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hello friends,
last week i had the luck to see bob dylan live, for the fourth time in my life and for the second time in little more than one year. i must say that last year's show was one of the most exciting live acts i ever seen by anyone, and i really did not think that this year's one could be on the same level.

it was maybe better, well in any case it was not worse.

the playlist of last year's show was more "political"... bush II was just beginning some war (iraq or afghanistan, i'm not sure and it's hard to keep the record with him). i felt that dylan's list was very influenced by that - some days before, 110 millions people had done demonstration, all around the world on the same day, to try and stop the attack. our man began with "the times they are a changin", played songs like "it's alright, ma", "blowin in the wind" and even "masters of war". the arrangements were partially displaying the sound that was the main essence of the previous dylan i saw live... think it was 2000. rather "country with style" (this is funny, a radio turned on by itself as i'm writing in the empty/closed office...).

this year's dylan sounded more "intimate" to me, at least if we consider the playlist. he opened with "to be alone with you", followed by "it's all over now, baby blue" and did songs like "every grain of sand", "spanish boots" etc. - only, the sound became very rocking during the second part of the show. and what a rock band... the "new" guitar player (sorry i don't remember the name) fits even better than charlie sexton. got a great hat, too. the rest of the band is just wonderful - they did a good deal of songs from "love and theft": "summer days", "cry a while", "tweedle dee".. and a couple more whose title i don't recall. not "mississippi". oh, they did a terrific version of "things have changed". another surprise, the first encore was "cat's in the well" (a so-called minor songs, but really fitting the rocking part of the list) which then became "like a rolling stone", which featured a torching solo by the guitar-player-with-no-name. finale with "all along the watchtower"...

the sad aspect of the show was dylan himself. well, he sang really good and his mood looked great, but he did not touch the guitar during the whole show. he did not even have a guitar onstage. he stood at the piano all the time, playing several harp parts and, only a couple of time, dared try to walk along the stage. but, bob looked like someone who can't walk anymore, and moved like a zombie. a smiling zombie, or a smiling big bear who just got shot in the back.-

now, are some possibilities:
1 - the man was so drunk/on drugs that he walked with stiff back and body. objection: he wouldn't sing this good. counter-objection: he can do anything;
2 dylan was suffering with a serious backache. two nights before, in Bozen, he only played a little guitar. hell get better soon;
3 - dylan's body is slowing going down, due to all his accidents he had, and the unbearable pace of his live activity. he won't get better soon, but he'll play and sing as long as god or whoever gives him a little energy, like the great old bluesmen (i have the luck to remember the late great john lee hooker) simply sittin on a chair.

in any case, it was a terrific show and, btw, i had never seen dylan from so close - just a dozen rows. the scenography simple and beautiful, the band perfect. he, in another dimension. his perfect nihilism above anything and anyone, a strange nihilism for which he cares so much about. a monument to the century that has just ended. "it's alright ma, i'm only bleedin'" has the sound of a world when ending, a sound that only very special artists, like dylan, cohen, or shaun belcher, can bring to us humble listeners.

gosh, i'd go see dylan even if he was singing from a hospital bed.



The Great Transatlantic Shift is a thing of beauty and strangeness. That most righteously Texan gentleman Doug Sahm pretended (with his band The Sir Douglas Quintet) to be British, to hitch a ride with the mid-60s Beatlemania bandwagon. Those Home Counties whitebread suburbanites The Rolling Stones pretended to be from the Deep South, in order to emulate their (mostly black) American heroes... then those deep-fried Southerners The Black Crowes pretended to be The Rolling Stones... Etcetera etcetera... I love this stuff. Anyway, back to the plot. If there is a Didcot Delta, Easy Tiger are from it. ("Didcot - Glimmer-Twinned with Rockville, USA"). Ady and Dann are the Mick and Keith of the group, singing songs of rock and roll euphoria over Dann's stinging slide riffs, ably assisted by bassist Jerry, keyboard wizard Nick and percussion supremo Tim Turan (also of tweedy psychedelicists The Relationships). "Get Back Down" kicks the album off with an organ and drum figure worthy of Messrs Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, before the guitars come rollicking in, and Ady gives it his best needle-sharp Rod vocal... Now let it just be said that the early 70s Faces were among the best exponents of The Great Transatlantic Shift, and Easy Tiger operate in the same general territory. They have that barrelhouse good-time feel, fuelled by booze, smoke and lairy comradeship; these guys are the last great gang in town. But, just in case you thought this means Uber-Lad overload, there are also moments of soulful Stones-y balladry, in the form of "Let the Music Play" (with its horn-driven gospel outro) and the album's magnificent closer "What You Want" - a dreamy trip down a moonlight mile, underscored by layered guitars and hazy Fender Rhodes. Meanwhile the party-down rockers here should find favour with young fans of the Kings of Leon and other such modern boogie-merchants, while the older listeners among us can smile at the artful references to some of our favourite 70s feather-cut heroes... Can't wait for that difficult Easy Tiger Second Album...

Tony Rome



Jonathan Byrd is a singer/songwriter who writes down what he does and shares it with others, each recipe serves up something different but no less tasty than the dish before. We happened upon him in Charlotte, North Carolina during an open mike. Spanning the genres of blues, bluegrass and country/folk, this guy quite simply made our mouths hang open. We left our e-mail address with one of the bar staff asking Jonathan to let us know how to buy one of his new cds (hot off the griddle). Jonathan contacted us and just a few weeks ago we got his cd - well worth the wait - perfect for hot, still summer days. You can just hear the folks singing from their porches about love and loss and need and want, redemption and revenge. All from this thin white guy with a guitar. I say thin and white because at times I am certain he is channelling the soul of a big ol' blues traveller, black as coal and have been done all kinds of wrong. The cd features a few other fine players - fiddle, accordian, bass and cello - but Jonathan does fine on his own, too, singin' and pickin'. The Waitress by Jonathan Byrd offers up a full menu - stark and straightforward yet delightful and savory. From the first song, the title track, The Waitress, it's all so good, however - could you pick just one thing? Jonathan has a knack for being tongue-in-cheek and political and getting the balance right. He tugs at things that make you go 'ow' or 'oh no!', but not in an overactive preachy kind of way. He makes songs with things he's got around the kitchen. Take, for instance, one of his originals (the one that got us hooked) 'The Ballad of Larry'. Add one part great story to one part great chorus laid out on a fine acoustic guitar foundation and, well, there you go. With fork in hand, you are diggin' in. I listened to every track again and again, singing along and feeling like a friend was sittin' next to me tellin' me things I needed to hear. As in 'The Snake Song', 'My Generation' and 'Small Town'. He throws in a couple traditional songs - 'Stackalee' and 'Fiddle and Bow'. I expected 'Rosie' to be a traditional song - full of betrayal and secrets, a murder ballad as fine as I ever did hear - but it was an original. A traditional song for a future generation. Jonathan has a great voice - he's delicate and introspective at times, as in 'Being With You', and other times you could swear he was there when Stackalee was being oh so bad. This fella' comes from musical roots, studied guitar and jazz and went on to join the Navy for a few years. Lets be glad he ended up writin' songs. His fusion of old and new, clarity and thought, poetry and punch, and his fine pickin' makes you feel you have finally HEARD something worth hearin'.
[See Jonathan on tour in the UK in early December]

Kris Wilkinson
and the Firebrands


If you're jones-ing for some of that late 50's jukebox ambience look no further--Elizabeth McQueen and the FireBrands are on the scene. They'd be right at home in any roadhouse from Baton Rouge to San Bernadino. Hell, it sounds like these folks get to the gig in an Olds Rocket 88. The Firebrands play this music about as well as anybody: the rhythm section "sounds like they're sleeping together" and the guitars hangout in that Duke Robillard/Amos Garrett territory. And while they can definitely make you shake your moneymaker they shine just as bright on those torchy love songs. This is where McQueen puts her best foot forward. She doesn't have the whispered intimacy of Peggy Lee or the smooth contralto of Patsy Cline. Her her voice sounds thin at times, not yet registering the requisite number of miles. But on self-penned ballads like The Oldest Story and I Don't Know Why, her unique phrasing and undercurrent of vulnerability hold your attention and draw you in. Too often people get this music right technically but don't 'get it'-all sauce, no ribs. Elizabeth McQueen and the Firebrands sound like they're playing this music for the same reason people did in 1959-it's just one hell of a lot of fun. They even stake a claim to their own musical identity-a neat trick when you're working in a genre that's half a century old. Right verve. Right vibe. Check it out.

Gravitron! Records 2003 GT1001


I had thought that when I heard last year's, Stories From the Silver
Moon Cafe, that I was satisfied, full up, push me back from the table and
close my eyes.... But this..... well; it continues all that Stories started
and gives even more..... The concise, aching melodies, so lovingly
surrounded by beautifully crafted arrangements, and layers of sounds that
can actually make you feel like you are soaring above yourself.... The range
of vocal power, that has not lost, but gained as the years have passed, like
a fine scotch taking in the flavor of it's oaken casks..... from a full
throated cry to an aching whisper in the same line..... There comes a time
when experience and life's fullness conspire to meet at that perfect
juncture and an artist is at his peak.... This is one of those times, and my
goodness, do these folks know how to make an album..... Credit must go to
Paula Wolak, Marty Hall, Bob Rosemurgy, Joe Gilchrist and Michael McDonald
for crafting and shaping this wonderful sound....
Mick opens with "In '59". Man alive, this isn't just entertainment, my
friends.... When we're born, unfortunately, we don't get an owner's manual,
do we?.... Every once in a while it's nice when somebody leaves a well in
the valley for us to tarry at as we travel.... This is such a place.... This
man; born in Texas, baptized in England and Tennessee, and now living in the
Northwest, has been down many of the same roads you will travel.... He shows
us that, yes, there is pain and heartache and loneliness and despair, but
that there is also room for dreams and hopes and love and, most importantly,
redemption.... He was so close to the Ring of Fire that he must have burned
his feet, but then he chose to walk away and turn his back forever; but he
never forgot, and now he shares a little of the tale with us....

"So, Que Paso? to the Hotel California.
Adios to the Mason-Dixon Line.
I've a rendezvous with the Lady, East of Eden.
I burned that highway down in '89.
Yes, I burned that highway down in '89."

Unequivocally, one of the great songs of my 50 years on the planet, and I
really mean it; this song ranks with all those songs that when you mention
their name among friends, you all stop for a moment of silence, hear angels
sing, then go on your way..... You know what I mean.... "In '59" is
absolutely life-changing..... [Song exits, but not really, Liza Martin and
Mick continue with various strings through a train sound....]
"I Don't Love You (she said....)" with thunder and beautiful, soothing
rainfall, may just break your heart, the way it did mine.... This is the
songwriter as singer and actor, as the Anthony Hopkins of song, who with One
line of lyric can let you hear the whole years of the relationship in his
voice, as the actor does with his face....
"The Last Question (In the Dead of the Night)" continues with the same
folks, only now He has heard her, finally, and He realizes, deep in the
dark-heart of the night, that he has missed something, and that he will be
missing it for a long time.... "How could I not know you were pretending?
Where did the truth lie in your eyes?"
"Here Comes The Rain, Baby", violin and cello lead to Mick's voice
seamlessly.... Our man, looking back, now, putting on the brave face that
he'll need to continue his life.... "For a while you were mine, But the sun
can't always shine. Here comes the rain, Baby...."
"One More Song of Hearts and Flowers" finds us back on the winding,
lonely highway again.... Lonely hours, yes indeed, but also, "new
beginnings, all the glitter, all the gold...." Mick hits some of those high
notes that chill me, the acoustic guitars tug the heart.... The mandolin
eases in for flavor and we are back to rain....
A lovely string ensemble piece leads us into "Where Are You Darlin'
Tonight" and the Brave Face is lying in bed not feeling anything as much as
wistful desire as the winter unwinds and he realizes, once again, that all
he lies with is memories and walls..... The camera pans up and back; this is
where we leave the story.....
"So Sad" is another Major song, not that they aren't All great, but if
I say that too much, you won't believe me, here in black and white, so I
have to highlight the, um, highlights as I hear them.... Everything about
this song is.... beautifully crafted.... like a butterfly's wing.... The
guitar, the cello, the flute-sound.... But mostly Mickey's voice, the actor
on stage again, selling the story, delivering the lines for all he is worth
until the climax on the So Sad after the fourth verse.... Mick whispers so
sads throughout, haunting, aching, heartbroken.... [melts into waves and
beach sounds]
"Maybe" should be the ballad that you would hear all of the "standards"
singers clamoring to cover if, God Bless Us All, radio and media were the
way they used to be.... This is THE standout "song" on the album; remember
that I said that some of the others were More than songs..... This is the
song that you would play or sing to that young lady or man that you wanted
to feel about you the way you feel about them.... A vocal straight from
heaven, my friends, straight from heaven, Mick, I can't say it any other
way.... A Song for the Ages....
The Centerpiece, The Masterpiece.... After all we have already been
through, is it possible that there is still another well in this valley? "A
Long Road Home" bookends "In '59" as something you will take your hat off
when it comes on for years and years.... It is a man's life; Ulysses'
voyage, Mick on the road of his life, carrying us on his shoulder.... It is
a movie, a book and a roadmap; places lived in and places just passed
through, but all places remembered on the way Home.... and a line I can
barely write, it means so much to me.... " Here's to tomorrow, here's to
today, Here's to whatever I never could say, Here's to the piper; the
bastard's been paid...."
And there is "116 Westfield Street" a look back at the home of a
childhood.... If you have ever done that, gone back and taken a peak, you'll
feel it here again.... " My life is measured in small bits and pieces of
time. Small bits and pieces of life that perfectly rhyme...." The perfect
coda for this long road trip of a voyage that we've been on.... Where the
laughter began, the dreams were dreamt in bedrooms late at night, the
heartaches not yet envisioned, the walls and halls still standing proud,
strong and tall, and everything still in perfect rhyme.....
Our lives, to each of us, are generally private.... Oh, you share a
History with families and friends, but your dead of night, heart of darkness
fears are your own and only you know them, and that's as it should be....
But to hear the soul of another traveler, who has stumbled on some of the
same rocks, turned down some of the same alleys, weathered some of the same
chilling storms; is a wondrous thing to have happen, it is a joyous moment
when that light hits your brain like a diamond-tipped needle and you feel a
familiar feeling coming back to you from outside yourself.....

Hank Beukema

this review was written before Mickey Newbury passed away and is included here as a tribute


Let's Active... Putting the "arcana" in "Americana". Brainchild of Mitch Easter (more famed for his cult production work, e.g. REM's first two albums), Let's Active created a handful of under-selling gems in the Parallel 80s, you know, the decade that lived next door to the Stupid 80s (synth-pop/stadium rock hell). Fragile vocals, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, girl rhythm section, jangly guitars, skinny jeans and hand-painted record sleeves... they hung out in the 'burbs of the Paisley Underground, but never quite settled there (or anywhere else). Mr Easter and his cohorts purveyed a kind of skewed power pop which skidded readily into the grass verges of psychedelia at the drop of a... well, who knows what. College radio loved them apparently... so did I, over in rainswept mid-80s England. And so, evidently, do a lot of the fine contributors to this tribute album - many of whom (from the CD booklet) seem to be personal friends of Mitch Easter, if not ex-members of Let's Active (bassist Faye Hunter) or indeed producer colleagues (Don Dixon). Putting aside the rather incestuous nature of the project, this is a Jolly Good Effort, and accomplishes what all proper tribute albums should aim at - it makes you want to dig out the original music. So, raise your glasses, please, to co-ordinator Michael Slawter and to all the princes and princesses of the US indie-ocracy present here... but, most of all, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to propose a toast to... Easter Everywhere!

Richard Ramage


I feel like I just seen Jesus.

For years I’ve heard about a movie called Heartworn Highways. I’d never seen it, but I wanted to. I just never seemed to be able to lay my hands on a copy. Recently a DVD of the movie with an hour of extra footage just magically showed up in my mailbox.

Heartworn Highways was a music documentary shot in 1975 featuring Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Steve Young, Rodney Crowell, David Alan Coe, John Hiatt, Charlie Daniels, Gamble Rogers, Larry Jon Wilson, and others. There is no narration; it’s just music and conversation.

We watch Guy Clark set up a guitar, carve a bone saddle & nut for the guitar and generally explain guitar construction, we get to see Townes drunk, goofing around. His personality is so strong it leaps off the screen. His frank discussion of his drinking, and his overdose on airplane glue would normally cause one to feel pity or to condemn, but this being Townes, you just realize that it’s part of what makes him Townes.

One think that struck me was how goddamned young everyone is. I’ve interviewed Guy Clark and David Allen Coe in the last year. I ran into Steve Earle back in January. I saw Rodney Crowell (who never seems to age) not that long ago. These guys have all gotten old. Well, Guy has aged gracefully. Steve Young is still full of piss and vinegar. John Hiatt and Steve Earle have lost their hair. Coe and Daniels are just plain old. Townes and Gamble are both dead. When did this happen? I remember a lot of this music from the late 70’s and early 80’s. That was just a couple of weeks ago wasn’t it? When did everybody get old?

The music here is incredible. Especially on DVD. Hearing Townes do “Waiting Around to Die” live with just an acoustic guitar while 79 year old blacksmith Seymour Washington quietly weeps in the background is a beautiful thing. Larry Jon Wilson is an incredible surprise with his groove-laden song "Ohoopee River Bottomland". Guy Clarks voice rings like a bell, and who knew he was such a good picker. Suzanna Clark is breathtakingly beautiful as are her harmony vocals. Rodney Crowell blazes forth like a supernova. He just crackles with energy. Coe was just as crazy in 1975 as he is now, a little more manic then, but just as crazy. That’s Tommy Crain playing guitar up there with Charlie Daniels on the song Texas. This was inarguably Charlie’s strongest band right smack dab in the prime of his musical career. The back stage warm up jam is impressive as is Tommy’s guitar playing on the song Texas.

I have a couple of complaints. I’d love to see full credits. Who are all the other people? List the songs at the end like the do modern movies and list the players. Or do some fancy editing and overlay their names over the film in a small unobtrusive but readable type. Or do it with stills at the end of the movie, instead of just doing it with the main characters.

If I had a shitload of money, I would have a screening of this in Nashville at the Belcourt Theatre. I would show the film then I would try and recreate the cast. Assemble Steve Young, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Larry Jon Wilson, Rodney Crowell and the others and have them play their music, jam and discuss the movie, their careers, and those times. Then I would film that as well and make it a Heartworn Highways II. I would also screen this DVD at the Americana Music Association on a big screen with a decent sound system. I would strip the music off the DVD and make a companion soundtrack CD.

Doing some searching, I see that some of my ideas have occurred to other people. Guy Clark, Steve Young and film producer Graham Leader will participate in a question-and-answer session following the film's July 24 screening in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater. I really wish I could be there.

Anyway, this disc should be coming out soon. If you aint got it, you really, really, really need to go get it. I’ll be watching it over and over and over for a long time to come.

Jeff Wall

LIVE IN ITALY 1 : Correggio (RE), july 22.

it was an emotion to hear and see patti smith live, almost 25 years after her historical concerts in italy. time has passed, and it shows. the former punk priestess is now a nice old-hippie style lady... but she still has an ocean of poetry and rock'n'roll to give to her people.

just think that she managed to do 2 hours of show with an unbelievable playlist, totally ignoring her last studio album, the very beautiful "Gung-Ho". her voice was not at the top yesterday, especially with the high tones, and of course trained ears do hear that... but it was the only little negative point. the playlist was great and the band is excellent - patti is still backed by his long-time guitarist lenny kaye, as well as by drummer jay dee daugherty. the whole of the band is great, especially when they rock. pure rock'n'roll poetic energy.

patti did a lot of songs from her first 2 albums, then all the hits. we heard a great version of "because the night", a terrific version of "25th floor", a heartbreaking rendition of "pissing in a river"... "rock'n'roll nigger" with Palestine flag on her head was maybe the top of the show, like the whole finale with a fantastic version of "gloria" and a cover of "jumpin' jack flash". some of the best rock guitars you can hear anywhere.

patti smith dedicated a song to the dalai lama and his people and china-invaded country, "1959". then she said and the band were impressed and inspired by the thousands of "rainbow" peace flags that are hanging from windows and balconies all over italy. one interesting thing she said, is that even american media were not able to hide the overwhelming opposition that italian people showed towards the recent usa attack on iraq. "they could not hide italian people takin' the streets" sounded good... then she did a terrific version of "people have the power".

there is a lot that a huge fan like me could say. sure, the most exciting moment is when barefoot patti takes the black stratocaster and pours out an overwhelming stream of pure rock'n'roll distortion, improvising poetry on endless feed-backs.

simply too beautiful to be true, but she is. i love patti, i think she is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rock'n'roll artist of our times...

may patti and her band rock forever more.

LIVE IN ITALY 2: Gardone Riviera (BS), july 23th.

hello friends,
you maybe read my tale of the wonderful patti smith show we attended 2 days ago in correggio, about 30 kms from modena. well, we could not stand the idea of letting her get around italy for one more week, and not seeing her again.

so yesterday we drove to the Garda lake (it's big, y'll got it on your atlas) where she and the band were giving their second show. it was an amazing setting: the historical residence of the famous poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. it has a small open-air theatre overlooking Italy's biggest poll of sweet water. btw, D'Annunzio's sex mate was the famous actress Eleonora Duse... of course i'm talking about the first decades of the century that has just ended.

we were lucky, cause we had no ticket, took a couple of wrong turns and wasted much time, and only got there after 8 pm, with the show starting at 9,30. well, some gods must have helped us cause we found 2 seats in the third row :) ah, and after that i left the two 38-euro-each tickets on a bar deck, and went to the toilet.. when i got back, the barman had ripped them off to throw them in the garbage, and only at the last second realised it was 2 tickets... so he gave them back to me!

unlike the night before, there was no barrier bewtween stage and audience. right before the show, patti was quietly talking to the band, and looking at the lake, about 6 meters from us, with everyone very cool and relaxed.

then the show began, patti entering the stage with a rainbow peace flag in hand. another flag, the one of Palestine, was leaning on patti's amplifier. the show was memorable, an unforgettable gig. patti's voice was much better than the night before, when she probably was suffering from the journey from japan to italy. the playlist was considerably changed, and she played at least 5-6 different songs from the night before.

the sound was great, the speakers were about 3 meters from us... and the crowd was hot. like she did the night before, she took off her shoes during "dancing barefoot"... but this time her feet were not naked, since she was wearing rainbow colored "peace" socks... it is then that patti took a walk. she slowly walked away from the stage in the dark... to reappear downstage, bewtween the first row and the stage, where she was quickly, but mildly and lovingly surrounded by everyone who was previously sitting in the first rows. it is quite strange to see a rock'n'roll icon materialise beside you. patti has an uncomparable ability to do such angelic thing when she plays and sings... from that moment, we did not keep sitting anymore and enjoyed the show leaning onto the stage, like in the old times with unfamous punk bands...

the band is just unbeatable. the playlist was more "poetic" than the night before. she read/sang "holy" with allen ginsberg words (and slide show) on her and the bands's slow and torching rock sound. she read a bit more poetry, too. she read "birdland" from her first lp... again, she did not play a single song from "gung-ho", her most recent (4 stars and a half for Rolling Stone) studio album: they only did "boy cried wolf" as a soundcheck, before letting the crowd in. patti seemed more relaxed than the night before, and talked quite a lot more. she said she had a beautiful day, showed around by some fans and friends who took her to visit some beautiful and interesting places.

again, she did the song dedicated to Tibet and his people, and did a long introduction to "people have the power", talking about the non-ended war and recommending that we in italy keep waving our peace flags, even if mr. Bush or anyone else says that the war is over. no need to say, we sure will.

patti is breathtaking.
patti is poetic rock'n'roll light.
like patti says, "god bless poetry".

and may bless her,


The 11th release of Vic Chesnutt creeps up on the listener like a moon over a lake. Silver Lake refers to the studio mansion location in Los Angeles that Vic used along with producer Mark Howard. The list of musicians included Don Heffington, Doug Pettibone and Daryl Johnson. No slouches their combined CV's would dwarf most. So what was all this new found pomp and ceremony going to do to Vic Chesnutt's almost shambolic charm and leftfield literary hoboness? From the time Michael Stipe was charmed by his oblique quirkiness on a stage in Athens through all his releases it is his restless individuality that has shone through. What happens if you take the wild animal and try and cage him in a gilded cage?
Well surprisingly not much has changed. This is a Vic Chesnutt release through and through. The Vic take on things survives witness the usual oddball vision of the world in Sultan, So Mighty…name one other song about a eunuch's relationship with his sultan (code for the music business and this disc perhaps…) or 'Band Camp'…as affecting a piece of autobiography as he has penned. Other treats include the effortless sheen of the production which is a cut above his previous soundscapes. By second 'Neil Young' sing-along 'Stay Inside' we're encountering some masterful musical dabs of the brush and more importantly Vic has never sounded this clear or close. He kept as much of a live take approach as he could and this negates the whole thing being over-produced. Full marks to him for standing up to his class chorus line. There are moments where the sheer ability of the backing musicians detracts slightly from his centre stage presence but in general it is a delight. Not as immediately charming as previous more rough edged efforts which to be honest could be hit and miss it is easy to ignore the strength of songs collected together here. The autobiography of 'Band Camp' already mentioned is as detailed as Loudon Wainwright …'I had to throw my yearbook in the dumpster…'. He uses a much more melodic chorus feel across the songs moving away from the singularity of his voice. 'Girl's Say' shows this clearly moving from a mid-seventies slow soul groove into a gender difference essay…..'2nd floor' starts slow but ends fierce and is as weird a lyric as he's penned…'sewers and swans'…pure Vic C theatre like Vic C doing T.Rex or Hawkwind. The personal is political is personal surfaces like cream in a styrofoam cup in 'Styrofoam'…and he uses 'transmogrified' for which there should be a lyric award in itself. Backing is again fulsome and proud and could be off a recent Lucinda Williams track and yes he stands the comparison. There's a throwaway 'Zippy Morocco' which was more fun to make than to listen to probably …but that is the only the weird 'Sultan, So Mighty' we're back in Vicland. 'Wren's Nest' is barmy. Like the Flaming Lips covering Blue Cheer..OK I have no idea what it is like or about but it sounds great…..'let me evaporate' he sings at song end and you believe he might just…….and he ends in love 'In My Way, Yes' holding hands over a grave..
A good Vic Chesnutt album and like his best a couple of stumbles but mostly a home run again…right around the lake before the moon went down.

New West Records NW6044
For Karrie

Mark C. Brine sounds like he's been holed up in some possum holler aging in moonshine for a blue moon or two. His vocals swoop and dip like a bird in the mountains where Americana music grew up and you don't soon forget the experience. He's also got a band of crack musicians perfectly attuned to the sweet eccentricity of his songs. These are stories wrapped in homespun about people and places that don't make the history books or the headlines but are real and true to the small town millieu from whence they come. Brine's been knocking around the musical world for over three decades having logged time as a would-be Nashville songwriter, part-time touring musician and full-time iconoclast. The band includes David Russell (Box Car Willie) on fiddle plus a group of usual suspects whom Brine plays with on a regular basis. On this, his third self-produced CD, their contributions are notable and never feel wrong-footed or at odds with the material. Brine could easily have been added to the cast of Oh Brother Where Art Thou without raising an eyebrow. He belongs to that group of artists whose individuality and quirkiness consign them to the periphery of what's commercially viable. But God bless him for not just being another cog in the musical wheel. If you too pine for a simpler world give this recording a listen.
Wild Oats/Oat-819
Dan Driscoll. A Tribute with Various Artists

Dan Driscoll grew up in Cork, Ireland during the sixties, infused with all the idealism and contradictions of those times. Until his untimely death three years ago he was a well-known presence on the world musical scene. During his life he lent his energy to a variety of humanitarian and environmental causes and left both a strong musical legacy as well as an unfillable hole in the lives of those with whom he worked and performed. Put together by his sister Liz, Eternally, Dan Driscoll, A Tribute with Various Artists is a compilation of his music that showcases both his talent as a songwriter and the depth of his feeling and appreciation for life. Performed by 14 prominent musicians from Ireland, the UK the United States and Canada the songs run the gamut from blues to Celtic tinged folk to the the borders of punk rock. Outstanding tracks include Budding of the Spring featuring Canadian born Domenic de Ciccio (of world band Praying in the Rain), Soar, with Theresa O'Driscoll (of Shakara), We Belong, with Liz Driscoll (Tara), and Earthlords, with Pete Cummins (of the Fleadh Cowboys).In truth there's not a weak track on the CD and you're left musing on the irony of artists whose music deserves a wider audience than was garnered during their own lifetimes. Eternally is a wonderful tribute to a deserving artist that stands on its own merits. As the Village Voice wrote, it is "hauntingly beautiful with an edge that stirs up passionate emotions regarding the human experience here on Planet Earth".

RESCUE ROOMS Nottingham 3rd July 2003

Dusty Springfield on acid playing Nirvana. Ok as opening smart rock crit lang one-liners go that in the top draw but still it doesn't open the pandora's box of delights that 'Scout' ( born Emma Louise) Niblett has dragged onto the stage of Nottingham's newest and shiniest venue. In front of plush red curtains a one-woman vaudeville/chanteuse/drumming miracle defied, bamboozled and spun spells on an audience of jocks, jesters and art school clowns.

What the hell is Scout Niblett doing…playing atonal sub Beefheartian rambling folk reggae blues and banging the tubs like a demented schoolgirl ….that's what. Why? Because life needs her and we need her and music needs people to ram their sticky fingers in the sweet jar and spill the whole dam caboodle sometimes. Because life is about sparkle and mystery and death….cue Scout banging that drumkit all alone and screaming/singing….'we're all gonna die, we're all gonna die.'

She means it ..the air around was empty of sound apart from the infuriated main band fan in front of me who screamed back' You boring tart' . He screamed because she was so good, because she held people in a trance when he'd rehearsed every last drop of life out of some B list indie band set. Scout could just stand there and she'd destroy his future. She's like The Raincoats first gig, she's like Nirvana before dollars burnt their fingers down to the bone, she's like the girl next door burning all the furniture in the street and starting to paint Jackson Pollocks under your bedroom window. She's about female rock now.

Yeah you can recall K records and those Riot Grrls but she's better. Huggy Bear never got this far out ( in) to the roots of seminal viscous post blues moaning. She's released one brilliant CD 'Sweet Heart Fever' which makes P.J. Harvey look mainstream, she's just released a vinyl 10" on Too Pure/ Secretly Canadian of her hollering along to that drumkit and she makes a hell of a noise and a beautiful silence. This is art as in theatre as in beauty. In a world of mediocre 'indie' music that just want to be mainstream and Big Brother Xeroxes of the past she glitters like a mirror ball.

Catch her now as she spins her spell because right now she doesn't know what she's doing and that is why it is so fresh and real… is situationist riot grrl blues for the 21st century and if she inspires a hundred similar girls next door the boy bands will be bobbing like so many dead fish in their wake. Come on…shout post rock Lulu …shout,…shout..and lets tear the pavement up and find the beach! S…C…O…U…T….. catch revolt before it turns into style.

Too Pure / Secretly Canadian 2003

Read the reviews on Malcolm Holcombe and the comparisons come fast and furious: Dylan, Waits, Olney, Clark, Hardin--it's enough to make you think you have the gist of the music before you hear it. But you'd be wrong. Like all the best, Holcombe's songs don't fold neatly into a category or get to point B by the most direct route. They follow the lay of the land like the backroads in the North Carolina countryside where he lives. They're as much blues as bluegrass, as much lullaby as lament, part memory and part premonition. Like the proverbial man who looks where others have looked and sees what others have not, Holcombe finds unsuspected poetry in familiar places. A Hundred Lies, his major label debut, was recorded in 1996 but not released until 2000 due to the vicissitudes of corporate acquisitioning. It was an intimate gem, all wheat, no chaff with Holcombe's voice riding austere instrumentation. And even though everybody could hear this was a singlar talent, those comparisons were the easiest way to be emphatic. With his latest release they're just beside the point. Another Wisdom features ten strikingly original songs as good or better than anything by anybody in recent memory. The addition of Darrell Scott, Kenny Malone and Stuart Duncan not only add add color and instrumental fullness, they push Holcombe to let it out more vocally-and that's a fine thing with a voice this emotive. His vocals here approach those of his live performances when they can put you in mind of a spitting panther or a whispered confession or anything in between. But what tends to really come into focus on these tracks is the amazing stream-of-consciousness prose and oblique storytelling that makes him a kissin' cousin to the Beats. From the CD's opener At the Station to the closing Grace in Sand, the words spark surprising images in the same way the best poetry does. And as composer Holcombe has the ability to write songs that do not fit into a standard framework of verses and choruses: they're familiar enough to get you on the train, but all the stops are different than you expect. Like Dylan, like Waits, Holcombe writes songs that will sound as good twenty years from now as they do today. Buy this record at once. Don't trust anyone who dislikes it.
Purple Girl Music 2003

Well here's a nice surprise. Straight out of that well known capital of country music Nottingham, England, comes a leftfield release that cajoles and caresses and then wraps you in its arms and convinces.

Magic Car are singer-songwriter Phil Smeeton, vocalist Hazel Atkinson, pedal steel player Dave Langdon and on double bass Scott 4 bassist John Thompson which explains why Magic Car also featured on last year's critically acclaimed 'European Punks LP'. It was recorded quite beautifully at Confetti Studios in Nottingham ( the new Bradley's Barn?) The title of cd and last track is a scientific reference to our what light can I shine on its contents?

First off a word about 'English' country records. There have been far more than is good for us and on the whole they all attempt a fake american accent. From Raymond Froggett to Stu Page Band there's a shop somewhere full of bad country records and artists crooning in working men's clubs and C & W clubs called Broken Spoke or Blood on The Saddle. Before you think I'm knocking it let me state I come from that kind of background and so does Phil Smeeton.

Instead of being arch though what shines through here is how much he is in love with the seediness and absurdity of our ordinary dreams. I bet his vinyl record collection contains Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, George Jones..maybe even Jim Reeves - he is half in love and half appalled by it all but addicted to it as much as some of the characters in his songs. The cast of characters are always about to fall off the edge of the world but somehow hang on even though they are sick of eating pasta, getting drunk, losing their way home at matter they hold on....and holding on is all there is. Im not going to quote lines but there is a real craftsman at work here and you'll find the words bear repeated plays - oblique references to a thousand scratched lps litter the lyrics..I'll leave it to you to trace them down.

City and Western music. On 'Downtown' it all comes together in stunning fashion when a brass section comes in - more Peter Skellern than Memphis Horns - as Smeeton sings like an alcoholic kid brother of Pet Clark of the city where 'the girls are on fire' which if you went to Nottingham city centre on a saturday night you'd realise is reportage not fantasy.

Secondly there is Hazel Atkinson's voice which is strong enough to cope with the bluegrass up tempo numbers but really comes in to play on some stunning slower numbers like 'How about you' and 'Night so blue'. She strays very close to bluesy intonation on some numbers and is a superb foil for Phil Smeeton's more limited range. Atkinson also plays mandolin and special mention should be made of Phil's brother who makes a fine job of 'Four in the morning' which sadly cannot shake Faron Young associations from its title. Overall though I can hardly fault this record and can place it alongside the best 'Americana' UK releases. It is as good as the first Rockingbirds record and The Arlenes and that is about as good as it gets so far and before Bruntnell is thrown at me I think he is an indie artist not a country writer.

Smeeton is pure country from his scuffed boots to his faded blue jeans he comes from a tradition of boozy Nottingham nights and chilly morns. Its like Nashville Skyline transposed to the back alleys of Nottingham. More 'my duck' than 'howdy pardner' but none the less country for that. The singing is so English at times you can igore the pedal steel and you are listening to real english folk music...not radio 3's fact I swear I was thinking of Richard and Linda Thompson most of the time not George and Tammy.

English country music?..more like English City Music ....yup it does exist and this is what it sounds like and it sounds good to me.


How do you follow a Classic Album? And twenty years later, too? Where 1980's "Underwater Moonlight" cut directly to the chase with the stridently melodic manifesto of "I Wanna Destroy You", jumping out of the speakers on a wave of squealing guitars, 2002's "Nextdoorland" takes a more oblique approach. Opener "I Love Lucy" strolls in through the door in the guise of a jaunty instrumental, before a muted choral exhortation floats in right near the end: "Carry me back to Now". Aha! The reviewer adjusts his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker - but no cartoon magnifying glass is necessary to detect what is soon to become a major theme of the album... Time, my dear Watson, Time! "You can set the clock back, so can I, I can tell the future from the sky" sings Robyn Hitchcock on "Pulse of My Heart", continuing in later songs with such sentiments as "I want you to remember everything" and "Today is the same as tomorrow, But this time it's happened before", not to mention "I wish I could be twenty-three, I could waste time"...

Now, if we cast our minds back to The Soft Boys' "Underwater Moonlight" heyday, learned pop pals, we will recall that the way the past intersects with the present has always been something of an obsession. The afore-mentioned "I Wanna Destroy You" launched a tirade against the cheapness and shallow aggression of the late 70s modern world... other songs on the album referred musically to the mid/late 60s with their layers of sitar and/or jangly Byrds stylings... I mean just how unfashionable could you get, calling a song "Positive Vibrations" during the reign of Joy Division and Post-Punk? And guess what? They're still squaring up to that era now, including a satisfactory Pistols piss-take at one point as Robyn sings "I... wish that I... Was just paranoid" (over the chorus chords of "Anarchy in the UK", though with a definite Hawkwind feel, just to mix things up in a jolly way). The template is still there, twenty-something years later - Robyn's sardonic tones, the imaginative dialogues between his and Kimberley Rew's guitars, the solidly wired rhythm section of Matthew Seligman and Morris Windsor (plus here we must give a special mention to the latter's angelic harmonies)... and yes, many of the themes and creative tricks remain the same, e.g. the way they still decorate sinister Freudian imagery with breezy pop melodies, and indeed (increasingly on this album) lull the listener into a false sense of security with what sounds like a lyrical love song, only to finish with a pay-off line like "It's only a poisonous plant and it's calling your name"...

However, "Nextdoorland" isn't "Underwater Moonlight 2", nor is it meant to be... It contains a good five songs which stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of "Queen of Eyes" and "Insanely Jealous" (including this reviewer's favourite, "Mr Kennedy"), and it's always a treat to sample the twisted beauty of Robyn Hitchcock's words and tunes, wherever they may crop up... so, until the next reunion of this talented foursome, "Nextdoorland" will certainly carry us through for (or back to) Now.
Richard Ramage

There's a ghost walking around the empty studio at midnight on this record. It's the ghost of Morphine singer Mark Sandman as he sits there alone listening to the last playback of the finished tape of this cd. As the city of Boston's lights flicker under a black sky he's smiling. The loft building where he lived and had a studio is now passing on his magic via the Hi-N-Dry studio and ex-Morphine cohorts Billy Conway and Dana Colley are keeping his memory alive in the best possible way. They are making great music and running the studio as well as helping with an educational music trust in his name. The sense of loss his early death brought to the local music scene can be sensed still two years on in this 2001 recording as Kris Delmhorst emotes beautifully on 'Broken White Line'. Delmhorst had been part of a local band called 'Toots Rambles' where she honed her already considerable musical gifts before this her second proper CD was finally released in 2002. First CD 'Appetite' may be about to be re-released. This Cd was released in U.S. on her own Big Bean label and she is now affiliated to Signature Sounds. She has a lovely voice and it is well to the fore in the superb settings provided by Billy Conway as producer and the host of local musicians who guested here. These include Julia Kimball, Catie Curtis and Lori McKenna. A who's who of Cambridge musicians.

So to the record. Well it's as good as this extensive scene-setting might hint at. At her best Delmhorst really conjures up Emmylou and Baez and yet doesn't imitate. She has a fine and individual voice..maybe a little mellower than Baez and she's a fine musician which you'd expect from someone trained classically on cello. There are also hints of Mary Chapin Carpenter in the writing. Highlights include the track mentioned and 'Little Wings' a conceit where she pretends that she is a small plane that really works. The texture created by Conway is as good as anything he has done with other artists and subtly shades the backing with drum and sax, flugelhorn and mandolins depending on the mood..the platter is eclectic. First track ''Cluck Old Hen' where only the chorus is trad. derived is a psychedelic banjo workout with wah wah guitar and thumping drums! Gillian Welch with a Canned Heat backing almost. Then we have a set of introspective ballads that sometimes come off spectacularly or fail as in 'Yellow brick road' which can't escape Elton John's shadow. Sometimes it is almost Laura Nyro and at others it falls into the late 90's intense songwriter at piano trap. At best it goes way beyond that and Conway brings out the best. The writing is a little hit and miss and the conceit of 'Garden Rose' is too fey but 'Honeyed out' just Delmhorst and heavy use of percussion is the opposite - hard and sassy and live in feel. As you'd expect with Morphine regulars involved there's a stretching musically that lifts some tracks eg. 'Just what I meant's' brooding cello and sax from Colley or 'Little Wing's' snare cracks. Beautiful and atmospheric.

My favourite tracks are actually first track with its trad base and the bluegrass workout of 'Mean old wind' where any worries of pretentious songwriting are blown away by a lovely simple song that is just great. There are some lovely tracks on this record but generally speaking the uptempo ones work better with one notable exception. 'Broken white line'which is totally affecting...maybe there's a real country girl lurking under those introspective tresses who just wants to hoedown..lets hope so...after all Mark Sandman did dark and brooding but he also rocked like a hurricane...may his spirit long live on...and on and on

for details of the Mark Sandman Music Education Fund click here

available from Acoustic Roots in Uk

Ex-Morphine members new band The Twinemen

Sometimes discs go astray especially when you been moving around like a blue-arsed fly. So I'm thankful that whoever took over that flat in Oxford was wise enough to post this on. A year later and I'm listening to Magneto for the first time. Now for people who ain't been subjected to the special magic of Mr. Elliott I'd suggest this is as good a place to start as any. From the get go his dulcet tone..kind of Jack Kerouac singing like Johny Cash in a beat cafe...stings the eye like cold rain as he lays out a 'Loser's Lullaby'. We're talking literary kicks and beatnik savvy as the tune spills out a list of artists our Ronny can out-drink! No sooner is this sermon of art over than we're assaulted by some gorgeous lap guitar prayer called 'Broke Heart Blues',,yup Ronny's a romantic ..Next up is 'Wrong Side' first co-write of five on disc with Reading's finest Terry Clarke. This comes across like Lou Reed playing Gram Parsons. The imagery is pure Clarke. In light of the recent tragic loss of June Carter Cash 'Last One Standing' takes on new meaning as Ronny muses on who were gods of rock n roll and who just men....or women. The list of greats at the end..all gone.......and how long before Johnny Cash..a prophetic track. Stunning.

'Ballad of Wayward' is just that. 'Camera Zone' is a lovely remembrance of a former lover from Hong Kong that spills images like a cloud full of rain ...another Clarke co-write..the images straight from Clarke's camera-like pen. Texas in feel,a chinatown New York blues. Separated by the trad. 'Rock Bottom' we're straight into another Clarke/Elliott tune 'Degas in New Orleans' is a gem . Recounting the 1872-1873 stay of Edgar Degas in New Orleans. With almost gospel backing Clarke's hand is again felt in the ravishing imagery. 'Lemon tarts and strawberry crepes, orange trees beyond the drapes'. Sometimes the singer-songwriter world gets overloaded with pretentious self-focussed meaningful lyrics. This song alone knocks most of that navel-gazing for six. Beautiful ...just beautiful. Elliott continues in this historical vein with 'Oscar and Toulouse and The Heartbreak Kid'. The colours are pure Moulin Rouge. By now it is obvious that this cd is an extended meditation on the self destruction and romantic nature of great art. A Florida rockabilly musing on the fin-de-siecle...great stuff.

By the time we get to 'Halloween in Germany' we are on stage with a whole cast of characters real and imagined..'Last Days of Tampa Red' continues this theme.Terry Clarke wanders on stage and lends a hand co-writing and gets a name-check too...a crazy Brit with a 12-string..merging with the ghost of Tampa Red. We're in the movie in Ronny's head freefalling with the ghosts of what art really means. Last track 'I hear Mr. Shine passed' boxes clever literally with ghost of Hemingway. I can think of few discs that deal with this kind of material successfully..Tom Russell, Michael Marra..Terry Clarke solo.. Randy Newman.....a few and ladies and gentlemen when those velvet curtains are pulled back Ronny Elliott deserves the limelight too. He and Terry Clarke punch above their weight here and win's that good.More a novel set to music or an operetta of the great and the dead spinning on those wooden stages as another New Orleans funeral cortege wanders down the street.
all that and a memory of Chuck Berry in a '58 Cadillac in Knoxville.....
keep rockin and a reelin Ronny....

Dammit all but three tracks in I was hooked on this record. It's the awesome echo of The Smithereens at their best in opening crashing chords of 'Friend in this Town' that did it and I ain't stopped playing it since. There is light and shade here and later they move into acoustic strum and Randy Newman meets The Band territory but it is the full on power pop beauty of openers that sticks in the memory. The songwriting is top-notch throughout. In fact this record along with Jim Roll and Richard Buckner probably saved my life at a particularly nasty temp job last autumn. Dan is the man and he knows his pop history and his way round a captivating melody. Even on a slower number like 'Sandbags'he never loses his touch. At times it feels like Elvis Costello sitting in with afore-said Smithereens at others the howl of Petty and Dylan at most pop swirls around. In my book it is Israel's most accomplished and beautiful statement so far. File alongside 'Green Thoughts' and the Plimsouls albums .......hey I can't give it any higher recommendation than that. Pure power pop for now it and give him a holiday from his day job he's working too hard....he deserves a month on the beach for this alone...and that ain't no cliche.
Well oh well. Throwing a curve ball that god of alt-c raspiness ( he smokes to keep it that way he claims) comes out fighting with a near punk rock offering that has equal measure New Order and eighties indie in the mix as Roscoe Holcomb and Hank Williams. So what went right or wrong. Rumours abounded before his UK show that we'd be treated to a repeat show/no-show of his tempestuous SXSW gig where his partner flailed at drums with drumsticks taped together.Ever the awkward artist he confounded expectations then by drilling the audience to silence with some wonderful back catalogue trawling and accappella brilliance. So what ho Dick. Well it ain't as simple as it looks and there's enough of the old brilliance shining through on this disc to keep fans of old classics like 'rainsquall' happy. However there is a real pushing of the boundaries of what is Alt-Country acceptable here which is welcome as the old cowpunk bible grew threadbare in the new millenium. Maybe was the partner, maybe was the smoking , whatever he bangs out, somewhat literally, some pounding rock n roll that is most effective on the classic 'hoping wishers never lose' which is one of THE tracks of 2002. His lyrics remain inscrutably artistic which gives rise to a lot of pretentious analysis but were more likely not profound as simply stream of consciousness. If you ignore their self-conscious artyness - he is not Robert Creeley -period -and simply enjoy them for their real use -as sonic parts of the whole flow then this is a tremendously enjoyable record. What does it all mean...who the hell cares..when it rocks like a rowboat in a storm. My favourite Buckner record so far. The Hill had a couple of humdingers - this hits the target more times than it misses. The son of a gun been out shooting at the tin cans in the musical yard and come up with some bullseyes.
Overcoat recordings U.S./Fargo in Europe.

First off vocalist Andy Goldman has a distinctive voice which was previously aired under another 'aka' name as 'Johnny Fontaine' and an Ep as 'Maestro Echoplex'. So far so clear then. Well what this new cd released in Europe before the home turf does have is firstly a splendid production sound courtesy of one Chad Clark of 'Beauty Pill' at Inner Ear studio. It is crystal clear and shows attention to detail that brings out each snare rattle and bass vibration quite beautifully.

The rythm-section shade toward a pavementy jazziness and on second track 'Hell at the end of route 33' it all comes together perfectly. Think Elliot Smith if younger being backed by Gang of Four if they'd only listened to Television's first album. In fact it's Verlaine's Little Johnny Jewel' that I think of as the track twists and turns behind some stunning 'state of the nation' lyrical insights. 'Bombed out with no battle, Destroyed by no weapon, this is our legacy'. The cd is worth it for this track alone and should be remixed as 12" vinyl just like the original LJJ. Next track 'Howl' is almost as good coming on like a slightly demented take on Werewolves of London complete with choral howls...again the band rythms suggest early eighties post punk. A folkier Malkmus?

From then on though the brilliance falls off slightly as if they'd peaked. the lyrics ramble a little on other tracks and the sharpness gets blurred. A cover of 'That feel' by Waits/Richards is ok although takes the arty approach to what was originally one of the straightest arrows in the Waits quiver. 'New York City Cowboy' is charming if a little cliched and the affectation of recording songs as two parts is kinda lost on this reviewer. They are finding their feet still and those couple of bullseyes suggests they'll be here for a good while. The cover brilliantly evokes the content..a frightened, emotional young america that cant see beyond red and white stripes..are they bandages and blood or carnival flags they seem to be asking?

Somewhere in here there's a quite a lot of art and it will seep out eventually. For those of you who like boxes slot em in next to Oldham and Songs Ohia and Elliott Smith but they're scraping a different furrow closer to swearing at motorists and the liars...tortoise even ...a kind of modern music to quote Be Bop Deluxe and yes they reminded me of them..a different music then for...american artists with guilt.
First thing you should know about the Letterpress Opry is that they don't hold anything back. They get out there near the edge, they play their instruments with abandon, and they make earthy, emotional roots-rock. The second thing is that the best song on Americana Gothic is a cover of Neil Young's "One of These Days". This is a young band and stronger songwriting could just be a matter of getting a few more miles down the road and a little further from their influences. Neil, the Doors, It's A beautiful Day, Pogues, Waterboys-you can hear where they've been on the way to where they are. The gothic is apt 'cause this ain't music that tiptoes-it's dark and brooding like the weather that often rolls across the Iowa flatlands they call home. A band that rocks this hard is worth catching in concert, and the kind of extended songs they favor go over better live than canned. That's why a group that's only been together since 2000 and are just releasing their first CD have already been on the bill with people like Asleep At The Wheel, Greg Brown, and Alejandro Escovedo. Patrick Brickel, main songwriter and bassplayer, Annie Savage, Celt-tinged fiddle, Stacy Webster six string and lead vocals, James Robinson, drums and percussion.
Recommended cut: "Branches of Willow"(6:10).
2003 Feral Dachshund Records
The Maze, Nottingham, 22.01.03

I'd been tipped off in advance that Jesse Sykes and her compadre Phil Wandscher ( ex-Whiskeytown who more or less wrote the Alt-C hymnbook) were something special. Sure enough the signs were more than good when I caught their stunning three song set on the previous week's Bob Harris Country programme. Then she had delivered a stunning 'Doralee' and 'Lullaby' that revealed the superlatives needed dusting off yet again. All the way from Seattle they swung into Nottingham Town on a cold dark January night.

The Lullaby track kicked off proceedings at the Maze. There was pin-drop silence as the pair seated themselves down Jesse looking like a modern day Rita Coolidge with her blue Indian jewelry. Phil W's twangy guitar complemented the dark textures of her voice perfectly bringing to mind Mazzy Star covering Skip Spence's 'Oar'. The atmosphere was set.
For a couple that apparently came together on a chance meeting on St. Patrick's night the interweaving of voice and guitar are intense.

Next track 'Your side now' really tipped its hat to Sandy Denny's 'Blackwaterside'. In fact it is Denny and Linda Thompson that one looks to for comparisons but if anything Jesse's voice is even more haunted or meybe it's the melancholy of the guitar alongside it.

Such was the intensity that never faltered I don't think I've ever seen the Maze so hushed. One song slipped into another with the non album 'Winter Hunter' bringing a Breughal like stillness to the room. The electric guitar was more laid back and the lines 'where was I, where was I' drifted across the room beautifully. Perfect just perfect.
Influenced by Haggard/Emmylou they don't fit into the Alt-C straitjacket and were mid euro-tour. Still they delivered a good long set with Leadbelly's 'Goodnight Irene' filtering into the end of the track 'Reckless Burning'..

The highlight of the longish set for me was the afore-mentioned 'Doralee' which is a really intense evocation of a house affected by flood ..gravel in the bathtub..gorgeous writing...a real keeper.

Then there was the 'drunk boyfriend' song ''Don't let me go' which is just fabulous. Throughout the pacing stayed just this side of funereal and at points I did feel the guitar could have held back from dotting every I and crossing every t musically. This though probably a reaction to not having the full band. Take it from me most of the audience would probably have listened to Jesse read the phonebook by then.

Throughout there were affable asides and mentions of nerves but this just added to the charm and the audience was in the palm of her hand. By then I was slipping out to sea and sinking like the ship 'stuck in the mud on the Puget Sound' ( Lonely Still) hooked....

Critics throw words like stunning and poetic around like loose change at a wedding but for once the description is deserved. The recorded songs on the Reckless Burning Cd are if anything even better and as Jesse noted a lot of thanks to the production by one Tucker Martinez. Oh and always have a dog in the session she suggests ....whatever they caught some will-o-wisp magic...precious as firefly in a storm.Go buy it and sink into oblivion...

Jesse was very ably supported tonight by London five-piece band The Mariachis who delivered an assured set with the Australian singer's cracked vocals reminiscent of The Triffids at their country best. Its not often that an unknown support act deliver an unforgettable song but in 'My woman went home with the wrong guy last night' they came to delivering both song and title in one fell swoop. Set ended with a good version of Lucinda's 'Jackson' with the additional female vocals working well if just a tad too Texas and not Sarf Lundun which would be closer to the geographical truth. All in all they went down a storm and could be ones to watch for future.

This release crosses over two worlds with comparative ease mixing the Texan school of songwriting with the more postmodern post-rock Nashville of Lambchop and co. The artist R.D.Roth ( he trained as a sculptor) brings a similar craftsmanship to this work. 'From the ears down' has been no rush job and from first track 'No help at all' the same care and detail shown on the sleeve art comes shining through. He has asssembled some pretty heavyweight support players in David Olney and Paul K ( see his thoughtful piece on Paul K in this webzine) but mostly its the strength of the songs that comes through. First track introduces an almost Costelloish use of trumpet as he intones like Michael Stipe trapped in Townes Van Zandt's body. There is an exotic imagery that swishes like velvet curtains then is gone. 3 seasons is more like U.S. rural poetry by Wendell Berry ...'stubborn plows' .. piano and lap steel. 'Little knots' mixes colours with a palette of R.E.M. paint and 'Just north of Canada' is stunning as strummed guitar gives way to evocative travelogue to Dan Polonsky's accordion. A kind of Butch Hancock or deconstructed Bill Staines for the northern wastes. One of the best songs released last year....and a new artist really finding his feet. 'I need a guru' picks up the pace and spits like some berserk jug-band at conformity. Piano balladry and synth sounds weigh down the next track a little heavily before 'All the world requires' lightens with another tumbling rythm...and is St.Paul his friend..who knows..its stunning. Olney breathes life into the harmonica part and here he really dances with the ghost of Townes..something in the loping phrasing..the sentiment...'how many songs can the sky give away' he sings. Some of the more self-conscious' artiness' intrudes again with the radio sounds before next track 'Blues for Howard Hughes'which sounds great but almost fails by being too 'gothic'. Far better is next track 'Crutch' which succeeds through its very simplicity..'does your back get very sore'..tender and heartfelt and almost Elton John/ Bernie Taupin era in production feel and he has the voice to carry it. Finally there is a tribute to Paul K with a rendition of his 'Haunt me 'til I'm gone' which succeeds in pointing up what a great songwriter he is. Finally a 'hidden'last track that pulls off the trick of evoking a pre-digital bluesman in the way it recorded as well as I've heard..going for the feel with a loving attention to detail...lovely touch.

Roth is working on a new record with Deanna Varagonna of Lambchop...could be more than interesting...meanwhile this well worth tracking down and one of 2002's best discs.
available from personal website and http://www.miles of
Shit kicking swamp rocking gutbucket springsteen in a tin bathtub woohoo rock n roll and cool cover - better than it should be from a mad Canadian.Starts like Tony Joe White on acid playing what sounds like a tuba - buy it and let Joe move into a bigger shack. Best track...all of them but could be 'My Baby Drives Fast' and anyone who calls a track 'Johnny Cash Plan' is a guy I can buy a beer - even has a track called 'When I Quit my Drinkin'!A Steve Forbert for the new millenium
junkyard dog music 2002
First release from this relocating musician. A veteran of the Boston music scene she first went to Seattle and then to Nashville and this disc kinda takes the same journeys. It starts off with some great playing and production behind her fine voice but somehow the tip toward a nashville 'folkiness' doesn't quite come off for me. There are fine moments 'California Browns' rocks amidst the balladry which all too often is let down by sentimental words. However the second half of the disc really starts to pick up speed and just like her it keeps moving around. Once her foot firmly on the gas then there are real keepers. 'Lonely like a train' and 'Shot a man' rock out and dare I say it we've got a real rocker in lamb's clothing here. Maybe not a sensitive singer/writer at all and all the better for that. When on form I reckon she as good as any out there - think Aimee Mann, Amy Rigby and Sheryl Crow with more balls if that possible. Yup next disc gonna be a belter. Bonus points to the fine artist/Brian Brown production and if you look hard enough you'll catch Todd Thibaud lurking in the mix. One to watch coming up on the rails.

Music has not always been considered an art, nor have Western thinkers shaown any tendency to agree on standard groupings of the arts until fairly recently. The Greek word for art was techne, and its meaning was closer to craft, skill, technique. Aristotle, in a famous definition, stressed the cognitive aspect of art: "the ability to create something with apt comprehension." Art was as much a work of mind as a work of hand…As a consequence of this line of thinking, both music and poetry were excluded from the circle of the arts because each was thought to be the product of inspiration and manic rapture. The poet and the performer were viewed more as prophets, whereas the painter and the architect were considered craftsmen and artisans. As Tartarkiewicz puts it, "Before the ancient idea of art became modern, two things were to happen: poetry and music were to be incorporated into art, while handicrafts and sciences were to be excluded from it".
--Lewis Rowell, Thinking About Music