Reviews by Declan Culliton

Andrew Combs Canyons Of My Mind Loose 

Nashville can often be a contradiction in musical terms. The home of what is marketed today as "country music" is essentially controlled by Music Row and its influence on country music radio, dictating a style of music that could not be further from what many of us consider to be traditional country music. However, take the short trip over the Cumberland River and out to East Nashville and you will find a cooperative of musicians who for the past number of years have been representing and playing a different brand of music altogether, mixing country with folk and fortunately also making industry breakthroughs in recent years. Often influenced by hoovering up their parents record collections their impact has been gradual but noteworthy. Caitlin Rose unlocked the door a few years back with her 2013 album The Stand In, Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price simply kicked the door in with their 2016 recordings which both deservedly made inroads in the Billboard Charts. 

Andrew Combs is probably the next most likely candidate from the East Nashville musical community to follow in their footsteps. His second album All These Dreams (2015) established him as an intelligent, reflective singer songwriter with obvious comparisons being made to Nilsson and Glen Campbell. Canyons of My Mind finds the Nashville resident taking a large leap into areas not often visited by country artists. The song writing is equally impressive as his earlier work, visiting lost love (Hazel, Lauralee, What It Means To You), environmental (Dirty Rain) and political issues (Bourgeois King, Blood Hunters) but with arrangements that are much more adventurous, aggressive and in some cases mind-blowing. The swashbuckling anti-Trump anthem Bourgeois King ("feed us fiction, fabrication, make this country great again") introduces strings into a wonderful mix that you simply do not want to end. Heart Of Wonder, which opens the album, features screeching guitars, incessant piano and even a woozy sax finale. Dirty Rain, showcasing his incredibly gentle vocal range, finds Combs deeply concerned environmentally about our children’s future "nothing shines like it did before."

Combs writing has always been inspired, thoughtful and confessional and having recently wed his long-term girlfriend a number of the songs catalogue previous relationships and what might have been, possibly by way of exorcism as he enters this new phase of his life.

If there is any justice Combs should expand his fan base considerably with Canyons Of My Mind which represents the best of both worlds with beautiful Nilsson like ballads and more experimental material entering Tim Buckley territory. He certainly has the potential to be one of the standout Americana artists of his generation. Here’s hoping.

Jason Eady Self Titled Old Guitar 

An artist releasing a self-titled album mid-career is often making a statement or revealing a body of work more personal and reflective than their previous output. The sixth release from Texas resident Jason Eady is a departure from his previous recordings in that it is acoustic in total with the exception of pedal steel guitar.  It’s also a body of work that in a just world should further the reputation of an artist whose recordings to date are up there with the finest outputs of country music in the true sense over the past decade. Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton may be hoovering up the awards and accolades, and more power to them, but Eady’s music is truer to the tradition of country music of outlaws Haggard, Jennings and Nelson than most other singer songwriters of his generation.

His latest album is so much more personal and reflective than his previous work. Exit the drinking, womanising and honky tonking and enter the concerned parent, loving husband and possibly reformed hell raiser as Eady pours his heart out over the twelve tracks on the album. Always an intelligent wordsmith, Eady has reached the age of forty and the album reflects midlife reconciliation rather than midlife crisis. More suited to the back porch than the barroom and clocking in just over thirty minutes the album includes what could be described as three spiritual tracks, the opener Barabbas, Rain and a cover of the Channing Wilson/Patrick Davis song Black Jesus. No Genie in This Bottle enters George Jones territory with its anti-drinking sentiment. Not Too Loud is a beautiful song written for his daughter as he considers the passing years from her childhood to womanhood. 40 Years closes the album with Eady delivering a semi spoken reflection of his arrival at middle age. Waiting To Shine (the longest track on the album at 4.21, coincidentally or not five of the other tracks are between 3.11 and 3.13 long) finds the writer on the road again and searching for the elusive words to pen another song ("Words are like diamonds, the best ones are the hardest to find, buried in the bottom on a hole, waiting to shine"). 

Eady once again employed Kevin Welch to produce the album which was recorded at The Blueroom Studio in Nashville, a venue used previously by Welch to record acoustic albums. Vince Gill, Tammy Rogers of The Steeldrivers both joined Eady in the studio with Courtney Patton (Eady's wife) contributing, beautifully it has to be said, backing vocals. Fellow Texan and pedal steel supremo Lloyd Maines input is telling on pedal steel, dobro and slide guitar. 

Eady already has a back catalogue behind him that sets him apart as a writer and story teller and which to date has not rewarded him with the recognition he deserves. It may require a song or two of his to be recorded by a ‘name’ in Nashville to introduce him to a wider audience. The sooner that happens the better.

Steve Gardner Bathed in Comfort Self Released

The story behind Yorkshire born Steve Gardiner’s debut album is worthy to be written about in its own right. A totally amateur musician, Gardner had written a few songs over the years without ever having performed them in a live setting with a backing band. He attended a Chuck Prophet show in London and having been blown away by the performance he started to contemplate how his handful of songs would sound rocked up with professional help.

Being aware that Chuck Prophet took on production duties together with recording and touring killer albums he audaciously e-mailed Prophet to ask if he would be prepared to give his four songs the kiss of life. To his surprise the challenge was accepted and in 2015 he found himself in San Francisco with Prophet and his backing band The Mission Express having booked a week in the studio to record a four track EP. To maximise the use of the studio time the four tracks ended up been increased to six with two late additions (in fact two versions of the same song), a country and a rocked up offering of The Day The Aliens Saved The World.  Encouraged by Prophet to consider writing  some more material to record a complete album Gardner did just that and returned to the same studio some months later with the balance of the album. Strongest tracks on the album are the instantly catchy What Would I Do, the opener Rosalie with slick banjo picking by James Deprato and both versions of the aforementioned Aliens, the ‘rock’ version recalling Jona Lewie’s You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen at Parties.

The packaging and artwork are particularly impressive and wouldn’t  any artist, whether amateur or professional, just love to credit his band as including Chuck Prophet, Stephanie Finch, Vicente Rodriquez

Lauren Alaina Road Less Travelled Humphead

Voted American Country’s New Artist of The Year in 2012, Georgia born Lauren Alaina is a product of the American Idol TV series having achieved runner up spot in the tenth season. Road Less Travelled is her second album following the release of her debut album Wildflower in 2011 which entered the Billboard 200 Charts at number 5 selling 70,000 copies on the first week of its release.

Sticking very much to the roadmap of the commercial pop/country crossover genre,  Alaina’s output compares favourably with her peers Rae Lynn, Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum.With a career very much in the ascendancy Alaina is currently on tour with Martina Mc Bride having supported Alan Jackson on his 2016 Still Keeping It Country tour. The twelve tracks featured are co-writes with Alaina working with some of the strongest songwriters in Nashville including fellow female country singer songwriters Emily Weisband, Emily Shackleton and Lindsey Lee.

The album is typical of what is been marketed in Nashville as country even though many of the tracks are devoid of any elements which qualify as country in the traditional sense. That said as a pop album it is undeniably strong if a tad over produced. Alaina possess a powerful and heavenly vocal and songs such as Doin’ Fine, Think Outside The Boy, Crashin’ The Boys Club, Queen of Hearts and the title track   are a clear indication of her ability to pen catchy radio friendly storytelling songs while  dealing with personal issues honestly such as parental break ups, growing up pains and  peer pressures.

Don’t expect to hear much pedal steel guitar or country fiddles and purist country fans will hardly embrace Road Less Travelled whereas lovers of radio friendly country pop will lap it up. A very talented young lady doing what she does remarkably well.

Urban Desert Cabaret Shadow of a Ghost Pumpkin

Urban Desert Cabaret is the vehicle used by  Joe City Garcia to produce and record his take on music and stories inspired by a life time of experiences in New Mexico, Los Angeles and California. His earlier career had included indulgences in psychedelia rock, Tex-Mex and punk rock having played in a number of bands in California including Joe City and The Nightcrawlers, The Crawlers and Dream Army. Having side stepped the music industry for a number of years Garcia was reinvigorated by his involvement in the Joshua Tree Music and Art scene and relaunched his career playing open mic nights in pubs and coffee houses in Los Angeles. 

The name of the project originates from a monthly event in 2013 organised by Garcia and his wife Joanna Fodczuk, a Polish abstract artist, which essentially was a meeting group for singers, songwriters, poets, artists and painters. Garcia vocal delivery is reminiscent of late career Guy Clark and indeed Terry Allen, his gravely delivery more often than not semi spoken.

Stand out tracks Go Away and Delta Bar both feature some delightful violin playing by Bobby Furgo, whose claim to fame includes being part of Leonard Cohens touring band in the early 90’s. UK famed folk singer songwriter Kirsty Mc Gee contributes backing vocals on Wouldn’t You Agree and the particularly impressive title track Shadow of a Ghost. Gar Robertson, who co-produced the album with Garcia, plays pedal and lap steel, electric and bass guitar. Danny Frankel plays drums and percussion.

Kelly’s Lot Bittersweet Self Release

Kelly’s Lot have been playing and recording (Bittersweet is their eleventh release) in Los Angeles since the mid 90’s. They consist of singer songwriter Kelly Zirbes and her band Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Sebastian Sheehan on drums, Bill Johnston on sax, Dave Welch on trumpet, Bobby Orgel on keyboards and Frank Hinojosa on harp. 

Bittersweet, containing a hefty fourteen tracks, finds Zirbes stretching her musical parameters to deliver folky ballads, funky country, rocking blues and some full on, in fact very full on, rockers. Consistent throughout all the genres represented is the wonderful vocal delivery by Zirbes who also delivers a moving a capella on the hymn like Proud.

Come Home is a stripped back love ballad, featuring only Zirbes vocal and acoustic guitar courtesy of Perry Robertson. Mr.Chairman turns the heat up, a bluesy detour with a nice sax break by Johnston. Thorn, a dreamy country ballad, features aching pedal steel throughout by guest player Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams, Tift Merritt, and Tim Easton). Sleep explores darker territories, very effectively it has to be said. 

The title track Bittersweet is a heartfelt recognition for many Vietnam War veterans, lamenting their often lack of recognition and acknowledgement when returning from the frontline. Opening and closing with acoustic guitar and a whistling intro by Zirbes of ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ it also features neat harmonica playing by Hinojosa.

Love Is Hard To Catch, with its sultry almost spoken delivery and kicking in at over six minutes, enters Marianne Faithfull territory as does the equally impressive On Fire with its thundering chorus.

Rick Monroe Gypsy Soul MRG

First things first. Rick Monroe ticks all the boxes for inclusion  in what is currently defined as country music in Nashville. Big arena sound, formula ballads, heavy production and slick guitar riffs. Think Eric Church, Zac Brown etc. Don’t expect any pedal steel or banjo. The Florida born Nashville resident six track mini album Gypsy Soul should without doubt  introduce Monroe to a wider audience given that it’s likely to be well received by Country Music Radio and credit to the young man as it is very good indeed in this genre.  Twelve years have passed since the release of his debut EP Against the Grain in 2005 and in that period Monroe has gained a reputation as a relentless touring artist visiting every US State except Oregon and playing support to Eric Church, Dierks Bently, Dwight Yoakam and The Charlie Daniels Band. His 2016 schedule included 120 shows and 100,000 miles of travelling.

The opening track This Side of You is a slick, sultry, come on song and is typical of what is to follow. The title Track Gypsy Soul, possibly autobiographical, follows a similar path, neat riffs, backing vocals and solo guitar breaks. Production duties were undertaken by Sean Giovanni on five of the tracks with JD Shuff credited with the remaining song.

Monroe has the songs, the image and the work ethic to join the elite modern country artists that play to large stadiums of fans on tours like Country 2 Country. Gypsy Soul could very well be his passport.

Norrie McCulloch Bare Along The Branches Self Release 

It only seems like yesterday when I put pen to paper to review Norrie McCulloch’s second album, These Mountain Blues, recorded less than twelve months ago. Not one to let the grass grow under his feet Bare Among The Branches is the third album in three years for the prolific songwriter from Glasgow. 

The Son Volt influences so evident on These Mountain Blues remain but this outing is possibly more adventurous with the two opening tracks Shutter and Little Boat giving the thumbs up to early Van Morrison and Frozen River offering a more traditional country leanings with the inclusion of some slick mandolin playing by Iain Thompson. Around The Bend is an impressive ballad and very much true to form for McCulloch and the album closes with Beggars Wood a seven-minute journey through the passage of time beautifully articulated and enhanced by some distinctive guitar playing throughout.

Studio colleagues are his regulars, Dave McGowan (Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian), Stuart Rea and Marco Rea (The Wellgreen) together with Iain Thompson of The Bella Hardy Band on mandolin and Iain Sloan of Wynntown Marshals adding pedal and backing vocals. 

McCulloch’s work sits comfortably at the crossroads between folk and country and Bare Among The Branches is further evidence of a proficient and maturing artist, very much part of the wealth of UK talent currently representing the Americana genre. 

Cory Goodrich Wildwood Flower Self Release

Cory Goodrich is certainly no stranger to country music having won Jeff Awards for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash Revue Ring of Fire and her role as Mother in Ragtime. Together with her acting career she is also a singer songwriter and children’s music composer with two award winning albums, Hush and Wiggly Toes to her credit.

Wildwood Flower, her latest work, is a collection of folk and country songs, covers and originals, all featuring Goodrich playing autoharp, an instrument she was introduced to while researching for her role as June Carter for the stage play. The cover versions chosen are standards and include Ring of Fire, Shenandoah, Will The Circle Be Unbroken and all work comfortably together with a number of self-penned additions by Goodrich of which C’est Plus Facile Sans Toi (It’s Easier Without You) and Home To You particularly impress.  

Goodrich, together with being an accomplished musician, is blessed with a controlled vocal range which captures the intended old timey atmosphere throughout the recordings.

The title of the album is a Maud Irving poem, immortalised in song by The Carter Family and given an interesting makeover by Goodrich.

Production duties were undertaken by musician, actor and former musical director at Goodman Theatre Malcolm Ruhl, who together with Goodrich also contributes autoharp and backing vocals.

Reviews By Declan Culliton


Jen Lane This Life of Mine Self Release

One of the rewards of receiving a bunch of albums to review is selecting at random an artist that was previously unknown to me and uncovering a gem. This was certainly the case with Jen Lane’s This Life of Mine, an album that stopped me in my tracks at first listen and has been visiting my cd player on a number of occasions ever since.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that the Canadian singer songwriter escaped under my radar to date despite having recorded four previous albums. The song writing, musicianship and production on the album are top drawer in no small measure a credit to John Macarthur Ellis who produced the album together with contributing no fewer than twelve instruments, his superb pedal steel work probably the standout. Ellis has won numerous awards over the years including seven BC Country Music Awards and a number of Canadian Country Music Awards, well deserved on the basis of the flawless production on this album.

The album was recorded at Bottega Studio in Kelowna located in a thirteen-acre estate which is also a working farm and parklands, the landscape cited by Lane as an inspiration to her and the musicians who feature on the album. Equally inspirational was the loss of her grandfather just before recording commenced resulting on a reflection on his life and indeed her own and hence the album’s title.

Eleven tracks feature in total, all written by Lane with the exception of the Big Star song Thirteen which is given a refreshing laid back treatment. Moving On, released as a single, summarises much of the albums theme, all about accepting things as they are and letting go. 1st Day of Spring bounces along with a ragtime feel, My Man is Linda Ronstadt style late 70’s country rock and the tour da force is the final and title track which closes the album in a defiant and positive way.

Without a doubt had this album been recorded in the late 70’s it would be receiving rave reviews and selling by the cartload. If you, like myself, are unfamiliar with Lane’s music I strongly recommend you correct this and no better place to start than here.

Jeremiah Johnson Band Blues Heart Attack Self Release

Sixth album release from the St. Louis Mississippi born Johnson, his bass player Jeff Girardier and drummer Benet Schaeffer. Don’t expect any surprises, Blues Heart Attack is Johnson doing what he does best, straight down the middle ripping blues with a bit of southern rock on the side, often delivered at a blistering pace and fleshed out by Frank Bauer adding sax and keyboards courtesy of Nathen Hershey.

Currently residing in Houston Texas readers unfamiliar with Johnson could do worse than seek out the 2014 documentary Ride The Blues, directed by Australian Gary Glenn which features concert footage of Johnson together with interviews about the artist’s career path to date.

Mind Reader, the opening track, is closer to ZZ Top than Buddy Guy and kicks the album off in fine style. Room of Fools which follows showcases both the gritty and fullsome vocals of Johnson together with his thrilling guitar work. The title track Blues Heart Attack abandons the full-on rocking sound of much of the album and settles for a jazzier feel. Summertime (how many blues artists have written a song with the title Summertime!) floats along with the emphasis on Johnson’s vocal and recalling a young Van Morrison. Similarly Talk Too Much brings to mind early career John Mayall. Southern Drawl, a killer song by the way, not surprisingly is pure apologetic southern rock name checking Johnny Cash along the way. Here We Go Again slows thing down a mite and features both stunning guitar and sax solos.

All twelve tracks were written by Johnson and recorded at Sawhorse Studio in St. Louis and produced by Jason Mc Intire. For lovers of Rory Gallagher, Buddy Guy and the like.

The Honeydogs Love & Cannibalism Simon Records

It’s hard to fathom that The Honeydogs have existed in one form or another for over 25 years at this stage. Originally formed in the early 90’s by the Levy brothers Adam and Noah together with bass player Trent Norton, they were considered back in the day by Billboard to be Alt-Country’s next big thing, notwithstanding the fact that their output was and remains to be much more far reaching that anything alternative or even country for that matter. Adam Levy sums up their early influences simply as "liking Bowie and Jobim as much as the Flying Burrito Brothers and Merle Haggard." Such was there impact in the 90’s that they toured with both Aimee Mann and INXS.

Their line up in recent years is that of a seven-piece unit. Adam Levy (who released the solo album Naubinway earlier this year, a tribute to his son who passed away in tragic circumstances and reviewed by Lonesome Highway) on guitar, piano, keyboards, Trent Norton on bass and vocals, Ryan Paul Plewachi on guitar and vocals, Peter Anderson on drums, Peter J. Sands on keyboards with Matt Darling and Steve Kung on trombone and trumpet.

Love & Cannibalism, following on from their 2012 release What Comes After, finds them in outstanding form, most definitely a sum of their parts and an album that could not be more suited to the car CD player at high volume.  Their style would simply have been classified as ‘rock’ in the 70’s landing somewhere between the guitar driven sound of Thin Lizzy and the slick, clever power pop output of XTC and Squeeze. The addition of a horn section gives them a fuller and richer soul feel bringing to mind Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes on the track Ordinary Legs in particular.

Recorded over a five-day period at The Pearl Studio in Minneapolis and produced by John Fields (Jonas Brothers, Pink, Miley Cyrus, Busted) the eleven-track album has no fillers from the driving opening track Vermillion Billows (Shouldn’t Take It So Hard) with its thumping bass line through the Tom Petty sounding Look Through The Sun and closing with the funky sounding Little Sister.

The album is pure fun, with stunning chord changes, riffs and guitar solos, thumping bass lines and luscious horns a plenty. An album that should find its way into your record collection.

Richard Shindell Careless Continental Song City

Recorded over a three-year period in New York and his current residence Buenos Aires, Careless is a collection of eleven songs by a singer songwriter who has recorded a considerable body of work dating back to his debut album Sparrow Point released in 1992.

Recognised somewhat as a perfectionist Careless certainly reflects the meticulous input by Shindell over the three-year period with possibly the strongest album of his career, more electric that much of his earlier work and songs and stories that catch the listener’s attention on first play.

Shindell is yet another songwriter that has remained on the fringes without a major industry breakthrough and it is such a shame that an album of this quality may not reach the numbers it’s quality certainly merits.

Stray Cow Blues, which opens the album, is straight down the middle bluesy and rootsy and probably not a pointer of what is to follow. The title track which features next is beautifully paced, atmospheric and delivered with a hoarsy vocal drawl in a style reminiscent of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Robert Fisher.

Infrared is simple, poppy, sixties sounding and sing along with a wonderful harmony vocal courtesy of Sara Milonovich, who also contributes violin on a number of other tracks on the album. Milonovich is one of a number of accomplished musicians that feature including Larry Campbell, Joe Bonadio, Jerry Marotta and Lucy Kaplansky.

All Wide Open tells of a father/daughter reconciliation, Before You Go is dreamlike and hypnotic and the closing track and only cover on the album is The Dome (written by Jeff Wilkinson and Brian Martin) featuring only vocal, bowed electric guitar and keyboards, all performed by Shindell.

All in all a great album, well worth investigating.

Proudfoot Flowers of London Self Release

Not to be confused with the Dublin soul/funk band of the same name, Flowers of London is the second album release by the North London four piece consisting of Michael Proudfoot on vocals and guitar, Duncan Kerr on electric and acoustic guitar, Wayne Worrill on bass and Joe Malone on drums and percussion. If their 2009 album Lincolnshire, produced by pedal steel supremo B.J.Cole, had its inspiration firmly in country music, Flowers of London’s influences are much closer to home in particular in the Brit pop sound of the 60’s combined with the post-punk output of the late 70’s. Not surprising given songwriter and TV Producer Proudfoot’s unapologetic love of the 60’s Beat Boom sound and Kerr’s former life as a veteran of the mid 70’s pub rock scene with the band Plummet Airlines.

Recorded at Alchemy Studios in London the album often recreates the pub rock sound mastered by Brinsley Schwarz in the mid 70’s and brought to a wider audience by Graham Parker and The Rumour. Proudfoot does not reach the stirring and spikey vocal ability of Parker, few do, but the album in spots does create material that would fit snugly in Parker’s early output, particularly on Pathfinders, Come On Come On and Lorraine. The arrangements work to a tee particularly on these tracks with a driving rhythm section and standout guitar playing by Kerr.

Not all twelve tracks on the album shine but the ones that do simply glow.

Norrie Mc Culloch These Mountain Blues Black Dust 

Scotland has seen some notable Americana acts emerge in recent years, albeit artists that may have remained somewhat under the radar. The Wynntown Marshals from Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Daniel Meade immediately spring to mind. Norrie McCulloch is another fine artist from Glasgow that turned quite a number of heads with his debut album Old Lovers Junkyard recorded in 2014. His latest album These Mountain Blues treads a similar path musically yet reveals a greater maturity and confidence that its predecessor.

Recorded live over a three day period at The Tolbooth, a 15th Century historic structure in Stirling, the ten tracks are a collection of great songs, all written by Mc Culloch, that work together as a unit.

The benchmark in terms of delivery and content could be Jay Farrar’s Son Volt at his most phlegmatic. Mc Culloch manages to deliver, with an unhurried and assured sense throughout, an album that has traces of many of the qualities that also stand out in Farrar’s work.

Contributing on the album are some of Glasgow’s finest, including Dave Mc Gowan (Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub) on upright bass, piano and pedal steel, Marco Rea (The Wellgreens, Euros Child) on bass, piano and vocal and Stuart Kidd (The Wellgreens, Pearlfishers, BMX Bandits) on drums and vocal. Despite having such fine players available the album also includes some gems with stripped back instrumentation, in particular Black Dust with Mc Culloch’s vocal and harmonica up front and closing track Hearts Got To Be In The Right Place with delightful harmonies and piano playing.

The title track is intoxicating with Mc Cullocks vocal and Mc Gowan’s silky piano to the fore as is the beautiful When She Is Crying Too enriched by Mc Gowan’s tranquil pedal steel

Further evidence that quality Americana, a classification this album certainly merits, is often closer to home than you think.

The Rifters Architect of a Fire Howlin Dog

Formed in 2002 in New Mexico The Rifters are a three-piece made up of ex-Hired Hands members Jim Bradley and Don Richmond together with Rod Taylor of The Rounders.

Their sound is best described by themselves when they recorded their self-titled debut album in 2004. “It’s music that comes from where we come from – both from the high desert and mountain landscape of our home and from the background and experiences of our lives – sort of a laid-back high-energy gentle giant old blue-buffalo-grama-grassy, cowboy, folky, shake-a-leg with a smile sort of thing.’’

Architect of Fire is a twelve-track recording of songs all written by the band members who combine impressive harmonies with slick instrumentation featuring guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, violin and more.

Pick of the crop are two Leonard Cohen sounding songs, the title track and I Can Live With That together with Charlie’s Lament which would not be out of place on an early career Guy Clark album.

The album’s cover depicts the three members casually sitting around a campfire, a fitting location for playing and indeed listening to the mixture of country and bluegrass covered on the album.

Henry Senior Jnr. Plates of Meat Maiden Voyage 

This is the debut album by Henry Senior Jr, pedal steel player and member of Danny & The Champions of The World. Not surprisingly the recording features all the members of The Champions and was recorded at Reservoir Studios in North London under the watchful eye of producer and bass player Chris Clarke.

When considering the pedal steel guitar in the UK the obvious benchmark is the talented BJ Cole who, as can be expected, was one of the inspirations that lead to this recording.

Often considered to be an instrument rarely heard outside The Music City, Senior’s intention was to "use the pedal steel outside its traditional context" and he succeeds hands down with his ability to weave together jazz, blues, reggae and even ragtime. A theme visited in a similar vein by Jon Rauhouse, who plays steel in Neko Case’s band, and has recorded a number of experimental albums, Senior has also succeeded in producing a quite unique sound. The pedal steel never attempts to dominate but instead works hand in glove alongside bass, keys, drums and horns that recalls the late 60’s golden era of jazz fusion.

The title track and Better Left Unsaid are wonderful blends of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues. Goodbye Bowler Hat glides along, perfectly paced and with a dreamy reggae backbeat conjuring up scenes of sun, sand and surf. An experimental album combining pedal steel and powered by an excellent band of musicians that hits the spot from start to finish.