Ernest Troost. O Love. Travellin’ Shoes Records

Blabber’n’Smoke last encountered LA based Ernest Troost when we reviewed his fine Live At McCabe’s album two years ago. An Emmy award winning film and TV composer Troost is also a natural talent when it comes to folk blues guitar picking and singing with all three of his previous albums recommended. O Love maintains the standard and adds a tougher edge on occasion as Troost ventures into rockier ground with a couple of the songs featuring him on electric slide guitar (which he plays quite wickedly) along with a rhythm section. The first of these, the opening Old Screen Door, fairly rips along sounding not a million miles removed from the rockabilly noir of Jace Everett as Troost paints a grisly family crime scene where “The snakes were hissin’ in the hedges/ the rats whispered ‘neath the floor/ and the moon was just watchin’/ through the old screen door.” With its scatter gun guitar breaks it’s pretty thrilling stuff. Weary Traveller is another band effort, this time a tumbleweed strewn southern romp with lap steel guitar snaking throughout while the title song seesaws along with nimble finger picking pitching in between a highway rush of wailing guitar which recalls the likes of Twilight Hotel.

For the remainder of the album we’re in more familiar territory, particularly if you have a copy of the Live at McCabe’s album as there are no fewer than six songs here that Troost initially unveiled back then (odd as usually it’s the other way around with live versions following the studio effort). However here the songs are retooled, some more than others with Bitter Wind getting an added bass drum kick and Storm Coming revamped as a bluesy growl while O Love gets the makeover mentioned above. Aided and abetted by several of the players who appeared on the live album, in particular Nicole Gordon who sings harmony on the majority of the songs here along with Mark Goldberg on bass and Debra Dokin on drums along with a crack crew of LA music veterans Troost delivers some excellent songs.

Close is a classic country rock love song with rippling guitars, jaunty mandolin and classic harmony sounds that sends sunshine vibes through the speakers while Harlan County Boys is more dappled with an Appalachian air and an antiquarian feel as Troost recalls the perils of mining and union struggles. The Last To Leave is as good a country waltz as we’ve heard for some time and comes with the appropriate sense of lost love and hurt. Troost hits the mark time and time again revisiting the sunshine vibe with I’ll Be Home Soon and twanging his guitar on the spiritual lament of All I Ever Wanted.

Troost says that the songs on O Love are “a collection of love songs, viewing love from different angles.” Strange angles indeed when death and loss sit side by side with the joy of a song like Close. However love is expressed in different ways at different times and Troost has captured its highs and lows perfectly here on an album that sees him very much in form.

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Ernest Troost, Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra.

Ernest Troost. Live At McCabe’s. Travellin’ Shoes Records.

For a man who’s main job is writing (and winning Emmys for) film and television scores Troost is a surprisingly good acoustic folk and blues performer. I reviewed his 2005 album All the Boats Are Gonna Rise favourably but missed out on the follow up Resurrection Blues. Here he delivers a fine set of songs old and new, solo and accompanied that proves to be an excellent companion to his studio releases. Kicking off with Resurrection Blues and the magnificent Travelin’ Shoes I was afraid that it would be downhill from there but Troost delivers several pieces that can match these. With tales of ne’er do wells and desperadoes balanced by some delicate love songs and dust blown ballads it’s not surprising to see that his songwriting has been compared to the likes of Dave Alvin and Richard Thompson. Switchblade Heart which earned Troost a songwriting award at the Kerrville Festival is the outstanding example but the black humour of Disturbin’’Blues combines his writing with his live appeal. A lively ““Piedmont” blues styled song Disturbin’ Blues features Mark “Pocket” Goldberg on bass, Dave Fraser, harmonica, Debra Dobkin, drums and Nicole Gordon on harmony vocals. They appear elsewhere throughout the album and Gordon in particular is excellent and is given the opportunity to sing lead on two of the songs. In all this is a great live album that captures the artist in fine style and is well recommended for anyone looking for an updated Woody Guthrie or a less cynical Loudon Wainwright.

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Switchblade Heart

Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra. Teepy Eepy. Independent.

We caught the tail end of this band’s set when they supported Pokey LaFarge on his recent Glasgow gig. A nice fit indeed as they draw from the same musical well as Mr. LaFarge with old time country blues and swing featuring large. They looked good and sounded swell from what I saw and heard and copies of this, their five-song debut were being snapped up at the end of the gig. Coming from Newcastle (with one Glaswegian in the line up) they offer a nod to Northumberland tradition by having an accordion player in the line up. Listening to this However one would imagine they were born and raised in some Southern US state despite the references to their hometown in The Great Fire of Byker based on a massive scrapyard fire which happened in Newcastle last year. They set off comfortably enough with Quaich Keeper’s Blues, a fine shuffle about the demon whisky while alcohol features again on the graveyard vamp that is Tonic Wine. Here they exhibit a sly humour with the song starting off sounding like a New Orleans shuffle before Heron extols the delights of what appears to be Buckfast and his character heads off for a night on the town ending up at a reggae party. At this point the band switch from New Orleans to Jamaica with some dub effects thrown in, sounds odd on paper but it’s great to listen to. Whisky features again in Killed by Love while the last song She Don’t Like The Fish has some great Django type guitar runs on a rousing song that has a great sense of dynamics and a wonderful scat filled chorus. Given their Northumbrian origin one wonders if this is not a modern (although swingtime influenced) riposte to that well-known diitty, When the Boat Comes In. Overall this young band has some fine players and a promising songwriter in the shape of Mr. Heron and we look forward to watching their progress.
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She Don’t Like The Fish