Category: Reviews

Black Stone Cherry – Black To Blues EP

As anyone who has seen Black Stone Cherry perform will know, these Kentucky lads are never far from the Blues. The clues are the way they play off each other, the use of dynamics, the occasional slide guitar but moreover the raspy vocal stylings of Chris Robertson.

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Imagination feat. Leee John – Retropia

We have much time for Leee John. He makes great records, can readily turn his hand to jazz and we have never seen him give a bad performance, rather he has given some of the best we have seen, singing like an angel and giving his muscular band room to explore the funk. Here we have a set of twelve new songs plus some extra’s. And very welcome, too.

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CousteauX – CousteauX

This early 2000s act returns with a new album and adding a letter to their group name. Cousteaux is in essence a duo of deep-voiced singer originally from Cork Liam KcKahey plus Davey Ray Moor, and Aussie born in Beirut.

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Janis Ian – The Essential 2.0

There’s always room for a Janis Ian compilation album and this double might be the strongest yet. It certainly has lots of highlights and for the newcomer to this stalwart artist’s work will be a revelation. Broadly chronological, this is a trip through a creative artist’s world and back again. Quite a trip from guesting on the very first Saturday Night Live TV show to filling concert halls worldwide today…

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Dixie Chicks – DCX MMXVI

Sooner or later a great live act will be tempted to get the best of their stuff out on a CD / DVD set and here is the country-rock trio’s offering on three discs. These performances were recorded on a set of US and Canadian dates and it sounds as though they were fun. Selling 30 million albums must teach you something, in this case it was plainly how to entertain and put together a fine setlist.

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Alice Cooper – Paranormal

A treat from Vincent! A new studio album AND a live performance on a second disc with a show out in Columbus. Produced by old sparring partner Bob Ezrin, too. What can go wrong? Turns out, not much at all….in passing, Alice was surprised that guest drummer Larry Mullen from U2 insisted on seeing the song lyrics before working on the drum parts..unprecedented, says Cooper.

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The Bad Flowers – Thunder Child (Single)

The new single release from The Black Country’s act The Bad Flowers features guitar man Tom Leighton, bassist Dale Tonks and drummer Karl Selickis, session helmed by producer Adam Beddow. Lead cut Thunder Child has the trio plunging into the number like an amphetamined Cactus but with the unmistakable Brit Metal vocal declamatory vocal style.

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Little Big Town – The Breaker

Well just look at those titles, readers – very Brian Wilson/Beach Boys, are they not ?
But this talented quartet (adding a band for touring) can play many instruments and all sing lead, so they have their own thing going.

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Simo – Rise & Shine

‘Rise & Shine’ …a phrase I heard many a time from my late father, too early in the morning ! But his military background as a Sergeant Major never left him, we his hapless offspring his platoon…but the phrase also heralds the return of funky psych-rock trio from Nashville.

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Aubrey Logan – Impossible

We are all about sounds and listening, in the main. But your scribe must take time out to mention that this artist has a face that is simultaneously beautiful and 100% wicked. She must have had a terrible time at school, she just looks as though she definitely did it or masterminded it. She also bears a resemblance to…oh, more of this another time…..

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Keith Urban – Ripcord

Master of the live performance, Urban seems to release records to no conventional, regular pattern. So when one appears it is generally worth getting hold of a copy to see what Urban is up to.

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The Strypes – Spitting Image

A few days after The Thin White Duke passed, image man John Bull and I were up at the Garage in London to see the Strypes and hear their new material. They strode on, plugged in and burst – I mean burst – into Rebel, Rebel.

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Becca Stevens – Regina

‘Regina’…Latin for ‘queen’. One listen to this collection confirms that indeed Stevens is queen of what she is creating. Her involvement with David Crosby and his recent music attracted my attention. Crosby is free with his praise of her songs and singing. He knows a bit about both. Female voices are much in evidence on TV and radio at present, but not this kind of voice…..

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Dave Stewart – Nashville Sessions The Duets Vol. 1

One of the best Tony Joe White albums is the one featuring duets with female vocalists. Here music maestro Stewart puts together the various duets to be found on his Blackbird Studio Sessions trilogy of albums, which I have – to form a compilation of the best tracks in this format.

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ZZ Ward – The Storm

This artist had one of the better, grittier tracks on the recent Cars 3 film which we reviewed and she social’d – thank you Ms Ward – and the actual song Ride can be heard on this album release.

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The Hallows – Of Time And Tides

What if you took a supple, versatile drummer, a lofty bassist with a cool line in subterranean bottom-of-the neck riffs and nimble top-strings fusion figures and added an alluring female vocalist with a crisp keyboard style and lyrical inspiration running far beyond romantic odes? Well THIS is what you would get – The Hallows.

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Shaman’s Harvest – Red Hands Black Deeds

The title track is quite tribal as Matt Fisher (bass) lays down the bassline and Adam Zemanek (drums) provide a hypnotic beat which goes straight into ‘Broken Ones’ which is a real head banger with a classic rock approach (The band used analogue effect pedals and vintage amps as they simply did not want to use anything digital.)

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Andreas Moe – Borderline (Single)

Andreas Moe is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who was born and raised in Sweden. He has made quite a name for himself in Europe with appearances on shows such as Holland’s biggest prime-time talk show DWDD which has an audience of over 1.5 million as well as several European radio stations.

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Triggerfinger – Colossus

I’m fairly familiar with this band’s previous output and I was fortunate enough to see their first headline London show at a packed sweaty Barfly in Camden. The band have now returned with a new musical approach with Ruben Block (vocalist/guitarist) commenting “Anything goes’, that was our motto.”

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Jonny Lang – Signs

Well dear reader, I have to start this review by being completely honest and say that I have been patiently waiting four years for a new Jonny Lang album.

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Low Society – Sanctified

Sanctified is the third studio album from this outfit and the Memphis-based Rezonate Records. The group features vocalist Mandy Lemons – though that may be an anagram – and she is aided by guitar man and producer Sturgis Nikides.

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George Thorogood – Party Of One

My abiding memory of this is entertaining artist is being backstage at the Shepherds Bush Empire trying to interview the opening act Big Head Todd & The Monsters, with a gruff voice coming through the cracked door intoning “ We owe it all to George Thorogood ! He is The Man !”…

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Alison Krauss – Windy City (Deluxe)

I don’t know quite what to make of the ‘Stepford Wives’ image of Alison Krauss on the cover of this new record. She looks a tad fragile, brittle..but we all know she is one of Americana’s strongest female performers.

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Yasmine Hamdan – Al Jamilat

I heard this songstress first on – of all things – the CNN television news channel. They had a documentary feature about creatives in Lebanon and Ms Hamdan was briefly interviewed. She seemed to have drive, ideas, a great and haunting voice and a striking appearance. Prompting me to find this album which I think is her third?

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Stanton Moore – With You In Mind

The subtitle of this release is The Songs Of Allen Toussaint. You have likely heard more Toussaint numbers than you realise. Santana and Little Feat regarded him as a major writer and arranger. Towards the end of his life he made appearances in the UK and by luck or skill or a mixture of both, he had plenty of material to draw upon.

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Cars 3 (Soundtrack Album)

The soundtrack to the latest motoring animation family film arrives and like the previous related albums for Cars and Cars 2, you can expect upbeat tunes by various artists that sound fine….er, especially in the car.

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Robin Trower – Time & Emotion

The veteran guitarist, singer and songwriter really does deserve the term ‘artist’ and is on a run at the moment, producing a recent series of albums that blend artistry with soul, stuffed with atmospheric songs and played with punch and when required, the gentlest touch. As I have said before, the man paints pictures for your ears….

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Albert Hammond – In Symphony

I was talking to the genial Albert one time at Ronnie Scott’s and he casually said that probably I hadn’t heard half the records he had made. When I politely challenged this he explained that 50 per cent of his output was sung in Spanish, solely for the South American/Latin market…such is the industry and artistry of this man.

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Peter Donegan – Superman

Once I had a call from the leader of a big band I was in to get my butt over to Hounslow the next day – a Sunday afternoon – to play at a festival. To my delight I found we were on before the headliner – Mr Lonnie Donegan. Hence I had a cuppa and chat about the blues with the early rock’n’roll star. Pleasing it is that his talented son Peter is recording and here is his new mini-album.

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Chuck Berry – Chuck

Described by some as America’s Greatest Living Poet, Charles Berry took his T Bone Walker and Muddy Waters influences and crafted a unique body of rock’n’roll and blues songs of classic, timeless quality.

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Nikka Costa – Nikka & Strings, Underneath and In Between

Long this writer’s favourite r&b singer, Nikka Costa’s recording are often played hereabouts. Her work with Prince is well-known and her duet on an early Van Hunt recording ( Mean Sleep) remains an example of stellar collaboration. So on this occasion she has completed a crowd-funding venture to create a collection of – mostly – versions of songs by others. And in the company of a set of string players.

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Jen Gloeckner – Vine

Iowa act Jen Gloeckner has some pretty interesting collaborators on this new record. The promo notes suggest similarities in style with Lana Del Ray, Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins, P J Harvey. But I played it anyway….

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Hank Marvin – Without A Word

The master of the twanging electric guitar returns. We were all set to meet the man and talk guitars, this record and everything else, but his trip over from Australia for promo was cancelled, as we understand it for family reasons.

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Debbie Bond – Winds Of Change (Single)

With a career that embraces performing alongside Eddie Kirkland, Willie Smith and Johnny Shines, Bond heads to Tuscaloosa to record a song that winds up at Muscle Shoals for mixing and mastering. She sings, plays guitar, writes material and her multi-instrumental musical partner ‘Radiator’ Rick Asherson – warms the room wherever he goes – who grew up in England assists in creating this number.

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I, The Betrayer – 7 EP

Seven songs from a rock band based in Oslo, Norway and in a suitably bleak and black album package. They look as though they have come to kick your door down. I always wish with metal bands that just one member would have a Fairisle sweater on, or a trilby hat…

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Kat Eaton – When You’re Not Around EP

One of the best things about Ms Eaton is that she seems so pleased to be singing, performing, entertaining. To describe her musical style, it’s almost best to tell you what she isn’t. Kat is not a twister of notes all over the shop a la Mariah Carey.

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The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Strong Like That

Kim Wilson has become over time an almost John Mayall figure within US music – sticking to the music that brought him initial fame and always changing his backing musicians. I read a piece a while ago wherein Wilson opined that touring with younger players was refreshing as the old-timers did little but say how good things were Back Then….

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Naturally 7 – Both Sides Now

The accomplished American singing group return with a new album. It’s good to hear their voices again, blending mellow and enthralling, smooth and rousing. This time around they have some guest artists aboard.

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Devon Allman – Ride Or Die

As any rational human being should really be, Devon Allman cares about the Earth and his fellow Earthlings, but does not let his fears and concerns taint his music with the negative.

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Dreamgirls – OST

So… thirty five years after its original inception, a new theatre musical version the show and of course in the wake of the fabulously-received musical film heads for London and this double-CD album gives us all the songs.

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Alice Cooper – 21 Reasons To Love Alice Cooper

There’s something endearing about the notion of one of the Great Wild Men Of Rock playing golf with the late dry-as-dust comedian George Burns. But Alice Cooper – born Vincent Furnier – has some intrinsic skills that have ensured his staying power as a performer.

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Sheryl Crow – Be Myself

An artist who never strays far from rock and roots music and selects musical cohorts who will act as catalyst figures in arranging and recording. And that’s not as a cold business decision – or she would have Chris Martin or Sheeran in – but a brave challenge to herself to take chances and keep things fresh.

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Garland Jeffreys – 14 Steps To Harlem

One fascinating guy and creator – best friend of the late Lou Reed no less – and a songwriter who can take in any style and pull it off. Born into the explosion of culture on all fronts, Jeffreys has witnessed plenty in New York and beyond and never had a fear of making social commentary.

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The Franklys – Are You Listening?

Castaway wastes no time in pumping out the edgy rock style that The Franklys have been honing by touring, legato guitar runs threading through the melee as Jennifer Ahlkvist sings in her best Debbie Harry-goes-Velvet Underground voice.

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Tove Lo – Lady Wood

Reviewing every kind of music means that one minute you are writing about a polished mainstream singing act like Collabro, then a funk-duo who are friends with Snoop Dogg and then the next an out-there Swedish pop songstress garnering International attention and even whose logo is overtly sensual….

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Erja Lyytinen – Stolen Hearts

At this point in the Finnish star’s life she has much to write about. As an established blues-rock performer she already has a keen following in many countries, especially for her slide guitar style but from my recent speaking with Erja herself, an overall burning desire to write, arrange and sing and play an ever-wider range of material.

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Tuxedo – Tuxedo II

Tuxedo – the duo of Jake One and sublime soul singer and musician Mayer Hawthorne return. In this project, the pair mine and create past soul creations, using compatible gear but strangely sounding now rather than then.

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Ward Thomas – A Shorter Story EP

The country-influenced twins visit some material by others to add their own touch and thus add to their works. If anyone thought the duo might bring us versions of old country standards, prepare to be surprised.

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The Rainbreakers – Rise Up EP

Electric roots music from a Shrewsbury quartet. With five cuts produced by Robin Andrews. Personnel are Ben Edwards, guitar & vocal, Charlie Richards guitar, Peter Adams bass plus Sam Edwards on drums.

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Mauro Dirago – Rewind

You may recall that we greeted Mauro’s rock’n’roll single release Heartbreaker with some enthusiasm. He and his partner in crime Marco Mastrocola have been out and about promoting the record at radio stations and elsewhere.

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Danny Bryant BIG – Live In Europe

Our old friend Danny is realising a long-held ambition here, to present some of his tough blues music with an expanded musical lineup. The Bryant voice and guitar can take it, many years of road work have given him the presence and live reputation to pull the project off.

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Catherine McGrath – One EP

So there I am with lensman John Bull at the start of the Cadogan Hall-hosted Under The Apple Tree one-day festival of roots music in London. The first act is setting up to play with her accompanying guitarist.

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Zara Larsson – So Good

She’s a forthright young singer, a lot of people in the business want to work with her. The pop charts resound with her voice and now here is her album, produced by Ola Makansson.

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Doyle Bramhall II – Rich Man

So far, every one of Mr Bramhall’s album releases have been full of fine songs, spirited singing, lively arrangements and in their best moments, stuttering smokestack-belching howling and spitting chunks of guitar-playing.

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Quinn Sullivan – Midnight Highway

You want the best news about this label’s latest signing? – You’d hire him as a vocalist ! not to downplay his dextrous and very wide-ranging guitar skills but quite how he has attained such a rich and authoritative voice in his teens is pretty remarkable.

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Gary Clark Jr. – Live North America 2016

Well if you are a fan of the fuzz-drenched band sound and earnest vocals of Mr Gary Clark Jnr then this live set gives you just what you want. He features some popular tracks and two unfamiliars and they are pretty much all delivered raw, filth-soaked and from the way these cuts play very loud.

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Mike Zito – Make Blues Not War

A Tom Hambridge musical production is always worth a listen – just ask Buddy Guy or Quinn Sullivan ! – and with a talent such as Mike Zito you have virtual guarantee of quality singing and playing.

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Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox – The Essentials

We were there when this group first played London and met several of the members including very briefly project leader Scott Bradlee, after the show. The act tours with a formidable array of male and female vocalists who can all harmonise, backed by a small old-time dance band, the kind you might have seen in the late 40s in New York or Chicago.

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Jesse & Joy – Jesse & Joy

Here comes Latin America’s much-favoured musical duo with their first dual-language album..the Mexican pairing have amassed a string of Grammys, No 1 chart hits and 1.5+ billion views on YouTube. They have put this album release together from their four studio albums so you could regard as a kind of Best Of…so far

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Marcus Malone – A Better Man

Produced by Marcus and engineered by the late and much-missed Roger Cotton, this record is the latest from the Detroit-born blues-rock vocalist, his first since Stand Or Fall. My memory bank recalls that he was one of the many stars who performed at a benefit show where we all turned up and coughed up to help with Walter Trout’s medical costs when he needed a transplant….

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Krissy Matthews – Live At Freak Valley

A proper live album is what Matthews claims to deliver here, folks. As in, not ‘fixed’ in the studio later. In the past some performance recordings have had so many parts touched up or even replaced by engineers that they can hardly claim to be ‘Live’. Or ‘Dangerous’… I will say no Moore.

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The Gift – Altar

Recorded in partly in Portugal, these tracks reflect a number of factors – a creative compositional run from keys player Nuno Goncalves, mixing by Flood, a guest spot fromSonia Tavares, the wish to make a cohesive album based on a life story concept AND the involvement on the production of ex-Roxy Music man Brian Eno.

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Collabro – Home

An album from this singing group with a strong musical theatre background and brave enough to set up their own record label. Apparently they won Britain’s Got Talent, a show I cannot bring myself to watch. I know no musicians anywhere who would want to be ‘judged’ by that panel.

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Eric Gales – Middle Of The Road

Now if there is one label you could NEVER put on guitarist and singer Eric Gales, it is ‘middle of the road’…other musicians I meet speak of Gales in hushed tones, as ‘out there’, ‘inspired’ and ‘a mighty figure’.

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Dan Clews – While Middle England Mows Its Lawn

Is that a smidgeon of contempt in that album title ? Why so ?..though I do recall an interesting indie outfit called The Strange Death Of Liberal England… some background info, then. The late Sir George Martin described our man as “Too great a talent to ignore” and dear Bob Harris calls Clews’ music “Landscape Folk”.

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Rhys Williams – We Are Climbing Angel Mountain

When you meet this artist, the enthusiasm for music, arranging, playing recording and above all communicating just bursts out of him. It appears to be where he is channeling so much of his energy and creativity. This set is co-produced by Mark Ferguson with input from Richard Woodcraft.

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Michael Schenker – Michael Schenker Fest “Live”

Well this is quite a treat for longtime fans of this German guitar ace – I first saw him with UFO I think – as the guest singers are none other than Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McCauley. This lineup does underline Schenker’s good ear for a singer but also makes this special occasion set the more desirable.

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