Light Of Day Scotland. Charity Gig. The Admiral Bar, Glasgow. Saturday 26th November


Featuring Eddie Manion, Jeffrey Gaines, Joe D’Urso, Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, Doghouse Roses & The Rising

Light Of Day is a worldwide charity raising awareness of and money for research into neurological diseases. It takes its name from a film starring Michael J. Fox (who has Parkinson’s disease) along with a Bruce Springsteen song. Since its inception in 2000 Light of Day has been heavily associated with Asbury Park, New Jersey holding a winterfest there. There are also annual musical tours of the UK, Europe, Canada and Australia.

So there’s a heavy Boss vibe to the night the caravan rolls into Glasgow. Manion and Lopez have done time with Springsteen, the latter a founding member of The E street Band and subsequently an inductee into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame. Lopez is first up singing and drumming on four songs including a trucking number and some old time r’n’b supported by Rob Dye on guitar. After that there was a stage invasion with all of the musicians lining up on the stage (bar The Rising who played their set afterwards) for what was kind of like a cross between a jam session and a songwriter circle.


It was great fun. D’Urso offered up some fist pumping rockers while Gaines proved to be a powerful performer. Manion sang on Dylan’s Forever Young and played an endearingly kitsch version of Town Without Pity. For this reviewer it was great to hear Doghouse Roses (Paul Tasker and Iona MacDonald) with a full driving band behind them. Thunder Of The Dawn hurtled along with Manion’s sax exploding towards the end. Weather The Storm was another of their songs that benefitted exceptionally well from the set up while MacDonald showed that she  can throw out a powerful blues vocal on Mean Mean Woman.


As the set bowled on Manion led a sing-along of We Shall Overcome before D’Urso had the audience ecstatic with a thunderous performance of Springsteen’s Light Of Day. To end this part of the show The Rising were invited onstage as all cast members rang out on Because The Night.  Had the show ended there no one would have been disappointed as we had around 90 minutes of rock and roll thrown at us but after a short break The Rising Came on for a full set of their own take on the Boss. There was dancing and drinking.

Dean Owens & The Whisky Hearts. Drygate Glasgow. Friday 25th November


A welcome return to Glasgow for the Leith man with his fine band in tow, tonight’s show was an intimate affair despite the airy (and cool, temperature wise) bare girder barn like room in Tenants’ Drygate brewery. Set out cabaret style the tables were all taken by what seemed to be diehard supporters (as evidenced by requests for some deep cuts from Owens’ recording history); his own fault as he announced early on that they weren’t playing from a set list as such tonight. As such this was a show that was dramatically different from the last time Blabber’n’Smoke encountered The Whisky Hearts when they turned in a performance that leaned heavily on a country rock sound.

With drummer Jim McDermott absent tonight there was less rock but a whole lot more roll with Brian McAlpine’s accordion featured heavily throughout the show along with Amy Geddes’ fiddle playing. As a result guitarist Craig Ross only had a couple of opportunities to let loose on the strings instead adding some delicate touches and a steady rhythmic flow to a set that had a very folky touch.

They slid gently into their set with a gently swinging Valentine’s Day In New York with accordion and fiddle lending the song a sweet rambling vibe which, and not for the first time, reminded us of Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance. This was the first of a brace of songs from Owens’s latest album Into The Sea with Virginia Street, Dora and Kids all following, the last allowing Ross a chance to solo as the song gradually built up from its sombre opening into a classic rock sound. 10 Miles From Saturday Night was a new song which was classic Owens with its mix of Celtic Americana and memorable chorus and it was followed by a rare live outing for the title song from his album Whisky Hearts which was given a rollicking folky delivery which transported the audience into the taverns of Leith. Another blast from the past was a pair of songs from his My Town album, Northern Lights which again was given a fine folk lilt with Geddes’ fiddle well to the fore and Strangers Again with Giddes duetting with Owens.


A grand host for the night, Owens was in fine form explaining the stories behind the songs and cracking some puntastic jokes while admitting that on the older songs the band were somewhat busking it, a task they performed with an admiral aplomb. There was gravitas however as he talked about the loss of his sister to cancer, a shadow that stalked the recording of Into The Sea and he paid tribute to her with an affecting delivery of Evergreen before unveiling a new song dedicated to her memory, Julie’s Moon. There was a similar sense of loss when they played, for the first time live, Sally’s Song (I Dreamed of Michael Marra), a lament for past times and lost Dundonian friends with a kick in its tail with the band conjuring up a couthy accordion led slow time waltz which brought a lump to the throat. A solo rendition at the start of the second set of The Only One was another reminder of Owens’ ability to render heartache clothed in a healing song, a gift he shrugged off as he talked of his reputation as only singing miserable songs. Cottonsnow, inspired by a visit to civil war battlefields in the US was offered as an example of his miserabilism but again here he grabs inspiration from desperation with the song a powerful declaration. While he detoured into Johnny Cash territory with a tongue in cheek rendition of Cash’s Delia’s Gone and a rousing The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin which had a fine Cajun belt to it there was no doubting the power behind the stirring version of Up On The Hill  they laid on us while with the fan’s favourite The Man From Leith had the audience singing along. Of course being in the dear green place there was no escaping Owens’ signature tune, the umbilical cord that ties him to his twin city and Raining In Glasgow closed the show proper, the audience on board for a song that is approaching legendary status.

It didn’t end there however as the band came back on for the first unveiling of Owens’ foray into the Christmas market with Home For Christmas, the audience happily joining in (and do have a look at the video here replete with kiddie chorus and jungle bells and a cracking good tune). Thereafter there was only the simple notion of satisfying a song request flung from the front row throughout the night as Owens came back on for a solo flight through Sand In My Shoes, another oldie that again had the audience joining in.

On stage for nearly two hours with every song perfectly crafted and delivered this was an excellent night. There are a couple of opportunities to catch Dean and The Whisky Hearts before they draw 2016 to a close as they play in Stirling and Edinburgh with Dean also playing Dundee and Aberfeldy. All dates here.








Terry Dolan. Terry Dolan. High Moon Records


Terry Dolan was a 60’s folkie from Connecticut who took himself to San Francisco in 1965 throwing himself into the burgeoning music scene there. While he never hit the headlines he had an uncanny knack for forging friendships and alliances with numerous musicians who did have successful careers with many of them regular members of his long lasting band Terry & The Pirates.  Chief among these were John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins, the Quicksilver guitarist virtually a full time member and Hopkins sitting whenever he wasn’t off somewhere bashing the ivories for The Stones. Cipollina’s death in 1989 took the wind out of The Pirates’ sails, they only played sporadically after that and Dolan himself passed away in 2012. While The Pirates recorded several albums they were virtually unknown out with the Bay Area (aside from a fanatic following in Germany). Dolan himself had a shot at fame shot down when he was signed to Warner Brothers in the early seventies, recording this album in 1972. For reasons unclear it was never released leaving Dolan free to run what may have been the best bar band on the planet for the next 20 years.

The release is an obvious labour of love helmed by High Moon Records and Dolan’s fan and eventual friend Mike Somavilla who badgered Warners for years regarding these lost songs. It’s a handsome package with Dolan’s story and the tale of the album’s torturous recording fully recorded in the 48-page booklet included here. Aside from Cipollina and Hopkins (who produced half of the songs), it features appearances from Pete Sears (who produced the remainder), Lonnie Turner, Spencer Dryden, Neal Schon, Greg Douglass, Prairie Prince and The Pointer Sisters.  San Francisco rock aficionados will need no introduction to these names and it’s these self same folk who are probably the target audience. Had the album been released as intended back in 1973 it’s likely that it would now be remembered with a fond affection with original copies somewhat desirable, as it is now it’s a time capsule that deserves investigation but sadly it’s not what one might call a lost classic.

That said it’s a fine album which captures the funkier roots type of rock that was replacing psychedelia, bluesier with a side of soul as played by the likes of Delaney & Bonnie and Leon Russell or even the grittier side of Elton John way back then. Piano (by Hopkins and Sears) dominate the songs with Dolan singing and playing acoustic rhythm. Cipollina, Douglas and Schon add stinging guitar runs and the female backing voices add a gospel feel to several of the songs. The album was recorded in two bursts. Side One (as was) with Hopkins producing and Cipollina on board, the second set six months later with Sears producing (Hopkins had been called away by his Satanic Majesties) with a smaller line up, Schon in place of Cipollina. Fans of the latter day Quicksilver Messenger Service will latch onto the first four songs as Hopkins does play a storm especially on the frantic Rainbow as Cipollina goes a wee bit apeshit on slide guitar. Dolan’s signature song Inlaws And Outlaws (which he recorded several times) is a powerful example of west coast rock romanticism with Dolan singing about Gypsies and outlaws and dreaming of living free with the music a claustrophobic clutter of squirreling guitar and Gospel harmonies. Angie (not the Stones’ song) is a love song to his wife that veers ever so close to MOR balladry but is saved by Dolan’s passionate vocals and some excellent bass playing from Lonnie Turner. Listening to this it is possible to imagine that, had it been released back then, that it might have been a hit as it hits all the buttons I remember from ’70’s Top Of The Pops.

Side Two (as was) opens with another strong ballad, Purple An Blonde…?  that again has a powerful nostalgic pull for those who might have been listening to the radio back in those days and it’s not dissimilar to the songs that propelled Jefferson Starship into the charts in the mid seventies. It kind of fizzles out after this however with Burgundy Blues (dedicated to the J Geils Band) a rockin’ blues boogie while a cover of J.J. Cale’s Magnolia offers a fine vehicle for Dolan’s voice and features some fantastic keyboard playing from Pete Sears but it’s let down by some lumpen drumming.

An album then for fans of the era and of the players on the album but there’s an added bonus of six songs, all different takes from the first session that are well worth listening to with an alternative version of Inlaws And Outlaws particularly blistering and probably more akin to the music he ended up playing with his pals.

High Moon Records

Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire. Swithering. Middle Of Nowhere Records


Fate smiles upon Roddy Hart. Notwithstanding his obvious talents a brief look at his career will have many other artists shaking their heads in disbelief. His first album featured a guest appearance from an early fan Kris Kristofferson with Kristofferson championing Hart’s work since then. An invitation from fellow Scot Craig Ferguson to appear on The Late Late Show in the States was so well received that Hart and his band returned for a five night residency on the show which was viewed by 12 million Americans. A chance encounter in a Glasgow studio led to a cameo role in the movie Sunshine On Leith, he was invited to play at the Scottish Parliament’s 10th anniversary and in his role as curator of Celtic Connection’s Roaming Roots Revue he has had the opportunity to collaborate with a veritable who’s who of American and UK roots royalty; his phone book must be well guarded. In addition he hosts one of the better radio shows here in Scotland and just recently has become the MC of Radio Scotland’s Quayside Sessions. One might suggest that he change the name of his band from the Lonesome to the Ubiquitous Fire.

Of course this hasn’t all just tumbled into Hart’s lap. Kristofferson was quick to spot a songwriter with promise telling Hart (who has a law degree),”The world doesn’t need any more lawyers” when Hart was swithering about his future prospects.  Aside from his own take on classic Americana song writing gathered from years listening to the likes of Jackson Browne Hart is able to turn his hand to writing new arrangements for songs and poems by Rabbie Burns and he also delivered a very respectable EP of Dylan Covers a few years back. It was however a bit of a surprise when in 2013 he formed The Lonesome Fire and turned in an album that was somewhat anthemic in its ambition with Hart and band allowing the likes of Arcade Fire and The National to erupt from its shiny grooves, the album was nominated for a Scottish Album Of The Year Award.

So, three years on Hart & The Lonesome Fire return to the fray with another album that if anything is more polished and epic in its ambition. Swithering (a Scots word that indicates indecision) is an odd title for an album that sounds so self assured (it shines at times with the arena allure of U2). A close inspection of the lyrics reveals Hart singing on Sliding, “And I don’t really know why I didn’t doubt it, I was sure but now I’m swithering” as the band whirl up a Springsteen like storm, keyboards rippling away over a pummelling rhythm. Hart himself explained in an interview  that the album was conceived in a different manner from that which was he used to and that he swithered throughout the process before producer Paul Savage came on board and helmed the project. Whatever, the result is an album that might remind folk of the works of The Blue Nile and Lloyd Cole as it alternates between rain speckled drama and guitar based epics.

Opener Tiny Miracles is a seductive glistening groove while the following Berlin has Hart in his most emotive mode amidst shards of glimmering guitars and an eighties like percussive beat. Low Light descends into a rubbery funk beat that is somewhat beholden to Talking Heads but Hart struts his stuff quite excellently here with a fine sense of paranoia and a brilliant glimpse of his native accent thrown in. The cavernous No Monsters rumbles with an evil menace and there’s a similar sense of dread on the ethereal I Thought I Could Change Your Mind which is like a cross between Nick Cave and The Beatles especially as it approaches its end and a mournful horn section appears from the mists. The closing song We’re The Immortals is in a similar vein as a wheezy organ leads into an arrangement that sounds somewhat like something Brian Wilson would come up with if he was a funeral director.

At times there’s just a wee bit too much bombast, clang and clamour, the songs too in thrall to AOR as on Dreamt You Were Mine and In The Arms Of California but there’s a fine reminder of Hart’s own past on the gentle sway of Violet. It’s a softly strummed love song adorned with sympathetic guitar and keyboards and, despite Hart’s onward progress, the song here that I think best sums up his qualities. Not as iconoclastic as shouting Judas at a Dylan gig but just a personal preference expressed here. However, there’s no doubting that Hart & The Lonesome Fire have the chops to make it big with this album and hopefully the Fates will continue to shine on him.



Doghouse Roses. Lost Is Not Losing. Yellowroom Music.


Back in March Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to Paul Tasker about his solo album Cold Weather Music. We also spent some time discussing the exciting news that Doghouse Roses had a new album recorded, their first in six years with Paul promising a November release. True to his word, Lost Is Not Losing hits the streets this week and, several listens in we can confirm that it’s been well worth the wait.

Comprised of Tasker on guitar and the glorious voice of Iona MacDonald, Doghouse Roses are one of those bands who are critics’ favourites with a devoted following both here and abroad especially in Europe. Critical acclaim however doesn’t always butter the bread and following their excellent 2010 album This Broken Key they had a hiatus of sorts.  An invitation from cult US art rockers Television to open for them on a European tour in 2014 was a kind of kick starter and it paved the way to this album. They’ve been back on the road and released two EPs in the past two years and finally with Lost is Not Losing they emerge triumphant.

Since their tentative string laden debut and the woody Americana of This Broken Key Tasker and MacDonald have matured as songwriters and while they still tread in the footsteps of artists such as the Pentangle family, Gillian Welch, Fairport Convention and John & Beverly Martyn the pair confidently march forward. The album is a fine mix of assured and melodic folk rock along with strong ballads and even some mild rockabilly. Gathering around them a sympathetic crew of musicians and vocalists the album is fully realised, the songs throughout balanced perfectly.

They open with the liquid gravitas of Pour, a lambent lament on the effects of alcohol on a relationship with Tasker’s electric guitar slowly burning as MacDonald commands the voice of a wounded soul, battered but proud, the song akin to an early Fairport number when Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny were ascending to their heights. With drums and bass from Craig Lawrie and Stephen McGourty gently propelling the song along with harmonies from Jo Shaw and Biff Smith the song is a fine declaration from Doghouse Roses that they’re back. To Decide displays the pair unadorned, Tasker’s guitar wizardry and MacDonald’s voice welded to each other on a wistful ripple of a song which seems to have had its genesis in late night post gig decisions. The pair delight again on the old time New Year Rag, a song that has a political context delivered with the breezy sassiness of the likes of Malvina Reynolds while the starkly beautiful After Sun addresses an environmental collapse and Feed The Monster tips against global avarice and the indifference which allows it to grow unfettered.


Elsewhere the basic duo sound is gently expanded to include mandolin ripples (from Laura Beth Salter) on The Whistle Song offering a fine folk lilt and an opportunity for Tasker and Salter to indulge in some duelling string playing. Jez Hellard adds some excellent and earthy harmonica to the tale of a prostitute on Fairground and there’s a full band set up for the breezy folk rock of Crooked Life which in a blindfold test could easily be assumed to be an outtake from Fleetwood Mac’s witchy Stevie Nicks. There’s some electric guitar muscle on the driving rock of Weather The Storm (courtesy of John Alexander), the song itself wonderfully arranged in its dynamics and vocal performances in the middle eight especially. Perfect radio fodder as is the chunky retro groove of Diesel Engine with the Roses’ letting their hair down somewhat as various guitars slip and slide and snarl, the lead on this occasion handled by Slovenian guitarist Dejan Lapanja.

The album draws to a close with a song that sounds as if it’s been summoned from the halcyon days of sixties folk. Days Of Grass And Sun displays the duo’s strengths with MacDonald’s voice crystal clear and assured as Tasker lays down his intricate finger picking and flourishes. The song itself has the perfect mixture of simplicity and memorable melody that characterised the likes of Tom Paxton, Fred Neil and even Joni Mitchell in her Clouds era. It’s a wonderful ending to what is a wonderful album throughout.

Lost Is Not Losing is released this Friday with a launch event at The State Bar in Glasgow. They appear again the next night at The Admiral Bar as part of a Light Of Day charity gig  before the band head off to Germany for a short tour. Dates here



Five Years of Gravy: Celebrating 5 years of Fluff and Gravy Records


Portland-based Indie label, Fluff and Gravy Records, is turning 5 years old. What started as a one off vehicle to release a record for a friend has come of age, with 36 releases under its belt and an international roster that includes 20 artists. They  celebrate with the release of Five Years of Gravy (cd/download). The collection of songs is not just a retrospective, but a compilation of new/unreleased tracks from 17 artists over the course of the label’s history. Standout tracks include “No Regrets” from Fernando Viciconte, “Run” by Nick Jaina (featuring Henry Ratcliff), “All Along” by Anna Tivel, “Shattering Sun” from Mike Coykendall, and the sure to go viral “It Ain’t Gay (to love Jesus)” by The Git Rights Gospel Revue. Five Years of Gravy is a sepia tone family snapshot, documenting a moment in time to preserve for the next generation.

Proceeds from this cd directly benefit The Jeremy Wilson Foundation, a musicians’ nonprofit health and services organization supported by friends, family and fans. Making it easy to directly assist individual musicians and their families during medical emergencies.

The album can be purchased on their Bandcamp page, as well as the usual (iTunes, Spotify, etc)


Southern Tenant Folk Union. Join Forces. Johnny Rock Records


Only the other day we offered the thought that Two Cow Garage‘s song History Now could be an anthem for the Occupy movement and now we look to another band who were described in Q Magazine as a folk band for the Occupy era. Sure enough Edinburgh based Southern Tenant Folk Union are a political animal with Join Forces, their seventh album, written following the Tory victory in the 2015 election and then recorded in the tumultuous days of June and July this year, the Brexit days. Released at the end of September it’s somewhat fitting that it came to the front of the review queue now just as we all sit pinching ourselves in an attempt to believe that the recent American election was just a bad dream.

In the wake of the concept that was their last album, The Chuck Norris Project, STFU go back to basics here, folk infused bluegrass with Celtic tints while the songs celebrate the tradition of protest from Woody Guthrie to Billy Bragg. They tackle the media, politicians and the unwitting ways we are all involved in far off wars, our taxes supporting arms exports without ever descending into polemic, the songs delivering the message without a preachy tone. In addition there’s a hefty dose of fine songs (and tunes) that simply tell a tale or weave a scene and leave the listener to decide if there’s a message there or not. Chief among these is the beautiful folky lament of Ashes, a meditation on the glory of trees, their growth and their decay and ultimately a song that reflects on the human spirit. It’s delivered with some gusto and recalls the glory days of Fairport Convention. My Grandfather’s Father opens like an Appalachian hymn before the band swing in with a definite Scots skirl in Katherine Stewart’s fiddle playing as they tell the tale of a philanderer’s bastard son. Stewart offers more traditional fare on the three part instrumental Islay Crossing with her fiddle playing ably assisted by the other players on a stirring set of airs and reels while Happy As We Both Can Be (which closes the album) is a celebration of life and growing old together.

The meat of the album is in the protest songs however, the opening To The War (one of two songs written by singer and guitarist Rory Butler, the remainder penned by banjo player Pat McGarvey) is an up-tempo diatribe against social injustice and the ways we are all inveigled into participating. The Media Attack rails against the gutter press with a driving rhythm while Join Forces suggests that opposing sides, both kind of brainwashed into their respective ideologies join together. It’s a fine idea but it’s the one song here that sounds kind of forced. There’s no faking it however on the sweet country rock of Were You Faking When You Kissed Her which addresses the two faced duality of politicians smiling for a photo shoot and then privately expressing their inner thoughts. What Kind Of Worker Do You Want To Be is a jolly romp into Wobblie (IWW) territory and they dig into sixties protest with What Would You Give For A Worker With Soul which sounds like an old civil rights anthem, Dylan crossed with Hamish Henderson. Finally, there’s the outstanding optimistic bluegrass romp of Our Revolution It Will Someday Come which reminded us of that old song We’re All Part Of That Smiling Revolution (by The Global Village Trucking Company). Totally different sound but both imbued with a hope we all need these days.


And here they are taking it to the root cause…



The Fretless. Bird’s Nest.


Round about this time last year we were quite impressed by an album from a duo called Fiddle & Banjo. Their album, Tunes From The North, Songs From the South  was an impressive sepia toned investigation into old time music by the duo of Karrnnel Sawitsky (fiddle) and Daniel Koulack (banjo) and when they came to Celtic Connections in January of 2016 we described them as “ghosts from the past,” their renditions of traditional tunes at times chilling.

The Fretless is another Sawitsky project, a string quartet which again has its roots in traditional music and then adds a more formal discipline to the tunes in the manner of a classical quartet. Sawitsky plays fiddle and viola as does Trent Freeman (who also appeared at the Celtic Connections gig) and Ivonne Hernandez while Eric Wright adds cello. It’s a measure of the band’s excellence that over the past four years they have swept the boards of various Canadian music awards named as ensemble of the year and best instrumental group while their two previous albums have won Best Instrumental Album of their respective years from the Western Canadian Music Awards. Bird’s Nest looks set to follow in that tradition as the band continue to straddle the folk and classical worlds, the debut performance of the album taking place in Cologne’s Philharmonic Orchestra Hall in October.

It may seem a daunting prospect, an instrumental album of fiddles, viola and cello. However for folk followers there is a seam of traditional lures throughout the album with a definite Celtic air lingering here and there. Most of the tunes are originals but there are traditional tunes also with The Kylebrack Rambler an energetic closer to Freeman’s Jig Of The Blue Moon while a flighty Maids Of Castlebar is conjoined with Sawitsky’s Le Reel de Samuel. There’s toe tapping aplenty and even some jigs so it’s not the sort of polite string quartet you’ll hear while browsing in a quaint old bookshop. Indeed there’s a sharply dynamic quality to the album, the thrust of the fiddlers combined quite thrilling at times while the woody timbre of the cello is perfectly captured. Wonderfully textured it’s warm and engaging and it should thrill the socks off of anyone who is even slightly interested in folk fiddle playing. A bold, brave and ultimately satisfying adventure.



Two Cow Garage. Brand New Flag. At The Helm Records


Based in Columbus, Ohio, Two Cow Garage are commonly referred to as one of the hardest working bands in the States. Certainly their name crops up repeatedly on several lists Blabber’n’Smoke subscribes to and they have a fiercely devoted following over there; when their tour bus broke down a few years ago an unsolicited fan based fundraiser quickly had them back on the road again. Despite this they remain somewhat under the popular radar especially on this side of the pond, a shame really as they are one of the best proponents of that mash up of country, punk and melodic rock that was born from the No Depression movement of the nineties. In addition they are firmly on the side of the righteous. That is they sing about the human condition, injustice, the daily struggle against the powerful and it’s ironic that Brand New Flag is unleashed just as Americans (and others) shift uneasily awaiting the new order that’s just been given the keys to The White House.

Brand New Flag is a raw album. It blasts from the speakers for most of the time. Churning melodies and amped up guitars hammer through many of the songs at times with the urgency of a Springsteen fist clencher, the clincher being Continental Distance which even has a Roy Bittan like piano break. This Little Light is a noirish account of a mugging and not a million miles away from Drive By Truckers territory while History Now could become an anthem for the Occupy movement as could the title song where they rail against the establishment singing, “I don’t believe in anything”. In addition they plant their feet firmly on the side of diversity with the life line described in the words of Let The Boys Be Girls, a defiant and proud refutation of “fitting in” as they dismiss God, schooling and military service with the defiant cry of, “we don’t need old white rich men to tell us who we can kiss goodnight”.

It’s all stirring stuff but they do let off on the throttle on a few songs. The opening song Movies is a dry as dirt “alt-country” stumble with all four band members singing about their childhood dreams while A Lullaby Of Sorts is a marvellous dissection of teenage neurosis with the narrator alarmed by a gun bearing customer at a roadside stop and pondering on the obscenity of wearing an $800 leather jacket. There’s fear and loathing on the dirge like guitar squall of I Promise which is like an internal dialogue fuelled by self doubt and harried by schizophrenic like other voices. The tune itself eventually collapses into mayhem, a deranged horn section recalling the free form jazz of Albert Ayler.

An album then that is and is not easy to listen to. It’s invigorating. An alternative state of the nation address that seeks ways to survive against the oncoming tsunami of small mindedness.




Eef Barzelay. House Concert @ Celtic Music Radio. Glasgow. Wednesday 9th November


Glasgow’s foremost community radio station dipped into the burgeoning world of house concert hosting this week, opening the doors of their south side studios for an intimate evening with the esteemed Eef Barzelay. A bit of a catch for what might be the first of an occasional series of close up concerts, Barzelay with his band Clem Snide were one of the finest confections to come out of the States in the nineties. His light and resigned voice allied to music that was somewhat akin to a mash up of grungy power pop, folk rock and string quartet, the arrangements complex at times, the lyrics ranging from the confessional to absurd and surreal juxtapositions not unlike those of Robyn Hitchcock. Another in a long line of bands whose name was inspired by the writings of William Burroughs Clem Snide were probably too clever to catch on despite the occasional brush with fame as when their song Moment in the Sun was used as the theme song for a TV series. The band carry on having split and reignited on several occasions while Eef has forged on with his solo recordings creating a devoted fan base via his Bandcamp releases; he’s a prime candidate for The Guardian’s Cult Heroes column.

A canny decision then to have a bona fide cult hero play in your parlour and the cognoscenti responded well. The room filled with people spilling into the hall, those in the front seats almost inches away from the man, a situation Eef explained as we spoke during the interval that he enjoys, much of his time these days spent in concerts like this. A chance to play his songs to his fans out with the promotional circuit, up close, a meet and greet event even though he is no stranger to larger festival crowds still. On these occasions it’s personal, just him and his guitar, the audience transfixed with no bar sounds or coming and going during his sets.

Playing on the intimacy of the occasion Barzelay opened with a joke as he mentioned that he’d heard that Willie Nelson would lock into eye contact with an audience member and play just for her (it was usually a her) as he scanned the front rows before confessing he was kidding. His humour was a large element of the night, self deprecating, oddball and endearing. Humour seeped into some of the songs also but overall this was a master class in songwriting with Barzelay taking subjects on and applying his unique vision. At times reminiscent of the younger Loudon Wainwright particularly when he applied his mournful scat like mock trumpet he regaled the audience with bittersweet love songs recalling walking along Central Avenue high on ecstasy   while his song The Ballad Of Bitter Honey (inspired by MTV viewing while on tour) was soaked in Wainwright’s acerbic wit.  A new song, Angeline (another song with a TV link, in this instance the US show Catfish) was an anguished and powerful depiction of damaged people.


An accomplished performer and obviously very comfortable in such close quarters Barzelay had the audience in stitches with his coupling of Jews For Jesus Blues, written from his perspective as an Israeli born Jew who sings “fake country music” followed by God Answers Back. Finding an audience member who actually came from San Jose he delivered a wonderful version of Bacharach and David’s Do You Know The Way To San Jose with a bossa nova beat and ran through Elizabeth Cotton’s old chestnut Freight Train with evident delight. He closed the night with his “almost hit” Moment In The Sun capturing the allure and perils of fleeting fame, a perfect summary of his ability to turn a song inside out with neurosis shining through a beautiful tune, before segueing into The Velvet Underground’s Who Needs The Sun, a perfect companion to his own song.

It was a great evening and a great opportunity to see, hear and meet a world class musician. Hopefully Celtic Music radio will continue to plough this not so lonely furrow.