It comes, like love,

unexpectedly, if it comes at all,

we ignore the warnings,

build on the highest land,

and wait whilst life

unravels at the moorings.

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Black and white and underground.

It emerges at night,

and sleeps in the day,

it’s only real friends,

Bodger and Brian May.

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CD Review – Spike Drivers – Front Porch Swing

CD Review – Spike Drivers – Front Porch Swing

Scratch Records – CD 300110

8 out of 10

The Spike Drivers have long been a popular live draw, and this release shows why.

The three-piece of guitarist Ben Tyzack, bassist Constance Redgrave and drummer Maurice McElroy all sing and cover some genres over the two CDs of this collection. The release features songs by Fred McDowell, JJ Cale, Jimmy Reed, Taj Mahal, and Jagger and Richards, as well as their own distinctive songs. The close harmony singing on songs such as “You got to Move” and “One Way Gal” show a lot of care has gone into what they do, and the musicianship is of a more advanced level. The guitar playing of Ben Tyzack, in particular, is technically adept without being flashy, able to accompany himself on his own compositions “Beyond a Silver Moon” and leading from the front of the other instrumentals “Diddly Goat Pot” and “Urban Love Boogie”.

Strong support comes from Constance Redgrave and Maurice McElroy, although each is also given their own time in the spotlight, with their own songs, which are a good mix with the rest of the evening’s music. The audience is shown to be attentive to the music, respectfully listening until they are allowed to show their appreciation. The recording is of usually high quality for a live recording and is the next best thing to hearing them live. For fans of quality blues, jazz and acoustic music in general, this is worth much further investigation.

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CD/DVD Review – Eric Johnson – Live from Austin Texas, 84

CD/DVD Review – Eric Johnson – Live from Austin Texas, 84

New West Records – 8 out of 10

This newly released archive recording finds the influential and acclaimed singer song-writer and ground-breaking electric guitarist Eric Johnson plying his trade in front of a lively audience. The music was recorded in 1984, a year before his first album, Tones was launched, and it would be many years before a lot of the material recorded here found its way onto official releases. ‘Soulful Terrain’ and ‘Friends’ were from that first album, while the acoustic piece ‘Tribute to Jerry Reed’ would have to wait twenty years, and an electric re-invention before finding its way onto 2005’s ‘Bloom’. With support from drummer Steve Meader and bass player Rob Alexander, they plough many musical furrows, from the straight pop of ‘All I Need’ to the searing psychedelia of Hendrix’s ‘Spanish Castle Magic’, via the superior rock of ‘Bristol Shores’ and an early version of Johnson’s signature piece ‘Cliffs of Dover’, to the Wes Montgomery style jazz of ‘Down here on the Ground’. Three acoustic pieces form an attractive centrepiece to the release, with a solo acoustic reading of Simon and Garfunkel’s’ ‘April Come she will’is a particularly strong feature. The DVD that accompanies the album is a straightforward concert recording, but recent technology has pushed the quality to a much higher one. This is a fine addition to Johnson’s output, with much of the music surviving the 26-year gap between first recording and release, but Johnson’s releases are like buses. You wait years for one, and then two come along at the same time, with his new album Up-Close seeing release at the end of December.


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CD Review – Eric Johnson – Up Close

CD Review – Eric Johnson – Up Close – Vortexan Music

8 out of 10

Eric Johnson, the guitarist’s guitarist returns to the fray with his first album of new material in five years, with Up Close.

Known for his melodic, dextrous guitar style, and perfectionist ways, Johnson was a contemporary with Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Texas Music scene in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but he did not come to worldwide attention until the launch of his early albums, Tones, and Ah Via Musicom, which featured his signature piece, Cliffs of Dover.

On Up Close, the fifteen tracks feature a number of genres, from ambient pieces such as’Awaken’ with its Indian sitar flavourings, to the bluesy rock of the instrumentals ‘FatDaddy’ and ‘Vortexan’ to the slow mood pieces such as ‘Soul Surprise’ and ‘Gem’ through to the country piece ‘On the Way’.

As well as his usual backing musicians, a number of special guests feature on the album, from the cover of Mike Bloomfield’s ‘Texas’ with vocals from Steve Miller, and a telling guitar contribution from Jimmy Vaughan, showing that less is more, to ‘Austin’ which features a vocal performance from Johnny Lang to the album closer, ‘Your Book’ which features guitar from Sonny Landreth.

However, much of the music is a pleasant listen, rather than something to be involved with. There are few stand-out pieces, like ‘Cliffs of Dover’ which had impressive playing married to a good dynamic and a catchy main theme. Having said that though, the quality of the guitar work, and the strength of the music and the guest contributors all add to a worthwhile release and show Johnson’s unerring way with a guitar and a good tune. Just don’t leave it so long next time.


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CD Review – Mel Brown – Love, Lost and Found

CD Review – Mel Brown – Love, Lost and Found

7 out of 10 – Electro-Fi Records

The late Mel Brown was very much an unknown figure outside of the blues, but that was the world’s loss. Players from the blues firmament knew his importance though, from Buddy Guy to many of the music magazines that wrote of his talent, as a guitarist, pianist, and vocalist, and this anthology of work from the last ten years is both a fine introduction, and sadly, a fitting tribute to the man’s talent. From the instrumental title track, which opens the album, which features Mel Brown on guitars and keyboards, it is a classy package. A number of guest artists add to the mix, from Enrico Crivellaro’s guitar on the co-written ‘Red Wine and Moonshine’ to ‘My Baby wants to Boogie’ and ‘Feel like Jumping’ which both feature Snooky Pryor on vocals and harmonica, to Sam Myers who makes a telling contribution to ‘Little Girl from Maine’ to Miss Angel who’s soulful vocals add a lot to ‘Blues in the Alley’. This is blues, but it is closer to Jazz in some places, with Mel Brown’s guitar playing not just playing the normal first, fourth and fifth changes, but finding new notes and chords to bring something distinctive to the sound. Blues from the standard songbook is also included, from the piano and vocal version of Freddie King’s ‘You were wrong pretty baby’ or the similar treatment of Ray Charles’s ‘Come Back Baby’ to the version of ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ which finishes the album. This is a fine showcase for a much missed blue musician, but it is a fitting way in which he can be remembered.



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Poem Number 3

She could swing for him,

all smug grin,

lopsided scowl,

all passions burnt.

They could have been anything,

gone anywhere,

but now she carries the bucket,

he carries enough disdain for the both of them

All gone to seed,

their best years gone,

the future, precarious,

set to work on the farm,

their cows, their livestock,

growing fat for someone else’s plate.

they say wouldn’t change a moment,

but they know that they would,

for one more shot at the big time,

sometime with someone younger,

smooth skin instead of callouses,

soft dreams in place of hard reality,

a full set of teeth, hair and no flat cap.

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