Whitehorse. Leave No Bridge Unburned. Six Shooter Records

Husband and wife team, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are quite the mythmakers. From the album art (which echoes the work of Saul Bass) featuring McClelland as a sixties leather clad spy girl and Doucet as a guitar toting gunslinger to the warped and twisted stories within the songs they create a fine melange of southern gothic, spaghetti western and James Bond glamour. Ably assisted by producer Gus Van Go (who co wrote three songs here and plays bass throughout), the pair go on a wild road trip with scorched guitars and fuzzed up keyboards backed by basic tub-thumping in the finest Moe Tucker style.

Leave No Bridge Unburned opens with the exotic rhythms of Baby What’s Wrong with its lecherous sway, lashings of twang guitar and hint of Calexico and Calexico’s desert noir is brought to mind again with mariachi horns adorning the border smuggling tale of You Get Older. Tame As The Wild Ones opens with a Morricone flourish before creeping into doomed romanticism with McClelland and Doucet coming on like Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The big guns however are brought out for the rousing and quite amazing Downtown which has a thumping Bo Diddley beat and features an insanely fuzzed Farfisa organ, searing guitar breaks and a brilliantly infectious chorus. Sweet Disaster is a dreamlike swoon of a sci fi fantasy with McClelland coolly singing
“Galileo was bluffing, it’s just a mess out here. There’s no compass to guide us through the flashes of violence and fear”
as the drums pound and guitars swirl and burst like fireworks. While there’s some breathing space offered by the subdued and very pretty Dear Irony which is like the Everley Brothers meets Santos and Johnny, they switch horses for the highlight of the album on the Neil Young inspired Fake Your Death (And I’ll Fake Mine). Starting with a simple acoustic guitar and close up voices the rhythm section burps into life and a growly electric guitar starts to muscle its way in. The song sways along, returning to the simple melody then bursting into guitar flourishes recalling classic Young epics such as Zuma. They wrap the album up with the zany eclecticism of The Walls Have Drunken Ears which careers around like a ball in a pinball machine lighting up Dylan circa 1966 and The Beatles around about the time of The White Album.

Overall leave No Bridge Unburned is a rousing and energetic listen and it should delight fans of the late Twilight Hotel and Blanche.


Simon Stanley Ward.

When Blabber’n’Smoke met with Ags Connolly back in April we were talking about albums we were currently enjoying. Ags mentioned that he was really digging the debut album from Simon Stanley Ward, a London based musician who’s been pretty much a feature of the London scene for the past ten years or so. Ags also mentioned that Ward had Paul Lush from Danny & The Champs playing guitar all over the album which was incentive enough (apart from Ags’ impeccable taste) to search out this album.

Well, Ags spoke the truth as Ward’s album is one of the best UK based “Americana” albums we’ve heard in some time. Over the course of 10 songs he delves into honky tonk, bitter sweet country ballads and some rockabilly coming across, believe it or not, as the missing link between Lonnie Donegan and Dwight Yoakam. Ward has a similar nasal twang to Donegan in his voice and although there’s nothing pioneering here, like Donegan he’s a Londoner singing songs inspired by an American dream. In fact Ward homes in on this potential dilemma with his inspired song, American Voice where he admits he “never heard a whippoorwill cry at night and I don’t drink whisky, I never been in a fight” but in his defence he has been “so lonesome I could cry.” The irony here is that Ward sings this with a fine sense of braggadocio while his band of local worthies conjure up an excellent country rock skirl, fiddle blazing away before a characteristically brilliant guitar solo from Lush. The playing throughout the album is excellent. While Lush might draw in fans of The Champs the band (David Rothon (Redlands Palomino Company), pedal steel; producer Arthur Rathbone Pullen, keyboards; Geoff Easeman, bass; Neil Marsh, drums and Ben Wain, fiddle) match him with their ensemble efforts while Lorraine Wood and Laura Tenschert support Ward with some fine backing harmonies.

The album opens with a brooding guitar twang on Monster Song, a moody and remorseful apologia which summons up the ghosts of Roy Orbison and Mary Shelley, a mood immediately dispelled by the spritely rockabilly strut of 100 Days In Heaven. Trouble Somewhere weighs in with a classic pedal steel introduction as Ward and the band parade their finely honed Burritos’ styled country rock while Please Excuse me (I Feel Sorry For Myself) returns to Yoakam like hillbilly rock. There’s some more retro riffing on the Buddy Holly hiccups of Obvious To You while Homesick rattles along with a sound and vigour that recalls Dylan and The Band going pell mell in 1965. Dylan comes to mind again on the closing song, Over Here although this time it’s the latter day biblical prophet who’s mined here with an organ led soulful groove sounding like an out take from Slow Train Coming.

Elsewhere Ward delivers some finely honed sob stories. Another Page is a plaintive ballad with lonesome guitar pleadings while Behind Closed Doors is a simply beautiful and heartfelt love song. Laced with yearning pedal steel, gentle piano and wistful harmonica the song is haunting with some vivid images in the lyrics as Ward recalls a first walk around a lake with his partner “getting naked in every possible way.” Ward sings wonderfully here, wounded and lost as the song meanders to its conclusion.


Mairi Orr. Jenny Does Burn

Blabber’n’Smoke first encountered Scots singer and songwriter Mairi Orr back in 2012 when she appeared at Celtic Connections. She sang songs from her debut release, the five song EP The Gathering Crows, an impressive disc which we reviewed here. Three years on and Orr has her full length debut released this week with an album launch gig at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe this Sunday, 28th June. The album, Jenny Does Burn, is self-released after a successful Kickstarter campaign and additional funding from Creative Scotland.

We likened Orr to several singers when reviewing The Gathering Crows including Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson, Jacqui McShee and Shelagh McDonald. On Jenny Does Burn Orr has found her own voice and the most likely comparisons are to the likes of Eddi Reader, Karine Polwart, Siobhan Miller, Julie Fowlis and Heidi Talbot. Not that Orr sounds like any of these but she joins their ranks as a strong singer/songwriter with an acute sense of modern folk influenced music. Anyone who listens to these singers will see that there are names which crop up time and time again as the cream of Scotland’s acoustic music scene are becoming a most incestuous bunch (musically speaking). In keeping with this Orr has been able to gather together a dream outfit who combine to give the album a wonderful lift and lilt with some beautiful playing. Be it a glowering folk ballad or a banjo led country stomp the band are superb; featuring Steven Polwart: guitars, mandolin, vocals, Mattie Foulds: drums, percussion (and production duties), Nico Bruce: double bass, Fraser Fifield: low whistle, Dave Currie: dobro, Danny Hart: fiddle, bluegrass banjo, mandolin and Mark Woods: clawhammer banjo they curl and weave and pluck with a warm and engaging empathy for Orr’s songs.

As for the songs, Orr writes about family memories and delves into Scottish history with ease. The title song commemorates Janet (Jenny) Horne, the last woman to be burned for practising witchcraft in Scotland. Surprisingly Orr opts not for a traditional folk song style here but instead offers a sly, almost bluesy tango as she sings about the fate of Jenny and the mystery of her daughter’s disappearance. In fact with the exception of the opening song, The Drover, a brooding encounter between a drover and a reiver (herdsman and bandit) with sinister Dobro sneaking throughout an atmospheric arrangement Orr is defiantly contemporary. The up tempo fiddle and banjo of Don’t You Wed Another Man Maggie and Drinker’s Wife relate to current bluegrass music allowing the players to cut loose on their respective instruments as Orr crosses the Transatlantic gap with ease. There are several introspective songs that allow the band to shine gently. Letting Me Go is a portrait of a failed relationship that recalls the work of Richard Thompson while Just A Fallow Year is a melancholic yearning song about childlessness that floats on a wonderful Dobro and guitar fuelled dreamland. Orr tops these with the light-footed lilting ballad that is The Promise with the band breezing though a filigreed blend of guitar and Dobro belying the heartache in the lyrics.

Family and home account for several of the songs. On The Shore is a solid folk rock song that commemorates Orr’s home in Morar as she recalls the silver sands. The Piper Of Peanmeaneach salutes an ancestor who fought in the Boer war and was inspired by the discovery of an old photograph with Fraser Fifield’s whistle adding a wistful air. Summer On The Clyde (1914) is a fine close to the album as Orr sings about the innocence of a youthful crew messing about on the Clyde before enduring the agonies of the Great War. Again she captures the moment perfectly with a perfectly nuanced sense of nostalgia and regret.

As we said the album is out this week. Mairi played an East coast launch party in Edinburgh last weekend and this Sunday she brings her band to The Glad Cafe to introduce Glasgow to this very fine album.



Richard Thompson. Still. Proper Records.

Most of the advance publicity for Still, Richard Thompson’s latest album has honed in on the producer being Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and we must admit that the thought of Thompson and Tweedy together was tantalising. The reality is that Tweedy has done what a good producer should do; he’s all but invisible here, apparently on some backing vocals but not ostentatiously so. Tweedy’s quoted as saying, “Richard’s been one of my favourite guitar players for a very long time. When I think about it, he’s also one of my favorite songwriters and favorite singers. Getting to work closely with him on this record was a truly rewarding experience” while Thompson adds, “Jeff is musically very sympathetic. Although some of his contributions are probably rather subtle to the listener’s ear, they were really interesting and his suggestions were always very pertinent.”

Obviously, we’re not privy to what went on in the Chicago sessions that formed the album but Still is probably the most satisfying Thompson album we’ve heard in several years. There’s a variety to the songs that captures Thompson’s various musical guises, the melancholic folk singer, the music hall entertainer, the pessimistic dissector of human emotion. In addition Thompson’s guitar, acoustic and electric, shines throughout the album and again his variety is well captured, bagpipe like drones, quicksilver tones and fifties inspired rock licks are all present and correct and if Tweedy has done nothing else he’s captured Thompson’s guitar sound with a deadly accuracy. The ringing clarity of Where’s Your Heart the primary evidence here. As for the writing Thompson has delivered a solid set of songs with a few that, given time, might be considered among his classics.

The album opens with one of these, the excellent She Never Could Resist A Winding Road. A song that recalls his early solo career with martial drums and a wonderfully corkscrewed guitar solo it’s a tremendous opener. Patty Don’t You Put Me Down is another song that perks up the ears, a solid four beats to the bar thump that allows plenty of space for Thompson to solo on several occasions while the aforementioned Where’s Your Heart just drips with melancholy as Thompson’s guitar rings throughout with a spectacular solo turn that is somewhat gob smacking. There’s an almost Byrds like chime to the guitars on the darkness of Dungeons For Eyes and Josephine has an almost medieval feel with acoustic guitars adorning the Tennyson like lyrics. His drollery is well represented with All Buttoned Up one of his back terraced tales, this time about a girl who frustrates her boyfriend with her refusal to go all the way while he closes the album with the lengthy and perhaps autobiographical Guitar Heroes. A bit of a throwaway song when considered against its peers Thompson sings of sitting home alone, rejected at school, losing jobs all due to his need to practice and learn from his heroes as he plays some famous riffs from the classics including The Shadows, Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy et al. It’s good fun with Thompson admitting at the end of the song that he still doesn’t know how they did it (despite the evidence to the contrary).


Danny And The Champions Of The World/The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. Broadcast, Glasgow. Saturday 20th June.


Danny Wilson’s self-professed gang swaggered into town riding high on rave reviews for their latest album, What Kind Of Love and trailing clouds of glory from the unanimous praise heaped on the nine shows they’ve played so far on their summer tour. The news that they are still one of the top live bands of the day is really no news to anyone who’s caught them live in the past three years or has heard their thrilling live album released last year. What Kind of Love was recorded in the wake of a punishing schedule of shows at the end of 2014, 17 shows in Scandinavia in September and another 25 shows in October, and most of the songs on the album were forged on the road, at soundchecks or back at the hotel after the show. As Wilson says

“We wrote songs in Scandinavia, in Nashville, in the Preston Travelodge. This line-up of the Champs has been together for some time now, the group started out as a loose, lawless thing now we’re a bit more of a gang than we used to be.”

Rooted in the soul records they were listening to on tour What Kind Of Love is a solid soul groove that was an attempt, Wilson says, to sound like Gladys Knight & The Pips covering a Dylan song. Live, The Champs have always had a touch of the soul revue about them with Danny cajoling the audience with monologues within the extended songs inviting participation and tonight was no exception. With a new album to promote the set list was significantly different from the past three occasions the band have played here but the new songs more than made up for some old favourites missing in action. No Space Rocket opening tonight, instead the punchy and defiant bliss of Clear Water, a song that seems to encapsulate all of their influences, The E Street band, Motown and vintage Van Morrison with its tremendous sax riff and swirling pedal steel wrapped around Wilson’s impassioned pleading voice. Precious Cargo ebbed and flowed like a powerful tidal surge, the pedal steel flowing indeed over the chunky beat as if Booker T had forsaken his keyboards as guitarist Paul Lush threw out Steve Cropper lines. By the time they swept into the forsaken country soul of This Is Not a Love Song it was evident not only that the band were riding the crest of a wave via the new album but are also finely honed as the pedal steel and guitars curled around one another. An outing for Stay True showed that the soul genie has been flitting around the band for several years now sounding tonight as if it were an old Smokey Robinson song. Another oldie, Every beat Of My Heart, was launched with a cacophonous crash and raced along like Springsteen in a dragster with saxophonist Free Jazz Geoff given full rein but the frenetic delivery of Words On The Wind, a song from the new album showed that the spirit of the freewheelin’ Southern sound of a band like the Allman Brothers is still there with Lush’s guitar curling like a snake in the everglades. The Gospel influence on soul was apparent on the magnificent juggernaut that was Just Be Yourself with Wilson testifying as if his life depended on it before the sweeter tones of What Kind Of Love reminded one that soul can encompass Al Green as well as Otis Redding.

So, an hour into the set and having established the Church of Danny & The Champs to everyone’s evident satisfaction the band launched into an amazing pick’n’mix of old and new songs with Henry The Van a crowd favourite kicking off before (Never stop Building) That Old Space Rocket really revved the audience and the band up. It’ll Be Alright in The End was a perky slice of New Orleans inspired jive with some hot guitar licks and was followed by some inspired tomfoolery as Free Jazz Geoff led a sax fuelled conga line through the hot and sweaty cellar. Cold Cold World and These Days pumped away before the monumental Colonel And The King swung into view with the front rows dancing away. For the encore they delivered a coup de grace with the road philosophy of Restless Feet seemingly endless with the audience clapping and singing along wishing the night could last forever as the band took turns to solo.

All told it seems that Danny And The Champs are still the prime contenders for the best live band around these days. The new songs bite and the show in all is a glorious testament to the power and glory that is rock soul and country done just right. A lovely, tiring yet invigorating experience.


We need to mention the support, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. Three young (and hairy) guys from Rhyll in Wales they have two guitars and a double bass and scrabble up a fine thrash that has old time country roots. More so than that they conjure up a vocal harmony that recalls the Everly Bothers in their prime and if they can build on this they might be a name you will hear more of.

Danny And the Champions of the World

The Goat Roper Rodeo Band

Georgie Jessup. Philosopher Dogs

Georgie Jessup runs what is reportedly the best little house concert space in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, Edith May’s Paradise. In addition she works in special education with children with autism and special needs. She’s an activist for Native American causes and has been a musician since the 1970s releasing five albums prior to Philosopher Dogs. A transgendered country singer Jessup also campaigns for the transgendered community and featured in the award-winning documentary Woman In A Man’s Suit.

Philosopher Dogs is an old fashioned album in many respects. There’s some fine country rock, a dash of soul and some soul searching ballads while a version of Ring Of Fire is delivered with a veneer so polished it might have come from an eighties stadium band. Not a bad thing in this case as there’s no eighties production values, just a tremendous burst of energy and some scorching guitar work that could have come from the fingers of Warner E Hodges.

With two songs about Geronimo included Jessup reminds the listener of Michael Martin Murphy (author of Geronimo’s Cadillac and the original Cosmic Cowboy). Geronimo’s Bones is a dramatic and multi layered ballad with soaring organ and spiralling guitar while Geronimo (written by Dirk Hamilton) is a plaintive mandolin speckled tribute to the Apache leader. However, Jessup’s interest in Native American culture is best realised on the highlight of the album, Red Cloud’s Room. A loose-limbed rhythm section beds in, pedal steel flits gracefully overhead and Jessup with Christina Van Norman intones with an appropriate sense of mysticism. Elsewhere Jessup seems to be indebted to Brian Wilson on the confessional Reluctant Phoenix and she offers a potted biography on the tribal drum led title track which again harks back to FM radio anthems although there weren’t too many songs in the top twenty back then about the singer’s pet dogs.


Chuck Hawthorne. Silverline. 3 Notches Music.

The good book mentioned beating swords into ploughshares and Chuck Hawthorne’s debut album, Silverline is a fine example of this. Hawthorne is a time served US Marine joining straight after high school and spending 21 years as a leatherneck. He starting picking guitar when aboard the USS Iwo Jima and was writing songs by the time he served in Iraq. Retired, he was scuffling around when a chance encounter with Ray Bonneville led to the recording of this album with Bonneville in the producer’s chair. The end result is a relatively unadorned slice of down home rootsy picking and singing that’s elevated on two counts. Hawthorne has one of those voices that just fits, half Don Williams, half Guy Clark, superbly supported by the pared back playing, for the most part acoustic guitars and a rhythm section with occasional pedal steel and fiddle. Secondly Hawthorne turns out to be a fine writer in the grand Texas style offering snapshots of hard lives that breathe life into the characters.

He opens with Silver Line, a mellow train song which has Gurf Morlix on pedal steel adding a stately grandeur to Hawthorne’s hymn to the frontier rail lines. Morlix again features on Welding Son of A Gun where Hawthorne salutes the sweat and toil of a man who has sold all his guns and bought himself a welding machine while the thumping The Gospel Hammer has Hawthorne recalling his father’s skill with a hammer and bal peen which defines his life and death. Eliza Gilkyson adds fine harmonies to Dragon Flies, a song that comes across like a Guy Clark rewrite of The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan and she features again on Leaving Amarillo, a dusty portrait of a woman with a chequered past, “A wild desert rainbow lost in her shadow. She’s dated every cowboy that fell to the ground.

Hawthorne’s fine sketches continue on the slow country waltz of Ovando and the story of an old drinker lost in his thoughts and memories on Ashes and Embers. There’s a darker edge however on the sinister Enemy which features only Hawthorne’s guitar and voice along with some spooky harmonica from Bonneville. Finally, Hawthorne confronts the war in Iraq with the simple folk tale of Post 2 Gate which tells of the murder of a child street vendor caught up in a suicide attack, a scene revisited each night by the soldier narrator in his dreams as he eventually returns home a different man.


Andrew Hawkey. What Did I Come Up Here For? Mole Lodge Records

It’s a rock’n’roll cliché, getting it together in the country. Generally speaking it seems to be when a band or artist wants to escape the hurly burly and pressures of the city and decamps to some bucolic idyll where the hope is the muse will descend. Traffic did it in Berkshire, The Dead in Marin County and Led Zeppelin in Bron-y-Aur in Wales. Usually the temptations of the city soon beckon and album written or recorded it’s back to the treadmill. However for Andrew Hawkey, getting it together in the country has been a forty-year labour of love as this Cornish born veteran has nestled in the hills of Mid-Wales since 1973. In his potted biography (available here) Hawkey mentions living in a variety of dilapidated properties including one that was accessible only by foot and which had been previously occupied by Albert Lee’s Heads Hands and Feet (presumably getting it together in the country at the time). Variously employed as an editor, label owner and promoter he’s been making music since the late seventies (releasing two solo efforts in the eighties) and played with various bands. As he tells it What Did I Come Up Here For was a dream of sorts, a long time wish to gather his songs in one place, a wish fulfilled when a neighbour, Stuart Maman Bolton declared himself willing to handle the recording and engineering side of things and to contribute his various instrumental skills. Reckoning that 32 years was long enough to wait before releasing his third record Hawkey and Bolton got to work and with the addition of some friends recorded this fine meditation on life.

Recorded mostly at Hawkey’s home along with two older cuts retrieved from ’80’s cassette only releases and a live recording of Hawkey with Pat Grover’s Blues Zeros ( a band he’s played in for over 20 years) What Did I Come Up Here For is a fine listen with a few moments that are actually quite sublime. Hawkey himself plays 6 and 12 string guitars, piano, organ harmonica and percussion with Bolton adding bass, percussion and lead guitar. David Cornelius Eger adds mandolin on two songs and Wale’s premier folk harpist, Sian James appears on Wild Flowers. Not playing but credited with support (and artwork design) is Jeb Loy Nichols. Despite Hawkey’s long time involvement with blues bands the only blues here is the live cut of I Had A Fight With My Heart from 2004. Written and sung by Hawkey it comes towards the end of the album and weirdly enough doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. A slow burn (with some fierce guitar from Will Davies) it’s in the style of Otis Rush and the recording actually sounds like vintage John Mayall with Peter Green. Two recordings rescued from Hawkey’s 1980’s cassette recordings offer a glimpse into his past and an introduction to his very fine way with a lyric. Forgiveness is a truly solo effort with Hawkey on piano and guitar exploring the angular waywardness of folk like Jack Bruce or Peter Hammill. Invitation (For N.T.) finds him in a wistful mood buoyed by fine backing vocals on a low key song that recalls Clifford T Ward or Donovan.

As for the bulk of the songs Hawkey is able to reflect on life with a grace and wisdom that at times recalls the poetry of WB Yeats while his music is akin to the work of Christy Moore or Jackie Leven. There’s an indeterminate Celtic feel to several of the songs as they waft from the speakers along with some Southern soul. The album opens with a lonesome organ and 12-string guitar before Hawkey weighs in with the Zen like advice of Hold On, Let Go. Apple Green is an uplifting breeze of a song disguising the bitter reminiscence of a love gone wrong with Bolton adding some inspired Knopfleresque guitar flourishes. No Shadow is one of the sublime moments we mentioned earlier. Dark and moody, reminiscent of David Crosby’s ruminations with a hint of the dark side of Peter Green it creeps along with a powerful undertow provided by electric piano and sinewy slide guitar. Hawkey goes on to provide some superb songs that are stuffed full of fine lyrics as on Treasure Of Time’s

“Well time is the currency, nobody knows where it goes. We hide it in old storage boxes and nobody knows..For some it increases in value while others invest in thin air”

and on The Land Beyond Compare

“Listen let me tell you about a place that I once knew. About a million miles behind beyond those mountains blue. You can only find it through the kindness of the moon and I do believe that I shall see it soon.”

As we said Hawkey does wax poetic and the settings for the songs are for the most part exquisite, lilting mandolin, sly guitar and Hawkey’s fine keyboard work knitting together. The gem of the album is the immense tone poem of Wild Flowers that is graced with the harp playing of Sian James and which might have been plucked from the Child Ballads as Hawkey relates the tale sounding like a male counterpart of Sandy Denny. Wonderful.


The Alan Tyler Show. Littlefield Records

Back in the nineties London’s The Rockingbirds were one of the few acts carrying the torch for UK based Americana when the genre was having one of its leaner periods. Like their Edinburgh counterparts, The Felsons, they weren’t able to capitalise on the interest generated by the “No Depression” wave of American bands and split in 1995. Sporadic reunions over the past eight years eventually led to a comeback album released by Loose Records in 2013 and there’s talk of another disc on the way, possibly titled The Curse Of The Rockingbirds. In the interim Alan Tyler, lead singer and songwriter for the band is touring bars and folk clubs with his acoustic trio, The Alan Tyler Show. This ten song disc is a fine taster of what to expect if he pitches up in a bar near you with a selection of covers of some of his favourite artists along with five of his own songs.

Accompanied by Patrick Ralla on guitar, banjo and vocals and Jim Morrison on fiddle and mandolin Tyler has recorded a low key and intimate listen. The latter half of the album is an aficionado’s delight as the trio breeze gently through five classic songs that will be familiar to anyone who has a decent record collection. The Streets Of Baltimore, She Thinks I Still Care, Tecumsah Valley, Return Of The Grievous Angel and True Love Ways are all delivered faithfully, not in a reverential manner but with a genuine love and respect for the songs, it’s like having a pub gig in your own room.

The first five songs are all Tyler originals and apparently are part of a project of his, the River Songs where he explores London’s heritage in a psychogeographical fashion. There’s a notable shift in the feel here as the band take on a folkier element that’s more Anglicised. Dark River is a harmonica fuelled tribute to the River Fleet, one of London’s now buried ancient waterways. Down On Deptford Creek tells of the opportunity to walk and explore another old river at low tide describing the mossy quay walls and the detritus uncovered by the ebbing waters. It’s delivered with lilting banjo and mandolin in a wistful fashion while Tyler’s voice and words recall Jackie Leven’s hymns to the Highlands. Essex Girls is another nostalgic trip, this time into the Thames estuary and eschews the usual stereotypes of the titular maidens as Tyler prefers to sing about the topography of the area with the Essex girl in the classical role of a siren. Long Time No See seems to celebrate the writer’s return to familiar grounds and is similar in delivery to the busked harmonica style of the opening song. Finally, Tyler burrows into London’s ancient greenery on the delightful The Fields Beneath which is a tender lament on the so called march of progress. Weirdly it recalls the late Glasgow folksinger Matt McGinn’s work on songs such as Magic Shadow Show and Troubled Waters In My Soul.

The album’s available for the princely sum of a fiver here.

Danny And The Champions Of The World. What Kind Of love. Loose Music.

Over the past few years Danny And the Champions Of The World’s live shows have increasingly resembled a country soul revue with the band incorporating elements of Motown and Stax into their invigorating music. While in the past Blabber’n’Smoke has noted that this mix has resembled van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul years the new album, What Kind Of Love, shows that the Champs have dived head first into soul territory with horn charts and full blown female backing singers accompanying Danny Wilson’s impassioned soulful vocals. While the obvious touchstones here are the likes of Otis Redding and Solomon Burke there’s a host of other singers who have been more associated with a country influenced take on soul, singers such as Arthur Alexander, William Bell, James Carr and Eddie James and it’s to them rather than the raucous Redding shows that the songs pay homage. In addition Wilson notes that some of his favourite singers are those sixties white guys who first heard Motown discs and immediately set up their own bands and whose voices proved perfect for strained and urgent R’nB. He cites Rod Stewart, Terry Reid, Paul Rodgers, Reg King, Frankie Miller, Steve Ellis, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Chris Farlowe and Eric Burden and there’s definitely a moment here on the title song What Kind Of Love when he sounds uncannily like prime Rod Stewart. Meanwhile Precious Cargo riffs mightily and not a million years away from Farlowe’s version of Out Of Time.

The decision to go down this route is not a huge departure for the band for anyone who has heard them playing Cold Cold World or Let’s Grab This World With Both Hands but the album is an unalloyed soulful wallow with huge horn riffs and Marvelettes like choruses which are most prominent on the one cover here, a version of Tyrone Davis’ Can I Change my Mind. Paul Lush’s clipped guitar drives the song along, the horns parp and the vocal interplay between Wilson and the backing singers is the most joyous we’ve heard since Laura Nyro and Labelle’s Gonna Take a Miracle album. Towards the end of the song Henry Senior’s pedal steel carries off the spectacular task of seeming to be part of the vocal harmonies.

While there’s a nod to the “classic” sound of the Champs on Words On The Wind with guitarist Paul Lush given full rein and sax man Free George wailing away, it fits neatly into the overall scheme of the album with Wilson channelling Steve Marriott and the sha la la refrain recalling the Small Faces. However it’s the slow sashay, the soulful strut, the reverential gospel tones of songs like Just Be Yourself and It’ll Be Alright In The End that confirm that the band have nailed the notion of recording a bona fide soul album. While all ten songs are bountiful mention should be made of Wilson’s magnificent vocal performance on This Is Not A Love Song (which of course it is). Curling pedal steel, a curt and magisterial guitar break and weeping organ sweep the song along as Wilson parries with the female chorus. The album ends with another cracker, The Sound Of A Train which moves on from the churchlike sixties soul sound to the urban sophistication of the seventies with mellow saxophone and jazzy guitar styling’s. Sounding like a nighttime version of The Rascals’ Groovin’ as performed by George Benson it winds the album up wonderfully with the only regret that the fade is not much much longer.

The album is out this week and The Champs are touring this month. The Glasgow show is on 20th June at Broadcast, the others are here. In the meantime, Danny Wilson has given a song by song account of the album which is a great read, have a gander here