Daniel Meade. An Essentially Non-Essential Compilation Of Recordings From The Last Ten Years (2013-2022).

Whether you consider this generous helping of songs from the back catalogue of Glasgow’s Daniel Meade essential or not probably depends on how essential you consider Daniel Meade to be. Certainly, from Blabber’n’Smoke’s first encounter with the man (when he was supporting a then largely unknown Sturgill Simpson) we’ve been mightily impressed with him, as have a roll call of musicians such as the aforementioned Simpson along with  Old Crow Medicine Show and Diana Jones.

A bit of a musical polymath, Meade, after an early encounter with the heady world of rock’n’roll with The Ronelles (who were big in Japan), formed The Meatmen and then The Flying Mules, both forging a great live reputation before he set off on a solo career with As Good As Bad Can Be, the starting point for this compilation. The 21 songs here, handpicked by Meade, ranging from barrel house roustabouts, tear stained country songs and a handsome dash of well jollied honky tonk sing-alongs and whether recorded in Nashville or in Meade’s own front room, make for a great album which serves as a fine introduction for those not already in the Meade camp and as a handy quick fix for those who have the albums these songs are garnered from.

The album opens with Keep Right Away, the title song of his 2015 album, recorded with members of Old Crow Medicine Show and featuring Joshua Hedley on fiddle. It’s a fine example of Meade’s ability to mix rock’n’roll with country as the band skiffle along and he plays some Jerry Lee Lewis piano runs. The following Juliette jumps with a juke box jive with Meade channelling New Orleans greats such as Fats Domino while his regular guitar foil, Lloyd Reid appears with some scintillating guitar runs. There’s more of a pop sensibility to the next song, These Things Happen which, according to Meade, was influenced by his time supporting The Proclaimers. In the liner notes he states that the song is “not quite as good obviously” as anything the twins have delivered but he does himself an injustice here as it’s a grand guitar and horn fuelled number which has the crowd pulling effect of the Reid’s and is given a rumbustious delivery.

Three songs in and three quite different styles already. It’s a mark of Meade’s magpie ability to pluck treasure from wherever he lands and the remainder of the album confirms this. There are rousing live versions of It’s Not Your Fault It’s Mine and What You Waiting For along with a superb Bullets And Bones which all have a rockabilly heart while songs such as Let Me Off At The Bottom, Not My Heart Again and Sleeping On The Streets Of Nashville are country delights while there’s even a touch of Motown/Stax mod grooviness on the stomping By The Book. Dialling it down, Meade can deliver intimate moments as on the plaintive Fixing Quicksand and the tender love song which is Shooting Stars & Tiny Tears but one of the best moments on the disc is the very simple and very excellent Cocaine Jane which, once again, features the excellent guitar playing of Lloyd Reid. All in all, an excellent collection of songs.


Terry Lee Hale. The Gristle & Bone Affair. Glitterhouse Records

This 14th album from singer songwriter Terry Lee Hale is an enigmatic affair. It seems a deeply personal record and it’s certainly an intimate listen. Hale’s voice, somewhat wearied, is not a million miles removed from the Zen wisdom of Leonard Cohen while the song arrangements are spare, allowing his words to flow unimpeded. The words envelop a world suffused with aging, memory and regret without ever plainly stating their case. The closest there is to a narrative is on Alive Inside as, over an impressionist soundscape, Hale details the locked in misery of dementia, but the majority of the songs are more abstract , poems almost, set to music, the words flowing. Hale sums it up when he sings, “Time is a river just running away.

Recorded with remote assistance during the pandemic Hale and his producer, Chris Eckman (of The Walkabouts) enlisted the support of Ziga Golob on contra bass for most of the songs along with occasional keyboard, pedal steel and violin input while an old Seattle buddy, Claire Tucker, sings on two of the numbers. Her multilayered contributions to Gone help to make this valedictory number the one song here most akin to Cohen’s latter songs while Hale invests it with a world weary, almost saddle sore regret. There’s a slight, oh so slight, cowboy lament to it as Hale bids goodbye to a lonesome stranger. The pull of the old west is also discernible in the opening number Oh Life where Hale waxes somewhat philosophically on our cradle to grave journey, his yearning vocals leaning towards Hank Williams, albeit with a Camus and Lou Reed bent, the latter recalled particularly by Catherine Graindorge’s violin with its echoes of John Cale’s Velvet Underground work.

The pensive and dream like Fish features some of Hale’s superlative guitar playing along with washes of pedal steel guitar (played by Jon Hyde) while Curve Away is dense and claustrophobic, the lyrics almost apocalyptic as they evoke a feeling similar to that of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s followed by the bluesy wallow of Time Is A River which, in an opaque fashion, seems to be about the eternal struggle to overcome adversity with Hale sounding as much as a sage as Dylan on Time Out Of Mind. The album closes with Hale on his own on All Fall Down, his take on our current affairs if we’re reading it right as he sings of scorched earth politics and the policies of cruel. You can make your own mind up about who he is singing about in the line, “Hard to get around the elephant in the room” but we’ve made our mind up already.

Following on from his excellent albums, The Long Draw and Bound, Chained Fettered, The Gristle & Bone Affair finds Terry Lee Hale in top form. He’s a unique songsmith who has crafted a signature sound which is deeply immersive, meditative and thought provoking.