Monthly Archives: May 2019

Record Of The Week # 67

May 28, 2019

The Hollering Pines – Moments In Between

(Unusually with all the music around me then this band enjoys it’s second appearance on my site as a Record Of The Week).

The Hollering Pines rely on Marie Bradshaw’s song writing; it’s a fine gift. Possessing a sweet and mellifluous voice she delivers Americana Country made perfect when coupled to her sister’s voice (Kiki Jane Sieger) in memorable harmonies. Throughout the album the stories and lyrics have a reflective and perceptive woman’s touch. They seem personal and peppered variously with heartfelt regret, gratitude and occasional relief at escape. 

“He Don’t Understand” kicks things off with a thundering bass line, said siren vocals and an atmospheric pedal steel adding a little darkness. Bradshaw has said about the song: “when love is completely one-sided, it’s usually an all-in, stand-by-your-man, sort of love song” (despite his indifference). The lyrics tell of hopeless devotion (and even seeking Divine intervention). “American Dream” is about the everyday routine of survival with its Amanda Anne Platt vibe of tune, vocal delivery and words: “I’m still looking for the bootstraps I’m supposed to use to pull myself up, And the bottom falls out every time I try to fill my cup, The doctor says I’m gonna drop if I don’t stop and take a break, But I just won’t go back, Cause I don’t have the money to pay, Anyway at this point running ragged is my natural state.” This rolling rhythm eventually allows Dylan Schorer to take this home with a brief solo.

“Somebody” is a reflective love song. A mesmerising melody with Bradshaw’s vocals soaring over a gentle backing. “She Don’t Want To Be Found” channels their inner Tom Petty with an arrangement incorporating some slapped snares that kicks this along. “Blow Away “dwells on insecurities and barely coping. Again we get harmonies this time over a marching drum sound. Greg Leisz’ pedal steel cascades in the background before electric guitar, with reverb, provides fills.

“Out Of Dodge”is pure Country with Bradshaw escaping a failed marriage and those wasted years. Somehow I think there’s less of her own life in the lyrics as the heroine steals cars and throws mobile phones into lakes. 

Bradshaw has an accomplished set of musicians around her who burnish her exceptional compositions. An undoubted strength of the album are the crafted arrangements and production. However she has a real talent as a songwriter that lights this up. This is their third and strongest album and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.

Girona, Spain – May 2019

May 25, 2019

A quick trip to Spain for some warmer weather was devised by the present Mrs Ives. How could she resist Northern Spain with Ryanair offering tickets from Newcastle at £28 each? 

Maybe a clue as to whether the airline passengers were cultured and interested in the history of this town of 100,000 was clear when the amount of blue on the vast selection of tattoos was only matched by the paint on the carrier’s fuselage. Another clue came when I noted that the destination airport was called ‘Girona – Costa Brava’. 

Newcastle Airport was awful. The toilets were a health hazard (why?) and there wasn’t a coffee shop open on Saturday night. You could join the well oiled Geordies at one of the bars and ask for a coffee but somehow you’d not be convinced about the quality unless it had a Bailey’s in it. The flight was noisy and badly managed. The safety briefing was inaudible (yet the later announcements on selling booze, food and duty free items were crystal clear). One mother with what appeared several children taken out of school (the following week) was peripatetic up and down to the aisle with the task of taking her flock to the toilet. This caused regular havoc with the trolley as it slowly edged up the plane dispensing refreshments but in effect blocking the aisle. Folk wandered around and squatted in the aisle to talk to friends. This was necessary as Ryanair make you pay extra to sit next to friends and relatives. If you don’t it is random seat allocation. A group of men shouted to each other on the plane as two twins, less than a year old and bewildered not to be in a bed at this late hour, bellowed their lungs out with blood curdling yells. Finally when landing the men sang ‘Wonderwall’ at volume 11?

Continue reading Girona, Spain – May 2019

Implosion, Invective & Hydrocarbons – Week 20 : 2019

May 24, 2019

After expecting my football team to implode and miss out on promotion, to the Premiership, they did. It was awful to behold the inconsistency of the team and ultimate distress of the fans. In fact the disappointment spread further. I think most fair minded football fans thought it was Leeds’ turn to ascend (along with the media who’d like another big team in the Big Time).

The season ending game, at home was particularly painful. I was in the dark at a Fairport Convention concert (with the venerable Charles Greenwood no less) keeping tabs on the score by phone. On entering the venue we were winning 1-0 (and 2-0 on aggregate). Then they let in four goals.

So did you enjoy the music Tony? Not really the band were fine musicians but sat down throughout reflecting their age (and acceptance thereof); their main passion arose through selling a festival they ran, selling a biography one of them had written and any other merchandise that you could procure near the foyer. More engaging was the folk club banter between songs. Some was amusing but the fiddle player went on one rant about Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. Left of centre political lecturing or comment is typical of many concerts but I still consider it to be inappropriate and an indulgent abuse of a captive audience. If you were paying the plumber to come and do some work and out of the blue he started unloading his views on climate change suggesting that those who disagreed were ‘misogynistic, racist clowns’ and the unattractive vision of a politician’s ‘bulging’ eyes you’d be thinking ‘what is going on?’

Other poor uses of my time occured during the week. As a management consultant I had to measure ‘waste’. That is measure and dissect processes that are wasteful and result in duplication, produce unused or obsolete outcomes, demonstrate poor advance planning, create unnecessary activity to correct mistakes, lead to waiting around etc. It made quite an impact on me and now when I talk to people wrestling with whether to retire, despite being financially secure, I can’t help but reflect on how they are really doing nothing very worthwhile other than collecting a salary.

And so two women from PwC were discussing the audit results on the Pension Scheme account at a Trustee meeting I attended in some posh offices in the centre of Leeds. They had come to explain ‘adverse’ comments they had put in the annual accounts. All agreed there was absolutely no problem in reality and that in fact the monies that they referred to were rather good news. However the large amounts of cash had not been broken down into some detail on the prescribed schedule and as such a few categories seemed unaccounted for. For 30 minutes these sweet ladies gibbered about the analysis of some bloke, back at the mothership, who pronounced on these ‘technical’ matters. We were frustrated and bemused at the woodenness. From here all sorts of cross referencing was discussed to enable a change in the ‘adverse’ comment. I had drifted off by this stage to remember what they agreed but at the end of the day the only reason to give a damn is that someone might, highly unlikely but possibly, check the accounts and challenge our mangement of monies. Later, I imagined both ladies describing their day to loved ones and hoped they might have the good grace to realise that life is short and that they need to get one (albeit one that paid them at least £60k pa with a car allowance).

I’m afraid this isn’t a blog with much upside. The Morgan sprung a leak from a fuel hose and has had to sit in the garage until I can drive it to the local garage for ministrations. Driving it was a 98 Octane experience as I nearly hallucinated on the fumes pouring into the car. A local neighbour and engineer helped me identify the problem. Again, the poor design of the car has lead to a chaffing hose and this problem.

Lastly, I have to mention the untimely passing of a dear lady – Wendy Looker. After fighting Stage 4 breast cancer for over a decade she succumbed at, I think, 50 years old. She was a cherished colleague at Moores. It was some fight where she understood the disease well and the joke was that she attended her consultant appointments with so many questions that the medics had to bring their ‘A Game’ to the meeting. More than that she helped a lot of other cancer sufferers on forums, email, WhatsApp, text, Facebook etc. Strong and selfless. I’ll put a piece, in due course, under ‘Moores’ (see the tool bar above) that arose from a cup of tea I had with her in 2014 where in little less than initial anxiety and then wonderment I describe her and our chat.

Record Of The Week # 66

May 21, 2019

Blue Moon Rising – After All This Time

On a hot day I might enter a bar and accept any of the several lagers on offer. All the beer would be at a prescribed temperature, straw like in colour and probably have a foamy white head. My trying to identify the brand would be nigh on impossible. Welcome to bluegrass. I knew one day I’d have to admit to this and probably upset a lot of men in beards located in mountain hideaways brandishing stringed instruments.

Despite issues with my taste Buds (geddit?) Blue Moon Rising’s 7th album is my cup of tea (yes, I know this could get tedious). With a typical six piece line up of banjo, guitar, dobro, fiddle, mandolin, bass and drums the band demonstrate expert proficiency. In fact bluegrass doesn’t work unless the musicians are top drawer and hone their interplay and solos. You might expect this as Blue Moon Rising have been playing together since 2000 with a core of Tim Tipton (bass), Keith Garrett (mandolin) and Chris West (occasional lead vocals and guitar). Hailing from East Tennessee they still travel the length and breadth of North America bringing their sweet sound to eager audiences. It’s easy to understand their longevity.

“Louisville Rambler” preceded the album as a single release. West’s vocals relate the story of a departing love fueled by her allegiance to the bottle and an enthusiasm for his best friend (!) A single banjo starts this as mandolin and fiddle eventually join the mix. The chorus vocals involve harmonies that gives this a real pop sensibility. Out of the 13 tracks there are three original compositions. The curation of such a diverse selection of other songwriters is attractive and does broaden the sound palette. These covers tap into a rich seam and includes Townes Van Zandt’s “Dollar Bill Blues”. Here the said currency would be swapped for the demon drink should the singer get his way. Jimmy Driftwood has written some classics such as “Tennessee Stud” and “Battle of New Orleans”; here the band tackles “Long Chain On”. This haunting story shares the vocals around with the band driving the song behind with an insistent rhythm. If accessibility to the non-believers is difficult then Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” opens the door.

Canadian Fred Eaglesmith’s “The Rocket” will continue to refresh the parts that other bluegrass bands cannot reach for a long time to come. A slow beautiful melody sung by West tells the story of an elderly veteran watching the trains. He’s reflecting on the one that took his son to war from which he never returned. That exquisite dollop of Country sentimentality coupled to a fine piece of music with terrific mandolin and soaring and swooping violin (Justin Moses) probably makes it onto my end of year playlist; it’ll make it onto yours.

So if you’d like some premium bluegrass slake your thirst with this.

Red, Red Wine – Week 19 : 2019

May 20, 2019

Matt Gray

(Matt is an occasional contributor. Based in busy North London he pines for the wide open prairies of Northamptonshire and coffee infused with the type of stuff ordinarily found in a Christmas Selection Box. From the home of the ‘Champagne Supernova’ he writes of alcohol abuse and alliteration problems with not a little of his tongue in his cheek!)

On the evening of Thursday 16th May, in Manchester City Centre, a crime took place. 

A couple sat down to enjoy a fine steak dinner at Hawksmoor. Upon ordering their bottle of ‘reasonably’ priced £250 bottle of Chateau Pichon Longueville, they were instead presented with a bottle of 2001 Le Pin Pomerol. We’ve all been there, right? I mean, the bottles look very similar and sometimes we order something and the staff makes a mistake. For instance, I once ordered a latte with a shot of caramel syrup and ended up with a latte with a shot of hazelnut, and I didn’t complain. Wine is wine. 

The issue here is that the 2001 Le Pin Pomerol is the most luxurious bottle of wine that Hawksmoor has to offer. Essentially it’s the swill that they claim the three little pigs were drinking when the wolf came to the woods to wreak havoc on their homes of varying tensile strength. Adding this wine consciously to your bill will set you back a mere £4,500. Now, in my opinion, while Hawksmoor has its merits, I would say its menu sits somewhere comfortably middle class, so those who would actually order such an extravagant bottle of wine are likely to frequent rather more luxurious establishments, the sort where they serve half a truffle perched tentatively upon a gold leaf and call it an appetiser. 

While I know for a fact I would tell the difference between the £250 bottle of red wine and let’s say a bottle picked up from Tesco for a fiver, I very much doubt I would be able to justify wasting over four thousand pounds for what I imagine is a marginal improvement. I’m not convinced in a blind taste test I would tell you that one wine is seventeen times better than the other. 

So this couple, I am sure, received their wine having not even fully committed to memory the name of the wine they had ordered. They were likely celebrating an anniversary and thought they would ‘push the boat out’ and order the third most expensive wine on the menu. ‘Let’s go crazy!’ one most likely declared, and the other perused the wine list, scanned the Le Pin Pomerol and with wide eyes quickly erased it from their short term memory. 

I am intrigued to know at exactly what moment, and far into this farce the staff waiting upon this innocent couple realised the sin they had committed. Was it early on? Was it post-corking, post-pouring, and post-ingestion? Or was it as the bottle was perched at its angle, pre-pour, but already beyond the point of no return? Did the staff watch through their nail-bitten fingers as the couple enjoyed their wine, which unbeknownst to them cost the same as a second hand Fiat Panda, laughing while inside the person who served them was mentally searching Indeed for jobs? I would like to think it was when the final drop had been consumed, and the bottle was being taken away, and on its way into the recycling bin, Ernie the Helpful Busboy spotted it and proclaimed ‘Are we hosting the Beckham’s or something?’

But the crime alluded to has not yet happened. No, the sin of giving out the wrong bottle of wine is but, in the big picture of the universe, a footnote, really. The true crime was how Hawksmoor then proceeded to take control of the incident and add a ‘Positive PR’ spin on it.  The crime here is a tweet that went out shortly after the incident came to light, from the restaurant itself and ran as thus: ‘To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau Le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is priced at £4,500 on our menu, last night – hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.’

Oh boy. You can smell the malice lacing each syllable. From the double use of ‘accidentally’ to the sarcastic exclamation of ‘Hope you enjoyed your evening!’. All they missed from that was an all caps ‘YOU’RE TOAST’ and a Béarnaise-stained middle finger as a tasty side. 

 ‘Chin up!’ Yes, chin up indeed you poor bastard, for it helps the axe achieve a clean cut. 

The tweet, of course, went viral. 

People saw below the surface instantly and were already quietly mourning the staff member whose ‘one-off’ mistake almost certainly sent them straight to the abattoir to be served up as part of the next day’s Express Menu. Even Specsavers chimed in, offering their services. Maybe the staff member in question will go, but I think it will be a trip to the Job Centre for them first…

Ana Popović – Brudenhall Social Club, Leeds – May 9th 2019

May 13, 2019

In between songs Popović said that she hadn’t played the UK for a decade and that maybe it’d been too long? The crowd roared back that it certainly was. This sublime guitarist had by this stage whipped up a storm with her five piece band.

With obligatory drums, bass and keys she’s supplemented the line up with sax and trumpet; the sound was full, loud and kicking. Currently completing a nine date UK tour she’s hopping between Europe and the USA for what appears most of 2019. Born in Serbia but the West Coast is now her home.

Growing up in Belgrade and discovering the blues was down to her father’s record collection. Coupled to her phenomenal talent you had quite a combination. When Yugoslavia disintegrated she found herself in Holland studying at the Utrecht Conservatory. However bored with the structure of the learning she changed courses and concentrated on learning jazz and was encouraged to tour. The upshot was that she never finished her studies.

Now much lauded and a recipient of many Blues awards she has complete mastery of her Stratocaster. When not touring with her own band she can be found as part of the ‘Experience Hendrix Tour’ playing with luminaries such as Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Taj Mahal, Dweezil Zappa  and Jonny Lang.

On this leg of a European tour she’s playing a selection of tracks from her albums as well as covers. There were only two numbers off her recent release Like It On Top. This smooth blues funk album was recorded last year with Keb’ Mo. For me it’s too polished and drifts worryingly toward something you’d hear (or not hear, if you know what I mean) on very late night radio.

We started with indistinct acoustics but things cleared up and we were treated to her own compositions including “Unconditional”, “Show You How Strong You Are” and “If Tomorrow Was Today”. Throughout the band got their chances to shine and the rhythm section of drums (Cedric Goodman) and bass (Buthel Burns) were exceptional whilst Michele Papadia on organ played a full supporting role when Popović stepped away from her solos.

Throughout Popović played so effortlessly that it seemed as if the guitar was an extension of her limbs (even if the limb occasionally had a bottle neck slide attached to it). This wasn’t predictable 12 bar blues with meandering solos. Hers was a tight yet fluid style that could effortlessly switch from an arresting riff into something quite jazzy and structured. Over and above her own compositions the covers flowed including “Night By Night” by Steely Dan, Tom Waits’ “New Coat Of Paint” and Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me”. However, her tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan was simply jaw dropping.

Immediately finding Stevie’s delicate and jazzy tone she picked her way effortlessly through an instrumental: light, note perfect and catching the essence of SRV’s playing. As we came down from this high she exploded into a medley of Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” and Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”. After she’d squeezed everything she could from the song (allowing some band solos) she left the stage to cheering and clapping as the band played on. After this she was back for an encore of “Lasting Kind Of Love”.

She tours continually and is easy to catch. She lit up Yorkshire and let’s hope we’ll see her back soon.

Ol’ Blue Eyes, Social Media & Eve – Week 19 : 2019

May 13, 2019

Like a small boy in a primitive African village I have experienced the delight of having something as monumental as a well being sunk and water being readily available. We are now connected to Superfast broadband and I write to you at a speed of 30mb/s. Our recent speed for many years has been 1.3 mb/s. Yes, I know, not a big deal for most of the UK but a big deal here in Acaster Malbis. Yippee!

Recent excitement has included lots of concerts, which you’ll find reviews elsewhere. Without doubt this is a hobby of the older person. I survey the audiences to feel quite young! I think many of these artists might supplement their income by getting sponsorship by hair dye or vitamin supplement purveyors. I suppose we have the time, often midweek, to get out and get down, as well as the disposable income as the nation subsidises the idle baby boomers (that’s a joke btw…)

A weekend away in Bakewell was delightful. Anna rented a swish property and Cost Centre One and Two descended with respective partners. In the photo are Catherine (sister in law) and Geoff (brother in law) imbibing with us at a local hostelry. In fact I was pampered as on one evening Katrina and Matt sprung into action with homemade curries and on the second night Sophie and Harry made the evening meal of fajitas.

One outing was at the end of April to catch Danny Baker at York’s Grand Theatre. This was well before his horrific racist Tweet (a chimpanzee walking hand in hand with a man and woman). I’d read both his books and heard him on the radio over the years and knew him to be an engaging raconteur. The evening was fine if you wanted to hear him regurgitate his books again line by line. 

He’s quite confident that he is hilarious and rolls along alluding to a history of celebrity relationships, theft, Value Added Tax payment evasion and a fairly dissolute lifestyle that has, on occasion, caused him considerable upheaval. I also know his Tweets, which often recycle old photos and YouTube clips. They are often profane and mainly about football and music. 

The foul Tweet in question was an error. I don’t think he’s a racist. However, not only was that selection an error of judgement, apparently to lampoon the attendant media, but why lampoon the event in any case? The birth of a child is a very happy event that is celebrated by everyone. (Harry and Meghan seemed so elated it was touching). Why have the error of judgement to be negative and then select a photograph that, in fairness, should end a career?

A drive to the East coast saw us go to Saltburn by the Sea. We’ve been before quite recently but this time I ventured into a Sue Ryder charity shop where I bought my second record. It was in 1966 when I entered this shop, albeit it it was a record store, and bought “Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra as a birthday present for my mother. The ladies in the shop helped me with the premises’ history although they only knew this through other older Saltburn residents.

(First record? “The Young Ones” by Cliff Richard from Vallance’s. This establishment was on The Headrow in Leeds and it must have been 1962 or 63 and I recollect sitting outside in the car whilst someone popped inside to buy it).

The wonderful Tour de Yorkshire came to the county and brought the spectators out. There has been worse weather for the event but it does usually bring cold and wet. I feel for these pencil thin athletes who fly in from hotter climes to don leggings, raincoats and thick gloves. It did come within 6 miles of Chateau Ives but intermittent heavy rain saw me keep warm and dry in front of the TV to watch it. One of the genuine delights is seeing these stars zoom along roads or up hills I know so well in the county. To think Chris Froome’s tyres have covered the same piece of tarmac is terrific.

Lastly, as a nation we rightly worry about crime. Violent crime is truly shocking and the level of knife crime in London is an epidemic. To this end I’m always confused as to why millions of women, mostly middle aged or older, cannot get enough stabbing, shooting, sexual violence and general misery on TV. The best drama series for 2018 was “Killing Eve” according to the British Academy Television Awards. This light hearted romp was about a psychopathic assassin. Conveniently a beautiful young woman. In the mix although not the winner was “The Bodyguard”, again that dwelt on the near fatal attempts on a woman politician’s life. What’s wrong with you?

Robyn Hitchcock – The Crescent, York – May 8th 2019

May 9, 2019

Hitchcock wended his way to a fearfully rainy wet York to enthral an audience of devotees of the bard’s canon. He’s currently touring some lesser venues in the UK between a selection of gigs in the land of his domicile, the USA. The assembled were not disappointed as he plundered twelve albums released between 1982 and 2017. The spellbinding 90 minutes included 18 songs.

There was much to enjoy: a selection of tunes that have a pop sensibility and lyrics that are unique with their surrealism, comedic couplets that often expose England nakedly with not least a melancholy that predates Morrissey. If you doubt my assessment then he started with “My Wife and My Dead Wife” from 1985’s Fegmania!

“A Man With A Woman’s Shadow”, “Saturday Groovers”, “The Lizard”, “52 Stations”, “I Pray When I’m Drunk” and “Sally Was a Legend” darted around his catalogue of nearly forty years. The consistent quality of the writing over all these years shows a creativity and muse that is still as essential and unique.

Standing alone in a spotlight he sang and played an acoustic guitar. His playing skills comfortably encompassed energetic strummed rhythms through to elegant, literal Flamenco, picking with a complexity and delicacy that drew applause as he solo’d. His voice could reach a sweet falsetto and then fall to a sonorous baritone. His poetical words are enunciated with the clarity of that other vintage English troubadour – Al Stewart. All this meant that the whole evening had a memorable diversity of sounds and emotions.

With occasional sips from a cup he continued sharing his career resumé of great songs and I especially liked “Television” with his tender delivery. “Sunday Never Comes” is a 2018 composition that’s been sung on the film Juliet, Naked by Ethan Hawke. This is a belter tune and lyric.

If the music was sublime then the banter between songs was hilarious. A dialogue with the sound engineer continued throughout as the guitar sound was adjusted with treatments along with the vocals. Whilst probably known in advance he might ask “Can you give me a rhythm section sound like John McVie and Mick Fleetwood but not sound like Stevie Nicks, but feel like Stevie Nicks? Difficult I know because she’s a Gemini”. Even the promotion of the merchandise was fabulous. A list of ways were described as to how you might lay hands on this treasure on the night or at other times. One distribution channel involved a cat called Tubby. He’d deliver the desired item personally by flying over your abode and dropping the package. Fear that this may not prove reliable was allayed when he advised “Tubby only has one eye but his aim is true”.

The last two songs were sung after a shirt change (?) and we got “Dismal City” from a 2011 Norwegian releaseTromsø Kaptein. This was a memorable Kinks-esque tribute that he described as his English National Anthem. Finishing with the epic “Queen Elvis” he took a bow and joined his sister at the ‘merch desk’.

Brilliant.

Record Of The Week # 65

May 1, 2019

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish

On August 15 2105 I cycled 80 miles from Memphis, TN to Clarksdale, MS. The route was hot but flat and there was a Dylanesque thrill trundling along Highway 61. Less pleasing were the dogs that chased me as I pedalled along. Entering the Citadel of Dreams was a lifelong ambition. I was here at last.

Today, nostalgia is Clarksdale’s main draw. Hitched to a few Mississippi Blues Trail Signs and some places of sacred interest such as Bessie Smith’s hospital where she died (now a hotel), the Ground Zero Blues Club and the Delta Blues Museum. Other than this there is little that would tell you that this is the epicentre of what spawned a $bn industry and provided the reason why a pale Englishmen would make a pilgrimage to pitch his one man tent at the Showground (whilst local penitentiary inmates, painting lines on the car park, would sidle up to him to bum a light for their smokes now the supervisor had left the site).

Putting to one side the promotion of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram hailing from Clarksdale then his love of the Blues and the nurturing of his divine fretboard skills in this town is something of a surprise. When there if I’d asked a resident about the Blues I’m certain that I’d have drawn a blank other than their recognition that it drew tourists.

Ingram has an enormous talent on electric guitar. Migrating through other instruments he was by his mid teens a proficient axeman. Any video will show him fingering the fret in the vertical against his ample bulk and squeezing out notes with facial expressions redolent of BB King. However his debut release is more Buddy Guy. In fact Ingram has been on stage with this last member of Blues Royalty and Guy also helps out on one track.

Ingram’s release on Alligator provides a dedicated Blues record platform but probably just as telling is their hiring of Tom Hambridge to produce and co-write 11 of the 12 tracks. Hambridge is the current doyen of Blues Rock producers. Not only are his own albums fabulous but everything he touches ends up interesting, loud, consistent and, dare I say it, a little bit commercial. 

Ingram, a whippersnapper at 20 years old, still co wrote 8 tracks and says “A lot of folks know me for my covers, that’s why it’s important for me to release original music.” In fairness, playing covers is less of a crime in this genre than any other. The lyrics to the tracks may be his but there are familiar blues themes of infidelity, penury and strife. The songs all hit the spot with bright energetic and authentic arrangements that showcase his fleeting fingers on some spell blinding solos. Buddy Guy takes the vocal and solo on “Fresh Out” but Ingram’s dynamic contribution is exciting. Following on “It Ain’t Right” drives along propelled by Hambridge (drums) and Tommy Macdonald (bass), the latter having played with Guy on 5 albums. This is classic Blues Rock with piercing and incendiary licks.

Ingram can take it down; with a Guy pastiche on “Been Here Before” he plays chords on acoustic guitar and he lets his vocal tell you why he’s doubly blessed. An expressive and weary Blues vocal places you at the heart of his misfortune in a couple of stanzas. To cover all sounds in the genre we need some harmonica driven Blues. Step forward Chicago Blues legend, Billy Branch, to play harp on “If You Love Me”. Coupled to some fluid passages by Ingram you have a mighty potent confection.

My favourite track is where Ingram steps forward with something sounding more like BB on “Love Ain’t My Favorite Word”. Never pretending to have the Master’s tone he does however insert the solos and pathos at the appropriate moments on a slow completely captivating 12 bar blues. This track, above all, confirms his maturity and education; not least why I will be in his audience when I get an opportunity.

Hambridge and Alligator have pushed out the boat with several luminaries and Keb’ Mo also sits in on 5 tracks. He shares the vocal on “Listen”.  Mo didn’t write this but it is his usual Blue-lite sound (that may attract a few more radio stations). If that sounds cynical then Ingram is shortly to tour appearing on the Summer festival circuit but also with a couple of appearances with Buddy Guy and then supporting Vampire Weekend (wtf?) on 12 gigs – clearly the pursuit of a larger and hopefully younger audience is the ambition.

There are few young African American Bluesmen getting much publicity or garnering a large following. Maybe the excitement about Ingram is that someone so young is a wonderful find and a worthy bearer of the mantle of the legends before him. There is a world of magnificent Blues guitar players (mainly white) but Ingram seems to have the greats in his lineage. Maybe I should be less begrudging about Clarksdale and it’s indifference to modern day Blues. If the pheonix were to rise then there can be no better place for it to happen.

(Oh yes, and the next day, after visiting the Delta Blues Museum, I cycled to Indianola to the BB King Museum).

Record Of The Week # 64

May 1, 2019

Taylor Alexander – Good Old Fashioned Pain

Taylor Alexander sent me a message about his influences on the ‘sound’ of this brilliant release: “I remember me and the producer Brendan St. Gelais sitting down and listening to albums like a Portrait of Merle Haggard, Grievous Angelby Gram Parsons, and Flyin’ Shoesby Townes Van Zandt when we were thinking through the arrangement side of things, those are some of my favorite albums”. The sound, I think, is more contemporary but these references tell you where the boy’s heart is and it shows in this ten-track self penned country music triumph. 

After serving an internship in another band Alexander left Atlanta and found his way to Nashville. Here he honed his song writing skills and hooked up with some excellent musicians for his first full-length release. Along the way he participated on The Voice, which means by the very nature of the show that he has a voice. His tubes lend a touch of class to every song with its range, expressive emotion and tone. 

The title track opens with a wailing electric guitar and seamlessly becomes a country bluesy ballad as an organ and female backing vocals add to the feel recounting the reassuring sensation of pain as you wrestle with life’s tribulations. Throughout the songs and arrangements are faithful to the best tradition of the genre: memorable hooks, lashings of harmonies and pedal steel but never pedestrian or less than crafted. The melodies reinforce the themes and moods conveyed by the lyrics. 

“I Never Asked For Nothin’“ tells us:

“There’s just two kinds of people, 

The haves and the have not’s, 

I Never Ask For Nothin’, 

So nothin’s what I got”. 

A splendid wistful yet resigned story of the working man. 

“Real Good At Saying Goodbye”is every classic Country story in a wonderful 3½ minutes of deprecating reflection. With a change of pace “It Don’t Matter To The Rain” is a sweet melody lit up with pedal steel and a 60s acoustic feel similar to Glen Campbell. “Break My Heart Tonight” could be early Merle with a pace and arrangement that shoehorns in some honky tonk piano, pedal steel and references to Hank Williams and jukeboxes. Yet this is no pale imitation, you’re just in the presence of a true believer at worship. 

We sign off with “Sorry For Growing Up” my album highlight. A slow ballad with a tinkling piano redolent of, say, Bruce Hornsby as company. What about this for a lyric: 

“Grown men go on diets, 

Go easy on the cheap beer, 

Grown men take vacation only every other year, 

They got all kinds of money but got no time to spend it, 

And when a grown man dies, 

They talk about how much he lived”. 

Wonderful observational irony, from an artist who’s starting rather reflecting on a long life and career.

Alexander is one of the reasons we listen to all these albums: to find something wonderful that we can hopefully give a leg up into the glare of the public’s view. If I’ve done one thing worthwhile this month then this is it. Buy.