The Moody Blues - Future Rock Legends
And as if her own songwriting wasn't ample reason enough to invest in this and track down the back catalogue, playing guitar on Season of Dreams, one of the album's stand outs, Johnny Dowd also provides the album's only cover, a spare voice and churchy organ version of the trad folk sexual come on Garden of Delight. Highly desirable.
Mike DaviesJody Stecher & Kate Brislin - Songs Of The Carter Family (Appleseed)Exactly what it says on the tin, guv - but hardly conveying the very special nature of the music-making herein. At first, the duo's reinterpretations of classic Carter Family songs might seem a mite low-key, but careful listening will reveal countless subtleties in the vocal phrasing and a myriad of expressive nuances - not to mention the finely considered instrumental backing (just two guitars for the most part, Jody's lead with Kate's rhythm, but hey what tremendous picking, making a real virtue of its quiet virtuosity). Kates glorious singing really does bring a whole new dimension to comparatively well-trodden material like (here, interestingly, it's performed as a duet), but the less well-known songs come off very well too, and Jody's insert notes are (as ever) a model of informed evaluation and illuminating historical and musicological perspective. And the duo round out their ostensibly sparse sound on several of the songs with some extra vocal harmonies from Sue Thompson and Larry Hanks - the latter's scrumptious dark, rich bass specially offsetting Jody's own yearning tenor to great effect, as on the opening cut , and the whole ensemble excels itself on the driving gospel groove of . Every single track has its own particular delights, to which this review cannot hope to do justice - my most meaningful response would be a succinct, strong recommendation. This understated, minimally-produced release is another case of "less is more"; but in truth, that's also the only thing wrong with this wonderful album - its unusually short playing time.David KidmanEric Steckel - Feels Like Home (Me & My Blues Music)Is it me or are blues players getting younger? Eric Steckel is the latest kid on the block and at the age of 17 he is certainly one of the youngest. However, he is already a bit of a veteran having released his debut album when he was just 11. Feels Like Home opens with Just Walk Away, which has power from the outset. Blues rock with a maturity that belies his years. The eponymous title track is sophisticated Southern style rock and shows that he is an extremely talented and classy guitarist. Southern Skyline is an instrumental that highlights his exceptional technique and he is ably backed by Duane Trucks on drums and contributes Hammond organ himself. I haven't mentioned his voice yet but on the plodding Don't Look Behind it demands to have the attention taken away from the guitar. The voice will grow as he gets older but the signs are there that he came become a top class all rounder. He shows that he is as adept on dobro as he is on electric guitar on Smiling Liar and his solo performance on Robert Johnson's C'mon In My Kitchen is raw and exciting. Something Better is a return to the sophisticated rock of earlier on - a very, very strong performance. From Time To Time is a shuffling blues and is as good as anything in the genre at the moment. Is he a possible successor to Stevie Ray Vaughan? He has every chance. When Ignorance Turns To Bliss is an atmospheric acoustic based blues ballad and the predominately instrumental The Ghetto, led by Hammond organ, is an excellent jazzy offering. These tracks serve to confirm his excellence. He shows he can play acoustic guitar too on the closing track, Tuscany. This is an instrumental that calls up memories of days in the sunshine but seems a strange way to end such a powerful album. I'm not complaining, though. If you like your guitar licks then check out Eric Steckel, the baby-faced blues assassin.David Blue June 2008The Eric Steckel Band - Live At Havana (Me And My Blues Records)Listening to this album blind, you'd never guess that Eric's still but a teenager. Such is his prowess on the guitar and such is his passion for the (electric) blues. He recorded his debut CD A Few Degrees Warmer in 2002 with his band, at the age of eleven; it was a bold and confident debut, being a live album, and he followed that up with High Action, a studio effort, in 2004; I'll leave you to work out the math, but three high-quality high-energy blues albums in five years is a staggering achievement for any artist, let alone one so young. OK then, that's got the necessary allowances out of the way at the start, so what about the music? I started off thinking "so what?" but I was very quickly won over by the sheer power of Eric's playing and his command of the idiom; he really is an outstanding musician in that field - ie rockin' electric blues in the approved classic late-60s/early-70s mould - and his band (Nick Franclik, Wayne Smith, Robert Sands, and Duane Trucks, Butch's nephew) are right up there with him, through his every move around the fretboard. Vocally perhaps Eric still betrays a slight tendency in his phrasing to express "what's expected" rather than feeling it afresh from the depths of his soul and/or hard experience (naturally enough considering his tender age), but give him time... This thrilling hour-long set, which stretches Eric's expertise (and that of his band) across the whole gamut of tempos from high to low, storm-ahead shuffles (San-ho-Say) and grinding slow-trains (Radio Blues) to Santana-influenced instrumental (Espirita) and southern boogie (Philips Highway), even throwing in a sensitive and thoughtful nine-minute exposition of Little Wing, was recorded in front of a rightly enthusiastic Havana (=New Hope, PA) crowd right at the tail-end of 2005; just think how much better Eric must be nowadays! Quite stunning.David Kidman June 2007 The SteelDrivers - Reckless (Rounder)The Nashville-based SteelDrivers delivered one of the most soulful and intense of 2008's bluegrass albums, and 2010 sees them set to repeat that trick with album number two.On the face of it, nothing's changed in terms of lineup, we've still got Chris Stapleton (guitar), Mike Henderson (mandolin, National guitar), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), Richard Bailey (banjo) and Mike Fleming (bass). But, we now discover, the band has recently been dealt a body-blow with the departure (since recording Reckless) of Chris, whose distinctive lead vocals have hitherto provided the SteelDrivers' most powerful signature. Quite simply, this feature is the one that has thus far set SteelDrivers apart from any other bluegrass-tagged outfit you could name: the tough, in-yer-face, ragged rasp of Chris's singing, which surely owes more to the Southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd, is worlds away from the smooth high bluegrass tone you get with the standard issue outfit. It embodies all the passion and pain his personal lyrics need to convey, and seems to inspire in the other musicians an even higher plane of gritty energy that's not only immensely satisfying for both player and listener but also so very convincing on all fronts. And he's also capable of putting across the softer nuances in between the harsh and equally deeply-felt bluesy realities (as on the world-weary old-man's reflections of Where Rainbows Never Die).Standout tracks seem to come thick and fast, from the hard-times tale of Good Corn Liquor (which at one point includes a break into a falsetto-register shout that's both unexpected and blood-curdling) through the beltout chorus of The Price and the robust, ballsy don't-mess-with-me swagger of Peacemaker on to the soul-inflected lonesome honky-tonk of You Put The Hurt On Me and the fearsome bluesy Appalachian stomp of the haunting closer Ghosts Of Mississippi.And stunning though Chris's voice is, I can't help being knocked out too by the instrumental work, which is powerhouse in the true sense of the word, virtuoso in an expressive way, ie without thrusting cascades of tricky notes and runs into your ears. Even on the more leisurely gait of Can You Run, which is perhaps the closest the band come to the "conventional" bluegrass sound, there's a serious fire to the music, the rich controlled lustre of the fiddle work in particular, which carries right over into the perfection-style harmony vocals too.Yessir, I can foresee that Reckless is very probably going to be my bluegrass album of the year.David Kidman October 2010 Andy Steele - Night Fishing (Talking Elephant)
Good Book Guide - Mary Ryan's Books, Music & Coffee
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The suddenly urgent quest to remove carbon dioxide …
The celebration concert covered all possible bases from the broad church of folk that forms Peggy's musical world: from the traditional ballads she so loves through to her own original compositions that so ably and memorably espouse her personal preoccupations and responsibilities, particularly in the areas of war, feminism and union politics. These songs so deserve to be more widely heard, and if this CD is regarded even partly as a taster for Peggy's songwriting then that's no bad thing in my book (folks can then go on to investigate the lovely trio of albums Peggy recently recorded for Appleseed). So finally to the performances Peggy's cohorts did her proud, fully rising to the occasion. Some were granted solo or lead appearances, and shone accordingly without eclipsing Peggy's own personality. Memorable moments include: Cindy, on which Peggy, brother Mike and half-brother Pete perform together for the first time in decades; Che Guevara, with Peggy leading the ensemble (Eliza & Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Calum & Kitty MacColl) in rousing chorus; Billy Bragg's unrehearsed duet with Peggy on Darling Annie is quite touching in true downhome "all fell together on the night" fashion. There are inevitably some entirely forgivable lapses in intonation, but the charm of the performances and sense of occasion overrides any concerns of a purely technical nature here. At times Peggy even leaves the stage completely, yielding the spotlight to Norma and Eliza (for Lowlands Of Holland), and later on to Mike and Pete individually. Of course, the items which Peggy performs solo and there are quite a few carry an intimate resonance all their own, and the gentle power of her sharing these songs with us is well communicated even through the CD medium. And the rather special bonhomie of the final two items, Sing About These Hard Times and Love Call Me Home, is genuinely irresistible. As is the whole concert (in spite of one or two "you really had to be there" moments that you may find less-conducive-to-home-listening). Yes, these two discs are definitely to be cherished.
But Steve Jobs did recently say that we were at a tipping point.
There's a clutch of hold love together uptempo numbers variously etched in bluegrass, country and twangy pop colours (of which Love Came Just In Time stand tallest), but it's the quieter, more thoughtful numbers that really stamp on the seal of quality'; the 9/11 inspired hymn to the forgotten angels on the street who toil behind the scenes, the dedicated second grade teacher, the bus driver who keeps spare change for those who can't pay, her lullaby to her kids My Whisper, and a heart tearing cover of Julie Miller's Broken Things. As yet, Selis has gathered more glowing reviews than she has actual commercial success, but if she keeps them coming like this it won't be long before the title's a redundant question.Mike Davies Sid Selvidge - I Should Be Blue (Archer Records)I've had a real job finding out much about Greenville, Mississippi-born Sid, beyond the fact that he spent his early days in Memphis learning to play the blues from the likes of Furry Lewis, Fred Mc Dowell and the late Jim Dickinson, after which he's toured the world, etc etc, and claims Dylan as an admirer. We're also told that I Should Be Blue is his eighth album - so where the hell's he been all these years that he's never figured on NetRhythms radar until now?Sid's the real deal, a light-textured and supple vocalist with the strongest Memphis influences all brought to bear on his slowburning singing style: soul, folk and pop are all seamlessly woven into a characteristic yet surprisingly unique personal statement. That amazing voice, so effortlessly idiomatic and brilliantly controlled, stops you dead from the opening cover of Tom T. Hall's That's How I Got To Memphis (shades of Eric Bibb here maybe), and keeps you hooked right on through personalised treatments of songs by Tim Hardin, Donovan, Townes Van Zandt and Fred Neil along with a small contingent of his own well-crafted compositions tucked into the centre of the record for good measure. His songwriting feels as fresh as his singing, although its lazy, laid-back mode on the likes of Dimestore Angel and Fine Hotel still references classic soul and Americana all down the line. As an interpreter, Sid convinces both on the thoughtful material (the majority of the cuts) and also on the falsetto moves required for the comic quirkiness of You're Gonna Look Like A Monkey (When You Get Old). It's hard to escape occasional reminiscences of Phil Ochs in his delivery too (no bad thing tho'), and his high-register shifts are coolly impressive too. What's more, his voice blends really well with that of Amy Speace, whose own song Two provides a tender disc highlight towards the end of the set; in fact, Amy gets to join Sid on four out of the dozen tracks, and their duet on Donovan's Catch The Wind is seriously good too.Sid's gathered round him a small but effective crew of support musicians that includes his son Steve on various electric guitars, Al Gamble on organ, Don Dixon on bass and Paul ""Snowflake" Taylor on drums; together this crew makes an ideal foil for the persuasive tones of Sid's voice, moving with him from subtle chordings to languid, almost Latin-jazzy ambience to soulful discretion. It's all surprisingly easy listening, considering the intense delicacy and hinted-at depths within, and although there's a slight tail-off towards the end of the album the whole set still manages to score highly on sheer entertainment value.David Kidman August 2010Sid Selvidge - A Little Bit Of Rain (Archer Records)Sid Selvidge could hardly be classed as a prodigious source of material - he releases one album per decade - but if they are all as good as this then he's worth waiting on. He's a bit of a Memphis institution and has been around since the 60s when he was signed to, of all labels, Stax as a white folk singer.The title track, and opener, is a gentle introduction to the world of Sid Selvidge. It's a world of Folk, Blues and classic Americana. Hobo Bill has the feeling of a children's song, much akin to Puff The Magic Dragon but he's back in adult land with the bluesy Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good, Long Tall Mama and Every Natural Thing. Although there's only one original song on the album the covers are pure Selvidge. His voice has a warble to it and is as sweet as syrup on the country style Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? and one of the highlights of the album, John Hiatt's, The River.Blues and country are mixed in together for Real Thing and we hear another level to Sid's voice, there's a bit of grit in here for this one. Folk blues for the excellent Swannanoa Tunnel will have the hairs on your neck standing to attention and the straightforward folk offering Long Black Veil is a lovely song. The album finishes with Pickin' Petals and Arkansas Girl. The former has one of my pet hates, yodelling, although I can forgive him because of what has gone before and the latter takes us out in the gentle manner that we began with. Both of these songs remind me, vocally, of Leon Redbone. Take a few listens of this album because Sid Selvidge will grow on you.David BlueThe Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Zalvation (Jerkin Crocus)
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