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Reservation Blues

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

Longstanding stalwarts of traditional rhythm and blues, B. B. & The Blues Shacks resurface for their umpteenth album in as many years with ‘Reservation Blues’. By applying their creative hands to a vintage blues sound and, in particular, Chicago Blues, not to mention paying reference to jump and swing influences as well, B. B. & The Blues Shacks line up fourteen new songs of their own making. Starting with the wailing harmonica of the title track, ‘Reservation Blues’, and ending with much Hammond organ via the mid-tempo ‘Why Can’t I Go Home’, the quintet show all their years of experience with detailed observations of life’s ups and downs accompanied by skilled musicianship. Any listener will find themselves up on their feet once the infectious rhythm of ‘Lay Some Shuffle Down’ works its way under the skin, before ‘Mad About You’ weaves an entirely different yet equally compelling spell of soulful vocals that will leave you in awe. Sadly, follow up songs ‘I Can’t Go On’ and too much Hammond for our liking ‘Angry Cat’, and not too dissimilar ‘Honeycomb’ pale in comparison. Fear not as ‘Reservation Blues’ finds its feet once more with the above mentioned Chicago Blues playing its part for ‘Year Of Strife’, and then giving way to more soulful vocals during ‘From Now On’. The tempo slows for the excellent ‘My Time Ain’t Long’ that is full of reflection and lets in the brass instruments. If you’re looking for an album with much depth in terms of its compositions where song narratives are of equal importance to the musical output, then you’ve come to the right blues shack where you will find a reservation under ‘Reservation Blues’.

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The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

Safe & Sound Recordings

Receiving its first live outing via a release concert in Oslo (Norway), and issued to the general public late last week, was the eponymously titled debut album from The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers. With references to bands such as Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies being mentioned by this very music paper in relation to the band’s ‘My War’ single, the album, ‘The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers’ continues to follow in similar footsteps. Early indications suggest the complexity and beauty of the latter referenced Cowboy Junkies during opening song ‘Brand New’ that gives off an air of simplicity one instance, only to sound packed full of details the next where lead vocalist Kristine Marie Aasvang works miracles with the words by squeezing them through the narrowest of margins during its chorus, for example, and ably matched by the neighbouring guitar (Thomas Bergsten) and steady pattern of the drums (Alexander Lindbäck). There is a feeling of truths stripped bare, albeit in mind, during the tender and acoustic driven ‘Beautiful Blue’, where lyrics offer glimpses of a relationship that is on the verge of being gripped by anxiety and fear, from one person’s perspective that is, which is deeply touching and very beautiful in equal measures. If you’re expecting songs of an uplifting nature, then you’ve definitely got off at the wrong bus stop as these songs are often tales of broken relationships and lost souls. Such moments can be heard via ‘Whiskey Song’ that follows a certain country standard yet halfway through takes an unexpected U-turn and ends up a darkly twisted tale of revenge. It is this very act that sets The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers on their own path, and where former comparisons begin to fade due to the band heavily stamping their own personality over songs such as the compelling and gospel-tinged ‘Breaking Bad’, to the definite folk influence and marginal country rock of ‘How To Sing Goodnight’, before taking a similar trip with ‘My Only Friend Tonight’, and then ending on a raucous note via ‘Secret/Sacred’. A truly fine diversion of creativity where one can hear The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers really coming into their own (It was in the name all along!), in addition to delivering a debut album that is extremely compelling, and deeply moving, and one that is far from keeping any secrets.

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A Time To Dance And Sing (Single)

Ann-Kristin Dordal & Ottar "Big Hand" Johansen

Tyrirot Musikk

Ottar “Big Hand” Johansen is a familiar name at Famous Last Words (FLW) after recent solo album (‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’) and double effort with fellow Norwegian country artist Arne Benoni  (‘Benoni & Big Hand’). This time out, Ottar Johansen enters the fray with a new (to our ears anyway) singing partner by the name of Ann-Kristin Dordal who has made something of an impact musically in her home town as well as overseas in countries such as Spain and Sweden. With the chosen single being a composition written by Jakup Zachariassen and Martin Joensen (The Faroe Islands) in collaboration with Bjørn “Southern” Nilsen (N), the pairing of Ann-Kristin Dordal with Ottar Johansen proves a winning combination. The reasons for this is down to the lovely lilting intro of piano, steel string and Dordal’s vocal that thankfully doesn’t exaggerate the “Americanisms” when it comes to her accent and therefore resulting in a sincere performance where her voice gives off a folk – country styling. With lyrics seemingly purporting to the hardships that life can bring and how easy it is to forget the pleasurable sides of life (‘A time to dance and sing again”), the pairing of Johansen and Dordal manage to smooth such woes, especially when their vocals combine with the country music support that is up there with the best this side of Nashville. ‘A Time To Dance And Sing’ makes for a fine combination between two Norwegian artists who should perhaps consider an extended project of the LP kind.

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It’s Too Late Now

Chris Ruest & Gene Taylor

El Toro

We’re in blues territory with the latest album from Chris Ruest and Gene Taylor. With this album being mainly a combined effort with additional support coming from Brain Fahey on drums, the main pairing of Ruest and Taylor complement each other with twelve tracks incorporating a classic blues sound along with moments of boogie-woogie and American roots music. Such examples can be heard clearly via the piano fingers of acclaimed musician Gene Taylor during the appropriately named instrumental ‘Torpedo Boogie’ that really fires along at pace. Where this album benefits greatly is the variety in tempo where, for example, the more energetic zip of boogie-woogie is replaced elsewhere with a laidback blues approach and excellent narratives of ‘Keep Talking’, ‘Sad And Lonely Child’ and ‘Life’s Like Lightning’ with Texas blues’ guitarist Chris Taylor greatly impressing throughout. If you enjoy your blues steeped in tradition yet combined with other components of rock ‘n’ roll that occasionally suggest Ruest and Taylor are more than comfortable in the present (look to the roots rock of ‘I’m Down’ and bluesy rock of ‘I Tried’), then ‘It’s Too Late Now’ is definitely a ticket worth purchasing.

Released Out now



Smokin A

El Toro

A different proposition from El Toro, and one that sways considerably from the norm of rockabilly, with Smokin A and his debut album ‘Smokin’. More notably, Smokin A is a mysterious figure with very little known about this artist apart from the contents of the long player ‘Smokin’ that was recently thrust under our noses. After countless repeat plays, any efforts to pin down the influences at the heart of this record has remained a difficult task, and one that has been matched with much enthusiasm on this side of the counter. If labels are required, however, then Smokin A offers ten tracks of sparsely influenced rhythm and blues blended with sparse references to soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Such references become blurred, however, once the likes of ‘Wishmaster’ makes its entrance with its 60s flavoured organ, but it’s a song that is far more current despite hefty links to the past as it’s a track that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Artic Monkey’s set list or side project The Last Shadow Puppets. The bare components of the song structures continues (‘Work Of Art’) and often shrouded in dark moods (‘Dirty’) and disconnected feelings (‘Smokin’). Such feelings are captured to perfection throughout ‘Normal’ where the central guitar plucks out the lines providing real expression, and one that greatly complements the deliberate lack of interest given by the vocals. With further mystery surrounding this artist due to the addition of two extra tracks that were not chalked up on the board for your reading pleasure, the album presented by Smokin A really provides a sharp prod to one’s senses because despite taking its references from the past, the album ‘Smokin’ does not sound of vintage age yet is more at home in the present. A refreshing outlook indeed from both recording artist and record label.

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A Night Of Jump Blues

The Big Jamboree

El Toro

It’s big band time! Consisting of eight members, The Big Jamboree sends the listener spiralling backwards to a bygone era of big band, swing, jump blues and rhythm and blues. Clearly in a mood to celebrate and see in the good times, The Big Jamboree attempt to achieve such a goal via opening song ‘Saturday Night’ that relays the days of the week where not much is happening until Saturday finally arrives and is greeted with much enthusiasm and rich character by way of the band’s brass section and lead vocals of Augie Burr. It makes for a great introduction. The tempo really gets going once the driving rhythm of ‘Move On’, before taking a turn of pace with the pleading ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ where Augie Burr’s crooning vocal shines brightly here. The rest of The Big Jamboree pick up the heartbroken pieces with a sprightly instrumental titled ‘A Room Full Of Blues’, which clearly showcases the band’s musicianship. ‘My Girl Across Town’ and ensuing ‘Tick Tack’ are both reminiscent of J.D. McPherson with both tracks ushering in a bit of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with rhythm and blues that leaves one to conclude, “Good work fellas!”. The real beauty is reserved for ‘You Left Me, Now I’m Free’ where the vocals swoon and the instruments revert to a big band style providing a real sense of a fresh start on the horizon. The Big Jamboree displays a full range of emotions lyrically and musically throughout ‘A Night Of Jump Blues’ that reveals a talented unit at the centre of this record and one that is deserved of your attention and worth getting behind.

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Swinging From The Chandelier


Smith & Wes'sound

Calling your band Nashville after the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Tennessee is a sure-fire way to get your band noticed. A wise manoeuvre from the five-piece country outfit from south Trøndelag, Møre and Romsdal in Norway. With Frank Kåre Vangen (vocals), Anders Sinnes (guitar), Steinar Grindheim (bass),Trond Tangvik (drums) and Rune Sildnes (keyboards) producing the goods for their third album ‘Swinging From the Chandelier’, which is something of a landmark for Nashville as they celebrate ten years in the music business. It’s not all in a name however, when it comes to this Norwegian country band as Nashville possess a fine knack of writing catchy and melodic tunes that lean towards the commercial end of the country music genre. Nothing wrong with that of course, but sometimes there’s a tendency for such ideas to become a little blurred and samey after a period of time. Having said that, there’s much fun to be heard via the album’s title track, which is a “foot stomping” and carefree country pop number full of recent memories of summer festivities, and one that is followed elsewhere by a memorable rhythm and strong desire for the simple pleasures in life expressed during ‘What I Want’. Likely to be a huge success with country lovin’ folk in this particular part of Scandinavia, Nashville, with their engaging country rock and sense of fun, has the potential to wow American audiences because ‘Swinging From the Chandeliers’ is of a similar ilk to albums produced by America’s major commercial country artists. A shrewd and talented outfit, Nashville can kick back and enjoy their tenth anniversary based on the evidence of their latest LP.

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Vagabond Boots (Single)

Arne Benoni & Tone Holen

Arne Benoni Productions

Norwegian country artist Arne Benoni teams up for a duet with fellow country artist Tone Holen for latest single ‘Vagabond Boots’. With this brand new ditty serving as the title for Arne Benoni’s new LP as well, the current single appears to deal with the loneliness experienced after the demise of a relationship and the seemingly endless drift into the unknown as well as thoughts of prospects new; hence the lyrical refrain “Wearing out my vagabond boots” in the hope of “Sidewalks still unknown”. It makes for compelling listening which, coupled with the aching qualities of the music expressed by way of country and rock music via its guitars, ‘Vagabond Boots’ is a moving ballad that stirs the emotions and sounds effortless in its delivery. Such a feat is hardly surprising considering the two Norwegians at the heart of this song and the wealth of experience that they bring. ‘Vagabond Boots’ has found a definite welcome home at Famous Last Words (FLW).

Released 25 August


Goodbye Earth

the Harvey Steel show

Safe & Sound Recordings

Is this truly goodbye? Well, quite possibly for the assortment of characters including Trixie Marmalade, Mr Orlando Bloom, and Uncle Beefhart considering he’s a distant relation of the original forefather of the weird-out cauldron of blues, jazz, alternative rock (Yes, only the term hadn’t been coined back then), etc. Of course, let’s not forget the main Space Cats here from Jupiter, who seem keen to head to destinations new but not without leaving a rather terrific parting shot with their brand new album ‘Goodbye Earth’. There are changes afoot with this sophomore effort with the heavy psychedelia from before toned-down, and in place more deliberated efforts such as the beautiful intro ‘Waltz for Yellow Spectral Star’ (Ringo Starr Yellow Submarine is scribbled on the notepad but no resemblance in sound) where guitar and keys combine slowly and steadily building a wall of noise that eventually allows for Kristine Marie Aasvang to apply vocals to the cacophony where one can sense the bags are packed and ready for loading on deck as this ship is heading skywards and deep into space. In order to get there, the Harvey Steel show let the engines ignite and burn brightly via The Doors inspired ‘Hunting Shadows’ where sundried, cracked desert landscapes appear and then close from view in flashes of darkness only to reappear before the exit from Earth looms and then closes its gates for the final time behind wails of feedback. It remains their finest moment and a song to be TRULY proud of. Once in space the intermission kicks in with the delightful sound of ‘If Pigs Could Fly’ that is at once frivolous yet also leaves one to ponder due to the chilling afterthought, “If you think you’re free, there’s no escape possible”. A whole melange of styles clash during ‘Impressionistic Umbrella’ that is (take your pick) part New Wave, part blues and a different take on the Grease soundtrack, if you will, revealing the charming side of this band. Poor old Orlando! A previous single, and more a reflection of what’s wrong with this planet, ‘Orlando Bloom’ throws up society’s wrongdoings whilst playing out in part to a soulful shuffle that is reminiscent of the Mr Soft character that Noel Gallagher famously talked about with regard to a certain Oasis number. Elsewhere, the Harvey Steel show flex their version of the blues, and skilfully so, with the compelling ‘Red Queen Blues’, and then proceed to produce the wonderful jazz turn, ‘Outer Space (part 2) which, unfortunately, is trimmed too short. The final statement arrives by means of ‘Waltz for Trixie Marmalade’ that borrows from Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’ with its synthesized voice that eventually allows the entire contents of ‘Goodbye Earth’ to disappear into the black hole of space with predominantly the sound of jazz leaving its mark. A masterclass in how to combine surrealism with reality and make the whole project gel consistently, the Harvey Steel show has just upped their game. Hopefully, this is not their final statement.


Released 4 August


Berry & Whythe (Single)

Siv Jakobsen

The Nordic Mellow

Recalling a period in her life when living as a resident in New York City, with the title of the single named after a couple of streets in Brooklyn, Siv Jakobsen issues a new song, and one that is taken from her forthcoming debut album ‘The Nordic Mellow’. The word intimate has often been used to describe Siv Jakobsen’s music, and there is no doubting such a description as the atmosphere given during ‘Berry & Whythe’ is one that is borderline claustrophobic where there is almost no room to breathe such is the closeness of her presence, which gives the impression of being the only witness to the tale being spun here as one is transported back to the bedsit in question Stateside. Top marks, therefore, to not only Siv Jakobsen for creating such a personal touch, but also producer Matt Ingram where both genuinely create a sense of reimagining the relationship that once existed at the centre of this song. With fine threads linking Siv Jakobsen to Joni Mitchell and fellow Norwegian Arne Brun, any such references soon disappear once ‘Berry & Whythe’ takes hold of your senses and keeps you there for the duration of its contents.


Released Out now


The Love (Single)

Howling Light

Howling Light Music

Try not to get too confused, but here’s a newish band of sorts with a singer-songwriter all the way from the land of OZ by the name of Derek Lee Goodreid, who made his way to Oslo (Norway) and started out life as Howling Light in 2016. Joining on lead guitar and banjo were local residents Torkel Ruud and violinist Tor Sivert Gunnes, only for this multicultural line-up to be completed once bassist Andrzej Barszczyk arrived from Poland, and drummer and slide guitarist Phil Perry Ohlsen from neighbouring Sweden. Rather than opting for a more familiar pop sound considering their surroundings, Howling Light look to the south of America with traditional roots sounds infiltrating their music, and clearly heard during current single ‘The Love’. Starting off in finger plucking fashion via acoustic guitar, ‘The Love’ transforms into something of a riotous affair with part-distorted vocals and a driving beat where lead guitar and violin compellingly joust for equal amounts of airtime. It’s a passionate slice of rockin’ country strands and one that is in perfect harmony with its song title, leaving Howling Light as a band worth keeping tabs on.


Released Out now


Brilliant Light

Danny & The Champions of the World

Loose Music

Enjoying what can be described as an Indian summer when it comes to their recent recorded works ‘Stay True’ (2013), What Kind Of Love (2015) and not forgetting the double live album ‘Live Champs!’ sandwiched in the middle (2014), Danny & The Champions Of The World return with a brand new album by the name of ‘Brilliant Light’. This latest addition to The Champs’ catalogue really ups their creativity levels, due to all band members receiving instructions from the ship’s captain, Danny George Wilson, to explore, experiment and collaborate in order to maximise the creative potential of all concerned. The end result is a double album (triple when taking into account the bonus disc of instrumentals) that will require repeat visits due to the sheer breadth of material on offer here. But it is also the understated feel of the majority of the contents of ‘Brilliant Light’ that will require further listening in order to really get under the skin of this epic long player. Having said that, opening song ‘Waiting For The Right Time’ offers some immediacy via its pared back Rolling Stones’ blues with added spice of Neil Young, and then followed by a sense of urgency in the rhythm of ‘Bring Me To My Knees’ that also reveals a soreness in the lead vocals, with lap steel soothing things ever so slightly. The mild soul of ‘It Hit Me’ with its jabs and swirls of Hammond organ distract from the intensity of the lyrics as such snippets reveal, “Sorry, I’d wished you’d never known me,” and “We’re out of luck and lonely.” There is a sense of the ‘personal’ infiltrating the contents of ‘Brilliant Light’, where sentiments drift off into the night air like the final trails of smoke from a campfire slowly fading (‘You’ll Remember Me’), and then followed by ‘Swift Street’ that is reflective and full of memories with Danny Wilson commenting: “Swift Street is the house where my mother grew up.” Give ‘Brilliant Light’ time and the majority of these songs will definitely find a way to win over your heart because it’s what’s known in the industry as a real grower.


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