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April 2012

PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER
Colossus
King Mojo Records
Genre – Heavy Rock
Star rating 5.5/10

This record is the Bedford based band’s debut.  The record company came up with a batch of hugely overblown publicity statements about this album and the band. It doesn’t live up to those extravagant claims. This is a collection of riff based heavy rock tunes with a very retro 70’s sound.  Despite the claims of the publicity this isn’t blues, as anyone with half an ear will hear – this is pure rock, redolent of Spooky Tooth, and on occasion ‘Sway’ by the Stones. There are elements of Sabbath’s post ‘Volume  IV’ and the closing title track is verging on prog rock sounds a la Crazy World of Arthur Brown with a keyboard sound that bursts to the surface after being hinted at throughout. The vocal recalls a cross between Metallica and Family albeit with a slightly more limited range. The tracks are all slow to mid-tempo minor pentatonic based harmony.  In the opinion of our team this record is OK but there was nothing to make us want to play or listen again.

As a debut album without the overblown hype this would pass muster and we’d look forward to seeing how things develop, but we are getting very tired of being told this is blues – it isn’t; we know what blues is, we’ve been listening to it for combined few hundred years and record companies banging an ever louder drum won’t make it blues.
Review Team

 

 

OLI BROWN
Here I Am
Ruf Records –RUF 1178
Genre – Rock / Blues
Star rating 7/10

The opening title track is a heavy rock tune – ‘Here I Am’, it’s Oli singing ‘I don’t wanna be like Stevie or Jimi , I just wanna be my godamn self’, the song continues as an  obviously  statement that he wants to begin to establish an individual  musical identity with this album.  – Second track ‘Thinking About Her’ and we’re into Texas shuffle land with a few slight variations. The album follows with a selection of Blues variants – riff based songs   with a touch of funk.  Oli strives valiantly to put down a record that stands out among what is becoming a very overcrowded genre. He certainly displays more imagination than we’ve been hearing recently and adds a touch more funk than many. One of the more interesting songs is ‘Mr Wilson’, an interesting song as is the closer ‘Solid Ground’ a Delta flavoured stomp which features a guest spot from Paul Jones.

The question is – just who is Oli talking about in that opening track?  Who is telling him ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do that’? Maybe he wants to stretch out further – he certainly has a guitar technique to enable that. The problem is the songs, there aren ‘t really any with hooks to make you go back and play it again, and the lyrics don’t really engage; but then it is an awful lot to ask a young guy to come with 10 or 11 good new songs for every album. Maybe the answer is to look at how the songs were put together on great albums past – we mean that it was very rarely just the guitar player – Page & Plant / Jagger & Richards / Bruce & Brown /  Leiber & Stoller / Lommi, Butler, Osbourne, Ward – and that’s just  for starters. We’re quite serious here, across this whole genre the songs don’t really stand up as songs. We have a mass of riff based music and with, to a greater or lesser extent, lyrics as an add-on. Someone has to take hold of this genre and start coming up with some really good songs or the whole genre will disappear in a cloud of smoke. Oli is very good indeed but it ultimately needs a little more than this.
Review Team

 

 

JOINT RECORD OF THE MONTH APRIL 2012
THE HARRIS BROTHERS
Suitcase Blues
Scuffletown Records
Genre – Country Blues / Roots
Star rating 9/10

The blues genre in the UK especially is saturated with a mass of Guitar led trios – calling it Blues / Rock but really its rock. The guitarist invariably has a massive pedal-board of effects, invariably the bassist stands looking admiringly at the guitarist during his 14th chorus of solo (yes you forget what the song was). This is the antidote – 40 minutes of magical stripped down, soul filled unembellished pure country blues. It rarely gets better than this and we rarely get something that so sharply highlights the disparity between what passes as blues and the real thing. This is the real thing.

Reggie & Ryan Harris (no English gangster jokes please) are from the Western end of North Carolina USA, Caldwell County in fact -they’re from a musical family and this record with its varied dips into American traditional music show s that music is just about as deeply ingrained as you can get. They use acoustic guitars, string bass, occasional banjo or fiddle and the antithesis of a pedal-board, a suitcase, for percussion.

They play all over the States, Festivals, all types of venue and Grammy Award-winner David Holt says: “The Harris Brothers are one of my favorite groups. Great playing, singing and soul, it just doesn’t get any better than this.”

The simplicity of it all astounds – and it’s all topped off by a vocal delivery that harks back to the very root of Americana – so, so simple yet you just believe – the highlights for us were ‘Freight Train’ a great old song that sounds as fresh as if they’d just heard that train a comin’ – ‘Roll & Tumble Blues’ with a vocal that perfectly counterpoints the slide riff that underpins it, ‘Rag Mama Rag’ which swings like crazy, and Muddy Waters’ ‘Honeybee’ an impassioned slow blues. The real surprise comes at the end, it’s all been immaculately played –simple, unhurried, and with plenty of air for the music – then on the closing  J.J.Cale’s  ‘If  You’re Ever in Oklahoma’ Reggie unleashes two flat-picking solos of astonishing dexterity – it leaves you on a high, breathless, and half jokingly we wondered ‘With music like this why did we ever need amplifiers and electric guitars?’
Review Team

This is the Harris Brother’s performing J.J. Cale’s ‘If You’re Ever in Oklahoma’, it’s not the best film quality but you’ll get a wee taste of Reggie Harris’ guitar pic king skills

 

 

 

LYNNE HANSON
Once the Sun Goes Down
PLH 201001
Genre – Roots / Country

Star rating 8.5/10
‘Once the Sun goes Down’ is a really excellent record from Lynne Hanson – she’s a singer / guitarist from Canada – she broke through when she was invited to showcase in Austin, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee, and earned herself a Canadian Folk Music Award nomination in the category of new /emerging artist in 2009.  The accolades continued in 2010 with Hanson winning the prestigious Colleen Peterson songwriting award handed out annually by the Ontario Arts Council. Lynne Hanson is obviously influenced by Gillian Welch – yet this album is much more spirited that Gillian’s ultra-downbeat effort. This is melodic and lyrically rich mostly with a small combo behind her. The songs are all excellent but most especially the standout opener ‘When Lovers Leave’, the lovely ‘Riptide’, and ‘Just for the Ride’- it’s the sort of album that will repay repeated listening – there are plenty of subtle melodic hooks just a waiting to draw you in. If there is one minor criticism it is that the drums are a tad loud at times – but that’s a minor thing on a thoroughly excellent and highly recommended album. Lynne Hanson is in the line of Lucinda Williams, Gillian, Diana Jones, she’s making a major contribution to Americana music and we’re sure of great things to come – now for another listen.

Review Team

This is  ‘When Lovers Leave’ the opening track from Lynne’s album

 

 

 

CLAIRE FREE
Dust and Bones
Funky Mama Records – FMRCD 1012
Genre – Rock / Blues
Star rating 6.5/10
Clare Free seems to be a coming name on the UK blues scene and this her second album presents a selection of her originals. Everyone on the team considered that Clare had ‘changed’ her voice since the previous album – adopting a ‘Jo-Ann Shaw Taylor type of phrasing and sound. Unfortunately were not over keen on Jo Ann’s singing voice and that similarity rather took the edge off of this record. It didn’t sound like Clare’s natural voice to us and we reckon ‘if you are gonna sing the blues you’ve got to do it in your own voice.’ Sorry Clare, we appreciate the work that goes into all this but it just didn’t do it for us. The songs are OK being built on a fairly standard selection of Rock / Blues riffs – drawing much on SRV – the best track is the title track which has the best groove on the album.
Review Team

 

 

GRAiNNE DUFFY
Test of Time
Self production
Genre – roots based AOR
Star rating – 8/10
We groaned when this one dropped through the post– but we smiled, a huge smile, when we listened to it. This is a very well produced and highly melodic selection of songs including one that we really loved. This record avoids all of the clichés that bedevil much that is presented to us as blues – the songs are allowed to breathe, and they are songs not just a bunch of lyrics dropped over a riff – it swings – there is no over emphasis on guitar –the guitar just takes its part on the mix – most importantly Grainne has very distinctive voice.  It’s got softness and a growling hard edge when she needs it, and it is her voice.

One thing that surprised us is that this record is presented as blues – but it’s not really blues, certainly there is some blues influence in there – but there is much more including a pop consciousness – we hear a lot of contemporary influence – there’s funk, country roots and reggae. It all adds up to a record that should project Grainne & Co beyond a blues audience to much wider appeal.

The track we loved was ‘Sweet Sweet Baby’ a honeyed little reggae /ska tune with a memorable chorus and liquid guitar – great track. We also liked opener ‘Everyday’ and ‘Rockin’ Rollin’ Stone – but it’s all good and will repay repeated listen – a nice pop gloss but with some real depth. Grainne Duffy is from Ireland and she stands in the long line of excellent performers who’ve come from there.

This is highly recommended but don’t expect another rock /blues guitar dominated record because it isn’t – it’s much more than that; and that’s why we smiled a huge smile when we listened to it.

Review Team

 

 

HILLFOLK NOIR
Skinny Mama’s Revenge (The Gage Street Market Sessions)
Genre – Roots / Blues
Star Rating 8.5/10

HILLFOLK NOIR
Radio Hour
Genre – Roots /Blues
Star Rating 8/10

Hillfolk Noir are from Idaho USA and are led by multi- instrumentalist Travis Ward – they play a mix of traditional American mountain music / country and blues and are highly influenced by tradition of medicine shows  – they describe the music as ‘Junkerdash’ which adequately covers the wacky good humour that pervades it.  Skinny Mama’s Revenge was their debut and was apparently recorded in the open air-in a market using a single microphone. Its sounds just like that live as live can be and if you close your eyes you’ll be transported, we’re not sure where, but wherever it is you’ll be confronted by some slightly mad Americans playing resonators, guitars and, among other things, a saw  and a laundrophone – it appears that they all wear boots and the floor serves as percussion. They play gigs and they busk – and this a great little record of them in busking mode and you can’t help but smile, it helped one member if our team through a 45 minute hold-up (not stocking) on the M25 so it’s got to be good. Twenty tracks delivered at a cracking pace – with standouts including ‘Red Eyed Cow’, ‘Do it Again’, ‘Sail Away Ladies’ and ‘Charming Betsy’, it rocks, it swings and it lifts the spirits – highly recommended.

The band’s latest and second album ‘Radio Hour’ is presented as an old-time US radio show – complete with commercials, fake products and links – the music is a similar mix with the addition of some Travis Ward originals that still sound old-timey.  There’s some interesting additions to the instrumentation – Coot Hooter, Clanker, Tooth Knuckle…yes…tooth knuckle. It’s not quite so easy to dip in and out of as the first record, and the humour probably needs a second and third listen to catch the jokes – well we are Londoners – but the music is great and full of humour – standout track was the hilarious ‘Talking Music Blues’,  we also liked on first listen ‘Parchman Farm Blues.’  Again highly recommended and we’re gonna tune in again folks.

Review Team

 

Hillfolk Noir in their natural environment  playing on the street – this is ‘Do it Again’ from the ‘Skinny Mama’ album

 

 

CAHALEN MORRISON & ELI WEST
The Holy Coming of the Storm
Self Production –
www.cahalenandeli.com
Genre – Roots / Americana
Star Rating 9/10

Among the numerous records of American, Canadian and UK base roots music that we receive, generally of a really high standard – this is one apart – a record that reveals a rhythmic subtlety and command of counterpointed harmony and melody that us truly outstanding.  These guys are from Seattle and often billed as ‘Seattle’s latest roots sensation’ – Cahalen Morrison plays banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, lap-slide; and Eli plays banjo, bouzouki. They are augmented on the recording by string bass, fiddle and additional banjo. The result is a beautifully crafted and subtle dish of roots and Americana with a flavor of Celtic running throughout.

It’s lovingly recorded and sounds very live. Our team was really impressed by the rhythmic quality of the accompaniment, cross rhythms, subtle interplay, that lays down a gorgeous cushion of natural textured sound for the vocals to float over. They float over but they don’t float by, rather they draw your attention – we have two traditionally textured voices that blend – it’s a blend that recalls Simon & Garfunkel at times, but with slightly more punch.

Like all the best records this one will repay repeated listens – but on out first listens – ‘On God’s Rocky Shore’, ‘My Lover Adorned’, ‘Weathervane Waltz’ all originals, were outstanding as were the traditional ‘Kingsfold’ and ‘I’ll Not Be a Stranger’. All in all a lovely record and a great chill-out to enjoy and relax to the perfect antidote to worldly care and worries.
Review Team

 


This is ‘On God’s Rocky Shore’ from the album

 

 

JOHN AMOR BLUES GROUP
John Amor Blues Group
Six Six Records
SSR 001
Genre – Blues / Rock
Star Rating 7.5/10
John Amor is well known to blues / rock fans as lead singer / guitarist with the Hoax during the Nineties. He’s joined on this album by Dave Docherty on guitar, Chris Docherty on bass and Simon Small on drums his band for the past five years. Maybe this is what the rest of the Blues /rock fraternity – Joanne, Oli and the rest should listen to because it has qualities that most of their records are lacking – there are hook lines galore, memorable riffs, and songs that can engage with and that you believe.  It’s more blues than rock, and there’s a strong Muddy Waters influence in places. Other reviewers talk of a ‘Black Keys’ influence – but we suspect that John may have found his way to this by other routes than that vastly over-rated duo.

The music on here has a real edge at times – it sounds live and it’s quite raw – yet it also has a contemporary quality – especially on the outstanding (on first listen) ‘Juggernaut’, other stand-outs are ‘Make it Your Trouble’ and the best riff on the disc ‘The Underdogs’. Apart from a perceived tendency for the drummer to push the beat a little on the opening track the playing is top notch throughout and the guitars serve the songs rather than the other way around. This is very good.
                                                                                                                                                                Review Team

‘The Underdogs’ a live cut of the album track

 

 

 

DANNY BRYANT’S RED EYE BAND
Night Life (Live in Holland)
Jazzhaus records JHR 050
Genre – Rock / Blues
Star Rating 8/10

Interestingly Danny’s album came to us as one of the last in a stream of rock/blues guitar trio records and it is one of the best. Why so? Probably because it’s recorded live and it has that extra edge of passion that only a live gig brings. If you cut through the hyperbole of Henry Yates’s sleeve notes Danny confirms that himself – ‘in studio I tend to be to polished, cut down the solos and maybe that’s not what people want’. What they want is what they get here – lashings of guitar and some pretty impassioned vocals – in fact Danny probably has a better voice than most of the rest; he sound as if he means it – well let’s be honest – he does mean it – it’s obvious from the sound that he’s loving every moment- he wrings every ounce of emotion from the guitar and it works. The crowd loves him and he’s returning it with interest. Standouts are ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Love of Angels’ and ‘My Baby’s a Superstar’ –we’d have left out ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ that’s a bit turgid and doesn’t really honor the song, but other than that we’d say if you want a slice of guitar trio rock blues with burning hot guitar then this is the best of the current batch of releases. But one thing Danny – we’d like to hear you raise that tempo – keep this up but give us a couple of fast rockers next time.

  Review Team


Mitch Laddie

MITCH LADDIE
Burning Bridges
Mystic Records MYSCD 206
Genre – Rock / Blues

Star Rating 5/10

 

Mitch Laddie is a young English Rock/Blues guitarist/vocalist…this is the first offering of his that has reached our ears. He is a fine guitar player; his voice is distinctive even if somewhat stylised but shows great potential. His songwriting is as yet unremarkable; unfortunately the songs are lyrically clichéd and lacking in flair and imagination. There are some interesting instrumental riffs and compositional ideas throughout the album which are all too often unfulfilled by Mitch’s uninspiring and unimaginative vocals, and clumsy lyrical delivery. Most of the album is self penned and pretty self indulgent but there is a cover; it’s of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” the sound of which reduces a classic heartfelt social comment to an irrelevant exercise in head banging…!!

Mitch produced the album himself and in our team’s opinion should have invested in an experienced producer who could think ‘Out of the Box’ sonically to make the album sound more interesting and bring out the best in the band. As it is the overall sound is too heavily ‘reverbed’ which creates a mushy and indistinctive wall of riffing. This could have sounded so much brighter …but hey! For sure this album will appeal to guitar freaks (Check out Walter Trout’s gracious sleeve notes) – Mitch Laddie is indeed a guitarist of great skill who has youth on his side and he certainly sounds like he has been inspired by many of the great exponents of the genre, notably Eric Johnson… indeed there is a musical tribute to Eric entitled “Mr Johnson Revisited.”  Try again Mitch…you are a wicked guitarist who should focus on the craft of songwriting as much as on your undoubted blistering technique and maybe consider a collaboration with a tried and tested lyricist would help on the path to creating something a little more original, distinctive and direct.

Review Team

 

 

Ron Sayer

BETTER SIDE

RON SAYER JR

Self released
Genre – funk / blues

Star Rating 8.5/10

 

Ron Sayer is another British Guitarist/singer/songwriter who we must admit is new to us although he is a seasoned performer who has been around for some time, we’ve played this album a few times and the more we hear it the more we like it. Ron Sayer is at once a virtuoso guitarist (without ever being too self indulgent or heroic), and a soulful singer. He’s a sophisticated songwriter who composes neat and punchy songs played by a razor tight band which punch home immediately. This Album is about the songs…!(And he sure gets some Wicked sounds out of his Telecaster!!)  The Album kicks off with the funky ‘Bad Thing’ with a powerful driving rhythm guitar intro from Mr Sayer that pricked up our ears immediately…followed on by the moody ‘I Aint Leaving’ …beautiful guitar work, great tone , soulful vocals and a well thought out song with an interesting angle on a well trodden theme. Track 3 ‘Dont Make me Stay’ starts with another funky theme played briefly on acoustic until the band kicks in hard…staying funky throughout with a great groove laid down by the excellent rhythm section of Paul Wooden on drums and Clive H Jones on bass who reeeaallly excells on the next track ‘Manana’…. phwoaaar..!! We found ourselves wanting to jump up and boogie this one is so funky..!(Steady On…!). The track is embellished by a blistering country rock solo with Albert Lee influences…this man could easily give Mr Lee a run for his money too…GREAT STUFF..!!

All this is not to mention Ron’s considerable talent as a songwriter …most of the album is self penned and here we have a selection of neat, unpretentious songs all of which get stronger the more you hear them…and they ROCK with soul…check out ‘Your Pleasure , My Pain’ a moody soul ballad which really draws the listener in…and could have maybe benefited even more from just a little extra studio production…the album was produced by Lee Jacobs and Ron Sayer and the sound is clean, well defined and sounds like much of it was recorded in one take…we’ve never seen Ron Sayer but next time he comes to play in our manor and we’re free we’ll be there for sure. We’re eagerly looking forward to more offerings from this band and maybe just a little extra production would make for something even better, but we believe they are looking for a sound they can reproduce on stage and they sure have done that…! Enjoy…!
Review Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

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