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Southern Bred Vol. 2 – Mississippi R & B Rockers

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

What begins in charming fashion where blues was raw and rickety with plenty of  evidence supplied by the ilk of Robert Johnson (‘Preaching Blues’), Charley Booker (‘Charley’s Boogie Woogie’) and a truly acidic turn from Boyd Gilmore (‘All In My Dreams’), the change in style(s) soon gathers pace where the songs begin to add a few more layers and a touch of polish. With ‘Southern Bred Vol. 2 – Mississippi R& B Rockers’ this is exactly what the listener can expect once the aforementioned Robert Johnson opens this particular account and followed by a few musicians offering their take on an early blues sound, before the musical adventure begins to develop more of a rhythm and blues theme that takes in a variety of artists who compel the senses in their own unique ways. For example, one moment BB King is in thrilling mood with his exhilarating ‘BB’s Boogie’ and the next the lesser known (to these ears anyway) Cleo Brown provides a female interpretation via the neat and tidy shuffle, not to mention sophisticated, ‘(Lookie Lookie Lookie) Here Comes Cookie’. That said, there are plenty of well-known names littered throughout this excellent compilation with the likes of Bo Didley appearing with ‘Sixteen Tons’ and a clear candidate for influencing The Rolling Stones, and Eddie Clearwater providing a fuller and rockin’ performance with ‘Hey Bernardine’. The primitive blues sound never strays completely as Big Joe Williams and His 9 String Guitar demonstrate with the basic nuts and bolts of ‘Juanita’. A thoroughly engaging compilation that briefly traces examples of early blues before opening up to a more developed sound consisting of rhythm and blues, ‘Southern Bred Vol. 2 – Mississippi R& B Rockers’ is a good introduction to a vast scene of artists who left their marks through time and will lead to further investigation once these particular songs get under your skin.


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You Shake Me

Various Artists

Atomicat

Rejuvenating a former series and continuing under the Pan American label but via Atomicat Records is latest compilation ‘You Shake Me Up’. Featuring various artists from the world of 50s rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, ‘You Shake Me Up’ mixes lesser-known artists with those who made a name for themselves during this brief yet golden period of music. Containing twenty-six tracks and offering serious value for money, ‘You Shake Me Up’ certainly delivers when it comes to the most important ingredient, and that being the music. Beginning in scintillating fashion with the triplet that is Bobby Smith and ‘She’s Gone From Me’; Earl Reed and His Rhythm Rockers ‘Mama’ and Floyd Lee with ‘Go Boy’, ‘You Shake Me Up’ lives up to its title from the off. In fact, the entire album is littered with such delights whether raw and loose like Blacky Vale’s version of ‘If I Had Me A Woman’ or equally Thunder Rocks with ‘Oh, My Linda’, to a different interpretation of well-known classic ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ delivered by Junior Shank and The Jesters. With this album being filled with many highlights, one of these is reserved nearing its end with rip-roaring number ‘Slow Down Sandy’ given the required spark by Eddie Quinteros and accompanying guitar. The decision to revive the Pan American series was a worthwhile one considering the hot rockin’ cuts selected for ‘You Shake Me Up’ because it won’t let you down.


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Southern Bred Vol. 1 – Mississippi R & B Rockers

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Welcome to the wonderful world of snap, crackle and pop! Such is the introduction to the first volume in the ‘Southern Bred’ series where blues and rhythm and blues from a distant past is given a fresh airing in the present via Koko Mojo. With this initial volume offering an insight into the workings of a small handful of artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup et al, it is Willie Love and His Three Aces who receive the honour of opening this particular account and, in the process, provide a piano lesson that sounds somewhat ghostly given the age of this series via ‘My Own Boogie’. In fact, the passion for Willie Love continues as he makes an appearance during Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Stop Now Baby’ and then showing up again at various points with, for example, His Three Aces and the cryptic title of ‘Feed My Body To The Fishes’ that sounds like redemption to these ears. Big Joe Williams ‘She Left Me A Mule’ is a compelling listen with its simplicity of sound and down on its luck tale. Such thoughts also apply to Elmore James with Sonny Boy Williamson where the combined use of slide guitar and harmonica have no problems coming up with the required ‘Dust My Broom’. By focusing on a select group of artists provides a different angle to previous compilations released by this record label where volume one in this series focuses strongly on an early blues sound that will have you hooked from start to finish.


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Geechie Goomie: Rhythm and Blues Gone Caribbean

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A clutch of sophisticated tracks has been chosen for this compilation album consisting of various artists that make up this rather cool and collected long player by the name of ‘Geechie Goomie: Rhythm & Blues Gone Caribbean’. From the off Geechie Goomie: Rhythm & Blues Gone Caribbean’ will appeal to the vinyl connoisseurs among us due to its 10” album format. Despite the appealing presentation of this LP package, it remains the contents inside that rightly attracts the most attention, and for good reason, when blessed with Latin American influences via the moving upbeat tempos of ‘Voodoo’ supplied by Red Callender Sextet and wild and carefree rhythm of Chris Powell & His Blue Flames’ ‘I Come For Jamaica’, with both songs receiving extra points for their use of brass instrumentation. Providing sterling jobs elsewhere are back-to-back numbers ‘Within This Heart of Mine’ and ‘Where Were You’ where the vocal performances of Camille Howard and Jimmy Rushing respectively shine the brightest. Such feats are repeated via the smooth running of The Talbot Brothers of Bermuda and ‘Bermuda Buggy Ride’ and, always reliable, Dave Bartholomew & His Orchestra with ‘Cat Music’. Brimming with ideas and possessing a real vigour as far as many of the rhythms go, ‘Geechie Goomie: Rhythm & Blues Gone Caribbean’ is a record to get lost in as well as appreciate for its sheer sense of class.


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Movin

Shaun Young and The 3 Ringers

Rhythm Bomb

Arriving only recently at FLW is the already available ‘Movin’ by Shaun Young and The 3 Ringers and The Texas Blue Dots. Issued on both CD and 12” vinyl, ‘Movin’ is a collection of songs split between the two guises of The 3 Ringers and The Texas Blue Dots, but with most songs going to The 3 Ringers. With the album being recorded and produced by Shaun Young at Jet-Tone Studios, Austin, Texas – “The Speed of Sound”, the quality really shines throughout this release. From rockabilly influenced numbers ‘Things Will Never Be The Same’, to an amalgamation of said genre with a strong hint of blues powering ‘When You Do That’, and then rounding off with the rock ‘n’ roll ‘Knockout’, Shaun Young with his cohorts is never one to sit still for a moment. Such a notion can be gleaned from the modern touches applied to this album, despite the album retaining a definite authentic feel overall, because ‘Movin’ never gives the impression of holding a desire to go back to the 50s as it’s a record that sounds perfectly at home in the present. With song titles and lyrics suggesting much heartache and longing for better times (‘Things Will Never Be The Same’, ‘Drink Till I Can’t Feel The Pain’, ‘My Heartaches Been Confirmed’, etc) Shaun Young (and bands) has/have a real way of convincing its audience via such tearjerkers as ‘I Plead The 5th’, to the more hopeful ‘More Than Any Tongue Can Tell’ with its mashup intro of Tom Petty meets Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’. The contents of ‘Movin’ are a delight to behold and provide enough evidence that rockabilly is alive and well in Austin, Texas.


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Hold My Hand

Ecovillage

Eilean Records

Limited to a mere 130 copies is the new album from Ecovillage. ‘Hold My Hand’ is the latest creation from collaborators Emil Holmstrom and Peter Wikstrom. Despite working together since 2001 on different music projects, it wasn’t until 2006 that the pair decided to set up Ecovillage after a period of travelling around South Asia and being inspired greatly as a result of this trip. With several albums already to their name, Ecovillage issue album number six, ‘Hold My Hand’, with a “less is more attitude” that sees the creative duo let go of any past constraints in terms of creating their music and allow for a more minimalist approach. Such working conditions in terms of ‘Hold My Hand’ are evident from the beautiful artwork with its bright colours gracing its cover where nature is expressed in a patchwork/jigsaw effect, to the ambient music flowing from its contents. If you’re searching for peace and tranquillity then you’ve come to the right place as ‘Remember The Sky’ opens a doorway to a quiet corner of the world where there is a secluded beach and only nature’s inhabitants for company set to a gentle acoustic guitar and the barest sound of a piano. Other tracks such as ‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ offer a more melancholic feel yet capture the senses equally with its cello taking a star turn, only for the mood to swing via the liquid gold impression of ‘Novus Lux’. There’s a fine balance created by Ecovillage and ‘Hold My Hand’, where the cello often brings out the darker atmospherics lingering in the background, but there remains much light as well and therefore capturing the different moods no doubt experienced when the previously mentioned journey helped to inspire this latest album.


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Illuminate

offthesky

Eilean Records

Described as an “experimental sound artist” is offthesky (all lowercase). Such a label is a fitting description once the contents of latest album ‘Illuminate’ begins to unravel its tapestry of piano, synths, percussion, cello, oboe, viola, violin, sax and pretty much the whole kitchen sink (!), where it soon becomes apparent that much thought and attention to detail has been considered. This becomes clearer once the background details of current album ‘Illuminate’ reveal that it began its inception during autumn 2017 and was spread out in terms of its recordings with stints in Denver and Kentucky and the European destinations of Latvia and Poland. It wasn’t until two years later that the recording of ‘Illuminate’ was completed. With offthesky presented as the solo work of Michael Jason Corder, the new album includes a variety of musicians who offer their skills. As often with Eilean Records, the music is often a purely instrumental affair, but every now and again you will hear the faintest of vocals, something of which is utilised during ‘Illuminate’. As mentioned already, the sounds are often experimental and lean towards ethereal sounding compositions (‘Eyes Like Isles’) or moody reflective numbers such as ‘Future Fire’, held together by a compelling saxophone. There is often the suggestion of late-night wonders under moonlit skies (depending on your interpretation of course) via dreamy ‘Neon Aeon’ and more tense ‘Monomystic’ with its shades of folk music. Having released a mammoth number of albums, latest addition ‘Illuminate’ is another strong and moving record to add to the catalogue of offthesky.


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Crossing

Seabuckthorn

Eilean Records

Clocking up an impressive eight studio albums is Seabuckthorn otherwise known as Andy Cartwright. With latest album ‘Crossing’ finding a home at Eilean Records, Seabuckthorn gets to showcase fourteen new tracks of instrumental passages. Beginning with ‘Crossing’ where its use of bowed resonator guitar certainly grabs all of the attention as it vibrates loudly and can still be heard echoing faintly on occasions during the following, yet far quieter, ‘Premonition. The picking, sliding and scratching of strings continues and blossoms to fuller effect during the daylight breaking ‘The Cloud And The Redness’. As mentioned, with fourteen tracks to fall on, there is much to consume here, and for Seabuckthorn to explore, which shows via the faint synths and use of bow grinding across strings, albeit in the same faint sounding manner, and allowing for much reflection during ‘The Observatory’. ‘The After Quiet’ offers something quite different with its sounds illuminating like a flashing beacon cast adrift at sea. The introduction of banjo and percussion (‘Cleanse’) adds further dimensions to the overall sounds and reveals further talents of the musicianship of Seabuckthorn. ‘Crossing’ is an album that requires repeat listens due to the detail on display, but once these details become more known, you will not be able to let this album go.


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From The Void

Chronoform

Inverse Records

It’s good to be out of the comfort zone occasionally, and that’s exactly where ‘From The Void’ places the listener. A truly gritty and on the edge debut album from Finnish modern metal band Chronoform, ‘From The Void’ fills in the spaces with combined influences of traditional and modern elements of the metal genre. With this being the band’s debut LP, Chronoform make a dramatic entrance from the start via the bone crushing assault that is ‘Conquer’, which pummels the senses in a combined assault of throaty vocals (Niko-Petteri Westerholm), frenetic drumming (Vänni Panula) and dexterous guitars (Aapo Hakamaa and Eero Mäkiranta) that give the impression of providing a route away from the considerable “threat” at the centre of this track. The accompanying video referencing George Orwell’s 1984 and other similar works such as V for Vendetta, expands ‘Conquer’ further by adding a finale that floats on a beautiful segment of piano and one that is bathed visually in red smoke and a reminder of what the future may hold. Unfortunately, the distraction is temporary as the rest of the contents of ‘From The Void’ reveals. Just as ‘Conquer’ made a dramatic entrance, ditto ‘Sight of Eternity’ that continues the previous song’s theme yet really highlights those expansive elements of Chronofrom’s sound where the shift in gears is evident from the vocals to the riffs coming thick and fast, but then opening up a surprise package midway through with airy electronica. It’s utterly compelling from start to finish and a sign of major talent at work. From such details, ‘Purist’ offers further experimentation with subtle use of keys and the ‘noise’ turned down slightly, yet never loses its raw edge. Elsewhere, ‘Dusk’ highlights once more Chronoform’s skilled craftmanship as they generate a bile-induced racket that is the sound of a band turning itself inside out whilst drilling its message deep inside the listener’s cranium. The closing ‘Subatomic’ expands on its predecessor by adding traditional elements of metal via its guitars with the modern touches, but it is these newer ingredients that standout here because it’s the sign of band looking to the future in terms of direction. Despite the lengthy gestation it has taken ‘From The Void’ to finally raise its head, the wait has been truly worthwhile because Chronoform has delivered a debut record of high quality, and one that reveals genuine sparks of imagination that rub shoulder to shoulder with the modern and traditional forms of the metal genre as it bleeds from the top down in a compelling noise and revealing a real tour de force at work.


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Pretty Little Horses

The Oldtime Stringband

The Oldtime Stringband

There’s an old-time feel to the music stemming from the Netherlands these days. Well, if your band’s moniker is The Oldtime Stringband that is. With the living and recording quarters situated somewhere in the vicinity of Amsterdam, The Oldtime Stringband has developed an authentic take on bluegrass music with links to Americana and folk seeping into the mix as well. With three previous albums to their name and originally “…formed as a musical backdrop to a documentary about the cow-painter, Ruud Spil”, The Oldtime Stringband issue a fourth album by the name of ‘Pretty Little Horses’. Beginning with ‘Cluck Ol’ Hen’ and followed by ‘Old Yeller Dog’, the scene is set for tiny outpost communities situated in the outback (of your choosing) where lands are worked by day and music, storytelling and consumption of the local hooch are partaken in by night. The aforementioned song duo really brings to the fore The Oldtime Stringband’s qualities for delivering a genuine old-time sound that could be playing to an audience during the 1700s or earlier such is the attention to detail where the focus is bluegrass with heavy folk leanings. From such a latter reference, the album’s title track is traditional folk and performed as a lullaby with beautiful, tender vocals supplied by Shelly O’Day and supported by the faintest trimmings of acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass and banjo. It’s the jewel in the crown here! Elsewhere, the four-piece band deliver a fine instrumental with ‘White Face’, and then follow with the warm and full of character ‘Old Man At The Mill’, before concluding with ‘Long Black Veil’; a reflective and tearstained duet delivered with conviction. A fine end to a more than fine album that sees The Oldtime Stringband firing on all cylinders.


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Love Is A 4 Letter Word (Single)

Joakim Tinderholt & His Band

Rhythm Bomb

Bringing the blues and rhythm and blues sound up to date, yet retaining a strictly vintage sound, is Joakim Tinderholt & His Band and their latest single ‘Love Is A 4 Letter Word’. With two long players to his name, this latest creation finds Tinderholt in tender mode with a nice, clever spin on the interpretation of the “…4 letter word” at the centre of this song. Strictly limited to 500 copies, those who’ve been following Joakim Tinderholt & His Band since their inception will be fully aware of the flipside to this 45” ‘You Gotta Do More’, which offers a powerhouse in the shape of the vocals with no suggestion of it working overtime. Supporting this natural talent is a crisp, lively beat that is rock ‘n’ roll tinged with blues. Naturally, comparisons will be made with that other major namesake JD McPherson, but if you can allow space for one more in your heart, then love is a 4-letter word in its truest form.


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For Gangsters and Lovers (EP)

Johnny Guitar Watson

Koko Mojo

Coming out of Texas was the guitar maestro and singer Johnny Guitar Watson. Having started out learning to play the piano from a young age, Watson made the move to performing on guitar after his grandfather purchased said instrument when his grandson was eleven years old. However, despite the newfound love for guitar playing, it was the piano that provided Watson’s first breakthrough in terms of entering the music industry where he cut his first records for Federal (1952) under the moniker Young Johnny Watson. The “Guitar” segment entered Watson’s stage name once a screening of Joan Crawford’s ‘Johnny Guitar’ had been seen, and then subsequent releases for Class and King Records to name but two. He was renowned for his flamboyant styles of dress and wild antics on stage, which is not difficult to comprehend considering the varying styles presented via the EP ‘For Gangsters and Lovers’. While it’s a rhythm and blues and strong blues record, it remains the interesting way Johnny Guitar Watson trades these styles. For example, one moment it’s the rhythm and blues/rock ‘n’ roll mash up of ‘The Bear’ that grabs you by the shirt collar, then to be greeted by a laidback, heavy blues guitar during ‘She Moves Me’, which slowly gathers some momentum yet remains utterly compelling due in large to Watson’s ability to captivate one’s attention with his vocal. ‘Gangster of Love’ is universal knowledge by now and has lost none of its appeal. The final cut ‘Hot Little Mama’ is high on tension where you can hear Watson almost strangulating the neck of his guitar and living up to that “attacking style” he was renowned for. It’s a breath-taking finale and one that offers further evidence of the exciting talent that was Johnny Guitar Watson.



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