Reviews

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.

www.savoybrown.com

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.

Indian City: Colours

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Indian City captures the sound and color of a vibrant Indigenous culture with a flair for pop and alternative rock. Based and founded out of Winnipeg, in the heart of the Aboriginal arts district, the all star band of award-winning artists and rising stars have gained attention all across North America with their unique live fusions of lyrics, music and personality, expressing the modern conscience of today’s Indigenous people.

The CD ‘Colors’ continues to carve out the musical path that Fontaine has created for Indiana City. The title track ‘Colors’ is hauntingly beautiful, intertwining the vocals of love, with a sold backbeat tying it all into to a great track. Next up ‘Sundancer’ tells the tale of all love stories and the ‘dance’ we do trying to keep it all together ‘all you wanted was to be free, all I wanted was to be me’, trying to invite you to be the Sundancer of life.

‘Sunrise Second’ has the production value that truly is Vince Fontaine, with pulsating rhythm and mounting vocals that pay homage to the native sounds. Hypnotizing musically and full of the hidden drum passes that get you in the heart.

‘I Am Special’ brings the CD back to a rock feel, while excelling in vocal delivery. Lyrically strong, it has a strong message about someone or something being taken away from us.  Solid guitar work rounds this song out completely. ‘Dance 2’ – ft. KZO (Pakesso Mukash) is the perfect tribute to a native sound and the marriage of rock and production. Amazing.

Billy Walton Band Wish For What You Want

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Submitted by Iain Patience

The Billy Walton Band is one of those outfits with an East Coast US pedigree. From Jersey, the home of some wonderful music for sure, Walton leads his five-piece crew with some classic sounding blues-soul and a blend of hot, peppery music including that splendid soulful sound of ripping Sax and Trombone brass.

Walton himself plays a mean guitar, with tasteful licks scattered generously throughout this 12-track release. His voice is rich, robust and rolls the whole thing along with an effortless strength and fluidity. This is a well-rehearsed, road-tested band that has successfully toured extensively in UK, Europe and the USA. 'Wish For What You Want' is the band's fifth album and has a well-crafted, seamless maturity that speaks volumes about the quality of the musicianship and the professionalism and experience this band clearly represent.

This is an album that roars along at times with a swaggering rock roar that gives way to soulful horns and vibrant vocal threads. Each track slips readily into its place; powerful, pulsing, pushing forward and leading listeners by the ears towards a masterfully produced musical feast. Walton is a guy worth catching and with this offering is bound to reach higher ground sometime soon.

www.billywaltonband.com

Melissa Etheridge A Little Bit Of Me: Live In LA

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Submitted by Iain Patience

Melissa Etheridge is clearly hungry these days; this is her second storming release inside the past twelve months, a follow-up to the excellent, high octane 'This Is M.E.' earlier this year and an album that simply seems to be rocket-fuelled from start to finish.

It matters not a jot that many of the same tracks crop-up both here and in her previous 'M.E.' release. Here we have them live, with a bouncing, rollicking, full-throttle performance recorded in LA before a boisterous, happily engaged crowd who are evidently having themselves one Hell of a good time.

The CD itself boats eleven tracks with a further couple added in the accompanying DVD mix to give over two hours of musical brilliance from a seasoned veteran at the very top of her game.  Etheridge always manages to pull-off that tricky sleight of hand that allows her to range from rip-roaring rockn'roll to blues-inbued heartwrench, modern country class and quality. Not many can do this at all, let alone with the ease, pace and style that she brings to the table.

'Live In LA' is Etheridge at her bountiful best. A wonderful follow-up to the equally strident beauty of 'M.E.' and an album that showcases her strength as a songwriter, a guitarist and a sure-fired singer with a strikingly grand delivery. Get this one while you can.

www.melissaetheridge.com

Wily Bo Walker & E D Brayshaw: Stone Cold Beautiful

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Submitted by Iain Patience

This is a six-track EP from a decidedly powerful and strong Scottish singer-songwriter, Wily Bo Walker. Now London-based, Walker is noted for his swaggering stage performance and the diversity of musical styles he covers. With this album he teams up with guitarist Brayshaw, to present the second of a planned three-disc set with all tracks penned by Walker and delivered with enormous purpose and strength.

Stone Cold Beautiful is not a release that can be simply pushed into any single genre or musical box; it crosses lines embracing blues, rock, soul, swampy alternative modern styles and should come with a health warning, especially when played full-tilt at high volume - when it's really at its best.

Guest vocalist, Karena K brings her usual deft touch and style to the table here, as she did on Walker's previous outing. She is clearly a gal who sings with both heart and pure passion and adds a sure-fired soulful touch to the overall production.

Brayshaw's fretwork is always tasteful, torrid and demanding, with riffs and runs pouring from his fingers and driving the tracks along with an element of genuine raw emotion and energy. Walker is currently working on the final part of this planned musical trilogy and expects to have it out on release later this year. On the basis of this EP and his previous release with Karena K,  'A Long Way From Heaven', it should be well worth catching.

www.wilybo.com

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