There have been some excellent new Americana releases dropping through my letterbox and into my CD player these past few months. Shadowland by Johnny Steinberg is no exception. With a name like that, songs that tell tales of heartbreak, cheap whiskey and Jesus, not to mention some deliciously effortless musicianship that just seems to ooze Nashville, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Mr Steinberg hails not from Nashville but from Norfolk (at least these days – although he’s from Yorkshire originally). What surprised me even more, however, was learning that Shadowland is, in fact, Steinberg’s debut album.
Outstanding songs, exquisitely well-played and beautifully sung this album radiates such class that I’m still getting my head around the fact it’s a debut album.
Steinberg takes up the story:
“If you had said to me eight years ago when I left my job, started songwriting and learned finger-style guitar that only five years later I would be recording in the US and UK to produce an album of my own songs I’d have said you were bonkers.”
Steinberg’s heart-warming story of his journey to Nashville and how he came to record an album with the likes of Boo Hewerdine (The Bible/ State of the Union) and Kira Small (Willie Nelson/ Garth Brooks/ Martina McBride) and other brilliant musicians is recounted in the extensive booklet that accompanies the beautifully packaged CD.
Steinberg has been gigging, either solo or with his band Johnny Steinberg and the Blue Fish, for some time now, garnering support slots with the likes of Graham Gouldman, Dave Swarbrick, Kathryn Williams and Reg Meuross. He is thoroughly deserving of the wider attention this album will surely bring him. Shadowland is pure class from start to finish.
Released on Monday 29th June, ‘Emergency Lullaby’ is the third part of the Hourglass Trilogy series of climate-themed singles released by folk rockers Merry Hell.
It will also provide the title for the next full Merry Hell album which will be called ‘Emergency Lullabies’ and is currently nearing completion.
Written by mandolin/bouzouki player Bob Kettle, he says of the song:
“The song ‘Emergency Lullaby’ developed from a melody I’d written on the piano. I was quite pleased with the tune – it had a soft, sleepy quality that reminded me of a lullaby – but, for a long time, I couldn’t come up with any appropriate words to go with it… In the meantime, I was to thinking about climate change and the devastating impact it will have on our lives and environment if it continues unchecked. I’d read about rising global sea-levels, fires in the arctic circle and deforestation in the Amazon. I was also dismayed by the nonchalant denials of the part played by human activity in this looming crisis – for example, Trump and Bolsonaro’s casual rejection of scientific consensus and willingness to sacrifice our planet’s wellbeing and the futures of generations to come for short-term political and financial gain.
“On the other hand, I’m painfully aware of just how little I’m doing, personally, to alleviate these dangers. I ride in cars and draw energy from a grid fed by fossil-fuels. I’ve been negligent with recycling and, because I’m lucky enough to live a first world lifestyle, I’m generally oblivious to the impacts my actions have in other parts of the world. I’m part of a great sleepwalk into destruction – so, in short, I’m no one to judge anybody else’s behaviour. I wanted to emphasise that, if the climate crisis has a human cause it also has a human solution. We can save our planet if we act immediately. Time is short; the longer the delay, the sooner the devastation. We need to hold on to hope because, if we lose it, we’re lost. I’m encouraged by the awareness and organisation shown by young people. If the older generation follow the young and support them in collective action, we have every chance of securing a cleaner, fairer world that can be sustained into the future.
“So, I coupled the soft, sleepy melody with lyrics about the climate crisis – to express the contradictory aspects of the problem: we need urgent action but we’re mired in apathy. That’s how I came up with the title ‘Emergency Lullaby’. I’d love to sing it in a spirit of understanding, hope and togetherness.”
Emergency Lullaby (Wasting Time)
The water is rising, The Arctic’s ablaze, The Amazon’s burning But I spend my days Feeding flood and fire in so many ways Sitting here wasting my time.
There are clowns in high places Trading on lies, A cult of denial to cover our eyes But if we give up hope then we give up our lives Willingly wasting our time.
We will die of doubt Time is running out…
The hourglass counts down An avoidable fate: The next generation pays for our mistakes. Act now, act together and it’s not too late Or we’re wasting the world and our time.
So, get down to Earth, Let the young lead the old, All hands to the ark! Unfurl the rainbow! Our life’s in our hands, We’ll reap what we sow
The single is available to download and stream from all the usual digital platforms.
Taking inspiration from that the likes of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buffalo Springfield, Lee Gallagher lays out his own take on that cosmic California sound with his latest album L.A. Yesterday. It’s all majestic-sounding piano, nifty guitar licks and laid-back California vibes. With Gallagher’s emotive, highly expressive vocals (he’s been compared to everyone from Steve Marriott, to Tom Petty to Neil Young) and his not inconsiderable songwriting skills it makes for an instantly appealing mix.
“The music I play is always centred on rock and roll,” Gallagher reflects. “It’s very much rooted in what was a period of awakening – the late 60s/early 70s. So many obscure artists. So many mega artists. Just a lot of great art.”
Gallagher began his singing career in the bars of Southern Ohio but making the move from the mid-west to the sunshine state he soaked up those west coast influences and eventually put together a band, The Hallelujah. An EP and a full-length album followed and, with a slight shift in personnel, L.A. Yesterday is the outfit’s third release.
Recorded at Palomino Sound, a vintage 70s Los Angeles studio, Lee Gallagher (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica) is joined by long-time collaborators Kirby Hammel (keyboards) and Jimmy Dewald (bass) along with new additions Jason Soda (lead guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, mandolin and Hammond organ) and Will Scott (drums).
Combining elements of psychedelia, Americana and good old rock and roll L.A. Yesterday is a luscious slice of vintage California. As Gallagher says: “Play it very loud rolling down the highway or simply melting into your favourite chair.”
‘This is Hell’ the title track from Burnt Out Wreck’s second album released last October is now being released as a single with a brand new accompanying video.
Lead singer Gary Moat says: “Here’s our new video the title track from our second album This is Hell …. I wrote this before the pandemic and we all have our own Hell … enjoy the madness. Thanks to Graham Gebbe for the live footage from Winterstorm 2019. We had a great time, also thanks to Mark Leary for creating such a brilliant lyric video at such short notice!”
This Is Hell is the band’s second album, following their debut Swallow which was released in 2017.
“This is Hell, the title says it all,” adds Moat. “It’s a hard hitting, fast paced more focused album. It’s an angry set of songs that follows on in the same vein as Swallow.”
Gary Moat has a colourful history as the drummer and main songwriter for Heavy Pettin’. For Burnt Out Wreck, he has swapped the drum kit for the microphone stand and Paul Gray now takes the drum stool. Often compared to AC/DC’s Bon Scott and Krokus’s Marc Storace, Moat’s vocal style developed in Mother’s Ruin, the band that rose from the ashes of Heavy Pettin’ in 1991.
You can read my full-length interview with Gary Moat here
Burnt Out Wreck are: Gary Moat – Lead Vocals, Alex Carmichael – Bass, Paul Gray – Drums, Adrian Dunn – Lead Guitar, backing vocals and Miles Goodman – Rhythm Guitar, backing vocals.
On these bright warm sunny days is there anything more perfect than those classic laid-back 70s west coast sounds? Sunny and upbeat with a hint of sadness and a touch of drama, you know the score. The Eagles knew it. Fleetwood Mac knew it in spades. So how lovely, therefore, on just one of those very days, to get the latest Fred’s House EP dropping through my letterbox.
Cambridge-based Fred’s House celebrate their tenth anniversary with this brand new four-track EP Walls and Ceilings.
Following a slight re-jig in the line-up the band is now entirely female-fronted, with newcomer Prue Ward on fiddle and vocals joining Vikki Gavin on vocals and keyboards, Gafyn Jameson on bass and backing vocals, Lachlan Golder on guitar and backing vocals and Paul Richards on drums.
Truly conjuring up the spirit of Rumours-era interpersonal intrigue (although hopefully not the cocaine bill) ‘Only The Sun’ is about former frontman (and Vikki Gavin’s ex-partner) Griff saying his farewells and moving on. The other tracks also cover familiar themes of relationship angst, unrequited lust and new beginnings.
Harmonies, hooks, gorgeous melodies and exquisite production Walls and Ceilings is a work of beauty from start to finish.
If no-one has done more than Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends to repopularise sea shanties in recent years, then surely no-one has done more than Bristol’s Longest Johns to give them an alt-folk makeover, pull them into the twenty-first century and make them cool.
Cures What Ails Ya is the Longest Johns’ third album. Building on the impact of the first two, Written in Salt released in 2016 and Between Wind and Water released in 2018, the Longest Johns began attracting a dedicated online following that consisted of a quirky but thoroughly modern combination of folk enthusiasts and internet gamers. Collaborating with the creators of suitably-themed games like ‘Sea of Thieves’ the group’s online content has helped them garner over 70.000 YouTube subscribers and upwards of 7.3 million streams by the time this, their third album, is released.
But what of the music? I just love it! An upbeat album as teeming with feel-good vibes and irreverent takes as it is with maritime hardship and folk tradition, Cures What Ails Ya is just beautifully held together with the rich harmonising voices of the four members and, in places, some suitably lovely accompanying instrumentation. Song-wise, there’s a real mix – from standards like ‘Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘Oak and Ash and Thorn’ to new original songs like the wryly tongue-in-cheek ‘Hoist Up The Thing’ and ‘The Last Bristolian Pirate’ which manages to name-check Tescos.
A brilliant album from the men who made shanties sexy – buy it!
Available on digital formats, CD and vinyl Cures What Ails Ya’ is released on 10th June 2020 with a special online live launch party
Following their recently-released single ‘Leave It In The Ground‘ Merry Hell have released the second single of their climate-themed trilogy. Titled ‘Sister Atlas’ it pays tribute to Greta Thunberg and the commitment of many young people like her taking up the call in demanding action on climate change.
Merry Hell explain:
“In the second song in our #HourglassTrilogy, written by Virginia Kettle, our lead female singer, Sister Atlas celebrates the strength and commitment of our young people in calling for a halt to the current climate destruction and to search for ways in which the damage can be reversed. This can either be focused on the example and inspiration of one young girl, or the wider actions of an increasing number of our children who wish for more than to have their future sacrificed to ignorance and greed. A salute to Greta Thunberg and more power to those who have taken up the challenge. Please feel free to spread the music and the love!“
The release of the single and accompanying video comes just a few days after the band were delighted to be announced as winners of the Folking Award for Best Live Act, joining winners in other categories such as Oysterband, Eliza Carthy, Ralph McTell and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman.
The single is available to download and stream from all the usual digital platforms.
Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock has sadly passed away following an illness that hospitalised him in recent months.
In a emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with:
“Then there was one!
I am in pieces right now. Steve Priest has passed away. His wife Maureen and I have kept in contact and though his health was failing I never envisaged this moment. Never. My thoughts are with his family x.
He was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. From that moment in the summer of 1970 when set off on our Musical Odyssey the world opened up and the rollercoaster ride started! He eventually followed his heart and moved to the USA. First New York then LA.
Rest in Peace brother. All my love.
Steve Priest’s latter-day colleagues in Steve’s own US-based version of the Sweet broke the news on their Facebook page on behalf of Steve’s family:
“Dear Friends and Fans,
We have very sad news – Please see the below statement from Steve Priest’s family.”
Love, Richie, Stevie, Mitch & Paulie…
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce at 8:25am PT today, Steve Priest, founding member of The Sweet, passed away. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle & Maggie and 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.”
Steve Priest’s death follows the deaths of vocalist Brian Connolly in 1997 and drummer Mick Tucker in 2002, leaving Andy Scott the sole surviving member of the band’s classic 70s lineup. When I interviewed Andy at the end of last year he talked about attempts to reunite the two for the band’s fiftieth anniversary but it was not to be. However, he did stress that the two kept in touch on a personal level and asked after one another’s health.
A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.