Thursday, 18 October 2018

GIG REVIEW: My Darling Clementine - The Rep, Birmingham. Wednesday 17th October 2018

Maybe there has always been a theatrical touch about My Darling Clementine. Spoof and irony nestle securely alongside exclusive musicianship with the occasional big toe dip into the literary world. Therefore, Birmingham’s Repertory theatre may not be such a left field choice to host a homecoming gig of a sort, despite its limited involvement in the local live music scene. In fact, the venue has graced My Darling Clementine on two previous occasions when crime author Mark Billingham presented The Other Half project in conjunction with Michael and Lou contributing the music input.

In the eight years since Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish launched their My Darling Clementine operation, there have been numerous highs for this husband and wife duo seriously intent on highlighting a side of country music increasing marginalised. Three superb albums in addition to a surplus of stellar gigs, including a never to be forgotten night in 2013, has kept the pair busy along with the other travails of being ordinary citizens. Making Birmingham their home in the past has always put a different slant on city gigs and there was a healthy studio turnout for this show that in effect acted as the first Birmingham appearance, at least in full band format, since the release of STILL TESTIFYING in 2017.

This latest Birmingham show is part of an extended run of dates around the country, and fortunately one incorporating a full band rather than the stripped down duo format. Joining Lou and Michael were a backroom team of Al Gare (double bass), Dean Beresford (drums) and Preben Raunsbjerg (electric guitar), the first two, well- known figures on the local music scene and the third, a distinguished Dane instantly becoming an impressive new addition to the band. Together as a team, they drove a near immaculate bunch of songs: sweet, slick and country to the core, though frequently dashed with a slice of sixties soul.

You know that old music is going to play a major part in the My Darling Clementine style, but to the band’s creative credit, covers keep to a minimum. Three key ones threaded through the evening with the band taking a break to allow Lou and Michael to duet on the George Jones and Gene Pitney number ‘That’s All It Took’ and a version of Hank’s ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’. Listening to the latter act as the first part of a two-song encore prodded the summation that Hank Williams’ covers are just borrowed for their three-minute duration before safely returning to their owner’s legacy.

The other significant cover saw Lou take to the keyboard and churn out her usual rendition of the country standard ‘A Good Year for the Roses’. Apart from collaborating with Michael in the vocal duet stakes throughout, there were two precious moments when Lou takes her impassioned voice to searing levels. Just prior to the break, the Tammy Wynette response song ‘No Matter What Tammy Said’ had the most magnificent of airings, full of vigour, fire and stubborn zest. Later in the set, emotions ran high during ‘Ashes, Flowers and Dust’, as the My Darling Clementine façade took a slip.

From a set list pushing twenty songs across the evening, stand out moments kept jostling for recognition, but ultimately the twinning of ‘Departure Lounge’ and ‘Nothing Left to Say’ from the 2011 debut album HOW DO YOU PLEAD possessed a certain panache which goes a long way to defining My Darling Clementine.

This was an evening without the need for any support. While this band line up was different to previous impressive set ups, the assembled trio ensured each cultured song had the optimum backdrop. Maybe additional pedal steel could have enhanced the sound, but let us not be greedy and the country credentials were still strong, as exemplified by acres of electric twang and a bunch of sincere melodies ratcheting up the heartache and misery. Another upgrade could have been adding ‘Two Lane Texaco’ to the set list, but it joined a lengthening list of personal album high spots not making the live cut in 2018.

The Rep may be better known for its thespian escapades, but after a slight pause for sound adjustment during the first song, the listening experience in the bleachers was top notch. It helps when you are exposing your ears to fine musicians and songs packed with loads of appeal. The evening continued to soar towards its inevitable conclusion of ‘100,000 Words’, with increasing thoughts of how enjoyable My Darling Clementine shows have been over the last half a dozen years. It helps that ears are tuned into what Lou and Michael set out to do, although execution has to match intent, which is achieved with consummate ease.

Midway through the gig, the song ‘Our Race is Run’ prompted thoughts that this notion need not apply to My Darling Clementine anytime soon. Where Lou and Michael eventually take this project, who knows? What is important is that someone carries on the mantle of projecting an iconic style and who better than My Darling Clementine to keep turning on the creative tap. Nights like these make it all worthwhile.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Hilary Scott - Don't Call Me Angel : Belltown Records (Out on 12th October 2018)

Since being fortunate to obtain an advance digital copy of this album a couple of months ago, the art of falling in love with a record has surfaced. While the sumptuous tones of Hilary Scott’s DON’T CALL ME ANGEL have garnered countless pleasurable plays, the conundrum of how to convert the appreciation into meaningful words refused to reveal a solvable hand. As the eventual release date passed, the time was ripe to at least share a few thoughts and ultimately let folks decide whether they are touched in similar ways.

The issue came prominently from where to locate a coat hanger to house such a record in the mind. Genres such as country, Americana and folk bounced around without offering a best fit. Pop reared its head, but that also seemed inappropriate, although the ease of listening meant very little exertion had a requirement. The vague realm of singer-songwriter had to be the final resting place if such a location needed finding. Labels aside, maybe just words like classy, distinguished, passionate and cultured would suffice to get things underway.

For the record, Hilary has found it convenient to apply the strapline ‘one l’ to announce that she is not the Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum fame. In fact she is much better. Hilary is an American singer-songwriter, the architect of twelve recording projects over a twenty-year period and someone who constantly looks overseas for opportunities to promote her music. If like me, you are joining her bandwagon in 2018, the notion of better to arrive late than not arrive at all is the ideal conclusion.

This latest record is a ten-track effort, comprising of nine self-penned compositions and a cover version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. The latter emerges as a soft bluesy effort that slightly sits adrift from the crux of Hilary’s prime skill of writing fine songs.

Of the nine other tracks, where the killer ballad reigns supreme, there is no finer starting point than the title track ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’. Although, this opening track sets a standard that many others effortlessly match. Throughout, the vocals sink deep into the depths of each song and absolute ownership powers from a passionate and soulful singing style. Soulful with a lower case‘s’ mind you as this is far more heartland fare than R n B focused. The soundtrack accompanying each song acutely executes whether soft rock guitar or shimmering keys take the lead.

Even after many listens, anointing a favourite track is still a bridge too far, so many are damn good. When pushed into a corner, ‘Not Used To Being Used To, ‘You Will Be Mine’, ‘Unlove Story’ and ‘Moon and Back’ would make a short list, but ask me tomorrow and any of the nine originals could be included.

Anyhow, the true merit of this record is the entity of letting its entirety wash over you in a single listening experience. Long live the album as this review finally sees the light of day on the explicitly inaugurated ‘National Album Day’.

Now that release day as arrived, will DON’T CALL ME ANGEL by Hilary Scott make room for the next up on the review process line. No chance, this album has earned the right to be accessible for a while to come. There you are, some words to support a record that appeals. Remember – ‘one l’.

ALBUM REVIEW: Annie Oakley - Words We Mean : Horton Records (Out on 12th October 2018)

To pun or not to pun, that was the question before scribing any thoughts on the debut Annie Oakley album. Eventually, temptation caved in and reluctance not say that it hit the mark subsides. Adopting the name of an historic sharpshooting hero is a curious and smart move for this Oklahoma-based trio. Maybe there is some intentional gender association on the back of the Babb sisters (Sophia and Grace) teaming up with third member Nia Personette to offer a delectable take on harmonious indie-folk. WORDS WE MEAN had its world bow on October 12 with a release on Horton Records and hence a focus on the UK market via the good guys at At the Helm. The social media age abbreviation RIYL denoting association can often raise eyebrows on press releases and assorted blurb, but stating artists such as The Wailin Jennys, The Staves, First Aid Kit and in more left field, The Milk Carton Kids is generally travelling down the right highway.

Admittedly, this album has had a stop start existence in these quarters. Initial promise from the early single ‘Did You Dream’, did not transmit to the first couple of album spins. Even as the luscious sound and wispy tendencies took hold to move the release out of the potential into the review pile, the omission of a killer track keeps the album in check. Ultimately, keeping the reins on any hype surrounding Annie Oakley.

However, the potential for the trio to develop is limitless and the sublime hand at their disposal is likely to evolve in a fulfilling direction. The sweet and silky harmonies act as the redeeming feature alongside a lo-fi sound that drips into your subconscious in mesmeric portions.  The acoustic vibes come courtesy of some delicate banjo and fiddle, while the injection of the electric guitar provides the indie tinge, most prominent in the midway track ‘Into the Light’.

Apart from the aforementioned single, the most appealing song on the record exists in the opening position with ‘Pomp and Swell’ soaring above its counterparts in the melody stakes. As the album gently floats through its forty-five minute duration, further high spots emerge in tracks such as ‘Brother’, ‘If I Were a Ghost’ and ‘Nothing to Say’. ‘Sweet Time’ also does a neat job in signing off the record and sealing the potential of where next.

There are probably some clichéd inner thoughts about Oklahoma music in my mind. This stems from exposure to grittier earthy artists such as Carter Sampson, John Moreland, John Fullbright and Parker Millsap. The sound of Annie Oakley could not be further from this style, even to the extent that you could envisage listening to a folk trio from the urban northeast (NYC rather than Tyne and Wear!).

So with any association with dusty twang dismissed, it is over to the precious tender moments and subtle gear shifts that mark out WORDS WE MEAN as an album to mark the card of an up and coming act. Once studies are out the way, Annie Oakley intend to step up their music activity on a grander scale. Adding some muscle and a couple of killer tracks will boost their presence and we might just be well seeing the beginning of something special.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

GIG REVIEW: Emily Mae Winters + Annie Dressner - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Wednesday 10th October 2018

Three vocalists that appeal to me all find perfection within imperfection. The voices of Lucinda Williams, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Maines each possess a fault line offering a peep into the chasm of their soul. Now without resorting to a case of over hyperbole, there is a distant resemblance in the vocals of Emily Mae Winters thus lifting her head and shoulders above most singers that cross my ear. This is one immense talent that needs to be nurtured, with a limitless potential dripping out of the songs, music, voice, and an approach to projecting a distinct style.

Any resemblance to conventional folk music is ebbing away as Emily sharpens up her tools to launch into album number 2. The probability of Emily Mae Winters soaring up the scale of UK performers recognised in the blurry horizon of Americana is increasing to the extent that 2019 could be one big year.

Anyhow, back to the present and the HIGH ROMANCE pre-release tour stopping off at Birmingham. This show was a lower key affair to last year’s visit. Maybe the reason was the ‘between albums’ syndrome and spreading an existing fan base thinly between Birmingham, Coventry & Leicester.

Any return is sure to be an upgrade in turnout especially with the new record in tow and the buzz of a special artist getting the word around. Hooking up on the live front with ace guitarist Ben Walker is a smart move. Without wanting to dismiss his work in the Josienne & Ben duo, the scope in the direction Emily’s music is taking will present ideal opportunities to branch out in a live capacity.

Before exploring the main set in detail, a special word for Annie Dressner, who switched a rescheduled performance at the Kitchen Garden to open the evening. Annie, an exiled New Yorker now a 7 year plus resident of Cambridge, is making tentative steps back into active performing after a lengthy break. It was back in 2013 when I last saw Annie play live and the simultaneous release of her most recent recording. Five years on and the Anglo-American vocals remain, pouring originality into a series of songs cut from a decent cloth. Annie mixed her set between a few tracks off an upcoming album and some older stuff.

The songs ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Fly‘ rather splendidly represent the transitional period in her life of moving to the UK. To bring things up to date, ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ reveal a more stable existence albeit both themes hark back to the past with stateside origins. The new Annie Dressner album, BROKEN INTO PIECES, is formally released towards the end of October and expect to hear a lot more from this talented singer-songwriter in forthcoming months.

As soon as Emily Mae Winters hit her stride with ‘Blackberry Lane’, memories instantly came flooding back of the first time I heard her. This was a short set at last year’s Moseley Folk Festival. Around the same time, the SIREN SERENADE album was released and while times may be changing, we still had timely reminders of what a fine album this is.

Anchor’, ‘Miles to Go’ and the title track joined the opening number from the album. In fact, ‘Siren Serenade’ was one of a couple of tracks delivered solo, with even her guitar getting the elbow in this one alongside band mates Ben and John Parker on upright bass.

On the guitar front, Emily proudly displayed (and played) her brand new Gretsch alongside a more worn traditional acoustic model. The electric came into its own as the new songs began to ease out of a rockier wrapping. Of course, the challenge to adjust the vocals to combat the greater amplification is presented, one that Emily accomplished relatively comfortably.

Her voice will definitely grow into the new songs alongside an opportunity for Ben to ratchet up the solo segments. Such talent should be encouraged to shine and any enhanced presence would be a great addition to Emily’s music.

One certainty is the strength of the new material. More will seep out in due course. From a theme perspective, ‘This Land’ and ‘How Do You Fix a Broken Sun’ prove intriguing listens. While ‘Come Live in My Heart & Pay No Rent' succeeds big style in the title credentials and shows that the folk tendency to trawl the archives for inspiration will never wane.

While John Parker does a sterling job in the rhythm role, there is mileage in adding drums to the new material, although their road use is always subject to viability. An interesting thought is how these new songs will be recorded when Emily hits the studio in December. Inklings are that a desire to upgrade the creativity stakes will prevail and not churn out standard versions, which have been done a million times previously. The tools are at Emily’s disposal and it will be interesting to listen to her eventual route.

On the covers front, this evening’s set contained a pair of classics, of which the highest praise is that Emily owned both renditions. To put a stamp on the Krauss/Plant revised version of ‘Killing the Blues’ is no mean feat. In addition, you can carry me away from this world with ‘Will You Still Love Tomorrow’ playing, and even if you substituted The Shirrelles with Emily Mae Winters there would be few complaints. Both these covers were repeats from her last visit to the Kitchen Garden in October 2017, although sadly we did not get ‘Red Dirt Girl’ on this occasion.

One room for improvement is for the set time to be lengthened to boost the live reputation. Weighing in at just under the hour was a little short. Eventually two full albums plus a few choice covers will provide ample material to increase the stage time. The final song to send the Emily Mae Winters faithful contingent merrily on their way home was another nod in a country/Americana direction with a good ole drinking song titled ‘Gin Tingles Whisky Shivers’.

If a seal of approval need further adhesion then this night delivered in voluptuous portions. Very few vocalists have created the same level of effect than Emily Mae Winters and the sheer quality portrayed this evening suggests few will struggle to match her, especially away from the classically trained folk hierarchy. Indeed 2019 has the potential to be very special when HIGH ROMANCE emerges and the next stage of the Emily Mae Winters bandwagon kicks fully into gear.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

COMBI REVIEW: Stephen Simmons - Gall : Self-released / House Concert - Staffordshire. Saturday 6th October 2018

October chat between Stephen Simmons and his co-performer Dave Coleman this evening brought up the topic of some of the Halloween traditions back home, with Stephen particularly commenting on how he is often touring Europe during this time of year. In a slight twist of irony, it was October 31st 2014 when I first saw Stephen Simmons play live and thus extending the musical appreciation that initially surfaced when reviewing the HEARSAY album released around then. 

At the time, he was establishing a fan base in the Staffordshire area and always pays the county a visit when trips are made from his Tennessee home to continue a mission of sharing music with European audiences. Since that Halloween evening four years ago, Stephen has played an annual show in Elford, either in a house concert or marquee garden format, cementing relationships formed and frequently bringing new music.

The 2018 renewal saw a couple of innovations. Stephen usually tours the UK alone, although Molly Jewell, a fellow Nashville musician, joined him a couple of years back. The time the co-operation expanded into a fuller presentation, with long-term musical companion Dave Coleman playing electric guitar throughout as well as chipping in with a few solo songs prior to each of Stephen’s sets commencing.

On the new music front, Stephen released an album this summer titled GALL. Unfortunately, for lovers of physical copies mainly, the album is only available digitally, but quite often artists hamstrung by financial constraints have to make rational decisions. There is already a considerable Stephen Simmons back catalogue in place, including many long-term favourite songs frequently making his sets, and the good news is that further new music is in motion that hopefully will get an expanded release. You can never restrain a prolific singer-songwriter bursting with new ideas.

Anyhow, for those of you open to feasting on digital music the new album is a wise and valuable investment. A link to the Band Camp site is placed below but it is also available on the mainstream sites for streaming or downloading on both sides of the pond. GALL is probably Stephen’s most stripped back and personal set of songs for a while. The process is purely a one-person operation and the recording took place in his vacant grandparents’ house away from the big city in small town Tennessee.

With this album not really being subject to the big sell, only a couple of songs had an outing during this evening’s house concert. ‘Burnt Orange & Bruised Purple’ and ‘Death to the Dreamers’ are among the leading songs on the eleven-track record and sounded good in a live unfiltered setting, akin to what you get on the album in reality. The location and the family orientated content interweave coherently with perhaps the strongest song to feature being the title number ‘Gall’.  You never know, in the future some of these songs may re-surface on another album.  Alternatively, this project may always remain self-contained. Either way, GALL is worth checking out especially if you have come across Stephen’s work before and are partial to high quality singer-songwriting with a southern flavour.

Back to this evening’s show and the impact made by the presence of Dave Coleman. Getting the electric guitar sound spot on in an informal dining room setting is tricky, but this was accomplished by a player with vast experience as a producer and founder of the Nashville-based rock ‘n’ roll roots band The Coal Men. Dave introduced a couple of his songs including the track ‘Singer (In Louisville)’ featured here. With murder ballads being a theme of the evening, Dave could not resist sharing a version of ‘Long Black Veil’. When supporting Stephen, he skillful added the appropriate riffs and required twang, probably letting loose the most when they covered Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than the Rest’. The Coal Men’s records are readily available digitally and can possibly be tracked down on a CD. Dave had copies of 2016’s PUSHED TO THE SIDE and the 2013 release ESCALATOR for sale and if you like your roots music with a little tempo and rhythm alongside some nifty guitar work they will be right up your street.

The presence of the electric guitar did ensure Stephen had to make some vocal adjustment to his sound. This smoothly occurred for a bunch of songs stretching back well over ten years or more to sound as sweet as ever. You never know quite what you are going to get from a Stephen Simmons set list, but with a fresh range of stories, the content is normally top notch.

This evening it was older tracks like ‘Asheville Girl’ (probably the standout moment from the show), ‘Lay on the Tracks’ and ‘Parchcorn Falls’ that crept up the appreciation scale. It is also good to hear ‘Horse Cave Kentucky’ especially after visiting this self-generating tourist attraction on a Southern states road trip in 2016.

Stephen was his normal unassuming self, grateful that folks turn up to listen to his songs, and fully embracing the culture of being a word junkie. He is humble enough to continue to want to write better songs and will probably never cease to until the guitar, pen and notepad are packed away. A slice of southern culture is exported around the world when he leaves his Nashville home and whether he is viewed as country, folk, singer-songwriter or Americana, he simply, as his compatriots often say, is ‘just a dude who likes to write, play and sing songs’.

The house concert environment is the perfect setting for Stephen Simmons to hone his craft. Maintaining this level of intimacy alongside striving to pursue other live music opportunities is a fulfilling place to be. The blessing is a combined moment of pleasure. The privilege to listen and to play is simultaneous. The part Stephen Simmons plays in small corners of the UK live music scene is not insignificant and likely to be successfully around for a few years yet.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: J.P. Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing : Free Dirt Records (Out on 5th October 2018)

Free Dirt Records have been responsible for some exceedingly good album releases in recent times and this continues with the brand new record from JP Harris. When you are in the company of artists such as Western Centuries, Dori Freeman, Rachel Baiman and Vivian Leva, the bar is elevated high; a challenge richly accomplished throughout the short shrift tones of SOMETIMES DOGS BARK AT NOTHING.

Regardless of the back-story, which may or may not be relevant to the listener, you gain the impression from the off that JP Harris is a straight-up no bullshitting honky tonker. The songs are brash, cutting and splashed with an element of rawness. Just glancing at the titles before spinning a single track, the vocabulary is awash with negative connotations such as nothing, quit, blues, dead and alone. However, this is country music and wallowing in some sort of depressive misery is a badge of honour, and we purists would not have it any other way. Of course the motto ‘sad songs = happy person’ increasingly gains traction to put things into some perspective.

The opening bars of this ten track-thirty one minute offering immediately throw up one association – Sturgill Simpson in his pre-Meta Modern days. Throw in a couple of detectable Cash and Kristofferson moments and the shaping of a modern day country music outlaw takes shape. There is a touch of self-homage in the opening track titled ‘JP’s Florida Blues’, an instant fast paced driving rocking number that knocks the album into shape with no delay. It takes a few more tracks before this frenetic activity surfaces again. The track to do this is ‘Hard Road’, and the initial associated thoughts confirm. In addition, to leave you on familiar ground, JP frantically strums through the blistering ‘Jimmy’s Dead and Gone’, hailing the never to be forgotten train rhythm that has railroaded through country music since the days of Jimmie Rodgers and probably before that.

 For those of you who prefer your honky tonk of a slower persuasion, dripping with one voice drowning their acoustic guitar or piano with heaps of self-penned melancholy, then JP Harris is right on the mark. The ubiquitous curse of the alcohol habit gets the full treatment in this style courtesy of ‘When I Quit Drinking’ and ‘I Only Drink Alone’. Cliché or not, you get what you are dealt in these waters.

The title track anchors the album at no. 5 in the running order and ‘Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing’ sees our protagonist get metaphorical in his song writing. An approach that is compelling for any song-writing junkies out there. Earlier in the album ‘Lady in the Spotlight’ opens with a tidy guitar riff before emerging into a song that draws the Kris Kristofferson comparison. At this stage, any attempts to anoint a crowning track vanish as this album deserves its entity platform and you cannot moan that half an hour of excellence is taking up too much of your time.

Of the remaining tracks, ‘Runaway’ see JP joined by Kristina Murray on harmony vocals, an artist who has been attracting serious praise for her recently released record. ‘Long Ways Back’ has a late night blues feel to it and neatly fits into the moment when the record slides into some heartfelt melody. ‘Miss Jeanne-Marie’ gets the full character treatment and JP uses piano to ramp up the story- telling mode. Expect to hook in securely here, but as it is the penultimate track, you will already be on-board.

JP Harris makes country music as was meant to be. Oh and there is plenty of essential pedal steel. SOMETIMES DOGS BARK AT NOTHING knows what it is about and powerfully presents a slice of music that retains a gilded status.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers - Pay Pack and Carry: Harbour Song Records (Out on 5th October 2018)

It is nearly four years ago since Bob Collum brushed away any New Year blues with the release of a record that eventually travelled a long way down the 2015 musical highway.  Now as the nights draw in and 2018 hurtles towards its conclusion, the follow up to the excellent LITTLE ROCK is unveiled for all to hear, complete with a spring in its step to placate any detrimental season change. PAY PACK AND CARRY still carries the moniker of the Welfare Mothers as the backing band and resumes Bob Collum’s stature as the architect of some exceedingly infectious music.

Terms such as pub rock, power pop, alt country and exiled Americana can be tossed around and still carry a resemblance of accuracy whichever angle you choose to approach this album from. Ultimately, Bob Collum, and whoever nestles comfortably within the Welfare Mother family, makes music that sinks deep into your psyche and retains an instinct to refuse to budge from your immediate horizon. In other words, the challenge is to let a satisfactory smile leave your face when this album gets its umpteenth play. A tough one given the ingrained appeal.

Plenty of fiddle and steel ensures that an element of countrification remains in focus, albeit definitely from an alternative perspective. Many of the tracks do not refrain from a good rinsing of pop sentiment, albeit from a bygone age where trends were not subject to the chase and quite simply - good songs became popular.

Just pitching gems like sumptuous album opener ‘Across a Crowded Room’, serious standout candidate ‘Catherine Row’ and infectious title track ‘Pay Pack and Carry’ against classic covers of Michael Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’ and the Incredible String Band’s ‘Log Cabin Home in the Sky’ ratchet up the song writing acumen of Collum. Whatever your view on covers, you cannot deny the value they add here and a humble touch from the press blurb suggests they keep an artist in check from running rampant with self-absorption.

Also by reigning in the content, the album exudes a compact feel with each of the ten tracks playing an important part in maintaining momentum. You gain the impression that the music flows devoid of complication and this aids the ease of listening. Indeed the whole clarity façade embeds into the listening experience that mixes the explicitly detected American twang of Tulsa born Collum with a good ole British pub rock sound.

Back in 2015, it was the classic duet ‘Good Thing We’re in Love’ that hooked me into the work of Bob Collum. This time the highs were more evenly spread, to the extent that it did take a few spins to get the fires stoked. Once up and running, the bandwagon of PAY PACK AND CARRY rose through the gear changes ensuring tracks such as ‘Mr McGhee’, ‘Tin Can Telephone’ and ‘Blue Sky Rain’ assumed a similar mantle to those tracks eulogised about earlier.

At this stage, it would be remiss to omit ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘Hey Blue’ as they are integral parts in keeping the toe-tapping feel to this record rolling along. Indeed, there need not be an anointed highlight as the true reward has been to keep this record on heavy rotation without any remnants of weariness surfacing.

Between albums, it is a relatively low-key existence for Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers in my world, briefly punctuated by a Maverick Festival appearance in 2015. However, this compensates greatly when the album release cycle delivers. Who knows what 2019 will bring, but one certainty is that PAY PACK AND CARRY will not be filed away too deeply and is a good 'go to' when you want a slice of uncomplicated sophistication in your listening repertoire.