Reviews

Lucinda Williams Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

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Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Magazine Europe

A glorious 20 track, double album from the queen of Americana. Most double albums have an inevitable feeling of too much weak material, superfluous padding, about them. Not this one, a jam-packed elemental tour de force from start to finish.

Williams is on top form throughout, her gritty voice and guitar shored up by quality writing, at time withering lyrics, and gnawing raw emotion.  We're all familiar with her style and unique - often dark - view of life, love, relationships and vision. 'Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone’ is no exception, but with more than a hint of redemption in the mix. Williams says of this release, it is an expression of her 'optimism.' Not a description often attached to her usual, stripped-bare emotive take on life and love.

Tony Joe White  and Jakob Dylan both feature together with strong support from multi-instrumentalist/producer  Greg Leisz, Bill Frisell, and a couple of former Elvis Costello sidemen, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Danny Faragher. The production is perfectly pitched and assured with such a great studio team onboard.

This has to be one of those sadly all too rare things, an absolutely essential album.  Is it country, is it Americana, is it blues?  It's all of those things and much, much more. Possibly the essential release of the year.

www.lucindawilliams.com

Eric Andersen You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

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Submitted by Don Graham

Eric Andersen’s return to Hugh’s Room was a fascinating night of legendary songs, newer songs destined to become legendary and triumph.

When I arrived at Hugh’s Room for Eric Andersen’s performance, the room was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing and hearing this American icon who was there at the beginning of the explosion of music in New York’s Greenwich Village.  He was introduced by Jane Harbury who was once a waitress at The Riverboat in Toronto where Eric played and sang in the 1960s. The moment he was introduced and made his way to the stage the room fell quiet, eerily quiet. That’s how much respect this man got from this audience of fans and people just wanting to be transported back to a simpler time. But this was not a nostalgia show. Unlike some veteran performers Eric Andersen didn’t just sing his classic songs from the 60’s (although he could have easily done a whole evening of that) but rather did some current material. He even had a song called The “Plague” where he referenced the current Ebola scare in Dallas Texas. “You guys are following that right?”

From the first words out his mouth when hit the stage you knew you were in for an interesting evening, As he climbed up on the stage and put on his guitar he stood by the mic, in the soft lighting, looking very ethereal and said, quietly “ Can you walk behind Niagara Falls? “ Somebody yelled out “Yes!”  Eric said, “How far back can you go?” The answer, “ About 200 feet.” Eric stared out at the crowd and said “I’m going to be thinking about that all night.”  The crowd was all his from that moment on.

Matt Woosey Wildest Dreams

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Radar Music Records
Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Magazine Europe

The latest release from young UK acoustic singer/songwriter, Matt Woosey, 'Wildest Dreams' is another positive triumph. Woosey's previous two offerings, 'On The Wagon' and the EP 'Hook, Line & Sinker', were both excellent. It was hard to see how he could follow through with his next release. But Woosey has pulled it off again; indeed, he has done it in spades. Another simply stunning ten-track CD full of his instantly recognisable guitar work and fabulous songs, a seamless fusion of Americana and raw down-dirty blues.

This guy just gets better and better, stronger and stronger, and is clearly extraordinarily talented. This has to be the main contender for 'album of the year'.

The maturity of the song-writing and playing skills on display belie his age; this is one dude who is certainly going places fast.
If you buy only one album this year, make it Woosey's "Wildest Dreams'.

www.mattwoosey.co.uk

Mary Flower When My Bluebird Sings

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Bluesette Records
Submitted by Iain Patience

Mary Flower says of this latest album, that it marks a departure from her usual  style, normally a ragtime-blues acoustic driven mix of blues standards and self-penned tracks. And yet, that solid background shines through here with wonderful, crisp and clear guitar work matched by a mellow voice that seems to improve steadily with age, like a good wine or a fine malt. All titles here were written by Flower and she plays both standard acoustic and slide guitar with strength, sensitivity and soul throughout the mix. From the opener, 'So Far Doin' Alright' she shimmies on to a more typical ragtimey theme with 'Ragtag Rag'. 'Sashay My Way' is a cracking, walking  boogie  piece and the closer, 'Atchafalaya' is a beautiful, rhapsodic piece of playing, reflecting and echoing the genesis of this release which was recorded down in New Orleans a few months ago. For me, Mary Flower is probably the finest female acoustic ragtime-blues picker out there, so it goes without saying, this CD is recommended.

www.maryflower.com

Scott Richmond Come What May

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

The cover of the CD is earthy and warm as is the photo of this artist so when the first track comes on it is a huge surprise to hear this bluesy strong voice singing out to you.

Scott Richmond is a Southern Saskatchewan musician, composer, and performer who has spent the past decade working on his music. He has won multiple music competitions in Canada and is just about to break loose in the major markets.

This debut album ‘Come What May’ was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee with producer/engineer Gabe Masterson at EastSide Manor Studios, this album features several musicians that have performed with some of the most important artists of the past few decades: Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, The Band, Bob Dylan), Kris Wilkinson (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Garth Brooks) and Kim Morrison (Lynyrd Skynrd, Hank Williams Jr., Ray Charles)

‘Come What May’ is a collection of emotionally charged folk songs, tinged with soul, pop and country, with some tunes pushing the blues as well. From the cinematic Fallen to Rise to the outlaw anthem White Whiskey and Bourbon, to the evocative Fades into Silence, the songs are of stories of love, loss, rebellion, life and death, all put to a great music bed of strong vocals, good melodies and slick musicianship.

Roy Roberts Strange Love

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Submitted by Iain Patience
Cashbox Europe

Roy Roberts is one of those old-timers, a guy who's been around the East Coast US music scene most of his seventy-year plus life. In that time, he's remained below the radar yet been sideman and guitarist with many influential giants of US  popular music. This is a guy who was a soulmate of Otis Redding in the 60s;  he shimmied with Solomon Burke and Eddie Floyd; worked with Stevie Wonder (when he was still 'Little Stevie') and many of the soul music dynasty while developing his own sound, reflected in this excellent ten track album.

'Strange Love' has that full-on Stax sound: rounded Horns; crisp guitar work seamlessly merged with soulful, rocking vocals. Roberts wrote all of the material here, and it is a tribute to his ability and undoubted talent.  With 'Strange Love', Roy Roberts shows he is still firmly rooted in the Deep South but has shaken himself free of his long passed and more successful musical buddies to emerge triumphantly from the shadows. Recommended for sure.

Railroad Steele Back On Track

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Railroad Steele was born out of the need to feed the musical soul. Created in 1989 by lead guitar player Laurence Massicotte and lead vocalist/keyboardist Glenda Massicotte  it has become a vehicle for many players to hone their skills. Located mid way between Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie Ontario, the members are spread amongst the treasured little communities (Iron Bridge to Massey) we call the Walford Station. Many players from the region had got their start with us and will always be remembered as part of the group. The band has changed its genre several times playing everything from classic country to classic rock with their own original tunes which makes for a crowd pleasing experience. Railroad Steele has opened for recording artist April Wine, The Stampeders, The Bright Brothers, and has shared the stage with the likes of Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite, Prism, Glass Tiger, Colin James, Coney Hatch, Carol Baker, Graham Townsend and many incredible artist along the way.

‘On the Verge of A Good Day’ has a great clear vocal, with a repetitive guitar lick that sticks in your head, with a feeling we all embrace of being on the verge of a good day.

The second track rocks it out with ‘Looking Back at You and Me’, a reflective song with survival and love while ‘Life After Love’ could be the follow-up to this track, with Jenny Massicotte delivering a tasteful vocal.

‘Dreaming’ rounds out the vocals with steady harmonies and reminds you of the same feel of ‘No Time Left for You’ with a Guess Who flavor while ‘Do You Believe in UFO’s’ is a playful tune talking about aliens and the reality that they might just be among us.

‘Back on Track’ has a bluesy feel with Allman Brothers style guitar sounds, and Gracie Slick vocals.

Once again Railroad Steele addresses the love gone bad song with ‘Did What I Had to Do’ and

The Slim City Pickers

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13th Avenue Records
Submitted by Sandy Graham

The Slim City Pickers, also known by their friends and fans as “The Pickers” who deliver a sound that can cut like a knife or soothe like a nice glass of whiskey.

A most recent addition to 13th Ave Records, they have been creating quite the buzz in and around the Queen City for the past year. The band draws influence from early Country & Western music, and by combining that influence with a passion for Rock & Roll, The Pickers deliver a sound true to themselves that can cut like a knife, or soothe like a nice glass of whiskey.

The band started in 2012 when singer/songwriter Orin Paquette came into the company of long time friends, Ian Cameron and Andy Beisel. The 3 three met at a concert, which immediately sparked talk of their mutual interests in playing good music. After a long jam, the three realized there was potential for something special. Not long after, Tristan Helgason was added to the line-up bringing his tight, hard hitting drumming style. Helgason, combined with the rich and organic bass playing of Dick Yeates lay the framework for the punchy dueling lead guitars and sweltering steel guitar. Add to the mix some 3 part vocal harmonies and what you have is The Slim City Pickers.

When it comes to songwriting, the band is influenced by early country music artists particularly those of the Bakersfield Sound, such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. They also draw their influence from The Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as songwriters like Neil Young and Gram Parsons. Stylistically, they draw heavy inspiration from southern bands such as The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The opening track “You Belong to Me” is a beautiful, poignant ballad, and pedal steel linking it all together by the talented Ian Cameron.

Sofie Reed Simplicity Chased Trouble Away & Red Hen: Autoproduction

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Submitted by Iain Patience
(Cashbox Europe)

Simplicity Chased Trouble Away is Sofie Reed’s second album, featuring her fine, strong Harp playing alongside some solid Steel slide work.  Perhaps the most surprising element of this artist’s music is that she also majors in Dulcimer, an instrument not normally heard in blues saloons, juke joints and bars but which here is successfully pitched with an unexpectedly strong and successful blues groove.  Certainly a first for me and, refreshingly different, it works remarkably and surprisingly well.

The twelve tracks that make up this album are mostly self-written. The album romps along at a fair lick with some sensible and interesting changes of tempo from the excellent and upbeat opening track, ‘Glitter Girl’ through the near-Afro-vibe of ‘Human Every Day’ to the soulful vocals and pounding underlying guitar and Harp –work evident on ‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’.

Sofie Reed LiveSofie Reed LiveReed’s latest, third release, 'Red Hen', is equally strong on song-writing and instrumental skill and style.  She has a whomping sound, varied by virtue of the at times unusual instruments she prefers, rhythmic foot-stomping and the southern influences under-pinning the material. Her blues-base is more than clear here to the ear.  Her confidence is clear here with a take on the old, oft overworked standard 'When The Saints Go Marrching In'. A difficult track to reinvent and rejig.

Half Deaf Clatch The Blues Continuum

The Blues Continuum Half Deaf Clatch.jpg

Autoprod/Redpromotions
Submitted by Iain Patience
(Cashbox Europe)

This is the third release from a mighty fine slide blues picker from England, a wonderful album that could all too easily be overlooked. Which would be a tragic mistake, because this CD has many excellent qualities and deserves widespread exposure and recognition.

HDC, a British Blues Award 2014 finalist, wrote most of the material here, together with Red Burley. Who features on backing vocals. The album has been gaining airplay with blues shows across the UK since pre-release promo copies were made available a few weeks ago.

There are clear shades of Son House in the mix but this album is not just another of those old music replayed affairs; far from it. It's a finely crafted work of traditional sounding musical reinvention and much more.  From the gripping, jangling slide work on the intro to the  first track,  'Bury My Bones', to the close,  ten tracks later, 'The Blues Continuum' serves as an engaging showcase for Half Deaf Clatch's gravel vocals,  soulful picking and strong song-writing skills.

This is one of those all too rare things: a simply cracking, crackling bit of originality. With roots firmly in the Deep South but produced in England,  'The Blues Continuum' brings a flavor of new blues with new songs and sounds to a wider audience.  Track five, entitled 'Good Thing', says it all and fittingly hints at what to expect here. Positively recommended.

Website: www.halfdeafclatch.com

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