Good tidings from Hope and Social...

Hope and Social's Seasonal and mellifluous contribution to the Leeds based charity for the homeless 'Simon On The Streets'. This is part of a Christmas compilation of 14 other festive songs which can be purchased for a 'pay what you like' contribution from

Happy Christmas everyone!


Remembering Joe Strummer through Marley...

Bob Marley's Redemption Song sung by Joe Strummer in one of his collaborations after the heady days of The Clash. H/T to Billy Bragg for reminding us of Joe's untimely passing 10 years ago. In The Progressive Patriot Billy explains how The Clash changed his life at the 1978 Rock Against Racism (RAR) concert in Hackney:
The Clash taught me a valuable lesson that day, which I have in the back of my mind every time I write a song or step out on to a stage: although you can’t change the world by singing songs and doing gigs, the things you say and the actions you take can change the perceptions of members of the audience...

Sensing the Divine in engineering...

Have been a fascinated viewer of the Extreme Railways series on Channel 5 presented by Chris Tarrant. This week's edition featured the Konkan Railway which runs down the West coast, covering mountainous and marshy terrain thought by the British to be totally unsuitable for a permanent way. Built over 8 years between 1990 and 1997 by a wonderfully enthusiastic team who overcame some incredible obstacles despite a heavy price paid in life and limb. The highlight for me was hearing the Chief Engineer Rajaram Bojji proudly escorting Mr T to a vantage point to witness the incredible Panval Viaduct, at 210 feet the third highest bridge in the whole of Asia:
It never stops amazing me, it fills my heart with such a happiness I'm telling you. There must me some kind of ultimately divine spirit which makes humans to think and do things which look apparently impossible.

That Nativity Factor...

Yep, would you Adam and Eve it, there's been a competition to find a short 3 minute film about the Nativity. You can check out all the entries on The Nativity Factor website and although, in my not always very 'umble opinion, I think some of the entries are a bit naff, I can understand why they picked the winner. However, prompted by His Opinionated Vicar(age), I tracked back the link to the original slightly longer version of the runner up, The Christmas C(h)ord, and also concur with David Keen's view that this one is a bit good! I definitely prefer this longer version, all credit due to the Going Public Theatre Co., written and performed by Dai Woolridge, flmed and edited by Andy Toovey.

Of course, there is a very strong link to another theme from our book, The Secret Chord, it would be wrong not to mention it ;-) In fact, we researched a section about the link between the word 'cord and 'chord' which was edited out, maybe in the next mini-tome?

And now for something completely different, this stunning film has so much context, clarity and authenticity it would be even more wrong not to include it:

First spotted on my buddy Phil Ritchie's blog


ALAN LOMAX interviewed by Charles Kuralt in 1991

Muddy Boots Vol. 1 w/Husky Burnette, Lone Wolf OMB, The Scissormen, and more!

Following the Muddy Roots Festival this year the folks from Cracker Swamp Productions and No-Brow Media got some pals together to have a hoot n' holler at the famed Fry Pharmacy studio (The Most Memphis studio in Nashville.) Here's part one ::


Charlie from Old Gray Mule turned me on to this beautiful lady.
Sadly, she passed on earlier this year.:

Catching lightning in a bottle... Jools Holland

Last night's fascinating and insightful programme looking into Jools Holland's career in music and as a TV presenter. As well as an unbelievable player along with his encyclopaedic knowledge of recording artistes and industry history, he also commands great respect from many musical legends because of his talent. As a personal benchmark I often gauge an artist, band or solo, by whether they would be good (or quirky!) enough to appear on Later with Jools.

Throughout the programme there were many gems about music, notably in his demonstration about the difference between learning by ear and a typical piano lesson and then when he enthused about his band, "the perfect band". Describing soul singer Ruby Turner, an integral part of his big band line-up:
"she is us... it's not about the sound, it's about the feeling, and then you hear this sound and this is, like, coming from a completely different place to the modern world but touching a thing that's alive and vital now, and it's all those things of the church, of the blues, of everything all mashed up into this thing that hits you like a nuclear reactor."
Another succinct explanation of the core theme of our book "The Secret Chord"...

The full programme available for next 6 days.

Blind Boys of Alabama in the Real World...

From the Real World Gold collection, Peter Gabriel's label, recorded when the Blind Boys of Alabama were on the label. The song was originally written and recorded by Ben Harper but this version demonstrates a real connection to the song. Read more on the collaboration on Canada's CBC Music article here.

Another theme we touch on in our book The Secret Chord...


LONNiE HOLLEY - Just Before Music

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Lonnie Holley is an outsider artist from Birmingham, Alabama that makes music as idiosyncratic and full of found elements as his art work. Made off the cuff with a dude from Deerhunter and a dude from Black Lips it's a wonderfully odd collection of deeply personal and evocative music. Is it blues? Sounds like it to me.

ALiVE AT THE DEEP BLUES FEST - Alive Records Artists Visit DBF and Record A Classic Live Scorcher

Chris Johnson @ Bayport BBQ where this was burned.
@ Alive Records // @ iTunes // Amazon // Bayport BBQ // Deep Blues Festival

This is the future's retro blues. This is our Blue Cheer, our Blues Magoos, our Buddy Miles, our Spirit, our post-Black Crowes/Keys/stripes music. Jimi'd and Jim'd, Sonny and revenant. The smell of weed in the woods and the Bad Company you keep playing filtered through the trees. This is that band you heard at the skanky bar under the bridge that one time that blue your mind with groove and  black lit stories....but it's ten years later and they're ten years older but still crushing the sound of your youth.  

This is the album you give your cool mom or dad or an old friend for xmas (after you burn it for yourself), sit down with 'em across the kitchen table with good bourbon and cold water, maybe you'll step outside for a joint, but this is gonna be your soundtrack and your going to remember the moment. 

Recorded at DBF founder Chris Johnson's Bayport BBQ joint in Minnesota June 29-July 1st 2012 it documents why Alive Records is such an important asset to hard blues based rock and roll. The seven bands here hail from Alive's stable and range from Radio Moscow's Van Halen Fair Warning played by Hendrix sound VS. Buffalo Killer's CSN/Cursed Diamond 'Crowes to Left Lane Cruiser's Zep-infected hill country with a knife behind its back and a big smile party blues to the tautly noisy polishing rag blues of the Welsh team of Henry's Funeral Shoe - yet they are all cut from the same cuffed and dirty worn just right pair of 501's. It's super rock with out posture, it's dirty ragged blues without a society, it's (D) All of the above. Get some.

Rolling Sideways with Hope and Social...

Photographed by Paul Webster

There's nothing quite like a Hope & Social gig! They are total entertainment, a 'proper' band, with a capability to play either acoustically to a handful, as a full band to a noisy throng packing out a pub or rocking it up with extra players on an outdoor festival mainstage. Each show ranges from energy filled mayhem through to poignant moments which land up captivating all beholders.

They represent one of the new paradigms of how to make a business out of a band, semi DIY and keeping control strictly in-house. Whilst the public perception may be one that borders on them being relatively corporate as a result of a highly creative and comprehensive online image, reality is a bit different. Their mission is to produce quality music, to go out and entertain by giving their all on stage and to do it all superbly. They are not phased by a lack of current worldwide success and have a refreshingly realistic attitude about the modest but desirable extra income that the band supplements with other sources of revenue. These sort of subtle distinctions set them apart and I'm confident careful analysis would reveal even more than covered here.

So despite all the full-on hard graft, the serious amount of traveling and all their crazy mishaps you come away from meeting them thinking they are actually quite happy with their lot. However, the first distinction would be to declare that 'Happy' does not convey enough about the Hope & Social (H&S) phenomenon and instead use the word 'Joy' in preference to 'Fun', and even 'Content' instead of 'Happy'. This is not to say they are not ambitious, but theirs is a compelling mix of quirkiness and contentment with a convincing lack of fear of failure.

They are quick to point out that one of the elements that helps define their musical identity is their studio, The Crypt, which is their inspirational workspace. This is mainly a private recording studio, a rented crypt(!) of a church near Leeds, which they have made their own. With recording equipment they describe as compact yet comprehensive they definitely make the most of it as listening to their recordings clearly shows. Whether the whole band or a subset are in residence there, they then becomes H&S at that moment, the music flows and develops without the potential open chequebook approach when working in a commercial studio.

There is also a candour about how the band works together. Clearly there are different skill-sets and abilities and, because other jobs get in the way, varying availability. However, there is a sense that there is not the strain of jealousy and demarcation that often is rife within other bands. They seem to operate in true community and long may it last!

Last night they nipped down to the metropolis during their current UK tour to play the iconic Union Chapel in London as part of the Greenbelt Festival's inaugral ADVENTurous day conference, of which more soon. It's inevitable that the venue adds or detracts from the performance, out in the audience last night they sounded superb, honed from their current busyness. Early on in the set singer Simon identified that the layout of the Union Chapel, with everyone seated in its formal pews, was radically different to their previous nights gig in a packed Working Men's Club in Halifax and maybe they were not quite as relaxed as usual, having to work harder to woo the seated 'congregation'.

They kicked off with a sublime version of 'Ripples Rock My Boat' from the CD 'April' and rattled through a relatively short set with favourites such as 'Pitching Far Too High' and the walk out into the audience H&S classic 'Looking For Answers'. Songs from their new album 'All Our Dancing Days' included 'Let's Be Bold' and the Springsteenesque 'One Way Home', all played with an exuberance and confidence that so characterises their shows.

H&S are an ultra hard working bunch of gifted guys who love what they do. They are proud of their material, committed to entertain as a primary artistic mission, all with the inescapable sense that the listener may take deeper meanings from the layered lyrics. They acknowledge the influence of the E Street band on some of their writing style and would be proud to wear 'What Would Bruce Do?' wristbands, yet turn out accessible music which is distinctly theirs.

These distinctions occur in the lyrics too. They maintain a balance weighed toward sentiment rather than schmaltz, whimsical rather than emotional and, as mentioned earlier, joy in addition to fun. Their songs make you smile one minute, then you're hiding the tears the next, and it is actually almost too easy to pick songs appropriate for weddings and funerals!

If success could be measured as commitment then they would rule the roost. When Hope and Social take to the stage, wherever and whatever the size, they do exactly that!

Catch them on the last few dates of their current tour:

Dec 04 - The Yorkshire House - Lancaster - buy tickets

Dec 05 - Hare & Hounds - Birmingham - buy tickets

Dec 07 - Fibbers - York - buy tickets


Former CBS record label mates convention....

Had an unexpected reunion with former CBS records labelmate John Cooper Clarke, still strutting his stuff as the definitive punk poet... On the right (my left in the photo) is one of my son's craft stalls (Sam's Wood) with his wooden creations displayed in the Essex town of Wivenhoe, where JCC now resides.

We reminisced about the various shared acquaintances and personalities from those days, compared notes on our life stories since being 'signed' and generally put the world to rights. Have to say his detailed memory from those heady days is impressive, he hasn't aged a bit ;-)

Here is one of my favourite examples of his work:
I wrote the songs that nearly made
The bottom line of the hit parade
Almost anthems, shoulda been hits
Songs like... Puttin' on the Ritz
Some enchanted afternoon
Twenty-four hours to Levenshulme
Dancin' in the daylight, singin' in the smog
You ain't nothin' but a hedgehog
So close and yet so far
Do you remember they way we are
I'd like to get you on a speedboat to china
From an idea by George Steiner
Ain't no blag - uncle's got a brand new jag
Ain't no slouch - mama's got a brand new couch
She ain't heavy, she's my sister
Not to leave out twist and whisper
Brand new leapordskin pillbox glove
Baby you and me we got a greasy kind of love

JiM JONES REVUE - interview w/Classic Rock Magazine

Rupert from JJR sent me this excellent interview with Matt Frost from Classic Rock Magazine. I'm delighted to share it. Rupert is the guitarist for JJR (and Beth's big brother) and has been one of my hip conduits into whats fresh in London, alt-blues/roots/whatever for many years. It's great to see a bunch of good dudes do good. Cheers! (Click the pic to embiggin)

Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly...

One of the themes Jonathan and I develop in our book The Secret Chord is the way some music takes on deeper significance when particular associations are made with it. This is a perfect example: a tribute single to keep awareness of the tragedy at Hillsborough featuring a host of pop luminaries under the banner The Justice Collective singing the Hollies emotional song 'He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother'.

Although engineering a Christmas chart topper is an uncomfortable strategy, with the revelations the recent enquiry exposed this does give plenty of validity. The Justice Collective ensemble is headed up by composer Guy Chambers, Text JUSTICE to 80010 to pre-order the single now. Texts cost £1 + standard network rate with proceeds going to the Hillsborough Families' legal costs in their quest for justice.


Synod stalemate...

...shamelessly nicked from Bishop Alan's blog...

Whilst the synod vote on women bishop's failed to reach the overall 2/3 majority of all three 'houses' and despite the profound sadness so many feel, on reflection perhaps we should consider the outcome may be for the best? Whatever the result yesterday evening there would have been no winners as such, even staunch objectors to the introduction of women bishops concede that there will come a time when women are appointed so. But at what cost would it be if the vote went through yesterday?

Personally I am totally in favour of bishops, regardless ;-) I was also taken by surprise at the depth of sadness I felt when the result was read out. But what I cannot endorse is the idea that we cannot be one in communion when served by a woman. And if the vote had gone through, as has been so more eloquently been expressed by most commentators, it would have enshrined in law that there should be provision BY A MAN for those that objected on theological grounds.

Now I know there are some that are sincere in that belief, however, listening to the live stream from Synod yesterday it was revealing how many that hold that view see it as a 'right', a personal preference for which a theological objection has been tailored. It was also made abundantly clear that advocates of the no vote felt this 'provision' had not been fully documented. I am unsure whether the church (in this case, read C of E) and Bishops in the House of Lords will have legitimate or legal standing to comment authoritatively on other matters whilst condoning the discrimination that is still rife and would have been formalised.

So yesterday has produced a mixed message. On one hand there was an overwhelming majority to accept women bishops, on the other hand the church has not moved any further forward. On one hand the Bishops and Clergy do seem to be more of one mind and yet on the other it would appear the House of Laity do not proportionately represent the rest of us. Furthermore whilst the clergy will feel the laity are a waste of space (see Twitter last night!!!) without us there is no church?

And the best moment during the debate? When the Bishop of Leicester attempted to bring some Christlike perspective with this comment during his speech: "Will this chamber be as full for the Living Wage debate tomorrow. Will the queue for the public gallery be as long?"

There is always hope...


Make love your goal...

The full version of Gabrielle Aplin's The Power of Love which is about to hit our screens as the soundtrack to John Lewis' charming Christmas 2012 advert...

Those of us ancient enough will recall this is a stripped down, alternative version of one of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's number one hits. FGTH, fronted by charismatic singer Holly Johnson, was one of those incendiary yet short lived bands in the 80s that made fantastic music with the assistance of legendary producer Trevor Horn.


BAYPORT BBQ - A Deep Blues Juke Joint

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Mr. Johnson with James Leg of Black Diamond Heavies
Knowing that i'm vegan you might wonder what the hell i'm doing hyping a BBQ joint. First of all, people are always gonna eat meat so it might as well be BBQ and Bayport BBQ in Minneapolis (Bayport, technically) ain't yr average BBQ joint.  Run by Chris "Wisconsin" Johnson and his family, Bayport BBQ has become the nations premier venue for fresh punk infected hard blues and it's myriad offshoots. This sound we call Deep Blues (whatever that is.) MSP's Citypages Mag did a fine piece on Mr. Johnson, his BBQ and his cat bird seat as the boss of the Deep Blues Festival franchise. I found it worthy of re-posting here without permission. 

PS-  Alive Records has released a monster set of performances by bands in their stable (Buffalo Killers, Lee Bains, Left Lane Cruiser, Brian Olive, Radio Moscow and more.) It was recorded at Bayport BBQ and is available (CD and BBQ sauce red vinyl!) HERE.

By Rick Mason

Just off the main drag in an unassuming Minnesota river town is an outpost of the deep South and an underground musical phenomenon whose ripples extend far across the globe. Bayport, on the St. Croix just south of Stillwater, may be home to a state prison and a massive windows factory, but it has a small-town, Midwestern feel that's been sharply tinged lately by the pungent aroma of southern barbecue and the hard-edged sounds of the blues.

Chris Johnson is the equally unassuming owner of City Pages' Best Blues Club of 2012, Bayport BBQ, whose menu sports barbecued ribs and white whiskey, and whose tiny performance space regularly hosts artists like Scott Biram, Rev. John Wilkins, T-Model Ford and Buffalo Killers, representing the raw, surprisingly diverse movement collectively known as deep blues. A former insurance man, Johnson is also the founder of the Deep Blues Festival, which has miraculously survived despite myriad problems since its 2007 debut.

In fact, survival could be the theme tonight as Bayport BBQ celebrates its second anniversary with a show featuring Tav Falco and Panther Burns along with Texas one-man-band John Schooley. Falco is a former Memphis running mate of Alex Chilton who has been based in Europe for a couple of decades. He could almost be a godfather of the deep blues movement since his music is a surreal blend of rock'n'roll, country, blues, rockabilly, tango and European cabaret, all slathered in Memphis soul. The evening will include a short film Falco made in 1974 featuring hill country blues icon R. L. Burnside.
When Johnson established the BBQ it was sort of the last shot at a dream repeatedly hammered by circumstances summed up by a classic blues line: If it wasn't for bad luck, wouldn't have no luck at all. Johnson absorbed heavy losses from the first three Deep Blues Festivals, and only the restaurant's success has enabled him to continue bringing the music he loves to Minnesota.

Without saying so directly, Johnson radiated a mixture of satisfaction and relief as he sat dressed in chef whites at a table in his restaurant one recent afternoon, reflecting on his somewhat unlikely journey deep into the heart of the blues and his joint's second birthday. It's a path that's also made Johnson well known in a burgeoning deep blues community that extends far beyond the banks of the St. Croix. Mention Johnson's name to virtually anyone in the deep blues realm and the response will invariably be something along the lines of, "Yeah, Chris is a good guy."

For the uninitiated, deep blues refers to the kind of primordial, unadulterated, gloriously ragged blues rooted in the Mississippi Delta and Mississippi's northern hill country. The late music journalist Robert Palmer wrote an historical account of the style in an early 1980s book that he called Deep Blues, which led to a Robert Mugge-directed documentary film that focused on then-living blues stalwarts like Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill and Junior Kimbrough. A guy named Rick Saunders also has a longstanding blog called Deep Blues that Johnson cites as a key to his education in the genre.

At some point, perhaps inspired by bands like the White Stripes or festival appearances by guys like Burnside, a younger generation of musicians picked up on the gutbucket glories of hard, outsider blues, and, sensing a spiritual connection, began adding similarly rough elements of punk, country, folk, metal and bluegrass.

"It's real raw, passionate music," Johnson said. "I can find the connection between all these bands. When you hear something that's real and passionate and you believe it's from the heart, that connects with me. I feel I can really appreciate what they're doing."

For Johnson, the great revelation that essentially changed his life was discovering gravelly Mississippi blues vet T-Model Ford opening for Johnny Winter at the Cabooze. Growing up in the small southern Minnesota town of Jackson, Johnson had liked a lot of mainstream rock, and remained a music fan as an adult, attending a lot of shows. But Ford in particular blew him away, prompting Johnson to check out Ford's label, Fat Possum, which in turn unveiled its roster of similarly wizened blues guys, and eventually led to the younger artists they were inspiring.

"It just opened the door. Now I had known Mississippi Fred McDowell and Son House, and I knew some of the elder bluesmen, but not in that new environment where they were influencing Gun Club and these guys who were taking it in a new direction."

Gradually he got to know some of the musicians personally, bringing some in to play block parties in his Hudson neighborhood, as well as some benefit shows, including one to keep Hemphill from being evicted from her home. Finally, Texas troubadour Scott Biram suggested he rent a room and sell tickets. Instead he tried a festival.

Johnson invited 18 bands to participate in the first Deep Blues Festival in 2007, situated on a driving range in River Falls. After a summer-long drought, the skies opened up on the day of the festival and there was a deluge of rain. Nevertheless, he said, "We had 130 paid tickets, we had 50 musicians. So there's 200 people hangin' out and they loved it. Nobody left." His favorite story from that year involves a sheriff's deputy hired to provide security. After his shift was over, the guy went home, changed clothes, went back to the festival and finally left happy after buying ten CDs of music. Johnson, however, lost 30 grand.

The next year, Johnson staged the festival over three days at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Again it poured one day, attendance was far below the break-even point and he lost another $30,000. In 2009 he moved the festival to the Cabooze in Minneapolis, intending to use both the indoor and outdoor stages. But it was one of the coldest August days on record, there was a competing blues festival nearby, scant press coverage, and he dropped yet another 30 big ones.

Besides uncooperative weather, Johnson knew he was battling the fact that none of the artists were well known, and the entire genre was a niche without a mass audience. "We weren't getting the love from anybody," he recalled, except the bands themselves and hardcore fans, who came from 15 countries to attend.

Even Johnson's attempt to mount a show with a big headliner failed. Although the members of the Black Keys, who Johnson had gotten to know personally, agreed to do a show with him, their agent nixed the deal at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Johnson was still looking for a new career after selling his insurance business and liked the idea of opening a small restaurant where his three kids could help out and he could put on some live shows. He'd always liked to cook, had worked at a bakery as a kid and through college, and had become somewhat accomplished as a pastry chef. So he bought the long-vacant building that previously housed the gourmet Bayport Cookery, added a barbecue pit, came up with some Texas-inspired barbecue recipes and opened in 2010 on Halloween.

Two years later the restaurant is supporting itself and Johnson's family, and Bayport is a regular stop for the quirky lot pursuing the increasingly diverse essence of deep blues.

"I chose to do this to be different," Johnson explained. "Our bar is different. Our music is different. The food is different. So hopefully it's a destination where people will appreciate it and want it. There's just not very many Texas barbecues in Minnesota. Deep Blues, the festival, started here just because it was my back yard.

"We do things a little differently. We do an early show, so it doesn't really connect with the late night, club scene crowd. But I have no interest in being out until two in the morning unless I absolutely have to. I'm going to be 50 in February and I got my kids and I'm busy here all week, so I guess it's out of convenience.

"The music end of it, I still pay out more than we take in in revenue. All the ticket money goes to the performers. I still have some guarantees for the occasional band that I just wanna see. I wanna have John Wilkins here. We can't get the ticket buyers to support his shows, so I take a bit of loss on that. But I just think it's important. I want my kids to know who T-Model Ford is. I just think that when you get the opportunity to have one of these people come through here and play, I wanna figure out a way to try to make it happen."

Last summer's resurrected Deep Blues Festival was an artistic success too. Johnson avoided hemorrhaging barrels of cash by aiming to break even, doing it on a smaller scale with one stage set up inside the restaurant and another in the patio out back. He limited ticket sales to only 120 and they cost $150, but for that you got three days of music from 26 bands, all the food you could eat and a real sense that the deep blues movement is thriving on a genuine communal spirit.

A little more widespread recognition may be coming next month with the release of Alive at the Deep Blues Fest, featuring the performances of seven bands from the Alive Records roster that played last summer's event, including Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser, Radio Moscow, Henry's Funeral Shoe, Brian Olive, John the Conqueror, and Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires. Bains and his band will play a record release show at Bayport December 1.

Sometimes it's been a struggle, but Johnson can now appreciate a certain satisfaction from establishing a beachhead of outsider blues in an unlikely spot.

"When I put on the very first festival I said if I'm the only ticket buyer, if I'm the only person standing there, at least I got to see 18 bands I really wanted to see," he said. "And I've gone on with that attitude for every show I've ever done. All I can do is put it on and if people want to be there and share it with me, great. But I never did it to try and do anything more than give the bands a paycheck. I always wanted to take care of the musicians. And I hope it meant more than just a paycheck. Some just want their fee and go. But there's a large percentage that are into it and love the connection, love meeting the other bands. They love seeing the other bands. They love the camaraderie. It's a gathering, it's a networking thing. So there's definitely a sense of community with the musicians. And I like that.

"We accomplished some things and it's pretty neat. Bands got signed because of the festival. Connections got made. Careers got launched. Definitely friendships were formed, and lots of good things happened. Still are."

Bonus! Here's a fine review of Bayport's food.

Hangin' With OLD GRAY MULE ~ Like A Apple On A Tree

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If Lockhart, Texas is the BBQ capital of Texas then OLD GRAY MULE is the band at that BBQ. CR Humphrey aka (more or less) OLD GRAY MULE has made his best album yet, which is actually sayin' something because OGM has always been special, each album a little different while retaining that Texafied hill country thing. Humphrey started OGM out as a two piece instrumental outfit, started working with a few different drummers, then he started adding vocals, sometimes even his own. He does what needs to be done, he gets who needs to be got. 

This round he's got Lightnin' Malcolm doing some vocals, and some drums (a wicked guitarist as well, saying Malcolm just plays some drums is like saying a '69 Cadillac Coupe DeVille is a just a car,) south Australia's Snooks LaVie on vocals, cheerleading and harp, New Mexico's CW Ayon makes an appearance of course, as do a few other players, most notably Cedric Burnside. It's a sonically raw and immediate boogie that just makes you helpless but to get down. There's a lot to love here. Somebody has finally covered the Lyrics Born version of RL Burnside's Someday Baby, and to hear Cedric on his grandfather's classic Come On In is a haunting treat. This is OLD GRAY MULE so of course we get some instrumentals too, and as I've said before about OGM instros you never seem to miss the vocals. 

Like A Apple... is a confident sounding album with some strident boogies and tough, smart new blues that continue to establish fresh blues horizons. It's also a real funass album you can put on for the kids in the morning (just skip the cover of Stagger Lee!) and the grown folks at night. It's the blues walkin' like a man, it's the blues, as T-Model Ford says, "Like a apple on a tree...hangin'." 
This is what a Texas apple tastes like.

This is the album that'll get you through the winter. Your feet'll keep the floor warm, and your hips will keep greased and workin' through the spring. Dig it then give them your money.

Whoever has an ear to hear...

For those with family members, friends and senses that understand, an excellent mini TED talk...


OLD KERRY McKEE - Wooden Songs

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Wooden songs are crackly with history, with soil and human grease. They are subliminally powered by 16HP and him and standing arm in arm with them and every american blueser that came before but filtered through Swedish sun and forest floor. While they remind one of the aforementioned they do not bow, but rather they are used as starting blocks to sonic expansion. 

Textures take Wooden songs to a different focus using an audio palette of blues-infected folk brushed with samplings of old record crackles, radio broadcasts, the clatter and drone of machinery and whatever to bring out layers of ghosty familiarity. It's music that is as wonderfully odd and dextrous as Malcolm Holcomb, as menacing as a primitive church of Christ riven 16HP and others and as mysterious as  your dead Uncle's collection of blues 78s that were kept near  that back room in the basement. The one with the dirt floor. 

There's a creepy David Lynchian vibe throughout Wooden Songs, sinister and primitive sounds of tension and harvesting at night, underpinned by Nick Drake-like melodies and fanned by suggestions of Tim Eriksen's studied appalachian death moans. Sweden is always selling us back our culture in interesting permutations and with varied success. Old Kerry McKee is a raw winner. 
Swedish high lonesome metal machine music rules.  

Mississippi Meets New Mexico:: CW AYON - Lohmador!

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CW Ayon has just released his fourth
album and its just as fine as previous. His groove is more refined now, and his delivery sexier but no less tight. The dude plays some smoothass hill country blues, except CW's hills are the mountains of New Mexico (but evidently the Mississippi runs through them.) 

If you or a friend are new to the post-R.L. Burnside/Junior Kimbrough lovin' blues scene and want to ease on in, or you've been listening to this stuff for a dozen years and want something fresh- You want this album.

Here's a free taste:

PS- Check our CW Ayon with Old Gray Mule

*Tonight* Last Nights Presents: Tin Horses, Bakes, Bronze Float @ Death By Audio Brooklyn, NY

Tin Horses (ft. member of Purling Hiss)

Thursday October 25th
49 S. 2nd St. Brooklyn, NY 
8pm | $7 | All Ages

Kickstarter:: THE HALLELUJAH BUMS on Vinyl

Here's a cool Kickstarter that Mike Powers of Yellow Dog Records turned me on to. It's a collection of songs from Alan Lomax's "American Ballads & Folk Songs" Book. Recorded in Mississippi by Mississippi musicians. Musicians like Ted Gainey, Justin Showah of Jimbo Mathus' Band and Hill Country Records, also featuring, "Chalmers Davis from Little Richard's band, Carl Massengale from the Revelators and the Holy Rollers, Robert Chaffe from Kudzu Kings, Max Williams from George McConnell & the Nonchalants to pick a little guitar and slide, and Jeff Callaway from Oxford's music scene to blow his horns."

 "A southern patchwork of hobo hymns, worldly reels, and badmen breakdowns, this record sounds best riding backroads during the gloam with cold tallboys in tow." Justin says, "I tried to conjure the spirit of a different Mississippi hero for each song, such as Rose Hemphill on "Bullyin Well", friend Ed Dye on "Shortenin Bread" & "Liza Jane", Jim Dickinson on "Casey Jones," Othar Turner on "John Henry," and True Loving Five on "Tone Them Bells."

I like that the rewards (there are only four of them) on this one are simple: Twenty bucks gets you the record and a digital download. Up from that you can get white vinyl and a couple other cool options. If you know the names involved you know this'll be some real good stuff. Give 'em yr money!


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My new favorite album comes from one of my favourite bands in the universe. Mudlow, from the English seaside city of Brighton, asked me to write the liner notes for Sawyer's Hope and I was honored to do so.  My notes are below followed by a song by song interpretation.

Thomas Wolfe wrote that  “...our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cut-purse went unhung.”  If that sliver of catholic prose had a soundtrack it would be played by Brighton UK’s Mudlow.

Mudlow plays literate southern music without continent, drifting and fraught with terroir.  It is at once humid, torrid, and familiar; a wholly indecent sound.  It’s the grist, gristle and grit of the hard luck life.  Noir skies meet muddy boots.  The old trouble. 

Tobias plays guitar, howls and sings, winks like Popeye and writes songs.  The stalwart Matt Latcham plays drums, craftsman Paul Pascoe plays bass and records the music.  Sullen sweetheartist Paul Trimble blows the saxophone. 

Named for a particular island off the western edge of downtown South Purgatory, sitting hard by a slow-burning swamp just down the road from the old General Tire factory (long abandoned).  Port-side stands a tough and brazen little burlesque bar, lit like a set from Twin Peaks.  It’s there, downstairs, framed by smoke-rimed red velvet curtains that Mudlow swing their craft. 

They play cool, cruel and criminal, lounged and louched versions of Frank’s Wild Years at The Stooges Funhouse for love-worn ghosts, sinewy butchers and Gutter Twins, as a sway-backed barmaid, mouth full of gold and skin scented of hyssop, serves marked cards and moonshine to lost North Sea sailors, southern kings, and their curs. 

Their music is the soundtrack for a film as yet unimagined, the saxophoned theme to a tempest-tossed and dreamless sleep.  Night hues meet dawn of day in salt air and sea light.  A morphine blues follows a sloe gin waltz. 

Taut, violet-tinged boozy fanfares mingle with mad juke joint hoe-downs.  Foghorned and rainsoaked Waitsian tinklers hear the music the dust makes on the soles of shoes at the bottom of a lurched and half-hidden staircase.  Run until you fall.

A Brighton-By-The Mississippi boogie shakes it down till it stays down.
 A leaf-sprung and primered F150 on a rainslick Hove country road.
 Lights out.  Listening.  No second chances.

Your last call after last call.  A lonely saxophone cries from an empty bridge. Jake-legged and sodden, one arm around your new true-love’s waist.  You got some fight left in you yet.  Roll ‘em!

Ghosts shine darkly with your energy.  Faded howls and ringing bells.
 The chrome groove digs underground.  Cave-like.

Troubles are trawling for good times.
They’ll find them alright.
Down by the boathouse.

Zane Merite.  Queen of something, somewhere south of south Louisiana.  Or Borneo.  Rusted-through boats and bodies, hot tropical rain wails in the blood-colored night sky.

A slow ballroom blues dance spin,
toe properly turned out.

Hooker’s heat and boogie,
the tight Memphis night air.
Don’t get too close to the water.

Soil. It’ll hold it.

Sitting under the power-line giants above the Snake River canyon at full-moon midnight.  The air fairly crackles.  The dirt lit shades of white and black.  Below, along the riverbank, the primal shadows of bodies lit by bonfire sway low to the echo of deep, dank grooves.  Sparks fly, only to be carried by the cool wind as it slips behind the moon which moves its way down the deep, sensual and ancient valley.

Somewhere a back-door slams, unknown voices cross. Blue/white light hypnotizes down the highway.  Footsteps scuffle in the raw heat.  Love spelled wrong, backwards and reborn.

Free Album of Mudlow Odd & Ends & Rareities:

Voluminous Thank-Yous! go to April Fecca, boss/editor for NowThisSound, for being a rubber wall to bounce sentences off, without whom this post wouldn't have been worth a tinker's damn.


Our man in France is back with a deeper, heavier, cruchier, creepier, trippier blues thang. One-Man Band-style Stooges Blues. Here's four tracks to taste. If you dig 'em you are gonna want the rest. Wicked: