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Nigel Stonier

Shameless Records

Nigel Stonier possess a work ethic that is to be admired when considering his background of producer, multi-instrumentalist, co-writer and singer-songwriter. It would seem, therefore, that a moment of rest is simply a function that never applies to Nigel Stonier having built up a considerable CV working with the likes of Thea Gilmore, The Waterboys, Joan Baez, Martha Wainwright, Fairport Convention to name a few whether serving as producer, collaborator or lending a hand when a certain musical instrument was required to help fill in the missing pieces of an album in progress. The hard work continues apace in 2019 with the release of ‘Navigate’; a self-penned album made up of ten tracks and co-produced with Seadna McPhail at Airtight Studios, Manchester. With ‘Navigate’ pitched as a solo record, additional help arrives from the side-lines with a variety of musicians including the previously mentioned Thea Gilmore assisting on vocals. The song titles of Nigel Stonier’s latest album drops hints to current political and social unrest, not to mention apathy from some corners, with the opening duo of ‘Bad Dancers of A Certain Age’ and title-track ’Navigate’ picking at the seams of recent history and associating this with various ills occurring today. The opening bow of songs leans towards indie with the nagging yet welcome reference of Ian Broudie’s The Lightning Seeds constantly springing to mind, and largely due to both parties possessing a clever knack of crafting songs that sound upbeat yet further investigation reveals lyrics of a darker nature, but not forgetting the dry humour as well, with the catchy ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ one such example. That is precisely where Nigel Stonier finds himself during ‘Navigate’ because despite wrestling with numerous problems, there is hope of a positive outcome, it’s just a matter of trying to find a way of sailing though the troubles in order to reach the other side. Such relief can be found via ‘When It Gets Cold’, ‘The Strange Untried’ and ‘Me With You’ mainly due to the tender sides of these folk compositions offering any sense of comfort. Seemingly never one in need of motivation, Nigel Stonier’s persistence and hard work looks to be paying off as ‘Navigate’ is a clever record that chews over current events as well as looking inwards to personal experiences, in an attempt to make sense of the sea of confusion many of us find ourselves in.


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Holy Smoke

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“Don’t let love fool you!” Attached to this latest release of predominantly rhythm and blues artists from along-gone era is a message warning of the potential pitfalls that can be associated with that thing known as ‘love’. Without wishing to put any dampeners on any future romance, KoKo Mojo sets out its stall with another twenty-eight tracks that certainly rock and blow away any suggestions of the blues. In fact, what any listener is likely to experience for their listening pleasure via ‘Holy Smoke’ is a collection of tracks culled from history and selected for their addictive qualities when it comes to rhythm, but also their relevance to the subject matter at heart here. Therefore, expect songs that are filled with lovesick sentiments where infatuation can take hold – Baby Clifford King ‘Want To Jump With You’ or Tony Allan’s vocals capturing the mood to perfection during the album’s title track – or unrequited love via the forceful rhythm and blues of ‘Don’t You Want A Man Like Me’ from Jay Nelson. There’s a wonderful performance from Juke Boy Barner who delivers what sounds like a ramshackle performance during ‘Rock With Me Baby’, only for closer inspection to reveal that there’s deft hands at work here with far more going on under its bonnet. This, however, is only the beginning as from here on, the variety displayed ups its game further from Prince Royals’ superbly understated and centre of attention, ‘Anna Mae’, to the “great” Eddie Alexander & The Greats ‘I’m In Love’ (complete with accompanying ducks!), before rattling off a whole host of sophisticated rhythm and blues numbers such as ‘My Pretty Baby’ (Ernie Williams), ‘Ding Dong Babe’ (Jimmy McPhail), ‘I’ll Be True To You’ (Billy Fair & Orch.), and Little Johnny Cook with ‘Try Your Love’. There’s too much goodness to be found here, despite any notions of hearts being broken, because ‘Holy Smoke’ offers a passionate and classy taste of rhythm and blues that’s packing enough variety to keep any listener entertained for many hours. Top of its class!


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Burning Frets

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar” this album most certainly is. Another long player packed with 28 tracks with, in this instance, the guitar taking centre stage. Once more this series of blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll throws off the shackles to show a broad range of lesser known artists to provide something different, but also to plug in pieces of history by discovering artists that were either ignored or simply forgotten about during their (brief) time attempting this thing known as rock ‘n’ roll. It is that very genre that this latest addition of this compilation series largely features, with guitars reigning supreme throughout as mentioned earlier. It must be said there is a little more familiarity with this volume with tracks such ‘Crawdad Hole’ supplied by Chuck Harrod & The Anteaters, and the rowdy ‘Justine’ from The Citations being two such examples. However, as with other volumes of this excellent series, there’s variety in the pack as both TV Slim (‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’) and Blue Charlie’s compelling take on ‘I’m Going To Kill That Hen’ offers a bout of the blues from two different levels. Elsewhere, Little Luther shines with only his guitar for company during ‘Automatic Baby’, whereas Guitar Shorty provides a fuller yet looser blend of blues and rock ‘n’ roll that tightens up immensely once ‘Quick Draw’ by Leo Price and Band arrive soon after. Great songs, full of varying tempos and supplied by some of the most fascinating names set to musical history (Boliver Shagnasty anyone?!), ‘Burning Frets’ certainly leaves a lasting impression that will have you coming back for more.


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Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A full pot of drinking songs straight from the juke joints of America’s past where blues and rhythm and blues provided the backing track to the joys and pleasures that alcohol could bring, but also its use as a means to combat the ‘blues’ felt when relationship heartbreak came calling. With twenty-eight songs varying between moods and styles and given by artists ranging from Lightnin Hopkins, Rufus Gore, Jimmy Liggins, Dave Bartholomew and Jimmy Rogers to name but a small selection, the quality is set to high when it comes to the collection that is ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’. Whether it’s a pared back guitar affair via Lightnin Hopkins ‘Drinkin’ Woman’ or a more up-tempo singalong with Johnny Davis and ‘I’m A Wine Drinker’ with its more than happy approach to drink your quota if you’re not feeling up to it, this long player has pretty much got the lot. Take for example the swinging rhythm and stunning vocal pipes of Al Jackson during ‘Let’s Drink Some Whiskey’, to the rendition of Stick McGhee classic (and rockabilly favourite) ‘Drinkin’ Wine’ superbly handled by Larry Dale, before taking further twists and turns via two wonderful ramshackle blues numbers ‘Sloppy Drunk’ (Jimmy Rodgers) and careering off the road ‘Drunk Drivers Comin’ (Richard Bros.). If you need further convincing that you’re in need of some fine company to help lift the spirits and ease the blues, then the punchy sax intro of ‘Wine Wine Wine’ and compelling vocals of Calvin Boze (‘Looped’) should have your limbs shaking in no time. With ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’ being a combination of the vinyl series ‘Too Much Booze’ and ‘Bad Hangover’, there really is no other option than to take up this addictive habit of blues and rhythm and blues as there are no hangovers to be had here!


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Voo Doo Lou

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Flying out of the barn at some tempo begins ‘Chicken Little’ by Rayvon Darnell, and so begins the compilation album of various artists ‘Voo Doo Lou’ on Koko Mojo. The idea(s) behind the title given to this long player appears to refer to the variation of moods and rhythms of the tracks supplied as it flies high on numerous occasions as well as taking leftfield turns as depicted by The Emersons and their compelling rendition of ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ for example. Such humour and brilliance extend to the likes of Jimmy Butler’s persuasive, ‘Trim Your Tree’ complete with jaunty rhythm, and later (take your pick from) Big Moose (‘Puppy House Blues’), Ben Hughes (‘Sack’) and Jimmy Shaw (‘Big Chief Hug-Um An’ Kiss Um’) to experience some genuine eccentricities. You see it’s all about the delivery of the songs when it comes to ‘Voo Doo Lou’ as this compilation provides a masterclass in how to engage the listener by providing genuine emotions with tales of the everyday, not to mention catchy rhythms. Look no further than Gene and Billy and the heat sapping ‘It’s Hot’ giving the impression of the sun’s heat blaring down on you, to the curious question at the centre of ‘Who’s That Under My Bed’ from Rich McQueen to realise that we’re in rhythm and blues very good hands.


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Fool Mule

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Attempting to offer the “Funny Side of Rhythm and Blues” according to its front cover, the album ‘Fool Mule’ sets out its target with no less than twenty-eight tracks made up of various artists. What you can expect from the outset is several artists with very little known about their status apart from the fact that they happened to record a song or two. Once ‘Fool Mule’ opens its doors, the sense of originality running through a large portion of the tracks is a delight to behold. The opening duo of Eddy Jones & The Cyclones ‘Say What?’ and double headed delivery of ‘Psycho Serenade’ leaves a huge grinning exterior, which later extends to Satch Arnold and genuinely sounding like he’s ‘On The Run’, before blowing out (or should that be bowing out?) via Freddy Koenig’s version of ‘Road Runner’. There’s a real assortment of characters and musicians filling these sides and makes for a sheer delight whether bordering on comical, hence the album’s title, or sounding straighter but with song titles providing another impression altogether (i.e. Haskall Sadler and ‘Bald Headed Woman’ or Delmer Wilburn & The Mandals’ ‘My Kissin’ Cousin’). Far from any suggestion of being a compiled mess, ‘Fool Mule’ reveals itself to be packed to the rafters with engaging and often original songs that will leave you laughing one minute and then downright curious the next. A true treasure chest of musical compositions that deserves to be heard.


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You’re Too Bad

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Dropping a massive clue via its artwork to the contents of this latest release from the Koko Mojo label is the album ‘You’re Too Bad’. Blues from a bygone era is what to expect with the harmonica the chosen instrument of choice and main feature driving this latest compilation. With the Mojo Man pointing out Little Walter as the only “big name” here, it will be down to those who truly know their blues music inside out and therefore most likely to pick out one or two other names from this list of otherwise obscure artists. First up is Pee Wee Hughes and you get a feel of the harmonica immediately with the lively ‘I’m A Country Boy’. Following in similar fashion is Joe Williams (‘Goin’ Pack Po’) and Schoolboy Cleve ‘She’s Gone’. There’s a sense of poetry attached to the delivery of Willie Nix’s interpretation of ‘Just Can’t Stay’ as it delivers in spoken word with the accompanying instrumentation sounding improvised as it aims to keep pace. It’s a sublime track and worth the price of this CD alone! If you’re looking for proof that the harmonica can rock, then Sammy Johns & The Devilles provide the closest evidence of this during the rollicking ‘Making Tracks’. Dave Kirk maintains the rockin’ rhythm with additional piano giving the harmonica a run for its money with ‘Oh! Baby’, before the pared back and dusty feel of Mule Thomas’ ‘Blow My Baby Back Home’ providing a wonderful reminder of this genre at its most primitive. Another fine compilation that focuses heavily on the harmonica and, in the process, coming up with a real few hidden delights.


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I Want Blood

Suburban Dirts

Old Jank Records

Released on Old Jank Records, ‘I Want Blood’ is the latest album from UK Americana/country outfit, Suburban Dirts. This new addition to Suburban Dirts creative output follows on from previous album, ‘A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea’, and arrives in rather epic fashion, due to containing fifteen tracks that relay some rather uncivilised and gruesome tales concerning “…pre-cowboy America, real frontier stuff”, which could easily provide the soundtrack to a film of similar ilk. It makes for compulsive listening and really starts with the gothic horror of ‘The Harpe Brothers Theme’; based on a real-life tale of brothers Micajah ‘Big’ Harpe and Wiley ‘Little’ Harpe who were American War Of Independence mercenaries, highwaymen, scoundrels and any other similar associated description one would like to add. Regarded as America’s first serial killers, the Harpe Brothers made their presence felt via various gruesome acts, which reveals its story at various intervals throughout this latest album by Suburban Dirts. From the clanking rhythm and narrative of the opening ‘The Harpe Brothers Theme’ sketching out the initial details of the aforementioned Harpe brothers, there are however, enough sweeter sounding moments to suggest this album is not entirely sheltered under a dark cloud. Far from it as there are enough examples of light filtering through the darker edges, which can be heard from the welcoming, and very authentic country sound of ‘Home’, with its use of violin, piano and steel strings, to the stirring beauty of instrumentation that details ‘Eli’, before arriving at the haunted memories of a relationship plaguing ‘To Dance With You Again’; the latter of which is a magnificent piece of work, and a song to be truly proud of. With some of the tracks playing out like interludes during a film, and therefore helping to knit the segments together, it is these moments that reveal some nice and memorable touches (‘As Long As You Are’), not to mention quirky additions (‘School Tomorrow’), as well as serving as a reminder that the storm clouds are never too far away (‘Ballad Of Little Harpe’). Clearly, much thought and attention to detail has gone into the preparation and making of this long player, which sets up ‘I Want Blood’ as Suburban Dirts’ most accomplished album to date, and one that is going to be difficult to surpass.


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Cock Tales

Cat Lee King & His Cocks

Rhythm Bomb

With the band’s moniker coming under scrutiny and receiving a rather negative response on an underground radio station quite recently, it’s true to say that Cat Lee King & His Cocks and their new album ‘Cock Tales’ is likely to cause, if anything, a large portion of mirth among punters and press critics alike. There is much suspicion on these shores that the five-piece band from Germany are aware of the likely discussions and endless jokes that will stem from their moniker and title of their debut long player. But applaud them as we do because it’s the sort of attention that will turn heads and then, once knowledge of their authentic take on rhythm and blues spills forth and begins to hit home, any clever or crass decisions (depending on your own interpretation) regarding names and titles is soon forgotten about. Once ‘Cock Tales’ gets underway, any listener will soon forget the (unfortunate) title of both band and record because the album is a delight from start to finish. By delivering an ‘old-school’ rhythm and blues sound that is crafted from the 40s and 50s and without a trace of any modern touches, Cat Lee King & His Cocks get to work on fourteen tracks that are a mixture of covers and original compositions. It makes for a cool and sophisticated sounding collection, but one that has plenty of raw edges and therefore making for a fine balance of styles and influences. From their own number ‘Sweet Sandy Lee’ that brings Chuck Berry to the party via its opening raw guitar, and then followed by such sultry numbers as ‘I Wanna Love Somebody’ and much-loved and covered by numerous rockin’ bands ‘Drinkin’ Wine’, Cat Lee King & His Cocks certainly know how to rock. But equally compelling are the band’s ability to change things up with varying tempos and influences and, in the process, conjure up such magic as the thoughtful and classy sounding ‘Farewell Mademoiselle’ to ‘You’re The Greatest’ and then toss in a heavier dose of blues via ‘I Don’t Need No Money’, before offering one of their finest moments ‘Ain’tcha’ that was head of a recent EP campaign. Certainly form your own opinion when it comes to both name and title of band and record, but there’s one thing that cannot be disputed and that’s the sheer class of music blaring from this debut album that will have you smitten in no time.


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Deluxe Lo-Fi

Little Victor

Rhythm Bomb

Something of a coup securing the signature of blues artist Little Victor who issues latest album ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’. The title of this new release from Little Victor accurately sums up the overall feel of this long player with a definite ‘lo-fi’ approach to the song writing throughout, but not without a sense of lavishness thrown in as well, which can be identified from the lengthy list of well-known contributors ranging from Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt), Steve Lucky (Blues Persuaders, Johnny Copeland), Carl Sonny Leyland (Chuck Berry, James Cotton, Louisiana Red) to name but a few. With the album being dedicated to Little Victor’s hero and musical partner Iverson Minter (aka Louisana Red), there’s plenty of personal touches from the handwritten tracks listed on the back cover that, if perused closely, read like the ups and downs of any relationship to the homely recording/production of the actual songs with their vintage qualities giving off a scent of times passed by. It’s the lo-fi qualities that really appeal, and certainly set their hooks in early via the swamp blues doubleheader ‘My Mind’ and ‘Graveyard Boogie’. Equally impressive is the following ‘I Done Got Tired’ and ‘This Letter’, with both tracks sounding at the end of their tethers and emotionally broken with a raw primitive blues supplying the musical accompaniment. From such wonderful (yes wonderful!) trudging rhythms, Little Victor mixes things up by transforming the tempo via the lively yet still gritty ‘Slow Down Baby’ that features the aforementioned Steve Lucky and, later on, ‘What’s The Matter Now’ with Jo Buddy that is reminiscent of Little Richard. Considering ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’ is Little Victor’s first album in eight years, and with the man himself claiming this to be his best album since ‘Back To The Black Bayou’, Little Victor has very reason to believe so as ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’ is a creative and engaging body of work that sounds as if it was recorded in an abandoned basement, yet gives off a highly professional and top quality feel that never once suggests a “lost tapes and B-sides” compilation. Top marks indeed!


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Soulful Woman

Billie and the Kids

Rhythm Bomb

Picking up from where the band left off last time is third album ‘Soulful Woman’ for Billie and the Kids. There’s a lively feel to the majority of songs on offer here with frontwoman Billie in fine fettle along with the rest of the band who power their way through a series of songs only allowing a few minutes to slow things down when the mood feels right. There’s no compromising during opening track ‘I Won’t Be Your Fool’ that is full of bullish instrumentation and sturdy vocals that mean nothing but business. Following on from that ‘Who’s The One That Stole Your Heart’ is lyrically an open confession set to a passionate performance from all concerned. With ‘He Can Rock’ tearing the house down via an opening shrill of vocals clearly influenced by Little Richard, and other more bluesy numbers such as ‘Baby How Long’ offering plenty of grit, it’s left to the likes of plaintive and soulful ballad ‘Another Love’ to provide another side to this talented band. If you’re searching for rhythm and blues packed with energy and emotions, then you’ve come to the right place with Billie and the Kids ‘Soulful Woman’.


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Cockroach Run Vol. 8

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

More dancefloor movers and another edition to the current series that features blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll with this being ‘Cockroach Run’. Consisting of a hefty twenty-eight tracks, the time soon flies under a series of scintillating tracks. Where this particular volume differs, however, from previous editions are the less predictable themes on offer, which is something to be praised because there’s humour afoot here, not to mention much reflection on life’s hardships. Whether it’s something a little exotic you’re seeking, then look no further than ‘Rockin’ In The Jungle’ supplied by Wailin Bethea & The Captains, to the nudge and wink conversation of ‘Topless’, before arriving at the downright bonkers and highly appealing ‘Nightmares’. There’s not a dull moment to be had during ‘Cockroach Run’ with The Jolly Jax Trio reinforcing such a point with their energetic ‘Everything Is A-Okay’, and then Joe McCoy & His Real McCoys really driving this message home with a wry sense of humour that sees everything from flying saucers crashing into planes and his partner changing her name! It makes for compelling listening and really deserves to be heard from start to finish as ‘Cockroach Run’ is a thrilling and unpredictable ride of emotions and sounds that just about manages to stay encompassed in its rockin’ rhythm and blues shell.



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