Daniel Meade & Lloyd Reid. If You Don’t Mind

An old buddy of Blabber’n’Smoke, Duke Dali, was released for a while recently and having glommed on this release amidst a pile of albums awaiting review, decided to wax on it.

Glasgow’s dynamic duo, Meade and Reid, have been joined together at the musical hip for nigh on 14 years, playing as a duo and in the bands The Flying Mules and The Meatmen, in most of Glasgow’s dives and in some of our more salubrious saloons and venues. In addition, they have an international profile having built up an impressive rolodex of influential chums (including Old Crow Medicine Show and Sturgill Simpson) and have graced stages far and wide with their infectious mix of country, rockabilly and good ole’ fashioned rock’n’roll. Daniel Meade may be the more familiar name having released a slew of solo albums alongside his band projects but those in the know, know that when Lloyd Reid is in the mix then the pair really work their magic.

If You Don’t Mind is the first release (bar an earlier single) to have both their monikers on the sleeve and it’s the culmination of a germ on an idea hatched on a tour bus some years back but only realised in lockdown isolation. Reid’s guitar has been a vital part of Meade’s sound over the years but he has been expanding his vistas adding steel guitar to his well regarded fluid Hofner guitar licks and here he provides an incredibly impressive array of sounds to Meade’s well honed songs. The closing song here, Why You Been Gone So Long, features his trademark runs which owe as much to jazz guitarists as it does to country slickers as he lifts an already excellent song into the ether (not to mention Meade’s fantastic piano solo which is just sublime).

Why You Been Gone So Long is a fine example of Meade’s ability to produce an immediate classic, sounding as it does as if Woody Guthrie could have penned it and throughout the album he hits the mark time and time again. The anguished If You Don’t Mind kicks off proceedings as the pair sound like The Rolling Stones playing in a puddle of beer amidst broken glasses in an old time saloon. Hard To Be A Man These Days belies the remote recording involved in lockdown as the pair sound as if they were hunkered down in Sun studios in Memphis. Meanwhile, the very brief Give This World A Shake could have easily been inserted into a 1960’s soul revue.

Over the course of the album, Meade digs into hard luck and hardscrabble times. Choking On The Ashes has Reid adding weeping pedal steel and Mexicana guitar to Meade’s mournful words while Good Heart Gone Astray is a good old god dam country weep with honky tonk piano and keening pedal steel. Sleeping On The Streets Of Nashville is a grand tale of crashed dreams as a would be country superstar hits the skids but Meade and Reid do hit the highlights on the superbly performed Old Rope And Razor. Here, Meade writes a song which bears comparison with sixties luminaries such as Fred Neil or Tim Buckley while Reid’s guitar lights up the song like a Greenwich Village cafe neon sign. It’s perhaps the best number Meade has offered us over the years and with Reid’s nimble playing it’s quite sublime.

https://danielmeade.bandcamp.com/album/if-you-dont-mind

Victoria Bailey. Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline. Rock Ridge Music

If the title isn’t enough to entice you in, the first few minutes of this tremendous album surely will as Victoria Bailey’s perfect country voice introduces Honky Tonk Woman. The band then kick in with a seductive blend of fiddle and pedal steel joy in a perfect country song which contains just about all the hurt, heartache, romance and religion one could ask for. It’s honky tonk heaven indeed and raised well above the bar by Bailey’s exquisite performance.

Steeped in music via her parents from an early age, Bailey grew up in Orange Country, California, but she seems as well versed in Nashville sounds as those of nearby Bakersfield and the nine songs on Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline all confirm this. She has one of those pure country voices which hit on impact, think of Dolly or Patsy or Loretta and you’re halfway there, while she has assembled an accomplished set of pickers to accompany her. Have a listen to the country swing of Homegrown Roots with its zinging Dobro and impressive use of various percussive sounds and try not to be impressed. In addition, Bailey proves to be an excellent writer as she paints a picture of a dusty bar whose customers love their country music and paints this as well as Guy Clark once did.

Regarding Bakersfield, Bailey celebrates it on Skid Row where she sings, “Have you ever heard of the Bakersfield sound – Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam’s town – and all this time you thought you had to be from the South to get a little respect for your country sound?” Having firmly stamped out any sense that country can only come from the south she then allows the south a shout out her wonderful take on Johnny Cash’s Tennessee which is chock-full of creamy pedal steel and twanged guitar while she approximates a good ole gal’s voice in a middle interlude. Tennessee mentions George Jones and Bailey takes a leaf from Cash as she peppers her songs with mentions of country icons, a nod to tradition perhaps, but she’s not beyond taking a pop at them also. Outlaws is performed in a Waylon and Willie style, the band, as always, magnificent, but Bailey’s sarcasm is evident as she sings from the viewpoint of the little lady at home as her beau goes on the road. The lyrics tell the tale as she sings, “Write her a love song, tell her that you love her but you leave her feelin’ blue.”

There’s more grief on Ramblin’ Man, an excellent tear stained ballad as her cowboy man comes and goes as he pleases while Spent My Dime On White Wine has a slight gospel influence with a soulful organ as Bailey sings of the trials and tribulations of being a jobbing musician. The album closes with the swoonfull Travellin’ Kind, another song about waiting around for a lover to return.

Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline is one of those rare albums where all of the songs are quite superlative. Bailey’s not breaking any new ground here but she has delved into tradition and added her own take on it with the result that the album is one of the best we’ve heard this year.  Bailey is an absolute gem and a fresh breath of country air. Highly recommended.

Website

Karen Jonas. The Southwest Sky And Other Dreams

a2807884528_16

Karen Jonas’ fifth album really steps up to the plate in terms of song writing and delivery. It’s the album she’s been promising to make for some time, building on the many delights contained in her previous releases but here, Jonas, the songs and the band, all conspire to create a wonderful noise.

 As the title hints at, Jonas, from Virginia, is surveying the great southwest – the deserts and dusty towns, faded dreams and lurid fantasies. Some of the songs are personal, based on her memories of travelling around the Mojave Desert, others are based on sketches of characters and places glimpsed as Jonas toured across Texas. As might be expected, it’s an eclectic mix with neon rouged bars, bowling alleys and domestic drudgery all featuring and Jonas and her band conveying the essence of the places visited with an equally eclectic mix of sounds ranging from country to rockabilly and honky tonk. At the epicentre, Jonas is impressive, her voice quite wonderful.

The album opens with the note perfect portrait of a fading lothario, sustained by memories of seventies glory but now just The Last Cowboy (at The Bowling Alley). With its wonderful Tex-Mex country delivery adorned with sweet pedal steel, Jonas captures well the quiet indignities he inflicts on himself as the youngsters fail to celebrate his bowling skills. Palm Tree Paradise is another excellent slice of pedal steel fuelled country rock albeit a little bit chunkier and a lot more tearful as Jonas dissects a past relationship, summing up her partner’s shortcomings but admitting she’d do it all over again. Later in the album, Jonas returns to the theme of relationships on several songs which are fuelled with a desperate sadness and a barely restrained sense of fury but in the meantime there’s a couple of swell up-tempo numbers. Pink Leather Boots is a short and sassy rockabilly number which has a trucker mesmerised by a lap dancer, fantasising about taking her home to meet his mum. There’s more raunch and rockabilly in the roustabout Be Sweet To Me with Jonas snarling in fine fashion. Bridging the feisty and forlorn, Farmer John (no relation to the Nuggets frat rock number) is a dramatic slice of American gothic. The band slip and slither with a menace as Jonas kind of unravels while standing at the kitchen sink wondering where the hell her husband is. It’s Handsome Family territory perhaps but Jonas inhabits it well.

On a similar note but much more resigned in its delivery, there’s the incredibly moving Maybe You’d Hear Me Then,  a shimmering number which disguises the slow burning anger of a woman left at home while Barely Breathing is a more claustrophobic take on a similar situation. Better Days gets this all in the open as Jonas describes a pair of women, a hurt wife dependent on pills, a waitress waking up with a stranger, both, like our opening cowboy, dreaming of their better days. She closes the album with a gorgeous country infused lament on Don’t Blink Honey, a song which on first listen sounds like a lullaby of sorts but turns out to be Jonas’ summation of life, basically, it’s a losing game. It’s an elegant close to an album which is gritty in its substance and lifted by the sheer exuberance of the playing.

Website

Sunshine Walkers. The Best Of Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave-Berry

61e9fgqph5l._ss500_Mention The Soft Boys and most folk will associate them with Robyn Hitchcock, the idiosyncratic singer/songwriter who has gone on to carve a successful solo career. However, it was The Soft’s guitarist, Kimberley Rew, who initially became, well, not famous, but certainly commercially successful. Joining Katrina & The Waves, Rew penned their top ten chart hit Walking On Sunshine while another of his songs, Going Down To Liverpool also hit the charts when covered by The Bangles. In addition, a bizarre series of events led to Katrina & The Waves winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997 with a Rew composition, Shine A Light, a song originally written for The Samaritans!

On a solo note, Rew was out of the traps with a serious contender in The Bible Of Bop, an album recorded variously with his Soft Boys chums and The DBs and which remains somewhat stellar in its power pop power. Consumed by the Waves however, it was not until 2000 that Rew returned to recording under his own name, releasing several low key albums. By now he was accompanied by his wife Lee Cave-Berry (a musician with her own tale to tell including being the proposed bassist for a Bill Haley UK tour -cancelled when he died with Cave-Berry suggesting that the thought of having a female bass player did for him).

Anyhow, Sunshine Walkers, aside from its cheesy title, is a selection of songs that the pair have released over the past 20 years, alongside three from Bible Of Bop. It’s a generous helping, 21 songs spanning 70 minutes and while it leaps around genres somewhat, it’s a grand listen, serving to remind one that Rew is not only a killer guitarist but one of those somewhat unique songwriters who can channel  humour into songs while remaining well away from being a comedy act. Think of Neil Innes and indeed, Robyn Hitchcock.

We were unaware of Rew’s output, aside from Bible Of Bop, and it’s great to hear Hey War Pig, Stomping All Over The World and especially, My Baby Does Her Hairdo Long again. The latter is a stone cold classic. But venturing into the album we were blown away by the likes of Restless Ocean, a Neil Young like guitar epic and then Rew’s psychedelic guitar showpiece, Flower Superpower which has a Temptations’ sly funky groove wired into it. A cover of The Troggs’ I Want You is snotty as fuck with garage band chords thrashed out along with snarling solos.

The album kicks off with a great example of Rew’s off kilter approach as The Dog Song finds him pondering on whether pets have a philosophical or religious bent as the band hammer out a raunchy Stones cum Berry riff. Bloody Old England reminds one of Ray Davies or Steve Marriott’s cockney odes to English tropes while The End Of Our Rainbow is a McCartney like piano fuelled end of the pier romp. There are nuggets like this throughout the album. It makes Me Happy kicks off sounding like Wreckless Eric as Cave-Berry takes the vocals and Rew turns in a tortured solo and Backing Singer Blues has a loose limbed Rockpile swing to it. There’s no space here to mention all songs but it’s nice to note that the pair have the opportunity to celebrate their union on the sweet laid back vibes of Happy Anniversary and to state that the closing song, Simple Pleasures, is one of the finest jangled power pop songs we’ve heard in a long time.

Nicely packaged and with liner notes by Bucketfull Of Brains’ Nigel Cross, Sunshine Walkers is uplifting and, after months of lockdown, a real breath of fresh air.

Website

Jerry Joseph. The Beautiful Madness. Decor Records

jj_web_thebeautifulmadness_540xIt’s strange sometimes how the stars align. Jerry Joseph is a jobbing musician with around 30 albums under his belt but he’s hardly a household name. He has his fans and one of them turns out to be Patterson Hood of The Drive By Truckers who produced this album. That’s not all however as Hood enrolled the rest of The Truckers to play on the album (using a nom de plume, The Stiff Boys) while ex Trucker Jason Isbell (another fan, calling Joseph a triple threat – “a great singer, songwriter and performer”) joins in as well. Who knows if it was this star-studded line-up which prompted Joseph’s first official UK album release but we should all be grateful that the album, with all its righteous rage and acute observations, is getting its 15 minutes of fame.

In addition, there’s a serendipity around the album as Joseph rails against many of our current woes. Currently a native of Portland, he’s been in the thick of recent protests but several of the songs here, although recorded before Black Lives Matter exploded, address many of the issues relating to racism in the US. Central to this is his song Dead Confederate, the starkest number on the album which features Joseph along with Isbell on slide guitar. Eerily prescient, Joseph imagines the thoughts and memories of a Confederate statue, still adhering to his white supremacist values and scornful of those who wish to pull him down. It’s a powerful song with vivid imagery but Joseph skilfully undermines the so-called historical importance of such monuments as the statue, while relating antebellum racism, turns out to have been erected by racists in the 20th Century.

Standing tall alongside Dead Confederate is the dense and claustrophobic diatribe of Sugar Smacks. A deadly melange of fuzzed out rock with Death Valley banjo and kaleidoscopic keyboards, it has Joseph in an apocalyptic mood as he raps and rages against a dystopian world. As he rants about injustices around the world, celebrates heroes and cites so many instances, good and bad, that propel him, one would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the song’s visceral propulsion. It’s like a contemporary version of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

Surrounding these towering achievements, Joseph still aims and hits high. The opening Days Of Heaven, aside from its nod to the Malick movie, finds Joseph writing in the Mexican wilderness, a gun at his side in case any drug gangs get too close. San Acacia is like a Sam Peckinpah movie come to life while Good rises from swamp rock roots and Eureka limps along wonderfully as Joseph recalls the aching country rock of Chris Gaffney. Finally, there’s Joseph’s farewell to David Bowie on the sweet string infused Black Star Line which has echoes of Lou Reed threaded within and which eventually bursts out like a Roman candle with an incendiary guitar solo until an astoundingly well managed closing piano.

Having never heard of Joseph before, The Beautiful Madness is quite astounding. Kudos then to Patterson Hood for backing the man and hopefully this will raise his profile. It might seem daunting, but if this album hits you then there’s a wealth of back catalogue to explore. Mind you, Joseph is eclectic, but do dive in. In the meantime keep your fingers crossed for a purported Euro tour in 2021 and please have a look at this in depth interview on Americana UK where Joseph talks about the album and also the work he does across the globe in war torn regions.

https://www.jerryjoseph.com/

Back To Paradise: A Tulsa Tribute To Okie Music. Horton Records

a2136475107_16Tulsa isn’t generally mentioned these days as a hive of musical activity although it has a history which still resonates to this day. The Tulsa Sound, back in the seventies, was almost on a par with Muscle Shoals with a similar mix of country, soul and blues going into the cooking pot. There’s a host of names associated with the sound but the best known was the late Leon Russell. Russell, his star in the ascendency then, had the cash to invest locally and he built several recording studios, one of which was Paradise Studios, located in a bucolic country setting. As is the way with things,  the studio was mothballed, the last recordings made were in 1978, but a local Tulsan (Rick Huskey) has spent years restoring the place and back in February 20 Oklahoma musicians descended on it to record this tribute to its glory years.

Over four days, they recorded 17 songs as live as possible in the studio giving the record a fine loose limbed and warm vibe. With a basic house band set up (led by guitarist Paul Benjamin), the album generally holds to that blueprint of laidback Tulsa blend of roots music as they tackle songs familiar and some less so. And while the list of performers they pay tribute to contains some well known names (J.J. Cale, Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, Lowell Fulson and Russell himself), the cast is less well known with only John FullBright’s name lighting any light bulbs here.

Nevertheless, the album is a fine listen, especially if you still hanker after swampy and laid back grooves. Guitarist Benjamin kicks off proceedings with a fairly faithful cover of Cale’s I’ll Make Love To You Anytime which is fun to listen to but later on he gives us an epic guitar and organ loaded trip through Cale’s Ride Me High which has some of the good ole Dr. John’s gumbo herbs scattered over it along with some Grateful Dead like guitar ramblings. Several of the songs revel in the good natured natural grooves which Cale perfected as on Benjamin’s cover of Helluva Deal and Jacob Tovar’s truckin’ I’m Gonna Get To Tulsa but there’s also Branjae’s sassy take on Fulson’s Tramp and even some funkalicious grooves in Charlie Redd & Briana Wright’s update on The Gap Band’s I Yike It.

As for John Fullbright, his contributions are up to his usual par. Steve Ripley’s Crossing Over is given a sanctified gospel delivery and Hoyt Axton’s Jealous Man is replete with electric piano and shuffled horn section with Fullbright sounding like Russell on vocals. Tackling Russell on his cover of If The Shoe Fits, Fullbright comes across as if he were The Beatles’ Rocky Racoon on a song which is very much of its time but retains its wry humour here.

Covering Dwight Twilley is a high bar and unfortunately Sarah Frick’s cover of I’m On Fire doesn’t take off, but Jesse Aycock provides one of the highlights here as she sings Tulsa County, probably best known for its inclusion on The Byrds’ Ballad Of Easy Rider album, written by Pamela Polland but also covered by another well known Oklahoman, Jesse Ed Davis. On a personal note, the cover of Jim Byfield’s Can’t Jive Enough by Dustin Pittsley is supremely welcomed as it transported us back to Sunday evenings listening to Alexis Korner on the Beeb and being introduced to the fabulous Rockin’ Jimmy & The Brothers Of The Night. If nothing else, check them out.

It’s an engaging and enjoyable listen and if it helps put Tulsa back on the musical map then all the better. Aside from that, it’s a veritable rabbit hole as it’s far too tempting to search out the originals and compare them. Overall, this contemporary take on The Tulsa Sound bodes well for the future.

Buy it on Bandcamp

 

 

 

 

James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band. Before We Go

a0980743404_16In the latter stages of recording their third album, Glasgow outfit, James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band, were scuppered (like most of us) by the virus which has swept the world. Having released two highly acclaimed records (The Tower and High Fences) alongside some excellent live performances, the band have been shaping up well and Edwyn has displayed some grand song writing chops. For now, we’ll have to wait for that third album but in lieu of it Edwyn has released this seven-song set of acoustic demos allowing us a sneak peek.

Recorded in a single session without the band, Edwyn proves to be a compulsive listen on his own. While the collective have often been compared to classic LA bands from the seventies (have a listen to Passing San Ysidro), Edwyn here is much more grounded in folk and blues while the one cover, his take on The Band’s The Shape I’m In, superbly picked on acoustic guitar brings to mind a cross between the guitar wizardry of Stefan Grossman and the waxing and wanings of Tim Buckley.

Little Metal Box is a song which could sit quite comfortably on High Fences and one can mentally furnish the band arrangement as Edwyn sings this immensely attractive song which, while melodic, is tinged with an aching regret. Edwyn then spills into the Jacques Brel like lament which is These Days and the stark cri de coeur which is Time Keeps Passing On where he sounds as if he is at the end of his tether. He keeps the best to the end as the closing song, Mother Storm, featuring jagged and spiky acoustic guitar, tunes into the blues along with that whiff of modal tuning pioneered by John Fahey. Sounding as if it has been dredged from a southern swamp, it’s mightily impressive.

Before We Go is currently available as a download from James Edwyn’s Bandcamp page on a “pay what you like” basis. Given that it’s a tremendous listen and that Edwyn and his band are currently stranded, you might consider offering the price of a pint at least. You won’t be disappointed.

Jason Molina. Eight Gates. Secretly Canadian

a1519624479_16The last recordings Jason Molina made before his untimely passing, Eight Gates is well above this writer’s expectations and, while not on a par with much of the music Molina made with Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, the album is a beguiling listen. Recorded in London around 2008, the disc features bare boned solo performances along with some which are more fleshed out (with the assistance of Chris Cacavas and Greg Norman). It’s a short disc, the nine songs clock in at under 30 minutes, but in its desolate beauty, one never feels short changed.

It’s always tempting to imagine the mindset of an artist when listening to a posthumous release and when that artist is Molina, a man who made minor key misery a theme of many of his songs and who died aged 39 from alcohol related illness, then one imagines that he knew this was to be his swansong. Of course, there’s no real way to determine that but in its essence, Eight Gates does have the feel of a self-penned eulogy. The album closes with Molina telling the studio team to shut up and let him sing The Crossroads + The Emptiness his way. It’s a song which could sit (un)comfortably within Neil Young’s ditch trilogy as Molina sings about his birthday as if it were a barrier to overcome.

Several of the songs are bracketed by birdsong, allegedly, field recording of parrots Molina found in his London garden (and fancifully imagined them to be descendents of a pair Jimi Hendrix had released into the London skies four decades earlier). They are the only rays of light here as the album opens with a drone of organ and cello over which Molina plucks spare electric guitar on Whisper Away. His voice sounds pained, searching for solace perhaps. Shadow Answers The Walls is given a more traditional band sound with percussion rattling away beneath a funereal organ, a sound harking back to Songs: Ohia and it remains pretty bleak. It’s a song where the brevity is an issue as it peters out at two minutes just as one was hoping for it to stretch out in the manner of some of Molina’s epics. The most fully fledged of the songs is Thistle Blue, the arrangement of which resembles the opening number but it is allowed to spread its wings somewhat as Molina delivers a song which seems to have been dredged from some ancient folk song.

The remainder are primarily Molina solo although there is occasional cello and organ accompaniment.  In the main dolorous, there’s a delicate beauty in Old Worry and on Be Told The Truth, the latter perhaps the most sorrowful song here.

Whether these songs were ever meant to be assembled in this manner or not, Eight Gates is an album which will surely be snapped up by fans of the late Molina. For others, it’s not the first album one would recommend but it has its haunting beauty and in time might be considered in the same breath as Nick Drake’s farewell album, Pink Moon.

Website

Elaine Lennon. Uncharted Waters

a3999012289_2Having appeared from nowhere to become one of the most in demand performers on the Glasgow music scene in the space of a year, Elaine Lennon’s debut album, released last January, was universally acclaimed. A winner of a Danny Kyle award at Celtic Connections and noted as an artist to watch by Nashville’s Songwriters’ Association, Lennon inhabits the world of confessional and moving singer songwriters who populated the charts in the seventies with folk comparing her to the likes of Dory Previn and Carly Simon.

As with all of us, Lennon’s plans for this year were cruelly shut down in March, derailing the promotion of her album. However, this Friday, she releases a new song, Uncharted Waters, inspired by the Covid lockdown. All profits will all go to the Paediatrics Unit at University Hospital Wishaw, Lennon’s way of saying thanks to the dedicated staff there who last year successfully treated her son for a tumour on his spine.

It’s a glorious song very much in the vein of the album. Lennon’s voice and piano are supported by a chorus of notable voices including Karine Polwart, Boo Hewerdine, Findlay Napier, Siobhan Miller, Yvonne Lyon and Chris While. There’s also a very moving video to accompany the song which was self shot by Lennon. All in all it’s very moving and should you purchase the song, you’ll know that it’s going to a good cause.

You can buy the song and donate here.

 

Dan Penn. Living On Mercy. Last Music Co.

coversofar-p-500Dan Penn is a legend. There, said it. Songwriter, producer, musician and performer and one of the mainstays of the fabled Muscle Shoals team. Penn wrote numerous songs which were chart hits for the likes of Aretha Franklin back in the sixties and was one of the guiding hands behind Alex Chilton’s first band, The Box Tops. Chances are you have at least one of his classic songs in your collection with the odds on that it’s someone’s version of Dark End Of The Street.

For someone who has been reckoned as a personification of “blue eyed soul,” Penn has, in the main, shied from the spotlight with only a handful of solo recordings behind him. There have been brief flurries of activity on the live front, often in tandem with his song writing partner Spooner Oldham, which have allowed him to demonstrate his self-effacing brilliance (check out the 2006 recording, Moments From This Theatre, for proof) but in general he avoids the limelight. It was a surprise then to hear that, now 79 years old, Penn was releasing his first new album in 26 years. It’s no surprise however that Living On Mercy is quite wonderful as Penn captures once again, the soulful sound he helped create five decades ago.

Recorded in Memphis and Nashville with a crack team (Milton Sledge (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Will McFarlane (guitar) and Clayton Ivey (keyboards), along with a full horn section and female harmonies), it’s evident from the opening bars of the title song that Penn can still write songs which pierce to the heart and deliver them with the wearied resignation of a wounded lover. Living On Mercy is classic Penn in the vein of Dark End Of The Street and the band just nail the sound. The album resounds with such echoes as if time has stood still and The Swampers were still around (indeed, keyboard player Ivey was a Swamper) as they romp through Clean Slate, I Didn’t Hear That Comin’, the funky horn driven Edge Of love and the excellent Leave It Like You Found It, another masterful tearjerker.

There are nods to soulful balladeers such as Jerry Butler on I Do and Things Happen but Penn is at his best when he’s singing about heartbreak and one of the highlights of the album is the emotional tug of Blue Motel. A narrative song, it wallows in despair with Penn’s voice comforted by the harmony singers while the band are the embodiment of loneliness with their delicate touch. It’s similar to the sorry tales parlayed by The Delines on their Imperial album but just that bit more soulful. The standout song is Penn’s paean to Nashville’s music row and the many dreams lost and shattered of so many wannabees who got off the bus reckoning they would soon be a star. It crowns an album that is just gorgeous. Penn wears his years well, his voice still in fine fettle, and the arrangements are quite wonderful.

There’s been a bit of a resurgence in country southern soul over the past year or two so why not do yourself a favour and buy this rare album from one of its founding members. Living On Mercy is released on CD on 28th August but there’s a later vinyl release in October for those who really want to relive the good old days.

Website