Melissa Ruth & The Likely Stories. Riding Mercury. Both Ears Records.

Back at the beginning of 2013 Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Melissa Ruth‘s Ain’t No Whiskey and found it very appealing. The album was almost two years old by then and only making it across the pond but her deep throated delivery of beer stained laments and frisky Tennessee Three like jaunts was mighty fine. Three years on, Riding Mercury is a more textured album with Ruth, husband Johnny Leal (on guitars) and brother in law Jimmy Leal (drums) augmented on bass by Rick De Vol and Scoop McGuire allowing the band to record live as opposed to Johnny Leal dubbing bass on the previous album. As a result the band is looser and they stretch out at times while they retain the basic smoky late night louche approach with Leal’s guitar more akin to jazz than blues while Ruth’s husky tones are perfectly suited for torch songs and breathless vocalese. The intimacy of Ain’t No Whiskey is sacrificed somewhat but there are several songs here that still capture the feel of that album and while lyrically Ruth ditches the drunken sad songs she replaces them with some excellent insights into broken hearts, broken families and broken women on what could be construed as a song cycle.

Opening song, What I Got, sets the scene as a scuzzy blues scratch paints a picture of a bed ridden diseased woman looking for one last fling. Ruth’s banjo introduces the fine Lonely World that rips along gaily although again the lyrics paint a picture of an abandoned and lonely woman. Rick De Vol’s fretless bass billows throughout the aching blues of Summer Nights In New Orleans with Leal offering a gut wrenching slide guitar solo as Ruth sings as sultry as she can. Speaking of New Orleans the following High Brow Blues featuring Talon Nassel’s trombone sounds as if it was forged in the Crescent City as Ruth describes an empty socialite before the band launch into the jump jive of A Letter with some groovy guitar parts. Put Your Light On is a song that captures the description Ruth gave to her music when Ain’t No Whiskey came out. Doo Wop Twang is what she called it and here she carries the torch with a fifties’ influenced waltz while the guitar eventually slinks to the front to deliver a clipped and intense solo. Your Love is a country influenced ballad that recalls Lucinda Williams initially while the guitar solos in a lazy fashion reminiscent of Santo and Johnny. Ruth maintains this fifties feel on the soulful Tell Me and country pop Take My Chances but she closes the album with two powerful songs that recall the earlier album with the band scraping a desolate landscape as she visits territory normally inhabited by the likes of Mary Gauthier. Who’s Your Lover ebbs and flows with fretless bass, tom tom percussion and charged, taut guitar as Ruth moans and pleads

Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
You’ve found another you’ve found another now
Who’s your lover who’s your lover now?
White white linen white white linen now
White white linen white white linen now
Your head is spinnin your head is spinnin now
White white linen white white linen now

Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now
Your heart is thicker your heart is thicker now
Brown brown liquor brown brown liquor now

Black black water black black water now
Black black water black black water now
Your blood runs hot your blood rums hotter now
Black black water black black water now

Red red fire red red fire now
Red red fire red red fire now
You hear the choirs the angel choirs now
Red red fire red red fire now.

Riding Mercury closes the album with a more conventional structure that again harks back to fifties rock’n’roll with the band approaching a gospel rhythm as Ruth testifies with appropriate biblical allusions. A fine end to a fine album.

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Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio . Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost. Backbeat Books.

Thought that while Blabber’n’Smoke is on a book jag right now we’d mention this huge “coffee table” tome that sits somewhat outside our remit but is just too good not to mention.
Rolling Stones’ Gear is yet another history of Jagger et al but where this one differs is that it goes into clinical detail of every guitar, amp, pedal and drum that these “cats” (Keef’s favourite description of folk) ever owned, pilfered (in the early days) or commissioned. It’s an exhaustive (and for the less gear enamoured fan, at times exhausting) endeavour packed with pictures of the actual instruments and some great period snaps and adverts with the early days by far the most interesting with the pre decimal (LSD) prices and prime sixties copy capturing earlier innocent times.

While the book details the bog standard history of the group the attention to the instruments offers some interesting details which I don’t recall from the standard bios, for example, the fate of Keith’s second ever guitar, a Gallotone Valencia, akin to a Hofner, popular in the skiffle period and retailing back then for around £16 related by James Phelge.

On the day we were vacating Edith Grove, everyone was sorting out what possessions they wanted to take or leave behind. Mostly, it was records and clothes. The guitar was lying on the sofa, and Keith turned to me and asked if I wanted the guitar. The neck was unstable and that caused tuning problems, probably not helped by the machine heads and the damp atmosphere of gigs at the Ealing club. Anyway, I said ‘Yes’ and took the guitar with me.

The book can be considered a graph following The Stones’ financial position. Initially buying cheap mass produced gear once popular the manufacturers are offering them instruments in return for sponsorship with Brian Jones’ “Teardrop” Vox hand made for him in 1964. The following gives an indication of what to expect from the book.

Brian’s Vox MK III was a one of-a-kind prototype, completely hand-built by Mick Bennett at the Jennings factory in 1964. It had a white finish, matching headstock, and several other unique features. Its bolt-on neck had a dot-inlaid ebony fingerboard with a narrow “zero” fret at the nut, which appeared on very few British-made Vox guitars. It also had a chrome pickguard, a three-way toggle switch, and volume and tone controls, and was one of the few Vox Teardrops made with only two pickups. A recent examination of the guitar revealed that Bennett used a Fender Stratocaster tremolo bridge assembly to produce the guitar’s fixed bridge. He cut a small section off the original tremolo plate where the tremolo arm would normally have screwed in, and the individual intonation saddles are stamped “Fender.” The wood body of the guitar also was carved out to fit the Fender tremolo block, which was tightly fitted through the body. Brian’s Teardrop was the only one made with a Fender bridge; all future production models had standard Vox hardware. The first production models of the Vox MK III were manufactured in 1964 by the British G-Plan furniture builder E. Gomme & Son of High Wycombe in Bucks. Later production models were renamed the Vox MK VI.

By now the boys are somewhat flush and it’s noted that Jones spent $15,000 on a sitar in ’66 while Keith is using “luthiers” by the end of the seventies with one of his guitars covered in a thin leather skin. It’s onwards and upwards in term of gear from her on in and while there is plenty of information throughout the book regarding what was played by whom throughout their recording career the music itself is not critically appraised, presumably it’s taken for granted that anyone who wants this rock’n’roll equivalent of a train spotters manual will know the songs already. Whatever, aside from the technical info and guitar glam on show the book works well almost as a social history of the times (especially the first 15 or so years) and one has to admire the gusto of the authors when they launch into one of their boggle eyed descriptions of the “gear” such as this description of the Exile On Main Street sessions.

Keith employed his five-string open G “Keef-chord” tuning on several Exile numbers, including “Tumbling Dice” (with a capo on fourth fret), “Soul Survivor,” and “Happy”(again, with a capo on the fourth fret). He used a variety of electric guitars during the sessions at Nellcôte, including his Dan Armstrong Plexi prototype, (the two Dan Armstrong Plexi production models were present as well), the Gibson Flying V, the Gibson Custom Black Beauty and moon-painted Les Paul Custom, and, occasionally, the walnut Gibson ES-355TD-SV. Mick Taylor mainly used the ES-355TD-SV, the Gibson SG, the ’59 Gibson Les Paul, the “Ya-Ya’s” Les Paul, and the white Fender Telecaster, also using Keith’s Dan Armstrong Plexi guitars and Custom Black Beauty on occasion. Acoustic guitars on hand included Keith’s Gibson Hummingbird with the sunburst finish and a Gibson Hummingbird with a natural wood–finished top, the sunburst Gibson J-200, the Martin D12-20 acoustic twelve-string (with pickup), the Harmony Sovereign, a classical acoustic guitar, Keith’s National Style “O”, and a 1930s National tri-cone resonator guitar. Bill used his customized Dallas Tuxedo bass much of the time as well as his Fender Competition Mustang basses, and Charlie used his black pearl Gretsch kit. On many tracks, either Keith or Mick Taylor cut the bass track using Keith’s sunburst Fender Precision bass. Amplification was again Ampeg VT-22 combos and Fender Twin Reverb amps, as well as Fender Showman amps, Ampeg SVTs, and an Ampeg B-15 “flip-top” PortaFlex bass amp. Andy Johns remembered the VT-22 amps: “Keith and Mick Taylor were using these fabulous Ampeg amplifiers, with just two 12-inch speakers, but they were like 300 watts or something ridiculous. It was so loud. I had to build little houses for both of the guitar amps.” 16 Photos taken during the sessions also reveal a few new Fender models, including a “silverface” Fender Vibro/Champ amp, one of Fender’s smallest practice amps, and a Fender vibratone speaker cabinet, a Leslie speaker cabinet, designed for use as an unpowered extension speaker for a standard guitar amp.

Buy it here

Chris Cacavas & Edward Abbiati. Me And The Devil. Harboursong Records.

This album is somewhat of a summit meeting of two (plus two) of the most interesting characters in Americana music today. Chris Cacavas is of course the keyboard player for the troubled troupe that was Green On Red way back in the eighties before releasing a series of essential recordings with his band Junkyard Love. Edward Abbiati is the UK born leader of Italian Americana band Lowlands who have intrigued since their first release, The Last Call, in 2008 with the essence of Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and Richmond Fontaine in their DNA. Cacavas guested on Lowlands’ debut album and last year he travelled from his current domicile in Germany to North Italy to record Me And The Devil with Abiatti picking up a crack rhythm section along the way, Winston Watson on drums, one of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour stalwarts (as well as past duties with Giant Sand and Warren Zevon) along with Mike “Slo Mo” Brenner, a multi instrumentalist who has played with Marah and Jason Molina who carries out bass and lap steel duties here. Cacavas and Abbiati huddled together and wrote the songs which the band then recorded in a two day burst in a barn close to Abiatti’s hometown of Pavia.

The end result of this “barnstorming” stream of consciousness approach to the record is surprisingly good given that it had all the elements present that could have resulted in an aural equivalent of an essay on “what we did on our holidays.” Instead the ten songs here are all robust with the band firing on all cylinders (with additional input on tenor Sax, cello and harmonica on some cuts) with at least one of the numbers achieving epic status. They open with the rumbling blues of Against The Wall, bass thumping and organ and harp (Richard Hunter) wailing while tenor Sax (Andres Villan) parps away. Like a Native American war dance sung by Morphine this is best experienced cranked up to full volume as the slab of sound hits in the chest and heart. A terrific opener. A chunky guitar rips into the introduction of the title song, a classic heat blasted slice of American music with a sludge like bottom topped by harmonica acrobatics from Hunter and a fierce guitar solo from another guest musician, Stefan Roller. Oh Baby, Please has Cacavas let loose on the organ while the sax drives a sixties garage punk riff that snarls with a pout not heard or seen since The Fleshtones, a song waiting to be discovered by hipsters on dance floors all over Tarantino land, again, play loud and just surrender to the dumb beat.
The Week Song is unfortunately titled as it palls in comparison to its predecessors but the opening chords of Hay Into Gold with a cello abetting the powerful bass and drum highway drive take us back into a dark Americana underbelly, lanced by shards of lap steel as the song creeps along in a disturbing stalking fashion. Long Dark Sky maintains this haunting, even threatening menace. Although it opens with a mighty mid sixties Who like thrash it soon unravels into a neon lit David Lynch nightmare lyrically while at the end the band bring it back to The Who with a mischievous morse code guitar stutter and thrashing Moon like drums. Can’t Wake Up is another dark tale with an acoustic slide driven push but The Other Side then sails into sight, towering above its compadres. Harking back to Cacavas’ early albums it employs a Neil Young slow burn as the guitars roil and boil churning up a menacing stew with Watson’s cymbals crashing away while the song ebbs and flows in magnificent fashion. The only complaint here is that it ends far too soon. I’ll See Ya in comparison is understated. Acoustic and tender it affords a ray of light in comparison to the devilish mayhem that precedes it while the closing song, Rest Of My Life, is another plea, plaintive this time, to be released from the shackles of the heart and given an uplifting feel with some winsome lap steel.

Overall Me And The Devil is a cracking album while the excellent cover art by Deborah Maggioncalda adds to the attraction. Very highly recommended.

Harboursongs website

Book Review #2. Dan Stuart. Barcelona Blues. Padre Lindo Press.

Barcelona Blues

Dan Stuart wears an alter ego, Marlowe Billings, in his “false memoir” The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings that relates his formative years and rock’n’roll life before his eventual deliverance to a psychiatric institution. Barcelona Blues, a book of poems by Stuart, ditches this conceit and nakedly opens with an introduction that details his Spanish wife’s infidelity in 2010 which led to another short spell in care before he headed to Barcelona for a prearranged gig in the midst of what he calls “a severe depressive episode.” So far, so fun. In Barcelona Stuart is supposed to play at a testimonial show arranged for a sick member of his wife’s cousin’s band. Paranoid and wasted he describes it as the worst night of his life. He stays on in Barcelona for a time, seeking refuge among Andalusian immigrants and in the red light district while falling for a local femme with whom he has “a short but intense affair.” His introduction ends “these poems are really for her.”

Stuart has written candidly about his marital problems in the sleeve notes for the magisterial reissue album, Arizona: 1993-95. Barcelona Blues catches him with the wounds raw and weeping, seeking solace and anonymity in a Barcelona tourists wouldn’t recognise. The cover features an ugly blackened pig foot that resembles a deformed penis strung on a wire found hanging outside a garage in a gypsy quarter. The poems feature Stuart for the most part in cafes and bars observing life around him, police assaulting suspects, young mothers with push up bras pushing baby strollers, sullen teenagers on the cusp of sensuality, oafish men whose primary pleasure is “futbol.” Odours of food and tobacco are vividly captured and there’s an overall sense of menace with Stuart, the outsider, having to tread carefully amongst these bruised people while frequent use of Spanish colloquialisms reinforce the sense of alienism. When he gets personal he tells us that his anti depressants cause impotence leading him to rely on a “blue pill” while overdoses and domestic violence cloud those he gets close to.

The book is a visceral rush urging the reader to pursue it to the end where Stuart seems to accept the scuzziness around him as preferable to the frigid Catholicism and brutality of the Franco regime While the title recalls Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues Stuart’s poems are not set out in verse form and there is none of Kerouac’s Zen mysticisms here. Instead Stuart captures the documentary style of a Kerouac poem such as Bowery Bums while Hemingway’s poems such as Montparnasse may be another influence. Another Hemingway piece, his recollection of his Paris days in A Moveable Feast might be more apposite to reference while Stuart’s current domicile in Oaxaca, Mexico inevitably leads one to recall Malcolm Lowry’s Under The Volcano. Stuart sets the poems in sections which appear to be named after geographical districts in and around Barcelona although each one can stand separately from the others. As with Beat poetry there is a sense that the words were written to be read aloud and fortunately Stuart has provided an example which you can hear below.

Barcelona Blues is just another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Dan Stuart these days. His Green On Red days are well documented, thereafter he seems to have had periods of calm and some very turbulent times. His recent reappearances, on record, live and by written word hopefully signal that he is coming to terms with the past and looking to the future.

Book review: Dan Stuart. The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings. Cadiz Music.

Rock autobiographies are big news these days with bookshelves groaning under the weight of confessional (and often redemptive) tomes from almost everyone who’s ever committed music to plastic. We get the up and downs, the trials and tribulations, the dirt is dashed ( after the lawyers are asked) and the reading public have their vicarious thrill. OK, for every dozen ghosted epics there’s a genuine nugget and it’s fair to say that Dylan (as usual) tops the list for critically acclaimed memoires with Chronicles offering a very slight insight into his head. For the most part however it’s the lesser known artists, the cult favourites, who have delivered musings that have opened up the often grimy and dreary life of rock’n’roll with the likes of Luke Haine and Mark E Everett stamping their personalities on their respective tales.

Dan Stuart, Ex Green On Red front man, who has only recently resurfaced after a decade or so of personal turmoil has now put pen to paper with his “false memoir,” The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings.” Billings is the alter ego adopted by Stuart for his 2011 comeback album of the same name as the book. The album followed a marital and mental breakdown that eventually found Stuart moving to Mexico with the avowed intention to top himself. Instead he found a second wind, recording the album, touring Europe and writing this book.

As Billings, Stuart introduces us to a sun blasted weed smoking minor delinquent who starts a band in the emotional wasteland of Tucson. Snot nosed and foul mouthed, glam rock then punk and Patti Smith fire him up in a milieu reminiscent of the kids in Alex Cox’s Repo Man. Overdoses, petty crime and rude sex only threaten to divert this weird messiah’s collection of disciples until he has a rag tag band that outgrows Tucson’s sin bins and decamps to LA. DIY recordings lead to record deals and label rip offs before Billings and crew set out to conquer the world only to find that the craziness follows them until the band falls apart. Intending to start afresh he’s fucked by legal shenanigans forcing him to retain the band name screwing his pals and hurtling forward into an ever increasing maelstrom of mental indignations. The book ends with Billings in a psychiatric institution.

If the above appears to be a conventional retelling of the Green On Red story then you’d be right apart from the conventional element. Stuart tells the story in short, staccato bites. Each chapter is no more than two or three pages delivered in a hard boiled, almost voyeuristic fashion. Like a fusion of Hemingway, Bukowski and Jim Carroll Stuart is bare boned in his reportage with no shying away from the misogynism of the times while drug fuelled embarrassments are described with a particularly debauched Edinburgh visit detailed. For a “rock” biography there’s little about the music itself within the pages. The set ups, the producers, the screw ups and legal crap are all here but unless you know the band you wouldn’t have a clue as to what they sound like. In addition Stuart (in fine roman a clef fashion) doesn’t name names for the most part but this adds to the attraction of the book as I was scouring album sleeve notes and googling like hell to pin down the cast list.

It’s rough, raw and rude but according to Stuart and others who were there that’s what it was really like. Stuart himself describes the book as “it’s just words and shit” but as a portrayal, not just of Stuart and Green On Red but numerous others in the post punk LA scene , it’s a visceral slice of life, warts and all.

Buy it here

Southside Americana: The John Hinshelwood Band/Jack Law. The Glad Cafe. Sunday 29th June.

Hinshelwood

Law

Hot weather and world cup football on the telly aren’t particularly conducive to promoting gig attendance. So a big hurrah to those who turned out to see some local musicians in the intimate surroundings of Shawlands’ Glad Cafe.

John Hinshelwood has just released his excellent third album, Lowering The Tone and tonight (accompanied by guitarist Tim Black and bassist Ed McGlone) was a welcome opportunity to hear many of the songs from the album live albeit in a stripped down fashion along with a few selections from his previous albums. The opening Dangerous Journey (from Shattered Pleasures) immediately introduced us to the care free relaxed seventies LA vibe that Hinshelwod captures so well with the acoustic guitars strumming us along a desert highway, a feeling that was maintained on Radio Angel and A Few Shallow Moments. The band took a side step into Western Swing, no mean feat for a three piece (with Hinshelwood lamenting the lack of a fiddler here) on Tell Me Something with Black delivering a blistering solo (despite Hinshelwood’s “not too fast” aside to him as they launched into the song). American Lifestyle is one of Lowering The Tone’s highlights and tonight it proved to be one of the highlights of the set. With Black on mandolin it recalled Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road in its stompalong country delivery with an edge and had the requisite clapping and foot stomping from the audience.

While guitarist Black had the opportunity to shine on several of the songs with his Ry Cooder like slippery tone excelling on the JJ Cale groove of No Hiding Place (mixing too many musical metaphors here I know) bassist McGlone was a rock, anchoring the band and perplexing the audience when he strapped on his Chapman Stick, a wondrous looking contraption that offered depth and a woody warmth to the bass playing on several of the songs. Chapman

They had great fun duelling each other on the crowd-pleasing cover of Junior Brown’s My Wife Thinks You’re Dead whith Hinshelwood giving a fine deadpan delivery while the closing song, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s Tracks Of My Tears featured some very fine harmony vocals and a fine performance from Hinshelwood.

Support act Jack Law is a new name to Blabber’Smoke but it turns out he’s something of a veteran having been in a band called Greenmantle back in the seventies who appeared on a couple of occasions at the legendary Apollo. Now silver haired (and resembling Charlie Rich at times) Law has revived Greenmantle but tonight he was performing under his own name accompanied by Dougie Harrison on guitar and J.C. Dante on bass and mouth harp with the pair introduced by Law as “The No Spring Chickens.” Law’s roots in the past were evident from the opening when he offered a song written some years ago as a protest against the Iraq war. Powerful and polemic Law delivered it with gusto, veins a popping. He also railed against the Beeching cuts on Railroad Man, a bit late one might think but as he explained the railroad network has never recovered from this sixties butchery and the song itself was a fine railroad ballad with some neat slide guitar work from Harrison. There was more protest on As Any Fool Would Know which targeted the late and unlamented Maggie Thatcher recalling Lindisfarne in their heyday while the melody borrowed from Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere. Away from protest Law proved to be a fine writer with his paean to middle age romance, Heartache Ain’t For The Young a tremendous song with lyrics worthy of Loudon Wainwright III. With another country stomper delivered again on mandolin with some fine harp playing from J.C. on Old Glass Jar Law proved he still has plenty to deliver.

I think that Southside Americana is taking a summer break but Blabber’n’Smoke will post any news of forthcoming shows as they come in on the wire.

John Hinshelwood website

Jack Law website

John Hinshelwood. Lowering The Tone.

John Hinshelwood is one of the stalwarts of Glasgow’s (and further afield) Americana scene although rarely does his name appear in lights. Performances, either solo or with his band or with The City Sinners seem to appear in fits and bursts although he does a regular slot at Tchai Ovna in the west end. Over the years he’s championed the memory of Gram Parsons with several tribute shows while his musical collaborators have included Rab Noakes and Gene Parsons while he’s supported Roger McGuinn (that’s three Byrds mentioned so far), Tim O’Brien and Martin Simpson.

Lowering The Tone is only his third album in a decade but as with its predecessors (Holler ‘Til Dawn and Shattered Pleasures) it’s an album informed by American country rock and folk circa the early seventies, reminiscent in turn of the latter day Byrds, Guy Clark, Jackson Browne and Poco (along with a host of others). The end result might not be cutting edge but its joi de vivre is infectious with Hinshelwood obviously enjoying himself while the quality of the band(s) he has assembled (all local including his regular live band, members of The City Sinners and a few other crack players) is at times astonishing with guitar players Tim Black and Iain Barbour both in spectacular form. The album was recorded in Glasgow’s Calton Studios but at times you would swear that this was a bunch of grizzled LA veterans sweating it out in Burbank.

Hinshelwood wrote (or co-wrote) nine of the eleven songs here and all are well above par. The opener Radio Angel starts off like an earnest singer songwriter strumming his wares but pretty soon Malcolm McMaster’s pedal steel swoops in as the song picks up pace. McMaster has a tremendous solo while Tim Black’s acoustic slide snakes away. With some very fine harmony vocals from Kathy Stewart the songs kick-starts the album in swell fashion. A fat backed pedal steel introduces the Western Swing styled I Don’t Want To Hear That and again McMaster delivers a fine solo that humbucks away while Black’s guitar is almost Hawaiian. Laid back and with an infectious groove that recalls Danny Adler’s Roogalator it’s a tremendous slice of music. Look Back In Anger is a story song of star crossed lovers that again features some superlative guitar over sumptuous jangled acoustics and swirling organ. What’s Left (Is what’s Right) is a swampy blues effort while A Few Shallow Moments has a Byrds like intro before Hinshelwood launches into a Gene Clark/Jackson Browne mode with a Beatles middle eight thrown in for good measure. Sometimes less is best and Hinshelwood delivers the excellent Little Rowdy accompanying himself on acoustic with Iain Barbour’s sympathetic lap steel the only colour added allowing his fine voice space to shine. Back to the full band and No Easy Way weighs in like a descendant of Gene Clark’s dense productions on No Other. Ed McGlone’s fretless bass throbs throughout like a lead instrument and reminds one of Joni Mitchell’s jazzier forays. The Cost of Doing Business is a cover of an old Pure Prairie League song and while it coasts along in a fine manner it suffers in comparison to the songs surrounding it. As if to prove this Hinshelwood next delivers one of the album highlights, American Lifestyle. A loose limbed Dobro driven road film synopsis it opens with a couple marrying in Mexico, feeding on hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes on their honeymoon as the rhythm section skiffles away and mandolin sparks against the Dobro. Excellent.

McGlone’s fretless bass reappears for the lengthy A Poet’s Life which is an impressionistic paean to Walt Whitman. Again Joni Mitchell and Gene Clark are recalled as the music curdles around Hinshelwood’s voice and ends with a fine coda. The album ends with a cover of Carole King’s Crying In The Rain with Patsy Seddon and Kathy Stewart adding their voices to Hinshelwood’s offering a version which is as shiveringly good as the Everlys.

Lowering The Tone is an excellent album which along with offerings from other bands such as The New Madrids and The Wynntown Marshals shows that Americana is alive and well in Scotland. There’s a chance to catch John Hinshelwood (and his band) as they are appearing at The Southside Americana Club at The Glad Cafe this Sunday while upcoming City Sinner dates are here.

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