on of Jimmy Brown the newsboy , a particular favourite traditional song of mine.
The title track "Saints and Strangers" refers to the passengers on the Mayflower."But half were "Saints" the others were "Strangers". One particular "stranger" had been given the option of hanging or deportation to the New World, this is his tale. 'From Now On', not the Bill Munroe classic but an original instrumental in the Monroe Style featuring the impressive talents of each member, particularly Ivan Rosenberg on resonator guitar.
The band even touch briefly on Cajun music with 'Twenty Naked Pentecostals In A Pontiac'….This tune provides the "light relief" on this excellent Album. Chris Stuart… Guitar Vocals Janet Beasley…. Banjo Vocals Ivan Rosengberg… Resonator Guitar, Vocals Dean Knight… Upright Bass, Vocals There is a fair smattering of Mandolin throughout the Album unfortunately not credited but "Damn Good" picking. A refreshing approach to the much-documented genre of Bluegrass. CD available by contacting Also available is an impressive songbook ( see left)
Mark Dean Ellen

Live Reviews

Last night I witnessed "A Soulful Happening"

Button UP, (featuring Justin Currie) at The East Grange Loft Forres August 21st 2003

A near bridegroom-ly nervous Stuart Nisbet (Proclaimers Guitarist) greeted nearly every person, in person, as they arrived at the venue. Stuart who has toured the world as the Proclaimers axe man, (just this year his boyish grin facing down the throngs of Balado, and smiling out at the stv millions from t in the park tv coverage without a care in the world) was here and now and at the wonderful farm/venue in Forres, and in contrast quivered with tangible fear at the prospect of presenting this show to the assembled 80 (Instead of 80,000) or so at the converted hayloft East Grange venue . The words "Labour of Love" could only describe what this meant to him (as is the venue Lucy and co have built here in the highland) and it turned out also for, the rest of the all star ensemble Stuart has put together and named Button Up.

And the love is "soul music"

If you have ever been to the splendid New Soul City nights in Inverness at The Maple Court and taken the opportunity to wallowed in classic Stacks and Motown sounds and like me you get there early because that's when Donald the DJ plays the really interesting stuff, then like me you would have been in seventh heaven, for the hour and a quarter Button Up, buttoned down that sweet soul sound and played the ass out of the likes of Arron Nevils "Hercules", Betty Wrights, "Clean Up Women", Beefhearts "Too Much Time", The Crusaders "Put It Where You Want It", Gladys Knights "Walk In My Shoes", and the crowd pleasing Spencer David Groups "I'm a Man" strategically placed mid to end in the set where the concentration of band and audience can sometimes laps. Not a chance of either here!!! we had a steaming gig on our hands, which would climax with Ann Peables "I can't stand the rain" with everyone joining in the chorus, "AGAINST MY WINDO - OWWWW".

Button Up were (as they would need to be when attempting this stuff) tight and right in the pocket, and getting whoops and hollers from the onset, driven, and emphasised by drum tirade and facial grimaces of Ross MacFarlane (The Proclaimers - McCluskey Brothers) who even moved the rock steady Gary John Kane on bass (McCluskey Brothers and Marie Ann Faithfull) to the odd jump of joy, and between them rhythmically tearing a sunder huge grins from fellow band members . With Andy May (Marie Ann Faithfull) laying down swirling Hammond sounds and stomping piano, as well as gospelesk backing vocals harmonising with Stuart admirably supporting the cultured Justin Currie (Del Amitrie) vocals, you'll see what I mean, indeed star studded quality.

Mr Nisbet (Show biz Nis to his friends) standing as master of ceremonies and sharing the between song banter with a genuinely delighted Justin Currie. "This will be in the middle of nowhere then!" the Glaswegian Currie wryly announced, "not many gigs where you have to walk through a cattle bier to get on stage" he went on to coment. It seems that after touring solidly around the world new experiences still happen to even these near veteran rock stars and we were present at the birth of another, the first ever Button Up gig. Justin is, it has to be said, an inspired choice for Button Up membership, but all in the group were as inspired in performance as each other.

As for Justin's performance, well he came on kind of nervously I thought, belatedly too, after the stage had been set in classic " Ramsey Lewis" lounge room cheerfully cheesy style, think an instrumental "I'm in with the in crowd" version of "High Heeled Sneakers", and the room was set and anticipating the first appearance of Mr Currie playing out of The Del Amitrie colours, for the first time since their forced relegation to indie status. I have long been a fan, both of his Rock/Soul voice and his writing, and was intrigued to find how he would deal with some of the classics which must have inspired the last 15 years of a sparkling world wide fame?

Very Very well I am please to report, all nerves had subsided into easy performance, by the time Nina Samones "I'm Gonna Leave You" came around and the jaunt was in the step, the stage craft and voice was there, smiles were mirrored from the stage around the room and the well defined and passionately delivered notes were cascading on crescendo after soulful crescendo.

The only down side of this wonderful gig was the news they only plan to do 3 shows because of other commitments, surely not!!! this will have to be put to right, its obviously work at the highest level by people loving every minute of what they do, and they do it so well. You and I disserve to have another opportunity to see it as soon as is earthly possible.

And as importantly they deserve to capitalise on what must have been a very work intensive project, you don't get that good on your first gig without "real" commitment, pun and analogy fully intended, Button up!!
Rob Ellen

Catalyst Festival:
CATALYST: - A person or thing that precipitates a change (Concise Oxford Dictionary). For those looking for a “change”, this was the place to be. Musical diversity and gorgeous weather made for a great weekend at the Caledonian Hotel, Portmahomack. Friday night kicked off with Dunfermline’s own Jim Condie, one of Scotland’s finest session musicians and master of finger pickin’ and bottle neck guitar, Jim treated us to an hour plus of his excellent blues based music. His sometimes-quirky songs and anecdotes laced with a sprinkling of audience participation was the perfect mix to start the weekend off in style. Main Stage; - Wadada and Dunga Dave, full of eastern promise, an exotic mix of drum, vocal and sitar a very atmospheric set and a real taste of the mystic East. Inverness sons The Lush Rollers were next up with a set comprised mainly from their latest self-titled album. Their tight, polished harmonies and brilliant melodies are always a treat with the beautiful ‘Better Of Dead’ a particular highlight for me. Kenny Brady and the Peyote Family, foot-tapping, thigh-slapping, yee-hawing, cajun tunes a-plenty. You couldn’t help but get up and dance. Ably accompanied by fiddle and accordion Kenny’s set was a great way to finish the evening. How does he keep that hat so white? Saturday, and the ever popular open-mike session in the lounge. The welcome return of ‘The Sunshine Delay’ with David Ogilvy guesting on pedal steel where bang on form, a taste of things to come. The ever-popular Scott MacDonald treated us to a beautifully laid back set, taken from his two albums. With his understated vocal style, Scot is great to chill out to and recharge your batteries for the evening ahead. Let’s not forget the open-mike session with a veritable ‘melting pot’ of local talent. Take a bow ‘Jimmy The Hat’, Johnny Mitchell and in fact everyone who participated, it was greatly appreciated by all. With ‘Chippy’s’ band Haze and the harmonica driven blues of the ‘Fuel Injected’, Groove Injectors playing outside in gorgeous sunshine it was difficult to know who to listen to! Another beautifully crafted set by Scot opened the evening’s proceedings on the Main Stage. The Sunshine Delay with Iain, Paula and Co. in great form and David Ogilvy again guesting on pedal steel rattled through a brilliant set that left everyone begging for more. The rocked up version of Ryan Adams ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and Lucinda Williams ‘Metal Fire-cracker’ being particular highlights (any song that mentions ZZ TOP gets my vote!) Bob Hall and his boogie-woogie piano show was an absolute delight with his impeccable pedigree (Savoy Brown, The Stones etc.) and even more impeccable jacket! Bob and his bass player treated us to a great selection of ‘get up and get down’ boogie-woogie tunes, fantastic! Rounding off another tremendous evening were the Firewater Blues Band, Steve ‘Wonderful’ Smith, Dave Sidley and Co. rocked the house with their stomping guitar and harmonica driven band of rock blues. Two encores ‘nuff said’. Yet another glorious day on Sunday with some of the younger Indie based bands getting a well-deserved airing in the lounge. Well Done Guys! Then followed more open-mike sessions with a great bluesy set from Blue Belly (guitar and double-bass) being one of the highlights. Indie night Phew! Kobie and Dionysus powered through their sets max. vol. The instantly likeable and very talented Sidewinder with their infectious brand of Indie Pop Rock were brilliant and just when you thought you’d run out of steam along came M.A.S.S. max. vol. Plus! (Blondie on acid!) took the roof off what a finish! Highlights, to single out one would be the detriment of everyone else, everyone was brilliant! Low-light, David Ogilvy just recovering from a throat operation was unable to sing so I will just have to keep playing his album until he comes our way again. >From sitars to guitars, fiddles to full-blown power pop, we had the lot! Let’s not forget all the excellent forums and workshops. So much to do so little time! A special thanks to the Caley staff for keeping up to the demands of some very hungry and thirsty punters. And a very special thanks to Rob and Ann for yet again for organising another fantastic Catalyst Weekend! We are forever in your debt! ECLIPSE? WHAT ECLIPSE!! Yours in friendship and love of good music, David Tonberg See y’All next year. Ps. I’m sorry if I missed anyone out I’ll make up for it next year!
David Tonberg

The Hungry Hash House Ramblers

at Lossiemouth Folk Festival
Lossiemouth Review ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
On Tuesday 17th June 2003 the Hungry Hash House Ramblers played to a packed house at the Lossiemouth Folk Club in the North East of Scotland The arrival of the Ramblers was awaited with some curiosity, not least because of their unusual name. It is probably fair to say that many of the audience were not familiar with the type of music the band plays,so for many this was and introduction to their well rooted, yet still evolving brand of old time music. The band is relaxed in its presentation. They play seated and quietly get comfortable before starting. Only young Taylor appears a little withdrawn with head down in the early part of the evening. After a gentle good humoured introduction from Doug the band eases into an instrumental. The combination of twin flat picked guitar, frailing banjo and solid bass is immediately comforting. We could be sitting out on some back porch in North Carolina but when Doug, Taylor or Edwin take an instrumental break we subtly move up a gear or two. The playing is not flashy, not because the players can't make it flashy but because that is not what they are about. Having said this they will produce some virtuoso picking , particularly when the two guitars work in harmony. By this time Taylor is out of his shell, sitting back in his seat confidently showing his command of the flatpick. Doug and Edwin share most of the lead singing, Doug singing with a rich deep voice reminiscent of Doc Watson. The band harmonise beautifully vocally with Kathy`s voice spreading the range nicely. Again, the singing sounds as natural and effortless as the picking. The Ramblers made the Scottish connection with their version of "Mounatin Reel,"took us to their roots with the Charlie Poole's "Hungry Hash House," and "Take a drink on me," while also mixing in some newer material such as "Pinto Pony," penned by Edwin Lacy. By way of contrast Kathy Rorrer led the band in a mellow rendition of "Summertime." The Ramblers charmed and entertained their audience. There were enquiries about the band and their CD days after they had left Lossiemouth. If the Hungry Hash House Ramblers are coming to your town. - don't miss them !
Malcolm Leiper


The Wester Ross Festival Finale
Nigels Shed Scoraig

First off, a big thank you to all the musicians for trusting themselves and their equipment to a boat ride over the sea to Scoraig, and a gig in a cow shed. In the darkest corners you could tell you were in a cow shed but otherwise John McGeoch's decorations and technical wizardry made it a vibrant, exciting place to be. And then there was the music; in the days that followed we were shaking our heads in wonder and saying that you couldn't have found a better, more eclectic line-up in a capital city. I missed the Rough Deal String Band, I'm sorry to say, but then I'd never known a Scoraig gig start on time, either. Reports were good though.
Rumba Calliente (Salsa Celtica without the Celtica I was told) were just magic. Infectious, loose-but-tight South American rhythms with fantastically vigorous vocals and joyful instrumental breaks. Only time for a short set unfortunately and then it was a change of pace, and some, for Michael Hurley. A lot of folk were there to dance and never quite made the change of pace, but the Hurley die-hards like myself sat on the cow shed floor at his feet and relished every song. Rooted in old-timey mountain music and coloured by his totally idiosyncratic world view the man is a one-off and should be treasured as such. On this night you could feel a ripple of fandom creeping out from the inner circle as people got past the vision of the aged guitar player and listened in to the mad humour.
And then something completely different.... Bajaly Suso from Gambia played the kora and sang to his own playing - an emotive, otherworldly sound. The kora has a huge skin-covered gourd for a soundbox and something like eighteen strings. It stands about the height of a double bass but the player faces the strings and the sound was closer to a harp than anything else I could think of. Though I doubt if anyone knew what he was singing about we were all mesmerised and he finished his set to huge applause. And finally... Q Magazine ran a list of "happy albums" a while ago, music to make you smile. For me, La Boum! should be top of that list. They play African inspired dance music with strong rhythms, blasts of brass, happy and relaxed vocals and jaw-droppingly good guitar breaks from Tom Salter. Tonight they were on fire and Tom seemed to be putting in extra notes everywhere. See them play if you can. Everyone in Nigel's shed that night is still smiling.
John Davy