Half Deaf Clatch: The Life & Death of AJ Rail

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Submitted by Iain Patience

First thing to say about this release is it's a truly remarkable overall package, full to bursting with spare, slippery acoustic fretwork on both guitar and banjo. The dozen tracks are all self-written with an evident understanding of the old-time, blues tradition and a touch of modernity that never swamps the originality.

Back in the day, of course, banjo was often the only instrument of choice available to share-cropping, blistered and bruised old bluesmen in the Deep South. Nowadays it tends to be overplayed, full of sparkling notes without a heartbeat or, seemingly on occasion, any real subtlety, feeling or passion. Clatch to his credit avoids this perilous pitfall with a notably spare, deceptively basic picking style reminiscent of the old claw-hammer pioneers from the turn of the twentieth century. The result is an album that has an unusually effective added ingredient mostly lacking in blues releases these days.

The songs themselves chart the story of a life lived with more than a touch of sin and scandal, debauchery, and defiance of the only certainty in life - old man Death itself.  If anything, this really is the Devil's Music, writ large. The Grim Reaper seems to be more than welcome here.

In addition, Clatch is always sure-footed with his fretwork and slide mastery. Pace and tempo both vary alongside lyrics that grab the attention to produce a near-effortless triumph. In many ways, 'The Life & Death of AJ Rail' could well prove to be the most original blues release of the year.

Dirty Dishes And Stay Out !

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Every now and then you get a CD on the desk for review that blows you away and Dirty Dishes new offering did just that. Refreshing vocals, great delivery, strong harmonies and great song choices. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Paying tribute to many beloved acts like classic artists like Hank Williams and Dolly Parton to more current Canadian favourites like Joel Plaskett and Fred Eaglesmith, Dirty Dishes play both covers and shiny new originals in this tasty blend of country, folk, bluegrass, roots and gospel.

The opening track ‘Midnight Fire’ sets the pace of this great CD, with bluegrass at its best and proverbial banjo, it’s hard to believe this is a Toronto band.  A great song of spousal abuse with revenge and a permanent solution, with an escape to get away from the bully of a husband.

‘Won’t Come Back’ has sultry, sexy vocals, letting it be known you won’t find another girl quite like the vocalist, while accompanied by great fiddle and sassy production.

‘Evangeline’ is a waltz tune, telling the tale of the riverboat gambler and better times, while ‘For the Last Time’ has sultry, growling vocals, driving home that there is no more last times.

The traditional tune of ‘Rocky Top’ is presented as an acappella track, showing of the strength of Dirty Dishes vocals and harmonies.

‘Where Do We Go?’ is a folksy, haunting tune, followed by another trad ‘Your Bucket’s Got a Hole In It’ that gets you tapping your foot and singing along.

The Blues Bones Saved By The Blues

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Submitted by Iain Patience

An excellent 11-track debut release from a top-quality Belgian band with some simply glorious fretwork and a truly mature feel to the music, with almost the entire package self-written and self-produced.

This is pacey, purposeful and rocking modern blues with a clear nod to tradition but a confidence that allows the band to step beyond the usual old hackneyed formula.  The result is an album that positively roars along at times showcasing  the individual talents of the band's five member musicians. Vocals are strong and roaring from Nico De Cock with some Rory Gallagher-like fretwork from guitarist Stef Paglia. The whole thing is underpinned by a thick base of Hammond organ from Edwin Risbourg, Bass by Geert Boeckx and drums from Dominique Chistans.

This is a band worth looking out for and one that clearly has a vitality and confidence often missing in similar sized outfits. 'Saved By The Blues' is a welcome addition to the blues music of Europe with a Belgian band that knows its stuff and is fast developing, growing a European fan-base and following. An album and band to watch out for, for sure.

David Gogo Releases 14th Album Vicksburg Call

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

David Gogo's groove-fueled blend of blues and rock is the basis for a singular and storied music career. His songs have been featured in film and television and are regularly played on blues radio programs the world over. He has earned numerous Canadian blues accolades, including five JUNO nominations, a Western Canadian Music Award, a CBC Saturday Night Blues Award, and multiple Maple Blues Awards. He has thirty years of performing and hundreds of thousands of tour miles under his belt. He's played on stage with Johnny Winter, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Albert Collins and Bo Diddley. He has opened for George Thorogood, ZZ Top, The Tragically Hip, Buddy Guy, Charles Bradley, Robert Cray, and Jimmy Vaughan among many others. Gogo can swap road stories for as long as you can listen!

Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown The Devil To Pay

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Hard to believe this is the 45th release from Simmonds and Savoy Brown, a career in blues music that has successfully spanned half-a- century and saw him open at Cream's first London gig way back in 1965 and jam with Hendrix when still based in London. Armed with a love of Chicago blues and fearful of the rise of Punk, he upped sticks, moving Stateside in the 1970s where he quickly gained a following and a flavour of success by sticking to his bluesy, Chicago-biased sound.

The Devil To Pay is a fitting tribute to Simmonds and Savoy Brown's staying power.  Slammed full of Simmonds haunting, howling solo fretwork there are clear shades of BB King, Muddy Waters and other old US blues masters shimmering in the mix. But to his credit, Simmonds manages to maintain the pace and power with an up-to-date, sideways tilt at the roots and swell of the original Chicago blues sound. Kicking off with a rip-roaring bit of virtuoso fretwork "Ain't Got Nobody", he moves steadily through a fiery self-penned, thirteen-tracker that never wanes, driving the blues highway with effortless ease and taste.

With fifty years behind him, Simmonds knows when to reach down low, pull back on the gas and slow down the vibe.  Simmonds is a guy with more chops than a herd of hogs and The Devil To Pay sets the bar high, positively bristling with punch that showcases his enduring power perfectly.

Iain Patience

Jorma Kaukonen Ain’t In No Hurry

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Submitted by Iain Patience

That mighty fine acoustic bluesman Roy Book Binder used to quip that he didn't know what a Jorma was.  Times of course change and now they are great buddies, jamming, playing and teaching guitar together while Jorma has recorded songs in the traditional-style written by the Book. And Jorma has continued to weave his own magical spell, with lightening licks and down-low blues picking that simply seems to get stronger by the day.

Now approaching seventy-five years of age, Kaukonen remains at the top of his game garnering Grammy nominations with almost every album released and crossing seamlessly from blues to modern Americana and country with complete ease and confidence. As frontman, central figure in leading US band Hot Tuna, he is still partnered by one of the finest bassmen on the planet, Jack Casady,  a partnership that goes back to the days of Buddy Holly and has stood the test of time and musical change and challenges.

'Jack and I go way back.  He's from DC and I lived in Washington DC when I was young. We are best of friends and began playing together in a band back around 1958,' he says with a sparkling chuckle.

When asked if he ever imagined he'd still be picking that ole guitar so far down the line, Jorma laughs; 'Well, it sure feels good. I'm still able to do it, and now I have more time on my hands to play guitar, I'm loving it.'

Rab Noakes I'm Walkin' Here

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Submitted by Iain Patience

A wonderful double album from one of Scotland's true treasures and unsung musical heroes.  Noakes traces his musical pedigree way back into the heady sixties and as a member of Stealers Wheel in the seventies worked alongside the late Gerry Rafferty (Baker Street, with that fabulous Sax solo) and frequently recorded and played with Rod Clements of Lindisfarne. With his feet firmly rooted in the acoustic folk-roots tradition, he moves effortlessly between genres, never rushing but always tastefully slip-sliding along. 'I'm Walkin' Here' is simply another of his excellently crafted releases, full of pith and purpose.

With 26 tracks to choose from over two discs it's hard to single out any one number. Noakes covers unexpected old movie standards like 'Buttons & Bows', moves through 'Bye, Bye Blackbird' and Cliff and the Shadows' old chestnut  'Travelling Light' then also squeezes in some wonderful John Hurt-style fretwork plus a cracking version of Elizabeth Cotton's 'Freight Train', here played with sumptuous sensitivity and style.

For me, at least, Disc 2 is the better of the pair, though that's probably because of its slightly more bluesy undertones rather than any genuine qualitative difference. Most of the material is written by Noakes who is amply supported by Barbara Dickson and a host of other Scottish worthies.

The Rosellys The Granary Sessions

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Submitted by Iain Patience

An eleven-track release from a young, five-piece UK band fronted by quality vocals from Rebecca Rosellys and her partner Simon Rosellys, with tasteful, tender pedal-steel and resonator work from Allan Kelly, The Granary Sessions is an album of sweet-sounding modern Americana from England.

All titles are written by the band and reflect their love of the USA and its strong influence, positive pull on them and their music. Titles such as 'Maryland'; 'Ashville 1784'; 'Red, White & Blue' all clearly mirror the band's love of the country where this music still holds sway with millions.

In truth, there's nothing here that is driving, hard-nosed modern country or slick-backed sound, but the overall style and feel of this offering is surprisingly sinuous, sensitive and captivating.  The Rosellys clearly draw their inspiration from the music of modern USA but with classic Texan and Appalachian rhythm and swell. Think soft harmonic rhythms and vocals here and you won't be far wrong. If there is a stand-out track, for me, it goes to number ten, 'Rose Tinted Glasses', a discovery of love and loss in the character filled and characteristic US country style.

Production is top-dollar and this is a band full of taste and talent, an outfit with a firm grip and grasp of the modern country scene. Already gaining in popularity in the UK and Europe country music world, this release is surely likely to propel the Rosellys to another level with a planned promotional/support tour of the USA already booked and on the cards.

Mike Evin: Life As a Lover

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Submitted by Lee Fraser

Sultry, sexy, smooth: this is how the album opens up, with simple hand claps and piano. Mike Evin’s smooth and friendly voice draws you into his reminiscences of past loves. Joined by guitar and synths, “Have I Ever Loved” carries the ache of searching for true love. Mike’s rich musical past, experiences in different cultures and sincere admiration of greats like Al Green and Bill Withers all come together and gives Evin the innate ability to compose songs that are instantly engrained.

The very next song shows the flip side of Evin’s writing style. From soulful and reflective, the mood switches to playful with the song “Shake Well”, a nod to nutritional supplement beverages. It’s difficult not to sway to this song, and producer Howie Beck has wisely left Evin’s commentary between verses and choruses, the oh yas and exuberant woos that indicate the enthusiasm of the performance.

The rest of the album provides more songs of searching for true love, scattered with fun songs about babies and dogs and grandmothers. Evin has led a life of grand experiences but he is also able to observe the simple things in life and put them into song in a way that makes us all nostalgic.

Hey Romeo!: Pushing Up Daisies

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Submitted by Don Graham

Hey Romeo! the multiple award winning Alberta based trio have a new single to radio and it might be their strongest to date. “Pushing Up Daisies” is great track and the song is the embodiment of the expression “many a true word is spoken in jest.” As lead singer, Stacie Roper explains “Everyone has someone in their life that’s wrongedthem, but still thinks they can be taken right back, and this is a cheeky way of saying that’s just not gonna happen.”

Stacey’s vocal is crisp and clear and considering she sang it with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek, very believable.

‘Pushing Up Daisies’ is a swamp-rock, country stomp that features the tight harmonies that are a signature of Hey Romeo!, and after 10 years of touring and recording together their musical unity and easy blend is never more evident.  The song was written by Carolyn Dawn Johnson writer of “Single White Female” for Chely Wright, Brad Crisler writer of “ Some Things Never Change” for  Tim McGraw and MacKenzie Porter.

Hey Romeo! has toured extensively with such acts as Sugarland, Darius Rucker, Gord Bamford, Johnny Reid, Alan Jackson, Terri Clark and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

In that time Hey Romeo! have been awarded multiple CCMA Awards beginning with Top New Talent ofthe Year (2008), and Group or Duo of the Year two years running in 2011 and 2012. In 2014 their single,‘Hello Patio,’ from the I Got This EP garnered the band the Alberta Country Music Award (ACMA) for Song of the Year.

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