Underneath the Hawthorn Tree – Cocos Lovers (Gold or Dust)
For Mr Thomas – Robin Williamson (Songs of Love and Parting)
Hurricane Box – The Black Feathers (Angel Dust and Cyanide)
Mish As Y Keayn – Ruth Keggin and Rachel Hair (Lossan) 
Canon – The Magpie Arc (EP1)
Loretta – The Magpie Arc (EP3)
Greenswell – The Magpie Arc (EP3)
Roll Your Stone Away – The Magpie Arc (EP2)
Somebody Made for Me – Emitt Rhodes (Emitt Rhodes)
Don’t Look Back – Arizona Smoke Revue (Single)
Toulouse Street – Doobie Brothers (Toulouse Street)
Glory Box – The Black Feathers (Angel Dust and Cyanide)
Dillon’s Hi-D Tune – Daniel Sherrill (From a Heritage Tree)


The Black Feathers – Angel Dust and Cyanide | Self Release

It doesn’t seem all that long ago since the release of this duo’s debut album Soaked to the Bone, yet six years have managed to drift by in the meantime.  Songwriters Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler take their music to new heights here, certainly when it comes to the inspired choice of covering and breathing new life into the old Portishead staple “Glory Box”, the lead single release from Angel Dust and Cyanide.  The duo’s unmistakable harmonies can be detected immediately as “Lighthouse on Fire” serves as a perfectly placed opener, with both voices finding their dovetail with seemingly little effort.  Those voices continue to gel throughout the album, most notably on “Chemical Romance” and the lively “Golden Hour”, each complemented by some fine string arrangements.  It’s not just the close harmonies that make these songs work so well, in some cases it’s the vocal duets, most noticeable on the gorgeous “Strangers in the Dark”, another album highlight.  Phillip Henry’s familiar Dobro playing lifts “Hurricane” to an even higher status in the playlist, promoting the song to perhaps the highlight.  There’s plenty of soul here, not least on the title song, which once again emphasises the power and empathy in these two remarkable voices. 


Flick the Dust Off: Emitt Rhodes – Emitt Rhodes | Dunhill DS50089 | 1970

This is actually the second album release by singer songwriter Emitt Rhodes, essentially a homemade album with Rhodes playing all of the instruments, which Dunhill released after Rhodes agreed to re-record the vocals to adhere to strict music union rules, that albums released on major labels must be recorded in proper studios.  Well of course these songs were recorded at home and Rhodes was pretty determined to make sure the listener was well aware of this, inscribing in decorative banners on the runout groove the words ‘Recorded at Home’.  Rhodes had also originally pencilled in Homecooking as the album title.  However, the record label changed this to just the singer’s name before the album’s release.  On the inner gatefold sleeve, Rhodes is quoted to say ‘I have to say the things I feel, I have to feel the things I say.’  The album is chock full of highly melodic McCartney-like songs, notably “Somebody Made for Me” and “She’s Such a Beauty”, among others.  Rhodes released just four solo albums in the early 1970s, plus one initial release with The Merry-Go-Round before disappearing off the scene altogether, a casualty of internal record company wrangling.  He made a brief comeback in 2016 with the album Rainbow Ends, before dying in his sleep in the summer of 2020.  

Singled Out: Arizona Smoke Revue – Don’t Look Back | Rola Records R010 | 1981

There’s at least a couple of videos of the Arizona Smoke Revue in action on YouTube, each clip featuring the band filmed from around this period, and each appearing to demonstrate just how fascinating this band was as a live act.  The popular Anglo-American outfit once straddled the borders of folk and country with a vibrant sound, certainly on such numbers as “Last Day of July”, “Border Song” and “Further Along”, revealing their musical chops for all to see.  Yet, the band was also known to sprinkle a splash of humour among the songs in the band’s repertoire, including Steve Knightley’s lilting Noel Coward-like ditty, a song so retro, it feels more akin to the New Vaudeville Band than his later Show of Hands exploits.

Fifty Years Ago: Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street | Warner Bros K46183 | JULY 1972

I found the Doobie Brothers’ second LP Toulouse Street in a junk shop in Doncaster in 1972, the year of the album’s release.  I don’t know why it found itself in a junk shop so soon after its release, maybe the cover shot of a bunch of hippies looking out at whoever first bought the LP, seemed too tempting to leave in the shop and then the funky country rock music didn’t necessarily go with the look of the band.  Maybe it was that same bunch of hippies featured on the inner gatefold sleeve, this time in a state of undress surrounded by equally naked women that may have been just too much to take, therefore immediately finding itself on the junk pile.  Who knows? I was just pleased to find it going for a song. The cover photos were actually taken in a New Orleans establishment that was once a brothel, hence the pictures.  No matter, either way, Toulouse Street appealed to this fifteen year-old and was soon going round on my bedroom turntable.  The album opens with perhaps the band’s most famous song “Listen to the Music”.


The Magpie Arc | Cast, Doncaster | 09.06.22

The Magpie Arc’s very first live show has been a long time coming, the band having been around for a good four years and with no less than three EPs already released, together with one or two enchanting video promos.  The dreaded Pandemic saw to it that our stages, some of which this band should have already played, remained unavailable for the various lockdowns and therefore during this highly frustrating time, an eagerness soon began to develop along with a desire to get out and play as a matter of urgency, before the whole thing evaporated.  The wait has been excruciating for both band and audience alike, the band having already gone through a line-up change, which saw original member Adam Holmes leaving the nest for various reasons.  In the meantime, another Magpie has been drafted in with fellow Scot Findlay Napier stepping in just in time for the band to step out into the spotlight to finally reveal their live sound to fans and curious music fans alike.  

Doncaster provided the venue for the band’s initial concert tonight, with the walls of Cast’s second space being rattled with what could only be described as Folk Rock, a sound not heard in the town (now city) for a good while.  The seats soon filled with an audience just as eager to hear the band as the band was to play, with local hero Frank Carline on hand to settle the audience in, opening with a few of his own self-penned songs, together with the odd Robert Johnson number, effectively welcoming the audience into his kitchen; and it wasn’t even raining outside.

After their first song, The Magpie Arc’s musicians appeared to become more and more relaxed as the smiles came out.  These musicians are already established in their own respective fields; Nancy Kerr, an award winning folk singer with years of experience on the British folk scene behind her, Martin Simpson, an extraordinary guitar player whose expressive work on the acoustic guitar is known throughout the world and Findlay Napier, a Scottish singer songwriter, whose solo and collaborative work puts him very much in the spotlight whenever he performs. Meanwhile, Tom Wright (Albion Band) and Alex Hunter (Adam Holmes) provide a superb rhythm section, crucial for any band venturing into folk rock.  Despite their collective experiences, with long standing careers in folk music, there must have been something weirdly scary about tonight.  This was after all, the band’s first appearance and for one or two of them, a completely new musical departure, not to mention the fact that they haven’t been able to play a gig for ages.  Troopers all, the musicians soon found their feet and received a warm welcome to the stage, opening with “Canon”, possibly the first Magpie Arc song any of us heard, it being the opening song on their initial EP release.

Currently working on their debut full length album, the band presented a cross section of their story so far, which included the stunning “Greenswell”, one of Nancy’s finest moments, not just with The Magpie Arc, but from her entire back catalogue.  Martin stepped in with a familiar song from his late father-in-law Roy Bailey’s repertoire, “What You Do With What You’ve Got”, giving the song that extra dollop of ‘umph’, while Findlay brought some of his own material to the mix.  If the band happily showed off their country roots with a fine interpretation of the old Townes Van Zandt number “Loretta”, Martin Simpson found nothing particularly difficult in channeling Lowell George, with some fine bottleneck guitar during the vibrant “Roll Your Stone Away”.

The strident guitar chords on “Darling Charms” revealed something of the Fotheringport Span legacy, with a fine vocal courtesy of Nancy, whose command over storytelling blends in well with the overall sound of the band and was perhaps a good indication of the sound this band strives for.  It’s loud, it’s in your face and it’s fearless.  Yes, there are one or two in the audience who would’ve preferred the band to have been slightly quieter, but then again there was also one or two of us who would’ve liked the amps turning up closer to eleven on this occasion; this is Folk Rock after all.  I think it was Lincoln who once said ‘you can’t please all the people all the time’.


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