The Pines. Tremolo.

David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsay are The Pines, a duo based in Minneapolis. They are currently touring the UK and appearing in Glasgow on December 1st. On this, their third album they are joined by an impressive band who conjure up a great rootsy sound that resembles Bob Dylan’s recent forays into America’s folk and blues past particularly on Time Out of Mind. Of particular note is the guitar playing of Bo Ramsay (album producer and father of Benson). On Lonesome Tremolo Blues he plays spectacular slide guitar but throughout his playing is a delight while J.T. Bates on drums, James Buckley, bass and Alex Ramsay (another family member) on keyboards provide a sympathetic bedrock.
Vocally Ramsay and Huckfelt resemble Dylan or at times John Prine, their parched voices sound vulnerable, earnest and honest and they draw you in to the songs which by and large are all outstanding. For the most part these are moonlit poems set to crepuscular music. Twilight hymns that tell no stories but which are packed with arresting images, mysterious allusions and overall a sense of alienation and loss. At times one feels as if one were listening to the poems of W. B. Yeats set to music. Even when they play what appears to be a simple love song as on Hearts and Bones the lyrics seem more like a script for a surrealist movie
Last night you were in my dreams/Heart and bones/When I woke up you were next to me/Heart and bones/Blood is red and the sky is blue/Heart and bones/And I’ve never met anyone like you/Heart and bones/Big bright moon over old St. Paul/Heart and bones/I met you when the apples fall/Heart and bones.
There are two cover songs on the album, “Spider” John Koerner’s Skipper and His Wife and Mississippi John Hurt’s Spike Driver Blues are given fairly straightforward run-throughs with the latter reinforcing the John Prine comparison, both sit well in the overall feel of the album but in the end it is the Pines’ own songs which stand out.
This is a tremendous album, one of the best of the year and there is an opportunity to see this duo on their first UK tour as they play in Glasgow on December 1st at the Woodend Bowling Club supported by the Wynntown Marshals (a definite bonus there).
Lonesome Tremolo Blues

Ian Siegal and Ben Prestage

While most modern blues leaves Blabber’n’Smoke relatively unmoved those who tread the old time rural folk traditions are always welcome at our door. So welcome then to Ian Siegal whose latest album The Dust is a spectacular rendition of acoustic songs delivered in a muscular fashion. A mixture of covers and self penned songs delivered for the most part solo (although with pertinent and excellent contributions from B. J. Cole, Sam Hare and Nikolai Torp) it seems set to receive similar accolades as his album Broadside named as Mojo Blues Album of the Year in 2009
Siegal provides masterful blues on The Silver Spurs and Between The Stump and The Ground with his guitar sliding and picking well to the fore. However he also branches out into true Americana territory with covers of Steve Earle’s Cocaine Cannot Kill my Pain and Mary Gauthier’s I Drink, a fabulous rendition which sounds as if Kris Kristofferson had penned it. The old standard I’ll Fly Away with pump organ from Torp is given a full throated gospel treatment and begs the listener to join in on shouting Hallelujah.
Three live songs tacked onto the end of the album sit uncomfortably with the preceding tracks but Siegal impresses particularly on the Howlin’ Wolf medley which closes the album, growling and howling he conjures up the spooky dread which was the Wolf. A bonus song, Hank William’s’ I’m So Lonesome I could Cry ties up the album neatly joining up blues, folk and country. If you like catfish Keith, Taj Mahal or even Seasick Steve you will love this.
Siegal is supported by Ben Prestage who might be more suited to the Seasick Steve comparison according to his photos. His album Real Music is an energetic one-man band (with occasional tuba, jug and harp added) foray into the blues. Not the moaning at midnight type but toe tapping, beer drinking juke joint jive. Think John Lee Hooker and Dr. John and you’re halfway there. There are elements of old time vaudeville in Rag and Hesitation Blues while Johnny Cash’s God Is Gonna Cut You Down is given a downright dirty going over.
These guys are touring now, dates

13/11/10 glasgow, scotland THE ARCHES
solo, w/guest Ben Prestage USA
more info »
solo more info »
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
17/11/10 sheffield, UK THE BOARDWALK
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
20/11/10 blakeney, uk HARBOUR ROOMS
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
21/11/10 shoreham, uk ROPETACKLE CENTRE
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA) more info »
23/11/10 Rochester, UK THE ROFFEN
Solo, w/guest Ben Prestage (USA)

Ben Prestage God\'s Gonna Cut You Down
Ian Siegal I\'ll Fly away

Tensheds Crazy Beautiful.

They say you can’t judge a book by the cover. Likewise this album. Tensheds (aka Matt Millership) is pictured on the sleeve looking like some Bowie clone from the early seventies and his publicity sheet has him resembling the boa feathered Eno from back in the Roxy Music days. So all in all one was expecting a glam rock rehash full of synths and retro seventies riffs. Instead there was an album that owes more to the early balladry of Tom Waits and at times a touch of a country jaunt
Opening with Go Out On the Weekend Tensheds’ debt to Waits is obvious and even more so on Angel of London where he sings lustily over swirling organ and some great horns. Vocally Tensheds has an attractive husky delivery that works as well in a delicate ballad such as Stains as on the uptempo City of Dreams which is reminiscent of Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance with its saloon bar piano.
While the majority of the songs are piano based there are a couple of songs where acoustic guitar is prominent. Of these Flying Cars (with a lyrical nod to Life on Mars, so the Bowie look might not be so coincidental) is an excellent embittered tale of regret rendered from a cheap hotel room. The closing song, Paradise, with atmospheric guitar and percussion that does recall some of Eno’s ambient music is eerily beautiful, a song about death and memory.
The album was released on November 1st and Tensheds is currently touring.

City of Dreams