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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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Larry Williams (EP)

Larry Williams

Koko Mojo

Giving the title of this record to its creator speaks volumes about the artist because there’s no real introduction required here as the singing talent that was Larry Williams should be known by all. Outside of the music and leading up to his introduction to the world of rock ‘n’ roll, Williams life was equally compelling as he dabbled in numerous illegal activities as well as serving as a chauffeur for then Speciality recording artist Little Richard. Captured on wax are four rock ‘n’ roll burners that clearly remind of the wild talent that was Larry Williams, but also serve as a reminder of the major success this artist experienced during the late 50s. It is the two leading tracks – ‘Short Fat Fanny’ and ‘Bony Maronie’ – that proved major breakthroughs for Williams, with both songs riding high on the R&B and pop charts. Following on from these two rockin’ numbers is the pick of a very fine crop with the molten hot ‘Slow Down’. Concluding this four-track EP is ‘Give Me Love’ that sounds cutting-edge for its time due to possessing early 60s influences before reaching that decade. The rest is history as far as the music career of Larry Williams is concerned as darker days ensued where the criminal underworld proved a bigger lure than securing future recording contracts once the doors of Speciality closed shut.


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Sweet Thing

Bonita & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

After a stint in the shade, Bonita & The Blues Shacks make a return with album number two. The latest creation ‘Sweet Thing’ arrives after the eponymously titled debut back in 2015 and continues with the same line up consisting of one of Europe’s finest, B. B. & The Blues Shacks and up-front Bonita supplying the vocals. With the new album being made up of carefully selected cover songs and original compositions, in addition to mixing up the overall rhythm and blues sound with elements of soul, jump blues and more traditional stylings, Bonita & The Blues Shacks really get to work with a total of sixteen tracks. From such mammoth pickings, it’s the opening ‘He Made A Woman Out Of Me’ that raises attention due to its leanings towards soul music and is a bold choice to begin with, and then followed by what sounds like a soul track judging by its title (‘Momma’s Goin’ Dancin’) lets the blues in via some deft guitar playing and adds the element of surprise. ‘Hottest Wings in Town’ continues the blues workout and offers a streetwise perspective both in sound and lyrics. There’s great duets to be had here as well with the engaging ‘So Close’, which happens to be one of their own, and then followed by the resurrected archive of ‘That’s My Baby’ rolled out in more traditional guise and all the better for it. It’s certainly a mixed bag of styles that flows throughout the album ‘Sweet Thing ‘and therefore offering something for all blues and rhythm and blues supporters, but when the traditional route is given some airtime, then it’s where Bonita & The Blues Shacks truly shine.


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Edge of Love (EP)

Lisa Redford

Bandcamp

These are exciting times for singer-songwriter Lisa Redford. With a new EP released by the name of ‘Edge of Love’, consisting of five tracks containing a blend of Americana, country, folk, soul and classic pop, the future certainly looks bright for the Norwich based artist. Despite any optimism felt in terms of the upward trajectory of the career of Lisa Redford, there are telling signs that all has not been well. The giveaway is the poignant quote adorning the new record sleeve where, “Tears are words that need to be written,” (Paulo Coelho). Seemingly taking this onboard, one of the UK’s closest exports to creating an authentic country sound projects such sadness through the songs gracing ‘Edge of Love’. It all begins with ‘Anything But Easy’ that is similar in style to Redford’s earlier release ‘Another Place and Time’ where the tempo is upbeat, yet lyrics reveal the complexities of an intimate relationship. The EP’s title track is a stirring ballad and one that casts a shadow over the subject matter as it approaches with caution and given further emphasis by the musical accompaniment of piano, cello and compelling vocals. With this being the sole track to offer a hint of optimism as far as love is concerned, despite its reservations as well, the remaining songs depict breakdowns in communications and the inevitable demise of relationships only for the emotional tug-of-war to continue long after such events have died in the embers. Such examples are left to a couplet of ballads, ‘I Just Can’t Forget’, which has an atmosphere of country and soul, whereas ‘Alone Tonight’ is delicately played out via acoustic guitar and gorgeous vocals drawing the listener closer and closer to its beating heart. For our money though, the late-night draw of ‘Let Go’ wins hands down with its impression of attempting to win over a hardened crowd at the local honky-tonk via an abundance of harmonies and hooks (with special mention going to the pedal steel and 12-string Rickenbacker). With ‘Edge of Love’ apparently arriving at some personal costs and despite any suggestions of cracks appearing on its surface, there remains a heartbeat at the centre of this record because Lisa Redford (plus band) has made a rousing comeback that is likely to win over new supporters here as well as overseas.


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Combination Boogie

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Just as its title suggests, the tracks complied for this latest instalment in the Koko Mojo series consisting primarily of blues and old-fashioned rhythm and blues (the way it should be) is a combination of these two genres that do their upmost to maintain a rockin’ beat throughout. As with previous titles, the names littered here will be familiar to many (Arthur Crudup, Little Junior Parker, Big Al Downing, Bo Diddley et al) but there are many that will be less familiar (Alonzo Scales, Billy Boy, J. B. Lenoir et al). With any such lists being subjective to individual knowledge of course, the long list of artists given airtime during ‘Combination Boogie’ is a delight to behold. Kicking off with what sounds ramshackle at first yet develops into a full-blown gallop of rockin’ blues complete with harmonica is an early shot of medicine supplied by Doctor Ross and ‘Cat Squirrel’. Maintaining this lively start is the excellent ‘Goin’ Back Home’ by Cousin Leroy that is packed with details and suggests numerous paths this song could suddenly take off in such is the musicianship at the centre of this record. At other junctures you will find Silas Hogan giving a straight rendition (and one aided by the harmonica) with ‘Lonesome La La’, and then greeted by full band versions of Jimmy McCracklin ‘Gonna Tell Your Mother’ and Tender Slim ‘Don’t Cut Out On Me’. The combined blues and rhythm and blues, and not forgetting the dash of rock ‘n’ roll supplied on various occasions, ‘Combination Boogie’ is yet another reason to reach for this compilation series because once more it’s of the highest standard.


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Surface Textures

Andrew Tasselmyer

Eilean Records

Far from being a newcomer to a corner of the music world that exists on a diet of field recordings, samples, electronics and numerous other instruments when called for, American Andrew Tasselmyer sees his latest creation ‘Surface Textures’ released via Eilean Records. Going to great lengths to capture the sounds included on ‘Surface Textures’ with visits to Japan, China, Europe and the USA between 2017 and 2018, there is a sense of a journey captured here that is attempting to recall the past. Whether that is a means to unravel certain memories that continue to perplex or relive happier times then that is a matter for the artist at the centre of this record to workout. But what does transpire is a series of atmospheric tracks that suggest moments where surface noises aid suggestions of memories felt, such as the darker tone of ‘From Out The Depths’, and then lead to clearer paths (‘Nara Sunset’) although (and interestingly) the murkier shades of any such fog never fully dissipates. A fourth outing for Andrew Tasselmyer with latest album ‘Surface Textures’ and it is one that will really get under your skin for numerous good reasons.


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El Mar De Junio

Ciro Berenguer

Eilean Records

Strictly limited to 130 copies, latest album ‘El Mar De Junio’ (‘The Sea Of June’) from Argentinian Ciro Berenguer sees the musical composer and guitarist set out his stall in a combined use of field recordings, electronics, loops and electric guitar that results in much sound experimentation. With the sound decibels barely rising above three and the approach to the majority of tracks being minimalist at best, it remains an interesting collection of atmospheric tracks that can shine gloriously in a moment (‘Antu’) as well as remain touching and tender during others (‘Camino Al Espinillo’, ‘Luz Entre Los Bosques’). With the album taking its time to bear fruit, and finally being completed during the summer and autumn of 2017, ‘El Mar De Junio’ brings together six years’ worth of memories and emotions (Ciro Berenguer now resides in Barcelona, Spain) that are transformed into a collage of sounds that quietly go about their business and offer moments of genuine beauty.


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Captivity

Forth

Secret Entertainment

Having spent a bit of time with FLW recently via interview ‘Free of Limitations’, Canadian – Finnish alternative rock band FORTH see their second album released. The band’s latest album ‘Captivity’ marries influences from alternative rock, grunge, hard rock to even Elvis Presley himself. The twelve tracks on offer certainly wear their musical influences on their sleeves where pure 90’s grunge seeps from every pore of opening songs ‘Master and Slave’ and ‘Black Angel’ with nods to both Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots. Elsewhere, there is much passion to be heard in the vocals of lead singer Brian Forth who cuts a defiant figure during the ballad-esque ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’ and then switches emotional camps with the equally good and more playful rhythm of ‘Let Me In’. With ‘Captivity’ drawing on the past in terms of its influences, FORTH is a unit that remains out of synch in terms of the here and now. That is not a negative, and meant in praise because FORTH is a band who are genuine fans of music (clearly indicated by the tracks on offer) yet remain unique in their quest by sticking to their own beliefs and producing an album with a strong 90s sound in the year 2019. Such a career path is to be commended by going against the status quo and realising your dreams. FORTH has managed that with their current long player as ‘Captivity’ subtly rages against any notions of musical trends and associated constraints with a barrage of songs that also finds the time to reflect on the highs and lows of love.


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Don’t Touch! (EP)

Andre Williams

Koko Mojo

A nicely packaged vinyl EP featuring four lesser-known tracks from self-proclaimed “performer” Andre Williams. Celebrated by a diverse range of artists including The Cramps and The John Spencer Blues Explosion amongst others and enjoying something of chequered career in and outside of music, Andre Williams is given a fresh platform by Koko Mojo Records. As mentioned, the four songs remain somewhat obscure when up against the likes of ‘Bacon Fat’, ‘Jailbait’ and ‘Pass The Biscuits, Please’. Having said that, the tracks selected for this EP release – ‘Don’t Touch’, ‘Hey Country Girl’, ‘Goin Down To Tia Juana’, ‘Just Want A Little Lovin’ are more conventional for the times because the previously mentioned tracks possessed qualities that suggested Williams was ahead of his time. Taking nothing away from the songs showcased here as they’re equally compelling with much vibrancy in the rhythms of the EP’s title track and pursuing ‘Hey Country Girl’, and then diversity given, along with a touch of sophistication, to the Latin influenced ‘Goin Down To Tia Juana’. Just edging it, however, is the closing ‘Just Want A Little Lovin’ that is most certainly raw yet suggestive of many things in terms of its approach that could be interpreted as near-drunken stupor yet equally confident in terms of its desires. It’s a thrilling finale to a thoroughly engaging EP.


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Cuttin’ With Joe Tex (EP)

Joe Tex

Koko Mojo

According to the liner notes rhythm and blues artist Joe Tex did not find success with his music until the year 1964. All prior attempts to make a breakthrough in the charts during the 1950s was greeted with a muted response apart from those who really appreciated the man’s singing and performing talents; most notably James Brown who, according to many people during the artists period at King Records, pilfered various dance manoeuvres including the microphone tricks, in addition to the “rapping” over the music from Joe Tex. Not to be hard done by though, Joe Tex persevered with his music by extending his talents to the song writing department as well as continuing his own path to break the charts. With four songs selected for this vinyl release, listeners can appreciate the impassioned vocal performances of the likes of ‘Davy, You Upset My Home’ and ‘Cut It Out’ where there is humour to be found in the former track yet jealousy has a habit of plaguing both songs. The tables are turned once ‘Open The Door’ makes its entrance with Joe Tex pleading for a second chance with vocals that can best be described on a par with the heat emanating from a blowtorch with both Little Richard and Jackie Wilson adding to the pressure. The influence of Little Richard can be heard during the closing ‘You Little Babyfaced Thing’ not only in Joe Tex’s voice, but also the pumpin’ piano and brass of this great rock ‘n’ roll number. Thankfully, Joe Tex managed to find success because it would have been a great injustice if the hits had eluded him judging by the quality on display here.



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