Charley Crockett. Lil’ G.L. Presents Jukebox Charley. Thirty Tigers.

Mr. Crockett’s certainly on a roll these days, albums tumbling out of him like coins from a fruit machine which just hit the jackpot. What’s more is that Crockett has hit the jackpot with the majority of his releases (eleven in seven years) which is quite astonishing. There is no let up on quality control despite the conveyor belt like delivery.

While his mainly self penned albums (The Valley, Welcome To Hard Times, Music City USA) show him to be a quality writer and performer bringing country traditions fully up to date, Crockett has paid tribute to these traditions with a series of cover albums under the Lil’ G.L. Presents banner. While the third of these was a collection of James Hand songs, the first and second were themed (Honky Tonk Jubilee and Blue Bonanza) and Jukebox Charley returns to this format with Crockett picking a selection of fairly obscure country songs (despite a stellar line up of writers behind them), all given a stellar makeover.

The title song is a Johnny Paycheck cover and one can’t help wonder if Crockett chose it purely because he shares a forename with the song’s protagonist. Whatever, it’s a fine hook on which to hang the remainder of the songs on as one can imagine most of them wafting from a honky tonk jukebox with Crockett and his Blue Drifters giving most of the songs an attractive 1960s country pop delivery. Delivered in the middle of the album, Jukebox Charley is the fulcrum here although one might have expected it to be the first song as Crockett settles into his bar seat and tells the bartender of his woes. In his cups, music is a mixture of salvation and sorrow and the album follows suit. Several of the songs feature the demon drink, be it with some abandon on the upbeat Battle With The Bottle or the tearful George Jones song, Out Of Control. Affairs of the heart are, of course, in evidence with Make Way For A Better Man, a Willie Nelson song written by Cy Coben, coming across as an alpha male declaration of superiority as the singer snatches his best friend’s girl. Porter Wagoner’s spooky Heartbreak Affair (written by Kay Adams) is a fractured and fragile set up with Crockett’s distorted voice offset by an angelic chorus, the singer just one step away from being incarcerated in a rubber room. And then, there’s that final calamity, death. Tom T. Hall’s I Hope It Rains At My Funeral is a grand narrative of a hardscrabble life with Mickey Raphael like harmonica running throughout it and the final line is the killer. Six Foot Under carries on a theme that you’re only safe once you’re dead and buried and does so with a finely detailed country hop and a skip.

While all of the album is a delight, two songs stand out. Where Have All The Honest People Gone, originally sung by Roger Miller and written by Dennis Linde (who also wrote Elvis’ Burning Love), finds Crockett subtly changing the title (originally it was Where Have All The Average People Gone but Crockett reckons that most average folk just have to be honest) and delivering it in a glorious country pop arrangement which reminds one of John Hartford’s Gentle On My Mind. Even better is is Crockett’s version of Jerry Reed’s I Feel For You. Here Reed’s swampy song is given a soulful delivery with echoes of Solomon Burke, while the guitars invoke a more psychedelic folk sound not a million miles removed from the modal structures of bands like the Pentangle.

You can sum up the album in one song present here. Lonely In Person Tonight is a very obscure Tom T. Hall song about a singer whose name is up in lights but who finds himself somewhat adjacent to Jukebox Charley in that he is listening to folk enjoy his songs on the bar’s jukebox but has no one to share this with. With tons of heartbreak and a fulsome sad ache. Crockett delivers again.


Jerry Leger. Nothing Pressing. Latent Recordings


Toronto’s Jerry Leger was building up a fine head of steam on this side of the pond a few years back. His live shows and almost back-to-back releases of Too Broke To Die (a retrospective collection) and Time Out For Tomorrow were widely acclaimed. He was due to build on this acclaim with a spring tour of the UK and Europe in 2020 but like everything else back then, the shutters sprang up.

Two years later, Leger has a new album out and a whole new set of dates over here coming up. The album, Nothing Pressing, can be considered (like numerous other current releases) as a product of the pandemic. In plain terms it consists of home recorded songs, solo studio efforts and, once they were able to do so, his band (The Situation) weigh in. This allows the album a fine degree of light and shade. Delve into the songs however and there’s more shade than light in terms of Leger’s lyrics and preoccupations. There’s none of the mercurial Dylan like rock which Leger is so adept at, instead the band songs are stoic and grounded, more rooted in a Neil Young like ditch than Dylan like flashes of lightning. When he does root around in a Dylan like guise it’s on the skeletal Underground Blues, a home recorded demo with sparks flying from Leger’s raw electric guitar calling to mind the bard’s ghosts of electricity.

The album opens with Leger strumming his 1959 Gibson acoustic guitar on the title song. Predating the pandemic but eerily prescient, it’s a sylvan fantasy of sorts as he moves into the country but is soon “bored out of his mind.” As if his wish to leave this fantasy was borne out, Kill It With Kindness is announced with a blast of electric guitar as the band sway in on a crunchy rocker which tackles personal demons, Leger here sounding like Phil Ochs fronting Elvis Costello’s Attractions. There’s more crunch on the swampy Stray Gators like slouch of Recluse Revisions which dives head first into ditch territory. Apparently inspired by the ennui encapsulated in Joan Didion’s 1970 novel, Play It As It Lays, Leger sings of a slightly jaded bunch of comrades, getting on in years, content now to just “play cowboy songs they know by heart.” It’s a mighty achievement and the towering point of the album. Wait A Little Longer, another full band outing has Angie Hilts singing harmony giving the song a lilting Everlys’ like sound, somewhat akin to that employed by the likes of T Bone Burnett or Nick Lowe when they go down an Everlys’ alleyway. Hilts also features on the jangled power pop of Have You Ever Been Happy, its upbeat sound belying the questing lyrics.

The remainder of the album is more introspective, perhaps reflecting Leger’s time spent in lockdown. With Only You is a yearning love song given a late era Beatles’ like burnish while A Page You’ve Turned is a sad, country like lament which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Flatlanders album. He delves deep into his vulnerabilities on Sinking In, another home recording, which exists on a similar plane to Alex Chilton’s fragile songs on the third Big Star album, but the crux of the disc is the deeply moving Still Patience, a song which came to Leger following the death of a close friend. Lennon like in its intimate delivery, the song resonates with loss. Closing the album as he began, strumming his trusty Gibson, Leger offers up Protector. A brilliant hangdog weariness inhabits the song which is like a self-composed eulogy with Leger posing at times as a gunfighter facing his last shootout. It’s kind of brilliant.

Highly nuanced and very finely written and delivered, Nothing Pressing certainly deserves Leger’s description of it as his “deepest artistic statement yet.” It’s a superb album.


Terry Klein. Good Luck, Take Care. Independent Release

Based in Austin, Terry Klein recorded his third album, Good Luck, Take Care, in Nashville, having struck up a deal with producer Thomm Jutz to record an album in four days. It’s fair to say that in this short period the pair of them have crafted a gem of an album. One which immediately grabs you and begs to be listened to again and again.

Klein is a songwriter in the grand tradition of Guy Clark and his songs here are delivered in a variety of styles ranging from dusty ballads to low riding bluesy rock. Indeed, the album opens with the terrific Sixty In A Seventy Five, a slow growl which recalls the louché swing of Ramsay Midwood’s Shootout At The OK Chinese Restaurant. It’s somewhat autobiographical as Klein describes having a panic attack at a gig and using Townes Van Zandt’s voice to chill him out on the trepidatious drive home. The intriguingly named Does A Fish Feel The Knife is another bluesy slink, this time with barbed acoustic and electric slide guitars. A metaphysical song of sorts, it grew from a question posed by Klein’s four-year-old daughter as he prepared a barbeque, a fine example of how he grabs such moments and turns them into great songs. The Woman Who Was Lost In The Flood, a dramatic ballad with sweeping strings and grim bursts of guitar, was again sparked by an incident when Klein’s kid, along with her class on a school outing, was menaced by a flood.

There is sparkling country rock on Such A Town, Klein’s ambivalent take on Boston , gangsters and all,  and Salinas is a full blown rock blow out which comes across as if John Steinbeck had written it and The Drive By Truckers played it. Honestly, listen for yourself. Much more intimate is The Goldfinch, Klein’s report of a visit to The Hague to see the titular painting having read Donna Tartt’s novel. Again, he transforms a routine experience into a quite moving song. Much more upbeat is The Ballad Of Dick Trickle, a bluegrass like tribute to a once famous hot rod racer.

Two brilliant songs weigh in at the end. Cheryl just shimmers with an almost weeping pedal steel throughout as Klein relates the sad end to a naive kid’s romance with a gangster related beauty.  The refrain, “The thrill of catching lightning in a bottle/Ends in ashes and a black mark on the ground” is chilling. What You Lose Along The Way, the closing song, is a talking blues of sorts with Klein freewheeling and reminiscing. Kind of wishing he was still young and yet accepting that he’s kind of glad he’s not. A fine way to end what is a glorious album. Check it out.


Jesper Lindell. Twilights. Brunnsvik Sounds.


Hailing from Sweden, Jesper Lindell has drunk deep from the well of Americana on his second album, Twilights. This is apparent immediately as the swirling organ strains of Westcoast Rain open the album in a grand fashion. An unashamedly Band like romp (with a little Van Morrison Caledonia soul thrown in for good measure) it’s quite terrific with keyboard player, Rasmus Fors getting that Garth Hudson clavinet sound down to a T.

While Lindell ranges around as the album unspools, The Band come around again on a cover of Twilight (from their 1977 album Islands) which features Levon Helm’s daughter Amy on vocals. Again, Lindell and his band capture that essence which Helm and his band mates still had at this late stage in their career. Later on, Lindell lights into another Band like number on Nights Like These, a lovely late night slouch with horns boosting the soul quotient and Lindell exercising his voice quite emotively in a Van Morrison like passion. On another tack, a Bo Diddley beat introduces the dance friendly New Orleans meets Texas shuffle of Dance which has funky Farfisa keyboards and an infectious back line while Living Easy pumps up the syncopated funk factor with the band billowing and swaying, recalling the likes of Lowell George’s solo album.

Reining it in somewhat, Lindell can fuel a fine ballad without ever falling into the trap of being too dramatic. If There Comes A Time is the type of song Bob Seeger could have had a hit with while Christmas Card, which features First Aid Kit’s Klara Soderberg on vocals, finds Lindell and Soderberg sounding both rough and tender over a muted percussive background which gives the song an ethereal quality. The line, “My doctor he says I’m gonna be OK,” may or may not refer to Lindell himself as he was recently seriously ill, eventually requiring a kidney transplant, but the song does express hope with Lindell opening the song with the words, “Things are better now.”

The closing song, Into The Blue, is quite out of kilter with the preceding numbers. An atmospheric seven minute glide into Hiss Golden Messenger territory, it finds Lindell’s voice cranked high, a straining falsetto buffered by martial drumming and rippling guitars. As an exercise in sound, it’s quite wonderful as it meanders towards its fuzzy cosmic conclusion.


Ian Noe. River Fools & Mountain Saints. Thirty Tigers.

Ian Noe’s debut album was a stunning collection of songs detailing life and hardships in his native Kentucky, delivered with true passion. Drawing from illustrious predecessors such as John Prine and The Band, Between The Country announced Noe as the new kid on the Americana block. Now, River Fools & Mountain Saints cements this reputation as Noe delivers another excellent set of down-home, country-curdled tales in best singer songwriter fashion although several songs are given fuller arrangements than those on the debut album. At its core however, Noe’s acute storytelling remains the focal point. He’s still singing about Kentucky and its people, be they elderly Vietnam veterans or youngsters high on bathtub gin.

The album kicks off with Pine Grove (Madhouse) a country rocker crossbreed of The Rolling Stones and The Burritos with spiralling pedal steel and honky tonk piano prevailing. It’s like spring break in Kentucky with the protagonists shucking all thoughts of work as they are hell-bent on having a good time. It’s almost the most raucous song on the album, eclipsed only by the barnstorming rock’n’roll holler of POW Blues which is reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater’s Vietnam song, Fortunate Son. Strangely enough, Creedence are mentioned in the album’s second song, River Fool, an excellent high and lonesome bluegrass ballad about a man content to live with nature and occasionally strum some CCR on his guitar. As good as the two rock’n’rollers mentioned above are,  the rippling mandolin, flailing fiddle and all round musicianship on River Fool is Noe at his best and, happily, there are several excellent offerings here.

Lonesome As It Gets and Strip Job Blues both find Noe in John Prine country, both of them excellent blue collar sing-along’s with freewheeling instruments picking and strumming along all the way. Tom Barrett has some more heft, courtesy of pummelling percussion and roaring organ, as Noe delivers a portentous Pekinpah like road movie about a character who once was “a killing man, from the 21st platoon,” haunted by memories and condemned to ride the highways. Stripped back to the basics, just guitar and a mournful organ, Ballad Of A Retired Man refers to another war veteran, this time at the end of his days – his memories, good and bad, all recollected.

Harking back to the debut album, Mountain Saint is quite magnificent. The band huddle into an intricate mix of piano and pedal steel on a song which has a spritely step to it despite the grim details within. Meanwhile, Burning Down The Prairie is a Dylan like apocalyptic rant which is given a powerful performance. Noe closes the album with two reflective numbers. Appalachia Haze ripples with delightful and adventurous pedal steel as Noe recounts tales of a local flood, a topic revisited on the closing Road May Flood. This is a fine valedictory as he flows gently from his initial acoustic telling until the song expands, much as a river bursts its banks, with strings flowing and Noe eventually singing, weirdly enough, some verses from Bonnie Tyler’s It’s A Heartache. Very strange but it works.

Overall, River Fools & Mountain Saints might not have the revelatory powers of Between The Country but it’s just a smidgeon away and, in its own right, a great album. It certainly allows Ian Noe to sit atop the new wave of Americana singer songwriters.


Paul Tasker. Tierra Quemeda. Yellow Room Records


Best known as one half of the formidable duo, Doghouse Roses, Paul Tasker is acknowledged by many to be an even more formidable guitar player, well versed in the type of skills displayed by the likes of Bert Jansch. This was in ample evidence on his solo debut, Cold Weather Music, released in 2016, and it is again, here on Tierra Quemada, released last week.

Like its predecessor, Tierra Quemada is an instrumental album with Tasker’s finger picking skills front and centre while a small coterie of friends (Laura Beth Salter – mandolin; Rachel Hair – harp; Una McGlone – bass; Richard Evan – viola; Robert Henderson – trumpet and Dejan Lapanja -drums) appear separately, adding their own particular gloss to a tune. With its Spanish title, which translates as Scorched Earth, one might be expecting to experience an Iberian influence as the album reveals itself but, aside from some splendid classical guitar moments, as on DMT and the title tune itself, this certainly isn’t a guitar equivalent of Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. Instead, Tasker, much like a murmuration of starlings (incidentally, the title of one of the tunes), gracefully flits, swoops and soars amidst various styles, never fully settling on one. So, there are elements of folk, Appalachia, classic and even jazz evenly spun into the overall experience.

The album opens with the splendidly named, Womble The Sausage Dog, inspired apparently by a neighbour’s Dachshund who apparently hated hearing guitar but seemed to enjoy banjo. Laura Beth Salter’s subtle mandolin smoothly offsets Tasker’s fine banjo and slide guitar playing on a tune which recalls John McEuen of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This American influence can be heard again on the delightful refrains of Roadtrippin’, another banjo outing with Tasker multitasking on all the instruments while Riding Out is a somewhat jaunty, even frisky little number which one can imagine might be set to scenes of cowboys riding the range in a Coen Brothers’ movie. Murmuration is a fleet fingered exposition of wide open spaces with Richard Evans’ viola adding to its horizons. Close your eyes and let your imagination run free here, it’s a soundtrack for your mind.

There’s less of Tasker’s folk influences here than on Cold Weather Music but Firefly, a beautiful meditation, delicately coloured in by Rachel Hair’s harp playing is reminiscent of Bert Jansch’s Rosemary Lane album. After The Rain, the most embellished tune here with voila and trumpet in the mix has a similar bucolic feel with the mournful muted trumpet adding that Iberian touch.

The album rides out with a sense of faded grandeur on the supremely evocative banjo lilt of Last Waltz, a glorious two minutes which summons up visions of all your favourite Westerns rolled into one. It’s kind of like Tasker’s equivalent to Ry Cooder’s emblematic music for Paris, Texas.