Thad Cockrell & Danny Barnes
the maze, nottingham 26th april 2004


A double bill at the Maze on a blustery english day of april showers but a brighter climate in the end when these artists started to shine
. I had followed some of Danny Barnes's convoluted and mightily impressive musical journey from The Bad Livers through to Bill Frisell and Jim ( Basketball Diaries) Carrol. What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer punk energy of attack of his banjo playing as everything but the kitchen sink seemed to be hinted or played on this instrument. Better musicians than me stood open-mouthed as he twisted the banjo into jazz figures and old timey re-appraisals at a speed that frankly left some members of teh audience shellshocked. It was a bit like watching a video of Pete Seeger at fast forward speed at times and some members of the audience couldn't sonically keep pace...me included. Amidst the finger buzzing mayhem I did spot some Frisell like licks and some pretty damn good songs but without the CD am hard-pressed to name them although 'Bluegrass Suicide' and a Ronnie Lane cover stood out. At times the ghost of Roscoe Holcombe prowled the stage and Fahey, Kottke and Chet Atkins ghosted through too. Mostly though his friendly 'country boy' demeanour won the crowd over although I'd suggest less haste more speed might win even more converts to his singular vision this side of the pond. An american original but like all geniuses takes a while to get the message.

Then a real treat. I'd been aware of Thad Cockrell through No Depression reviews etc but never actually heard his music. The fact that Caitlin Cary and Tift Merrit sang on his cds and that the wonderful Chris Stamey ( ex-Db's and Whiskeytown producer) were involved said a lot and I wasn't disappointed.

We were treated to a consummate songwriter and a three-piece delivery that despite lack of a drummer ( a tambourine underfoot sufficed) delivered a stunning set. The antecedents were immaculate. Everly's over The Beatles, Charlie Rich and Merle Haggard over everything else. Thad Cockrell is the real deal. His songs are knowing tributes to the past and modern takes on the heartbreak balladry tradition. As his website puts it 'drawn to the twang of hurt'. The set visited both the latest 'Warmth and Beauty' cd and the first 'Stack of Dreams' with title track providing one of many standout moments of the evening. Thad is reminiscent of Chris Isaacs in his hurt man approach but without the sticky confected vibe of the latter. Indeed it is Charlie Rich and Lefty Frizell that come to mind as he seems situated in that 50's and 60's post rock and roll/nashville vibe. Hints of Gordon Lightfoot and Ron Sexsmith inflect the voice which is beautifully suited to the content.

Opener 'Girl from Maryville' set the tone. A acoustic guitar and harmonic shuffle that kicked in half way through with fellow band members on bass and guitar/vocal providing a rock solid fioundation for his voice. From tehre on in it just got better and better with hints of his beloved Everly Brothers as guitarist Matt filled in the Don to Thad's Phil. He even joked about having written somgs for The Hg and the Bros before those particular songs. They should have taken him up. He's working on a new CD and a split ballad/ frantic rock n roller also revealed that he can rock it with the best and the set closer with drums would have brought the house down as Thad cut a couple of Carl Perkins type poses!

Not much I can add apart from buy this man's cds. He's gonna last when a lot of the more spurious talents we're sold have propped up the second hand bins for a couple of decades. Foremost he writes a pretty dam fine song, secondly he can sing like an angel and thirdly...well thirdly ya don't need the first two don't come along that much these days! One of best gigs I've seen at Maze in a while and I've seen some good ones. Made the recent Laura Viers gig look like the hyped up shambles it was. This Cockrell sure can crow! The Sun label shone....

shaun belcher

http://www.thadcockrell.com/
 





Tim Rose the london sessions 1978-1998




The 'American Troubador', best known for Morning Dew and Hey Joe, died in September 2002 and this album of previously unreleased material is a fitting memorial. Like A European is a straightforward rock song delivered with a Lou Reed style vocal and, written by guitarists Simon Shepherd and Brian Barnett, is an excellent opener. An acoustic cover of The Bee Gees I Started A Joke follows and sets the scene for the many changes of style on the album. The Rose, best known as a Bette Midler song, is sung with a voice full of feeling and the same style of vocal is added to a strange, almost reggae beat on Over The Rainbow to give a weird effect.

I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore, better known as a Buddy Holly song is given a good folksy treatment and Rose is again on top form vocally. Pavement Princess is one of four tracks written or co-written by bass player Pierre Tubbs. This is a country song, sung accordingly. Rose co-wrote It's All Gone Wrong with Tubbs and the fractured vocal makes you believe that something had, in fact, gone wrong on the country-style song - nice backing vocals from Melissa Rose. There I Go Again is the third of Pierre Tubbs collaborations and Rose's easy vocal give a sense of warmth although the lost love lyric is not a warm subject. Rose always made sure that people knew that his version of Hey Joe was around before that of Jimi Hendrix and this version, with it's overall feeing giving a Massive Attack sound, is a powerful piece of music - totally different from the Hendrix version.

The last Tubbs song (his, in total) is the twee Christmas offering Lady's Coming Home For Christmas - surely this he was singing this with his tongue firmly rooted in his cheek, enough said! The final two tracks are worth waiting for and it is no coincidence that Rose had a hand in their composition. The folk song Borocay (Yo Tango Amore Te) with its snappy, acoustic slide guitar is a gem and The Answer has a mesmeric rhythm to it along with its almost spiritual lyrics. The filling is very good but if you want the best of Tim Rose then go to the start and the finish.

David Blue

http://www.timrose.net
 





Druce and Jones Songs from The Silver Band Room


Having loved the blues, lost the blues and banished the blues, this was a refreshing change from my normal listening. A fifteen-track c.d and British artists to boot with a good mix of standards and self -penned material, lovely acoustic guitars and dobro with a hint of brass a very pleasant recipe indeed!
Emily Druce is no stranger to the u.k circuit and has been performing solo for a few years now. With two albums already under her belt she has been lauded by the likes of Bob Harris and Paul Jones, high praise and fully justified in my opinion. This collaboration is with Steve Jones who not only plays a fine guitar but, along with Colin Kendall, makes them as well. The product of which can be heard on this album. These are two very talented people who make beautiful music together.
Emily has a rich clear voice that copes well with the slow smouldering ballads and the more gritty blues and gospel songs while Steve's' guitar playing is crisp and melodic without ever being showy the mark of a really fine guitar player. Chris Smyth ably assists the duo on dobro and lap steel.
The standout tracks for me were the self-penned numbers. The opening track, Let's Walk Out, is a country blues. a real toe-tapper and sets the mood for the rest of the album. This is followed by, When I See You There, a slow ballad with Emily's pure vocals complimented by guitar and Dobro. Each song has its own merits and I could ramble on quite happily for two pages, suffice to say go buy the album .The two gospel numbers, Keep Your Lamp….. and Burden Down are a couple of crackers and if they played more music like this in our churches, we could have a mini revival on our hands! Picks of the bunch for me are Howler "I can feel a cold wind blowing through my mind" and the absolute tops the heart-achingly beautiful Same Air "we can sit there together and see a different view I just want to breathe the same air as you" terrific. Incidentally Emily and Steve write both songs
I hadn't listened to blues for quite some time but this record has certainly whetted my appetite for more. The whole album oozes with talent and not forgetting the Honley Silver Band who appear on track 8 and track 15. I presume the title of the album, although recorded in the silver band room West Yorkshire, may be paying homage to these guys. Either way it doesn't really matter.
For a blues lover or first time buyer there is a lot in this album to recommend. I would have liked to hear Emily sing a cappella as she has such a great delivery and clarity and she could carry it off no problem, but this is just a very small gripe on my behalf and doesn't detract from the album in anyway. Good homegrown talent and a well put together recording that gave me the "I woke up this morning" syndrome all over again! You know what I mean! Check it out today!

David Tonberg

www.emilydruce.co.uk
 





Sid Selvidge a little bit of rain


Sid Selvidge could hardly be classed as a prodigious source of material - he releases one album per decade - but if they are all as good as this then he's worth waiting on.
He's a bit of a Memphis institution and has been around since the 60s when he was signed to, of all labels, Stax as a white folk singer.

The title track, and opener, is a gentle introduction to the world of Sid Selvidge. It's a world of Folk, Blues and classic Americana. Hobo Bill has the feeling of a children's song, much akin to Puff The Magic Dragon but he's back in adult land with the bluesy Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good, Long Tall Mama and Every Natural Thing. Although there's only one original song on the album the covers are pure Selvidge. His voice has a warble to it and is as sweet as syrup on the country style Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? and one of the highlights of the album, John Hiatt's, The River.

Blues and country are mixed in together for Real Thing and we hear another level to Sid's voice, there's a bit of grit in here for this one. Folk blues for the excellent Swannanoa Tunnel will have the hairs on your neck standing to attention and the straightforward folk offering Long Black Veil is a lovely song. The album finishes with Pickin' Petals and Arkansas Girl. The former has one of my pet hates, yodelling, although I can forgive him because of what has gone before and the latter takes us out in the gentle manner that we began with. Both of these songs remind me, vocally, of Leon Redbone.

Take a few listens of this album because Sid Selvidge will grow on you.

David Blue

www.archer-records.com
 





dean owensmy town

Dean can never be accused of, not going for it, whether in finding himself opening for the likes of The Mavericks, Fiddlers Bid, Kevin Montgomery, Emmylou Harris, Kieran Kane, Slaid Cleaves, Ron Sexsmith, Steve Earle, The Handsome Family, Jay Farrar, Suzy Bogguss, Little Feat and more recently wowing them at Celtic Connections opening for The Transatlantic Sessions ( I was there, the boy done good ). Or chasing his cause around the uphill struggle of pub club and hostelries of his native Scotland, even retiring to the hills to record around a peat fire and a minidisc and getting his fans to pay for the pressing. Very clever!! He's tried it all even now being given the opportunity not many get to do the big production piece, that is "My Town" his new one. i.e. silky smooth production, highly arranged, glossy textures, high level performance and presentation, in fairness suiting Deans sweet saccharine mid Atlantic vocal delivery down to the ground, kind of evoking, at a stretch the Nashville years of Roy Orbison. "My Town" was recorded over only two weeks, and that alone is another indication of the skill brought to this piece. This I am guessing is the album he always wanted to deliver, as he is also the producer. On these points alone an album like this from an emerging artist must be seen as a success story.

The jury is out on whether Dean will become the star he and his loyal fans obviously would want him to become, and this album is as strong a piece of evidence that the prosecution could possible put forward, in good part give more credence through the advocacy of Glasgow's Vertical records and the weight that the Capercaillie dynasty can throw behind any rootsy release in Scotland. All that just might condemn him to the fate of the famous, at least at home.

The Big O or the Big No, is the question? Ok what are the ingredients of a successful pitch at the wall of stardom, rule number one, get the best musicians you can, "My Town" enters well up the charts in that department, with particularly fine trumpet flurries from Colin Steele worthy of special note. The musicians playing on the album include Marianne Campbell (fiddle and strings), Kevin McGuire (double bass and nylon string guitar), Colin Steele (trumpet and flugelhorn), Karine Polwart (acoustic guitar and vocals, see On the Radar Flyin Shoes Review). then a famous friends or two would help. Al Perkins (lap steel), Will Kimbrough (dobro), fill that gap nicely, Then to be safe you better play something for everyone and keep it simple to read, ( unlike the cover which is impossible to read ) again OK in that department too, then spend some money on the artwork, below par in that respect as I indicate, choosing instead to go down market and grungy, strange choice in this case as that is the only grungy thing to do with this release.Of course even before you get a chance to make this sort of pitch you have to work and work and work, do every gig, climb every mountain and hopefully get a good label interested if you can make a few noticeable ascents, and stay in the public eye long enough to make that notoriety work. Dean's well up to that task and his hard work has landed one of the best Scottish roots music labels in Vertical, who also look after James Grant ( ex Love and Money teeny honey, now born again songster ). All the time you must maintain that media profile, get on the radio and TV if you can. No problem there particularly in Scotland, where Dean is Mr Entertainment.. The argument will be won or lost and the verdict returned as ever on the strength of the songs. So the big question is does Dean have the songs? He has the artist's pallet, though using more primarily colours than suits my personal taste, he has the patter, he has the vocal talent, but does he have the songs, A Dark Star or a Candy Coloured Clown ?

"My Town" opener and title track and the one for the DJ's, Unfortunatly Iris Dement has applied for and all but achieved the patent on this type of song, with her Classic "Our Town" I'm stunned Dean makes his opening play against such strong competition, particularly when this too is a story of a home town suffering the ravages of time, nice enough for a Dean fan to know in his words that "This is my Town, the one that brings me down, take a look around, see the sights hear the sound, of my town" but no bitter sweet memoirs unfold just a pedestrian attempt at poetic awareness, no affectionate ramble through the life of a community, just his disaffected wanderings among his hopeful close friendships, not the best of starts.

"Desert Song" careworn and archetypal, song of the hard road, where Owens should be most at home, given his recent history, "I'm a successful failure I've got the bullets but no gun", probably written before he got the budget for this opus from Donald and Karen ( Virtical have certainly supplied the firepower how true is the Dean Owen's aim?) I'll continue, Al Perkins (pedal steel) and Marianne Campbell (Fiddle) gives it a much needed lift from the mundane, and diverts the attention from what comes over as just a moan about his job, perhaps he should try welding then he might really find the blues and reach the soul of despair, it is a hard life in many ways on the road, but is never less than enjoyable, for all but the most faint of heart or disturbed, it can be portrayed without drawing that inevitable there, there, there condescending response, from those less fortunate to be able to pursue a dream, but clever word play and irony needs to be employed, Slaid Cleaves has made a career of it. I don't think Dean should even try.

"Its Not Love" Its not a song either! its meant to be a heart on the sleeve muse about well faded love, but leaves me thinking why bring it up in the first place if it means so little to you now?

"Northern Lights" All the songs are set up by a bit of Smash Hits style editorial, 'this is what I was thinking of when I wrote this song' type commentary, here he informs his readers that he was thinking about his mortality, the Northern Lights and the song was conceived in Shetland. Mortality and Shetland (Centre of the musical Universe, as far I am concerned ) So two sure fire tools for the budding artiste, mortality and a sense of place & purpose and he adds the Northern lights and all its cosmic colours to the pallet to paint the story with, I have high hopes now this will turn the corner for us I feel sure, go for it Deano!....... No he's still whinging about his luck, and how seemingly slow stardom is coming to change his lot..... Ho Hum!!.

"Life and Beauty" Pedal steel intro, and Dean can sing there is no doubt about that and this is a happier "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" piece, but how many times do you need to hear "Life and Beauty Surrounds" repeated? to get the picture, YES Dean life and beauty surrounds I get the picture!!! next!!!! again simply read and obvious observation.

"This Feeling" The time with the Mavericks wasn't wasted Tango/Latino rhythms and some aforementioned accordion and trumpet offer very interesting counterpoint and contrasting light and shade, bitter sweet agony and torment is the order of the day and Dean delivers well on this one, this is the best song by far, so far.

" Blue December" Gypsy violin and lilting double bass again the set up is wonderful, that trumpet is spine jinglingly good but I really do wish he hadn't mentioned Nick Drake in the introduction, it encourages comparison and in respect of depth of field, imagery, passion and pathos there is no comparison to be made, again he's a canny chanter and the performance is Chis Isaak-esque and entertaining enough for all of that

"The Other Side of Dawn" He writers on the sleeve notes "Here I deal with the sliding door of Life and Love, who knows what the tide will bring ? Kismet" A love song and a heart felt thank you to the will of God. A good woman and a good song, my Ann likes this one. And the ballad is a musical form his voice excels in. No exploration going on just a statement of fact I've given up looking for depth or answers in these songs and I feel beter
for that.

"Shakespeare Country" A story song and the story is, .....I don't believe it!..... he is back on a poets trail and the comparison this time is Shakespeare, I give up I've had it, that's the last straw, first Nick Drake and now Shakespeare, I'm blocking out the lyrics. I'm going back to listening to his versatile backing band and his gentle endearing vocal, and the reasonble well placed hook lines, that's what is honest, about this album.

This member of the juries verdict is, "My Town" works better as background and mood music, musical wall paper, expertly hung and perfect for a life style ordered habitat, more about style than life though it has to be said, wait a minute on that assessment it could be a huge hit, what am I thinking of? when did we last see a hit song that had content over style? It all depends on the marketing at that point, and Dean is perfectly placed in the frame for fame window of opportunity.

rob ellen

http://www.boomerangboy.com
 





lee pattersonlamplighter

Think Billy Bragg "Between the Wars" take away the Essex accent substitute an Edinburgh housing scheme attitude and accent, add a pinch of Van The Man, light the blue touch paper, stand back and that's what it's like at a Lee Patterson concert.

Lamplighter, is his self release album available from his web site, and selling like hot cakes at his shows. Where I queued for this copy, after the recent Acoustic Mayhem show, (see Flyin Shoes David Blue review below) with Scott Mac Donald (see flyin Shoes interview) and Dave Arcari (see radiotones.com).

The question usually is, was the £10 well spent and does it represent what we saw at the show? It opens with "Sometimes", a love song with a dexterous use of imagery in a Paul Brady kind of way and a 13 time "I Love You" proclamation of a chorus, (lucky for some, hopefully him, count them Lee, 13 times, you love sick fool!!! ) soul body and heart like his show; so far so good. "I Am A Man" is next, a passionate affirmation of time place and purpose in the face of the adversity of a relationship gone bad. Damn! a jump in the recording to get it started! and not a burned copy either! very strange!!. Truth is the recording is better than demo quality if the mastering isn't and is more that simply listenable for a low budget offering. Lee is a percussive, high volume and highly intense, veins in the neck sweat on the face, sort of performer, but he has deceptive sensitive sides too, which find their many sparkling reflection on Lamplighter. Particularly on the title track (inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson poem) It is about encouragement, intimacy, touches and smoulders like the gas lighting evoked in the piece. Simply his voice and guitar at its John Martyn-ish warmest. "Once To Live" comes bucking back at you in his more accustomed confrontational style, shouting in a Proclaimer-ish way "That's The Way It Is You Got To Dance" and quickly adds the disclaimer for the disenfranchised "If You Can" incisive comment and observation is Lee Paterson's haul mark, here his eagle eye stares down on the chasm between the have's and the have nots. "When Love Falters" is a funk fusion dance piece, about that divorce and its aftermath. "Can you pay somebody to love your kid?" and "When The Love Falters The Money Helps" are a couple of lines, a frank and honest call and no answer song." I See You" returns to the plaintive back porch feel, and sings of love and its part of the whole person and how it feels without it, however brief the parting. Once smitten ever bitten, Lee's in love!!!. "Lowlands", is into Dick Gaughan country, an a cappella, low registered Scottish spiritual and deeply penetrating for its starkness. Jack and Jill returns to the love seeking format, and doesn't show the subtlety of some of the other offerings on this otherwise convincing album. Jack & Jill or just a fill? Every album has at least one.

Hello though!!! here comes the 'piece de resistance'! and the best reason I will remember this artist, the gig and possible the album too, "Don't Ask Them Why" (that's the name of the song not my rhetorical question) accompanied only by his uncles grey hound.( Its true but don't ask "me" why, you'll have to go to his gig to hear that story !!) A chant/rank with his radical bodhran playing the only backing. A drum corp cacophony of sound beating the way for political freedom from 21st century conditioning. Don't Ask Them Why is as it is with all the best protest songs, a statement of frustration and an incitement to action.

Well no frustration here as far as this album is concerned, It comfortably fulfills its post gig criteria, refreshing more than just the memory, and I hope this review will help entice and incite you to one of his gigs, but don't wait if you don't want to, visit www.leepatterson.co.uk and have a listen now, if you like the vibe I think you enjoy the whole album.

rob ellen

http://www.leepatterson.co.uk
 





dan tylerI hope (Intuit Music 2003)


Dan Tyler first made the charts in 1978 when Eddie Rabbitt recorded his "Hearts On Fire". He's been a regular ever since with hits like "Modern Day Romance"[Nitty Gritty Dirt Band], "Somebody's Doin Me Right"[Keith Whitley], and "The Light In Your Eyes"[Leann Rimes]. Eddy Arnold, Bobby Blue Bland, the Cox Family, and Kenny Rogers have also recorded his tunes. This time however it's Dan Tyler showcasing Dan Tyler. The CD title, I Hope, is from some lines by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing
with feathers
That perches in the soul
and sings the tune

The surprise is that on his own, Dan Tyler turns out to have the heart of an old folkie. He writes about things that matter, even puts his conscience out there for the record but without the preachy tone. Like the best social commentary it slips in under your radar while you're busy appreciating the art. Steve Goodman immediately comes to mind on the bouncy opening cut "Costa Rica". And from there on out it's a master class in songwriting. The stick-in-your-head lyric and jukebox friendly arrangement of "Even The Bad Times Are Good" is contrasted by "I Am The River" which makes the most of a Celtic musical sensibility and a Native American nature perspective. Then there's the rousing, rocking gospel energy of "Jesus Come Back", the biting, bluesy political rant of "Watch What Their Saying" and the stark, simple intimacy of "Sweetheart". By the time he gets around to his version of. "The Light In Your Eyes" you're struck again at how the best writers know not to smother a song with production values but let it breathe. These are songs with the feel and lift of a different time and different take on things-still concerned but more hopeful than is fashionable today. Everyone who sits down to write with a guitar should go to school on this CD. So if you're flat out a fan of great songwriting and you're taste leans towards Nick Jones, Dan Bern, or Kieran Kane, add Dan Tyler to the mix.

james mcsweeney

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dantyler
 





jason walker + the last drinksashes and wine


In the last ten years or so there seem to have been a successsion of bands rising to the fore with original material that pays blatant homage to some particular phase of rock/pop's varied history. Oasis famously rewrote The Beatles' songbook whilst The Thrills, The Coral and a host of others have rewritten the 60s and 70s for the 21st century. And now here comes Jason Walker from Australia with his second album, all his own songs but sounding like Mick'n'Keef mislaid them sometime in the early 70s.
It's all about doomed love affairs and taking refuge in the drink and I feel the lyrics reflect the rock'n'roll mythology rather than any intense personal experiences. And that's fine because we don"t have to take it seriously and can just enjoy a good nostalgic wallow in solid rock music solidly played. There's plenty of knowing nods in The Stones' direction. I think Jason just happens to sound like Mick Jagger because the similarities are quite subtle, not a pastiche , but he really goes for the connection with the whole band sound on some tracks, and then when a song called "Dissatisfaction" comes along you know he's just enjoying himself being Jagger's kid brother. My favourite track is perhaps less Stones-like; "Drown in that River" has a beery (or whisky-soaked) boys chorus backing Jason as he sings a song of the drink both ruining his life and offering his only refuge (boy, does he need the love of a good woman). Amongst other pleasures it gives us the line: "I'm not dead, I'm just sleeping alone". This album's still growing on me, and, for a rock record, it brings a quiet pleasure. And finally I should mention that whilst Jason Walker is the mainman, Michael Carpenter provides Gurf Morlix like duties as co-writer, engineer, producer, drummer, backing vocalist......

( Laughing Outlaw Records LORCD-072)

john davy

http://www.laughingoutlaw.com.au/
 





jim brysonthe north side benches


Featuring in my 2003 best of year at number 4 this Canadian release on Orange Records is as far as I know still not available here which is tragic. Easily one of the most impressive discs of the past year it is really worth seeking out. I first came across it via a demo track called 'Somewhere Else' which was getting a radio airing last summer. Enquiries and a demo disc later I was presented with a slightly different version of the final disc I can now review. From opening track 'Sleeping in Toronto' we are in first-rate songwriter territory. It's reminiscent of a bit of the Jayhawks at their poppiest and Mathew Sweet's pop confections but nearer probably to the Ron Sexsmith's more recent albums in tone.The album sifts and peels the layers back on shifting personal expectations and geographic and emotional dislocations. Not all as doom and gloom as it sounds but there definitely a blue tinge to the mood like the album covers 'anyplace' evening photo of floodlights.
If anything the revised track order is even better than on the demo as this tracks effortless groove slides into that 'Somewhere Else' track. Favourite lyric on album it reveals a true wordsmith up there with that Sexsmith bloke and to these ears gives Ron's recent work a run for the money. Honestly! No suprise then to see Canadian luminaries on the backing credits and that Jim has played guitar with Kathleen Edwards on what was probably the best Canadian release of last year her album 'Failer'. To my mind this record is as good. The gorgeous brushed guitar intro splashes into a gentle hymn to love's cruel geography..'life can be cruel, life can be sweet if I want it to be..'...'the town I once called home I can't hold on to..' 'everybody out here they want to live somewhere else...'...I don't often accuse someone of poetry but hell this close.
The album is uniformly good and dare I say it not a bad track in the 11and even the web-linked demos( a enhanced feature)are great showing different textures on same songs. In fact I even prefer the stripped down versions in some cases. A first rate musician lineup and sensitive production bring out the best. Highlights? Well 'elizabeth' starts with a country Byrds like jauntiness but slides under the sentiment...'I'm just along for the ride'...lovely pace to it. 'Fleetwood' starts with a throbbing organ/guitar figure and again Jim sounds lost........'Captain Finch' is beautiful with an almost spoken lyric....feather like touches on guitar and drums supporting the delicacy.....for some reason Lovin Spoonful comes to mind. Pop-rock or country who cares this is sublime stuff and 'Feel much better' is a damn fine tune. 'Accidental Country Leaning' sends up his own leanings perhaps in a mellow way that reminded this listener of Tim Hardin's jazzier tracks. As if to upset the applecart next track 'Mean Streak' is more Replacements punk rock than folk-rock and it's great......OOOHHHHHH singalong stuff....must be great live track as the garage 'rumble' guitar slides down the frets to an abrupt conclusion. 'At Least for Now' sounds faintly Mercury Rev in arrangement..and yep as good as...and yes I still aint found a dud track. Eleventh track and closer is the piano and voices Randy Newmanesque..'broken fingers' and again he doesnt drop the quality.....bravo.
Well if it gets a license deal here I can put it in my best of 2004 list too. Sometimes us critics gush and say things like 'never off the CD player' well in this case I can honestly say I play this once a week and it gets better. Some damn fine Canadian recordings about lately..Kathleen Edwards, Ox and ow Jim Bryson......a fine 2003 vintage.....what they put in the water out there....

sdb

http://www.jimbryson.org
 





eliza gilkysonland of milk and honey


I had not come across Eliza Gilkyson before witnessing a superb performance at The Maze Nottingham last year. Ably supported by Jeff Plankenhorn who has recently released his own well-received disc she stole a lot of hearts. Songs aired on that showing and which stayed with me ( always sign of real songwriting) are presented on this Red House Records disc.
The cover, by Newsweek journalist Charles Ommaney, sets the tone perfectly. These are ballads from an imperfect world. The songs are as poignant and affecting as the knowledge that the young boy diving into the pool of industrial waste in Albania will probably die young from the effects of all that pollution.

At a time when politics is hard to avoid it surprising how many songwriters are avoiding it. I'm not talking mild platitudes here. Eliza grasps the nettle fair and square on opener 'Hiway 9' ...'whose tax dollar is it yours and mine, keeps the big trucks rollin down hiway 9'. We are all implicated. It isn't just the 'little man' and his 'daddy's kin' in the White House we are all implicated in these crimes.

The album drifts in and out of the personal and the political. here does one end and the next begin when a single woman is ok being on her own for a while (Not Lonely) or a girl is thrown on a table and her brother ' forced himself inside of me' ( Ballad of Yvonne Johnson'). How we treat each other has implications for how we treat the world around us. We take and we spoil for o-i-l she says and we cannot wash the stains from our boots and hems.

Musically the recordings are faultless and the star backing group of Slaid Cleaves, Iris Dement, Mary Chapin Carpenter is secondary to the power of the songs here. I haven't had privelige of hearing all the back catalogue but this sounds like a career best record. She covers her father in 'Runnin Away' and for those unaware he was a man who wrote for Johnny Cash and others and this a lovely homage to the man who now sadly gone.

The back cover of the record has another telling photo of a 'God Bless America' poster defaced to read 'God Bless the World' with a peace sign inserted in the letter O. This album is a heartfelt plea from a woman who has lived and seen the costs of the american dream and calls to us to change course before it too late...as she sings 'wayward world I weep for thee....'.
The land of 'Milk and Honey' is awash with the smell of 'terror and ashes' as Mavis Gallant said of postwar Germany. When will the fires stop burning? Her coda is a superb rendition of a hitherto unrecorded Woody Guthrie tune 'Peace Call' with a star chorus of voices. A fitting end and a rallying cry too..

' I'll work, I'll fight, 'll dance and sing of peace of the youthful spirit,

get ready for the bugle call of peace

peace, peace, peace,'

Is it worth buying? Damn right it is but this is not about easy listening this is about how you live your life....it goes beyond the warm living rooms and the folk fans cd player and collection..it goes beyond those comfortable barriers behind which we hide from the cold winds of war...........it's about those trucks rumbling down Hiway 9.........it is a record of our fears and our hopes and our dreams.... hear that bugle calling....

sdb

http://www.elizagilkyson.com
 





randy thompsonthat's not me

 

Slick photos, slick press, slick production...so what he doing in Flyinshoes then? Well if you scrape back the Nashville surface gloss there is some interesting music within just not much. We talking more the Garth Brooks market than Lambchop anyway but hey opener is a cover of a Steve Young song so let's give it a go.

There's an air of Waylon macho bravado here and a few sonic comparisons in order in that respect too. Especially in the rockin 'Sound of the Rain' a great full tilt boogie number. Indeed the rhythms are mostly uptempo. think Steve Earle's 'Guitar Town' era and you be close to the mark. Mostly it comes off as in 'The Lovin' Shown' and almost a touch of the Brooce vibe about 'Dance until dawn'. Hell it close to a steal but it bops along agreeably. can see the soccer moms bopping in the stadium to that one already!

You may detect a wariness about this disc and mostly its the perfect product nature of it. If a team of engineers built a perfect contemporary artist for the country market they'd come up with something like this. By the closing tracks...'Unknown Zone', 'If that wasn't love' and 'Only one way' the feeling of apathy was washing me away and the bland song titles didn't help. Probably perfect music for driving a truck down Hiway 9 but hell it does nothing for me. I don't usually damn with faint praise but in this case I really think it worth it. Good artist with bottom dollars rather than songwriting leading the way...and that's not me.

Probably sell a million but not to me....

sdb

http://www.randythompson.net
 





dickie lee erwin'stexas midnight highway


You'll find them in truck stops heading west on I-40 from the Atlantic through the Smokies to the Texas panhandle and on to California and the Pacific. Or up and down the west coast on I-5 from Canada to the Mexican border. CDs you don't see anywhere else, featuring artists you never heard of unless the rig you drive has 16 wheels or better. And there they are, at point of purchase displays or on revolving racks next to the sunglasses-CD after CD of truck drivin' music. Regionality and specialization fuel this phenomenon. Most of these CDs are made by artists whose zone of popularity fades after a few hundred miles and is subject to the same vagaries that account for regional differences in food, mores and tastes. Recognition and sales usually fall off when you hit the periphery of that zone. Word of mouth and a subculture of chili, little white pills and breakfast at 3 AM take the place of billboards and trade rags. Truckers recommend their favorites, trade back and forth and know there's always another truck stop up ahead. And folks, on Texas Midnight Highway Dickie Lee Erwin is at least a spiritual cousin to each and every one of these outsiders. He's long past the point of being a local sensation but the music's still got that independent attitude and riding-with-my-baby vibe. The difference is reach-his neighborhood might be the back roads of west Texas but there's no boundaries to the music. You can feel the miles rolling by just listening to roadworthy rockers like the opening cut "Motherlode" or the easy cruising "Circles In The Sand". If that was all there was it would still be worth your while to have a listen but there's way more than that. Erwin's vision is not bound by geography and the songs on this CD transcend style as well. Take Patty Griffin's gem of a harmony vocal on the Sam Cooke inspired "Candy Girl" for example. Or the soulful feel and gospel pull of "Blackjack County Chain". Then there's "Rowdies Tune" the CD's closer, which would sound right at home on a David Grissman album. And the flat-out acceleration of "2000 Miles" with its churning Farfisa organ evoking fuzz-box rasp is a ripping good tribute to West Texas legend Doug Sahm and his Sir Douglas Quintet. A real-deal band featuring Hunt Sales, Gary Newcomb, Ron McGuire, Richard Somers, and Patty Griffin on harmonies throughout, makes the music stand tall. Texas Midnight Highway: stories honestly come by and earnestly told. And a hell of a lot of fun to boot.

james mcsweeney

http://dickieleeerwin.primusnetworks.com/
 





powder blue s/t



Looks like the best alt-country record of 2004 so far has been made in The Netherlands by the wonderful Marjolein van der Klauw who includes a cover of Gllian Welch's 'Dry Town' and guess what she's more than capable of gving Ms Welch a run for her money.....along with guitarist Jac Bico she has already recorded one CD in her native Netherlands called 'So much to cover' through the Basta Record label. She has gained recognition and won a major competition.
This her second release is a stunning old timey influenced recording. Can't really fault it at all. Production is superb and the songwriting on tracks like 'Rosie' and Blame it on me' is as good as anything that has come out stateside in last few years. Her voice is not as mannered as Welch and at times hints at Rosie Thomas and Laura Cantrell. The guitar is tasteful and precise. Euro-americana djs are already placing this high in their chart and one can see why. Thoroughly deserving of investigation and hopefully it will get a U.S. release soon.

sdb

http://www.powderblue.nl/
 





slaid cleaveswishbones


No huge surprises in Wishbones, "if it ain't broke don't fix it". So expect, top notch instrumentation (big iron strings and sliding steel abound ) and equally slick production and performance, emotional weight and clever wordplay, stories of the hard road, American fables, and lovelorn vinaigrettes.In his own words from the title track "this is real life no reality show" . The gritty Cleaves is again in cahoots with Austin production mentor and buddy Gurf Morlix, but this time he is really utilising Gurfs considerable guitaring skills to maximum effect. This album is a bit rockier with more band arrangements than the award winning 2000 release Broke Down. Cleaves says, with obvious pride, of Wishbones "The instrumentation becomes more a part of the story instead of the background to the story." It certainly feels comfortable on the ears to this listener, and I can see why Cleaves is comfortable with the arrangements to the extent he indicates.

The only complaint I can imagine from his legion of fans will be "why so long"? Slaid Cleaves is at his best when he is telling "beginning middle and end" stories and Wishbones, if anything, has even more story songs than Broke Down. He has a lazy affability and a deceptively well-honed ability to introduce characters, lay settings, communicate emotions and conduct a journey through verse long adventures, with either comforting or confronting choruses, to the inevitable moral filled conclusion and all in 3 minutes. Slaid is as good as it gets at this, and what is even better, from the point of view of an ardent gig goer, the hard working Cleaves ( whos musical trail started busking in Cork in the mid 80's where he was a student ) can still be found touring 10 months of the year and will in any given year be at a venue near you.

Though if this album is as user friendly as I suspect it is, and given some breaks, it can't be long until he will only be available live, as a dot at the end of some warehouse for 30 a ticket, see him while you can!

tracks:

01 Wishbones .... a jaunty guitar driven careworn but optimistic tale
02 Road Too Long.... a standard RnB truckers tune (six day in this mode but I'm going to get a hit this time)
03 Drinkin' Days.... His drinking days are over but he's still in trouble, bad luck doesn't always come in a bottle. The sequel to Horse Shoe lounge from Broke Down
04 Sinner's Prayer.... Blues tune, in a Peter Green style, a lament for the lost life.
05 Tiger Tom Dixon's Blues.... Reforged collaboration with his pall Rod Picott, the boxers tale
06 Below.... Nostalgic piece of childhood and childhood places both lost never to be seen again.
07 Quick as Dreams... The old timer Jocky's recollection, riding the thoroughbreds, in the racing hey day
08 Horses.... Moonshine Willie's tale, in a Jimmy Rogers style
09 Hearts Break.... Shuffering Blues and home spun philosophy, my favourite track.
10 Borderline.... Heartbreaking tale of a disenfranchised migrant worker
11 New Year's Day.... A Cajun feel good farewell to a friend

Wishbones is on Philo/Rounder and will be available in good record shops and through Slaid's web site on March 9th

Rob Ellen

 

http://www.slaid.com/
 





r.d. roth & the issuesfear not the breakdown


r.d.roth's first disc was reviewed in flyin shoes review as crossing over two worlds - that of texas singer songwriters and the more avant-garde nashville world of lambchop and co. With this his second release that crossover mentality finds ample expression and goes even further across the borders. Roth intones across opening track 'The Fiddler' like Paul K or Steve Wynn and the backing is a murky almost Magazine like 80's type rock over which Deanna Varagonna of afore-mentioned lambchop blows a weird baritone sax blues. Spooky and not a little unusual like rest of the disc. Originally a fine art sculptor here roth continues teaching his personal chicago school of surrealism. Electronica feathers out across that sax sound...then we're into heavy rock....'One in a billion'...which sounds like a a breathy broke love song but hides deeper layers of meaning regarding abuse of power post 9/11.
The lambchop tone floods the third track which sounds like a take on 'House of the rising sun' with Tim Rose singing.
Obviously this no sensitive singer songwriter disc....and no fake country gothic either, Roth has written in flyin shoes review about his friend Paul K and its his dark take on life and superior songwriting that this disc evokes. The ghost of a darker hearted r.e.m. also floats over the soundscapes he constructs....most notably in the distorted blues of 'Lincoln's Lament'. Suddenly a pedal steel floats into view and roth throws off a stark country ballad in 'When I left' a stunning track where the duet voice is that of Eleventh Dream Day/ Freakwater's Janet Bean. Elsewhere David Olney and Varagonna guest...some backing group and a measure of esteem he held in.
'Hey all you hipsters' is a jaundiced view of the seedier side of the music 'biz' sung like Stipe on downers and frankly closer to Aussie rock merchants The Moodists or The Birthday Party than any U.S. model. 'Eight Ball' is a weird distorted voice surreal sketch that suddenly gives out to favourite track 'In The Alley' which closer to Vic Chesnutt's tracks with lambchop and a pure delight with a mock Memphis horns sailing behind the chorus .....like The Three Degrees! A beautifully judged track. A Tom Waits-like scrap and hell it veers off like Gary Glitter ...the eclecticism can get confusing...more grunge guitar and dismal mood building and disc ends in a welter of deep purple prose ...' streetlights that look like pins....here comes the ground'....cheerful stuff. In its dark ambience the nearest U.S.A. equivalent is darker aspects of Joe Henry and again an artist who crosses over from the country slick to the surreal electroplated blues sound. First disc ended in a faux-medieval 78 sound and same goes for this disc..somewhere off the radar he's crooning in what sounds like next-door's front room.......down home and folksy not really....more like Frank Hutchinson's pre war old timey whiskey-fuelled nightmare..... When too many discs have no ideas this one strains to contain all the explorations but well worth persevering in taking the trip.

SDB
to listen to album go to

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rdrissues

 

http://www.rdroth.com/
 





terri binion fool


She describes herself as a southern noir songwriter, I don't know if in the course of this review we will find out what that means exactly but I hope you'll be closer to knowing a bit more about another extraordinarily fine talent. Terri lives in Florida but hails from North Carolina writes the songs, plays guitar, sings and is accompanied by a host of top musicians including ardent fan Lucinda Williams on harmony vocals on the catchy "Gayle Ann" the shuffling opening track.

It always worthy of commendation when an established artist offers a helping hand back down the ladder, and their voices do blend nicely. I suspect this track will have lots of people playing it on the radio, in fact I should thank the influential Jos van den Boom of Crossroads on BRTO-radio in The Netherlands for sending us this gem.

Other good work worthy of note on the album are the dobro and lap steel of Tuck Tucker and the understated swing rhythms from Doug Mathews Acoustic Bass and Anthony Cole on Drums, in fact so fine are all the performances on this album, I would wager that they have all constituted or augmented the same bands for many many years , they all display a admirable awareness of space and minimalism.

Terri Binion is as charming an Iris Dement in approach but still manages to be as powerful as a Mary Gauthier when the point needs making. Ostensibly a story teller with a clear perspective on the uphill struggle of the disenfranchised "All She Ever Dreamed" is as caring a study of a woman in a violent relationship as I've ever heard, and her deft touch on "Fool" throws a candle light on the healing process involved in picking up the pieces.

Both tracks are served up with appropriate amounts of lap steel and electric steel guitars, all this more than hinting at the authentic credentials of a modern day Kitty Wells . "Sitting Here Dreaming " weaves fiddle dobro and mandolin around the unfulfilled and longing dreams we all indulge in when smitten and kept apart.

Fool sits as happily in jazz formation as it does in blues and country, and to its eternal credit, gits down home at the drop of a straw hat in all three forms . No better demonstration of this than on "Dream Worn Thin" which opens with a basic banjo riff and a lost soul, solo voice, then grows through the forlorn tail of a bible belt orphan to a crescendo of New Orleans Jazz instrumentation and funereal joy.

The album wanders a lazy course like a land-locked river with hospitable surprises round every slow curve. Beautifully produced and lovingly put together, inventive and colourful as an original embroidered tapestry and as comforting and informal as your granny's quilt, homespun and wise, get it soon.

Rob Ellen

www.terribinion.com
 





wrinkle neck mules minor enough


This is my first review this year and I would like to state now that these guys have set a really high standard for the rest to follow! There are thirteen tracks on the album and not a dud amongst them. The whole thing kicks of with No Consolation a cracking country rock number.What follows then is a mixture of bluegrass, alt.country and a kind of country garage style!
This is a five piece band hailing from between Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia.All the songs are written by either Chase Heard or Andy Stepanian who are the two main vocalists.

Right , back to the album. Quite a few of the tracks are drink related Failure Of Liver and 17 Seventeen Miles Of Bourbon to name but two.But the pick of the bunch for me are the three closing tracks Wandering Valley Prelude which segues seamlessly into the fantastically dark and wondrous Head Of Steam. The whole thing comes to a close with Gold Dust Twin with a moody synthesised intro ,quirky effects sitting happily along side hard driven electric guitars ,brilliant!

The Mules are as comfortable playing bluegrass as they are full blown alt. Country rock. To compare the Mules with others is difficult because they have a unique style of their own but I could hear traces Dillards, Jayhawks, Willard Grant and even a touch of Poco in this record.I have listened to a lot of alt. Country over the last year and I would be hard pushed to find a better album than this.I think the Mules are touring here in the summer and personally I can't wait. In the meantime I'll just have to wear out the album.
THESE MULES KICK ASS!!!
Yours in all that is good about music


David Tonberg

www.wrinkleneckmules.com
 





acoustic mayhem @ stereo, glasgow 23/02/2004


Acoustic Mayhem are three Scottish singer-songwriters, Dave Arcari, Lee Patterson and Scott MacDonald. This was the first date of their short Scottish tour that will take them to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Perth and Kinloss before finishing in Inverness on the 14th of March. There's quite an intimate feel to the stage in Stereo and the crowd can get up close and personal if it so wishes but overall this is an excellent venue for this type of act.

The show was started by Radiotones frontman Arcari who gave a typically manic performance which included songs from the bands last two albums as well as a couple of blues standards. He went through his repetoire like a whirlwind only stopping for breath long enough to joke with the crowd that he forgets that the songs have an ending if he's not got the band to remind him. Highlights from this archetypal showman were Bring My Baby Back, Walking Blues (during which he managed to slip in the line David Blue's Blues) and Goin' To See The King. All through the performance Dave joked that he had nowhere to hide without his band and Marshall stack but he need not have bothered as he looked as though he'd been doing it for years.

Next up was Edinburgh's Lee Patterson who continued the mania. He provided an energetic performance from the first minute when he made a spectacular entry using just voice and tambourine, with the microphone stand substituting for a drum kit. He said he'd trashed one guitar in rehearsal and it didn't look too hot for the mike stand. Pattersons songs are full of social comment and he could quite easily be labelled as an angry young man but that is not totally the case. He has a sense of humour as shown when he explained the origins of his bodhran skin - even down to the picture of a dog drawn on it. If I mention Santa's Little Helper from The Simpsons then you might get the drift. Lyrically sound, he can turn words on themselves e.g. "Feel like I'm wasting time but time is wasting me". My favourite was the Springsteen-esque Working Man where his soulful voice came to the fore. Lee Patterson may be Scotland's answer to Billy Bragg.

Last but not least was Glaswegian Scott MacDonald and his melodic style was very much a contrast to the two who had gone before him. His set of gentle songs very much reminded me of the style of Jim Almand who I had the pleasure of reviewing some time ago. I'm sure that there will be those that will compare Scott to John Denver and Neil Young in his country phase but what he does is he adds a certain Scottish-ness to the overall package. Songs such as The Caravan Song (written in a caravan on Loch Fyne - what else is there to do there?) and Flowers In The Garden are examples of his fine songwriting talent.

The show finished with what was promised to be chaos (10 minutes rehearsal) but turned out to be slightly less than that. Lee took the vocals for a rocking version of I'm A Believer, Dave then took over for a Robert Johnson cover and Scott sang the final song that turned into a bit of a jam.

These guys show the wealth of talent in Scotland that the Pop Idol generation are missing. Try to catch them before they finish their adventure.



David Blue

www.radiotones.com/buzz/acousticmayhem/





steve gibbons the dylan project


For some reason this 1998 album appeared on my desk a few weeks ago. I don't know why but I'm glad that it did. Dylan enthusiasts will probably disagree with me but apart from the opening, self-penned Colours To The Mast this collection seems to be a selection of some well-known Dylan songs and some lesser known. The lesser-known songs may just, of course, be an indication of my poor education - I've never been a fan of Dylan himself but I do admire him as a songwriter where he is almost unsurpassed.

As cover versions go this selection is very good. However, I don't know whether it is to be taken as just that or has Steve Gibbons turned into a Dylan tribute act. If it is the latter then he certainly has Dylan's vocal inflection off pat although the total sound (harmonica included) could be construed as too clinical and not as rough as the Dylan originals.

The songs, such as the classic Highway 61 Revisited, It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry and I Want You are complemented by When The Ship Comes In and Down Along The Cove to provide an album of surprising quality. Gibbons is ably backed in this endeavour by British music luminaries Simon Nicol, PJ Wright and Dave Pegg with special mention to the rocking slide of Wright on the aforementioned Highway 61 Revisited.

It may have taken some time to come to my attention but this will be on my CD player more often than some others.

David Blue ( this review also available at www.netrhythms.com)

www.dylanproject.co.uk www.folkcorp.co.uk
 





kieran ridge band s/t


If Bob Dylan and Steve Earle had a child this is what he would sound like. Kieran Ridge veers back and forth between one or the other with Earle heard strongest. The band also favors that skiffly, loose feel on the arrangements and instrumentation that Bob and Steve are keen proponents of. That having been said, know that while these songs pay homage, they very definitely stand on their own. Ridge and the band sound equally comfortable on ballads as they do letting it out and they've avoided the overproduction that plagues so many first releases. More pith to the lyrics than you might expect as these are mostly love songs. But love songs about love under duress with an edgy sense of unease running through them like some dark vein. "Just Like December" is a good example, walking the line between despair and hope that's familiar to anyone who's ever struggled with love. And on "Close Your Eyes", the CD's last cut, you feel both the release and relief that falling into sleep brings but also the vague sense of nameless dread that keeps you tossing and turning. Overall a helluva debut of well crafted songs played by a band that obviously paid attention in roots rock class. If you take your love songs with a shot of bitters there ain't hardly nothing not to like about this music.

James McSweeney

http://www.kridge.com