Tim Henderson. Gone To Texas: The Legacy Collection (Vol.1)

timhenderson6For anyone interested in Texan folklore and the songs of Townes Van Zandt, Butch Hancock and Guy Clark this album is an intriguing listen. Tim Henderson, who died in 2011, was from West Virginia but moved to Austin, Texas when in his 30’s. Influenced by his grandmother who played mountain dulcimer Henderson took up music at an early age but once in Texas he joined in the budding musical scene there releasing his first album in 1978. While his fame never expanded much beyond the State’s borders, at home he was feted with Townes Van Zandt championing him as he won a best song award at The Kerrville Folk Festival in 1977 while he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Texas Music in 2011 for his “timeless contributions to Texas music.”

Gone To Texas is the first volume of a six album set which gathers Henderson’s recording together and, as the title hints, it concentrates on the songs he wrote about Texas history, culture and people. Released last year in The States it’s coming to our attention now due to the ministrations of promoter Rob Ellen who heard about Henderson when he was on the road with an artist Henderson mentored, Chuck Hawthorne. Ellen attended a concert celebrating the album release and was knocked out and amazed at the galaxy of Texas artists who turned up to pay homage and undertook to try and spread the word further. For that we say, Thanks Rob.

Listening to the album I was struck time and again as to why Henderson isn’t better known. His songs range from vibrant retellings of pivotal moments in Texas history to songs packed full of humour and wit. His Ballad Of Whiskey John (one of the songs that helped him win the Kerrville New Folk Competition – Van Zandt was a judge that year) is a folk tale, almost a talking blues, which recalls Loudon Wainwright and Kinky Friedman. Witch Of West Lynn, written in revenge against getting a ticket for running a red light, cackles with an absurd humour with Henderson roaring like Shel Silverstein while Jesus Would Have Loved El Paso is a sly dig at television pastors such as Jerry Falwell who delighted in calling Texans sinners and it’s delivered with a passion similar to that of Tom Russell.

Russell comes to mind again when Henderson dips into the border territory as on La Dona Maria and Maria Consuelo Arroyo, both replete with Hispanic sounds and the latter leading us into another comparison, this time with the rawness of Terry Allen’s Juarez. There really is so much treasure here (some not so polished, the living room recording of Texas Morning Ride gains from its lo fidelity) with songs such as Dust and Texas In His Ways truly embedded in the Texas tradition but our favourite is the magnificent Miss Amelia Harris, Spinster, a song which sounds as if you had bundled together all of the artists we’ve mentioned here and added a dollop of John Prine.

Gone To Texas is a tremendous listen and it whets the appetite for the accompanying volumes. Hopefully it and the other five discs serve to spread Henderson’s legacy further afield, we’d certainly love to hear more of the man. Thanks again, Rob.


Here’s some vintage footage of Tim Henderson…

And here’s Chuck Hawthorne singing Miss Amelia Harris, Spinster (just for good measure)




Mary Gauthier. Rifles & Rosary Beads. Proper Records

digitalcoverofficial3000x3000Mary Gauthier is no stranger to hurt and heartache, despair and gloom. Over the course of seven albums she’s relayed her own troubled past – adoption, drink, drugs, brushes with the law – and done so brilliantly rising to the top of the current crop of singer songwriters. Rifles & Rosary Beads is another album of troubles and woe with Gauthier’s wearied and resigned voice, as always, capable of conveying a multitude of emotions. The difference here is that Gauthier is relating the pain and trauma of war veterans, the songs having their gestation in a series of song writing workshops where she sat down with US veterans and transformed their experiences into song.

Songwriting With Soldiers is a non profit organisation started by Darden Smith which encourages veterans to share their experiences with professional songwriters. Weekend retreats feature workshops and the resulting songs are performed and recorded with participants given a CD to take away along with other memorabilia of the retreat. Download copies of the songs recorded are then made available to the public with the veterans involved and the artist given song writing credits Gauthier (along with a list of other well known artists) has been involved in the project for several years and Rifles & Rosary Beads is her “commercial” version of some of the songs she has co-created over those years, all of whom were consulted and agreement given that the record be made. A portion of the sales generated will go to Songwriting With Soldiers.

You can read an interview with Gauthier here which goes into some detail about the song writing process, however in the studio she has recorded the songs very much in her usual manner such that anyone not knowing of these songs’ gestation would just be marvelling at yet another very fine Mary Gauthier album, The War After The War and Morphine 1-2 could easily sit on any of her other albums – the former song was crafted when Gauthier sat with six spouses of veterans who explained their ongoing difficulties dealing with the emotional fallout from war on their partners (with all six listed as co-authors). While there’s a strident, almost martial edge, to the opening song, Soldiering On, the album as a whole is set in Gauthier’s familiar laid back style. Iraq portrays a female soldier’s experience of sexism from her supposed comrades, Rifles And Rosary Beads is a vivid picture of a soldiers totems and fears and It’s Her Love is a devastating portrayal of a veteran’s reliance on his partner’s support. The album closes with an anthem of sorts, a cry against the indifference meted out to many wounded and troubled service men and women as Gauthier sings that they are Stronger Together.

Rifles & Rosary Beads is a powerful and emotive listen. It’s Gauthier doing what she does and doing it well. Beyond that it raises the profile of the forgotten wounded (and surely here in the UK there’s a need also). You can hear many of the original songs recorded at the retreats here.


Best of 2017

OK, decorations are coming down, it’s back to work time but before that here’s a short list of the albums that have stood out over the past year. If there’s a link it will take you a review of the album. Looking back it seems that 2017 wasn’t a bad year for music in terms of releases but a total bummer in terms of Tom Petty leaving us. Here’s hoping next year is as good so, all the best for 2018.

Chuck Prophet, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins

cp18cdIn the year of Brexit and Trump, Chuck’s sheer love of rock’n’roll shone throughout this album. Coupled with seeing him play two blindingly great gigs this year the album’s been a regular on the stereo and in the car while Jesus Was A Social Drinker is my song of the year.


Jeremy Pinnell, Ties Of Blood And Affection

e2069a_5277bb38e84c4e118495b89d2105a130mv2While Stapleton gets all the notice I think there are numerous others who are bringing out better albums and Jeremy’s second solo album is the best of the lot this year. I was privileged to host a house concert with Jeremy and Ags Connolly and it was a great occasion.


Courtney Marie Andrews, Honest Life

cc752a_ccb74ac415f74324bdde66d0b5f81184mv2An album of glacial purity with glimpses of Joni Mitchell in its shadows.



GospelbeacH, Another Summer Of Love

500x500Jangled sunny California music which stretches from Petty to The Jam in its inspiration.



Nathan Bell, Love > Fear (48 hours in Traitorland)

love-fear-front-coverOld fashioned protest perhaps but Bell is a powerful writer and as good a champion of “blue collar” folk as Rod Picott. And, in concert, he’s funny with it (just like Rod Picott).


Blue Rose Code. The Water Of Leith

the-water-of-leithRoss Wilson continues his journey into the hinterlands of folk and jazz. A wonderful and evocative album.


Eric Ambel, At The Lakeside

61ceyom7fgl-_ss500It took 12 years for Ambel to come up with this one, a bunch of songs he imagined could have been on his pub’s jukebox. Guitar album of the year.


Don Antonio, Don Antonio

cs646897-01a-bigAside from his band, Sacri Cuori, Antonio Gramantieri has worked with Howe Gelb, Dan Stewart and Alejandro Escovedo. This solo album is a magnificent retro stew of sixties soundtracks and Italian cool.


Jaime Wyatt, Felony Blues

jaime_coverA true jailbird, Wyatt’s album is part outlaw country, part Laurel Canyon country rock. For me she just beats Margo Price


Malojian, Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home.

a1294981180_16Irishman Stevie Scullion conjures up a slight psychedelic trip with McCartney like melodies and Harrison’s Blue Jay Way vibes.


Best reissue/compilation

The Wynntown Marshals, After All These Years

a2597450969_16A perfect introduction to the band if you haven’t heard them before. A perfect keepsake for those who are in the know.



Also of note…

Slaid Cleaves, Ghost On the Car Radio

Margo Price, All American Made

Danny & The Champions Of The World, Brilliant Light

Ags Connolly, Nothin’ Unexpected

Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Hitchcock

Todd Day Wait, Folk-Country-Blues

Whitney Rose, South Texas Suite

Norrie McCulloch, Bare Along The Branches

Russ Tolman. Compass & Map

John Murry, A Short History of Decay

Jim Keaveny, Put It Together

Ian Felice, In The Kingdom Of Dreams

Gill Landry, Love Rides A Dark Horse

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters

Daniel Meade Shooting Stars & Tiny Tears 

The Sadies, Northern Passages

John Alexander, Of These Lands

There are many others which could/should be mentioned here, apologies to those I’ve either forgotten about or overlooked. In the meantime here’s the song of the year.


Various Artists (AKA Some Christmas Elfs). Won’t Be Home For Christmas. Hemifran Records

album_2017-50_xmasHo, ho, ho. It’s that time of year again and you can’t go to the shops without your ears being hammered by the usual festive suspects – we won’t name them but you know who they are. Over the past couple of years however there’s been a groundswell of Christmas songs that one can actually listen to and enjoy and this compilation from Hemifran Records is the best we’ve heard in a while.

Label owner, Peter Holmstedt, decided it was time to put out a decent collection Christmas songs, “I’m a big fan of compilation albums, and I had the idea of reaching out to singer songwriters I know and admire, and asking them to write a song with a Christmas hook…I was interested to hear what interpretations they would come up with and I was delighted at the response.” What he ended up with was 18 songs which hover around the season, some more so than others, for the most part devoid of sleigh bells (Keith Miles, Citizen K and The Refugees are the guilty parties but we forgive them) and certainly with none of the enforced jollity or fake sentiment that seems de rigour for a listen under the mistletoe.

Opening with a song about a bi-polar cousin visiting and threatening to kill you bodes well for the album and Elliott Murphy’s Five Days Of Christmas is darkly humorous but the remainder of the album consists of that spirit of Christmas that seems to affect so many folk these days – loneliness and past memories. So, aside from the rockabilly swagger of Fayssoux’s Christmas Ain’t Christmas and the jiving This Christmas from The Refugees, we’re well into Joni Mitchell River territory here. As such, Annie Gallup offers up her tale of a long and lonesome journey enlightened when the passengers began to Carol on Christmas On The Train, a song that reminds one of The McGarrigles, while Jude Johnstone’s piano ballad, I Guess It’s Gonna Be That Way, hits all the Mitchell buttons as does Janni Littlepage’s chilly Now That Winter’s Come. The guys here can also hit those buttons with Kenny White’s Christmas Day another lonely travelogue and Paul Kamm’s Where Are You Going Tonight a nice folky evocation of chilly winter nights. And while Keith Miles and Jack Tempchin go down the smoochy ballad route (successfully one must say) there’s some grit on the road when Bob Cheevers unveils his growling and bluesy The Spirit Of Christmas which roams around homeless folk hunkered down just trying to survive the season.

Finally, Citizen K conjures up a Brian Wilson like production on his I Won’t Be Home For Christmas while My Darling Clementine deliver probably our favourite here, Miracle Mabel. It’s their own update on their own nativity tale and it’s wonderfully done. Slyly resisting the bible (that book with Cain and Abel), they celebrate their own child in a perfect facsimile of a Christmas song. It deserves to stand up alongside Christmas staples such as watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

So, if you’re looking for an “alternative” musical accompaniment to your Turkey dinner, seek no more. It’s here and it’s a bit of a Christmas Cracker with a hidden song at the end.



The Raving Beauties. Raving For Bap. Farm Music

a0856084030_16It’s just over a year now since Bap Kennedy died from cancer. Since his death his family have been raising funds for Belfast’s Marie Curie Hospice where he spent his last days and this unique tribute to his music is an opportunity for you to join in.

Raving For Bap is a five song EP performed by Brian Bell of The Raving Beauties and The Dreaming Spires (readers with a good memory might recognise these names from The Paisley Overground mini album they conspired on some time ago). Bell, a long time friend of Bap had been planning on recording with The Spires but in the wake of his passing decided a tribute disc would be apt. However, these disciples of jangled Byrds’ like pop declined to ape Bap’s performances, speaking to The Irish News, Bell said, “We didn’t want to just do ‘straight’ covers of Bap’s original arrangements, so tried to choose songs that would showcase his wonderful song craft and melodic flair, but in a very different way.” The result is five songs, including two from Energy Orchard days, that sparkle in a way that will be familiar to listeners of The Beauties and The Spires.

The streetwise suss of Hard Street, the country blues of The Way I Love Her and the unabashed romanticism of Moriarty’s Blues are here all awash with12 string jangled guitars and sweet harmony singing along with whiffs of mild psychedelia. That all five songs (Walk In Love and Lonesome Lullaby are the other two) are successfully reimagined is testament not only to the band’s skills but also Kennedy’s song writing skills – it’s tempting to imagine him here as the Dylan to the Raving Beauties’ Byrds. Mind you there’s a fine Beatles like guitar feel to Lonesome lullaby, a nice touch given the Liverpudlian affinity with Ireland while The Way I Love Her has a punchier attack more akin to later Paisley Underground bands such as The Long Ryders.

Although it’s over far too soon, the EP is a tremendous listen. With Christmas coming up it’s a perfect alternative (and almost the same price these days) as a charity festive greetings card. All proceeds from sales will go to Marie Curie. You can download the EP here but there is also a limited edition 10″ vinyl disc available here.

Bap Kennedy website

Marie Curie website

The Wailin’ Jennys. Fifteen. True North Records

305Six years on from their last release The Wailin’ Jennys celebrate 15 years as a band with this very fine collection of cover songs. With all three Jennys now mothers to young children and living on opposite ends of the Americas they say it has taken some time to coordinate enough time off to make a record, the decision to record a covers album however was not down to a lack of new songs but rather down to fans’ requests for some popular live covers to be recorded.

Fifteen sticks close to the Jennys’ trademark sounds. All three (Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse) sing wonderfully while their harmonies and vocal interplay is at times astounding. A couple of the songs are sung a capella, the others, for the most part, are accompanied with very spare instrumentation, guitar and banjo (played by Moody and Mehta), double bass, viola, violin, mandolin and electric guitar on one number. The one song with more than a smattering of instrumentation is Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, a live favourite and here replete with guitar, fiddle and banjo. Recorded before Petty died it wasn’t intended as a tribute but nevertheless stands as one, the band’s delivery now incredibly poignant. Much of the album is similarly moving, songs by Jane Siberry (The Valley), Emmylou Harris (Boulder To Birmingham) and Patty Griffin (Not Alone) are sung beautifully with sensitive and glowing arrangements as emotions are wrung from them. Warren Zevon’s Keep Me In Your Heart, a song he wrote towards the end of his life, is sung here with a bittersweet beauty.

The album opens with a traditional English song, Old Churchyard, previously recorded by The Watersons. The Jennys inhabit the song wonderfully, their voices accompanied only by a sombre viola. Dolly Parton’s Light Of A Clear Blue Morning is sung a capella and is more restrained than Parton’s version but retains its sense of freedom and rebirth. The Jennys also tackle Paul Simon’s Love Me Like A Rock a capella and again they take control of the song, changing the gender and sounding like Laura Nyro backed by Labelle on Nyro’s Gonna Take A Miracle album. They close the album with the first song the trio sang together, Hank Williams’ Weary Blues From Waitin’, another a capella tour de force with the three women singing as if they were on a prison chain gang.  Altogether a very fine listen.



Ryan Koenig (of Pokey Lafarge) Hospitalized After Accident

5cae4aad-97ea-4bc4-a020-3273827b9251_profileYesterday we received the news that Ryan Koenig, the harmonica and washboard player in Pokey Lafarge’s band, was in a serious accident. He’s in stable condition in hospital and is expected to recover. Over the years Blabber’n’Smoke has met Ryan several times. He’s always been very gracious taking time to chat and keen to share his love of old time and country music with us. He recently released his first album under his own name (Two Different Worlds) and we were expecting to see him again when Pokey tours the UK early next year, looks like he won’t be making those shows.

Anyway, given the state of US healthcare, he’s facing huge bills for his treatment and recuperation and his record label, Big Muddy Records has set up a funding page to help him out. Our best wishes and hopes for a swift and full recovery go out to Ryan, his wife, Kellie, his family and friends.
The Ryan Koenig Recovery Fund


Here’s the official press release from Big Muddy Records:

On Tuesday, December 5, beloved St. Louis musician Ryan Koenig was seriously injured in an accident in Charleston, South Carolina. He was struck by a vehicle on the sidewalk and has been hospitalized. He is stable and recovering. Ryan and his family would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation for the outpour of love and support. They also ask that the privacy of Ryan and his family be respected throughout this difficult time.

At the time of the accident, Koenig was on tour with Pokey LaFarge. Pokey said the following in a statement released on Facebook:

“Ryan will not be able to continue with us on this tour. Come out; dance and sing and help us play these shows without – but in honor of Ryan.”

Pokey and his band have stated that they will also be initiating their own fundraising efforts at upcoming concerts.

Koenig is a strong contributor to the St. Louis music scene and, in addition to being a full-time member of Pokey LaFarge’s band, he is known for his contributions to Rum Drum Ramblers, Southwest Watson Sweethearts, Jack Grelle, the Hooten Hallers, and more. He recently released his first full-length solo LP on Big Muddy Records.

Big Muddy Records would again like to extend the Koenig family’s appreciation to Ryan’s community and fans for their love and support. Any further inquiries can be directed to the press information below.

Chris Baricevic