Friday, August 30, 2013

The Good Intentions: “Travelling Companion” (2013) CD Review

Travelling Companion, the new CD from The Good Intentions, is full of traditional-sounding folk tunes with some traditional folk subjects (such as bank robbers, trains, and imminent death), and yet all but one are original compositions, written by singer/guitarist R. Peter Davies. He and the other two members of the The Good Intentions, Gabrielle Monk and Francesco Roskell, also provide some excellent vocals on these tracks, really giving the impression that these are familiar songs rather than new ones.

This album features several additional guest musicians, including the wonderful Brantley Kearns on fiddle. I’ve seen him perform with several bands over the years, and I’m always delighted to listen to him.

Travelling Companion was produced by Rick Shea. His name seems to come up a lot for me these days. He’s involved, one way or another, with a lot of good music. (In that way, he is similar to Duke Levine.) Rick Shea also plays several instruments on this CD.

The Good Intentions formed in 2003, and are based in Liverpool.

“Gold Watch And Chain”

Travelling Companion begins with “Gold Watch And Chain,” the album’s one cover song, written by A.P. Carter. Its wonderfully sad and desperate chorus is: “Oh, I’ll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love/And I’ll pawn you my gold wedding ring/I will pawn you this heart in my bosom/Only say that you’ll love me again.” It’s interesting to open with the cover, because it really sets the tone for the album, adding to the impression that all of the following tracks are traditional tunes. And maybe someday they will be.

“Colfax Town”

There are sweet, mellow vibes on “Colfax Town,” a cool folk tune. I like the way the vocals blend on this one.  This song certainly has a traditional folk subject – the desperate bank robber in a gold rush town, the man no one thinks meant to do wrong and cause harm. I always loved the way folk and old country tunes would almost celebrate these characters. There is something romantic and appealing about these tales.

“Black Dog Blues”

“Black Dog Blues” begins as a bluesy tune with some really nice work on guitar. The song soon kicks in, combining blues with a country rock flavor. It even mentions Robert Johnson and Elvis Presley. I really dig the vibe of this song. The band plays around with the theme toward the end, which is cool, as they find an interesting direction to take it.

“Hank’s Last Ride”

“Hank’s Last Ride” has a relaxed country vibe with nice work on pedal steel, and some really good lyrics. I love this line: “Fame, she raised her shabby dress for me.” There are references to certain Hank Williams songs, such as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Montgomery In The Rain” (in lines like “Another cowboy who’s so lonesome he could cry”). The song takes place in 1952, and has the line, "Maybe make it through to 1953." Hank Williams died on January 1, 1953. This song also features some good work on fiddle.

“Home Town Girl”

One of my favorite tracks is “Home Town Girl,” partly because of the vocals on the repeated line, “She’s a home town girl,” partly because of its mellow vibe, and partly because of its opening line, “Well, she’s gone and taken all the best of me.” It’s hard after all our relationships, how pieces of us are gone, and everyone walks around as fractions of themselves. It’s so sad, but feels so true. This song still has a hopeful tone, with lines like “Some day she’s coming home to me” and “For I’ll love her until the day I die.”

“According To A Witness”

“According To A Witness” has a phrase that I love, and which stood out for me the first time I listened to this album – “a small and jealous town.” I’m from a town that had that feel when I was growing up. The line “And someone saw you with somebody when the lights were down” rings true from my experience growing up in a small town. And yet this is a more upbeat, fun tune. And it tells a good story.

“Paul The Apostle”

Travelling Companion ends with “Paul The Apostle,” a spiritual tune that includes a brief spoken word section at the end. That’s Ioan Gruffudd (you might know him from Fantastic Four; he also did voices on a few episodes of Family Guy) reading a passage from the Welch Bible. Here is a taste of the song’s lyrics: “When our life’s meaning/Is shown to us some day/In our hearts, the sun will light the way/The sun will light the way.”

CD Track List

  1. Gold Watch And Chain
  2. Colfax Town
  3. A Driver’s Farewell
  4. Black Dog Blues
  5. Hank’s Last Ride
  6. Home Town Girl
  7. Pull The Jailhouse Down
  8. I Dreamed About You
  9. According To A Witness
  10. Angel Train
  11. Paul The Apostle 


The Good Intentions are R. Peter Davis on vocals and guitar; Gabrielle Monk on autoharp, accordion, piano and vocals; and Francesco Roskell on guitar and vocals. Joining them on this release are Rick Shea on acoustic guitar, national steel guitar, mandolin and banjo; Greg Leisz on pedal steel, dobro and electric guitar; David Jackson on doghouse bass, accordion and piano; Marc Doten on doghouse bass; Dave Raven on drums and percussion; Brantley Kearns on fiddle; Aubrey Richmond on fiddle; and John Palmer on tambourine.

Travelling Companion is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on October 1, 2013 on Drumfire Records. It was released in the U.K. in April.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Band Of Heathens: “Sunday Morning Record” (2013) CD Review

One of the first things that struck me about the new CD from The Band Of Heathens, Sunday Morning Record, is its strong 1970s influence. You can hear it on almost every track. Residing somewhere in the middle of folk, pop, rock, and country, and some time between the 1970s and now, this record is a wonderful surprise. It lifted me out of my malaise by immediately taking me to another time where any troubles I might have just don’t exist. I love how music can do that.

This studio release, the band’s fourth, reflects some changes in the band’s personnel. There are a few new members since the last album, Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son (2011). Singer/guitarist Colin Brooks left in 2011. Drummer John Chipman left, and has been replaced by Richard Millsap. Bassist Seth Whitney also left the band, and this album features a few different bass players.

With all of those changes, one would also expect a change in the band’s sound. And yes, this album has a different sound than its predecessor. I actually think this new one is a much better album. This is an album that I like more each time I listen to it. All of the material is original, written by Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist. It features some excellent vocal work (check out “Girl With Indigo Eyes”), and some really good lyrics. I particularly love this line from “Caroline Williams”: “I never thought you’d leave after staying so long.” What an excellent line. It says so much about the relationship, and his attitude toward it, and states it so simply. This band is able create vivid relationships and situations, and to do it seemingly with ease.


The album opens with “Shotgun,” which is a kind of folk pop, with sweet, tender vocals (that certainly call to mind some of the 1970s music). The song describes a sort of relationship, and early on we hear, “I heard you had a smile on your face while you cried, cried, cried.” And indeed, all the world’s a stage, as is shown in these lines: “Play your part, know your lines/If they ask, we’ll both say, yeah, we’re doing fine.” The song suddenly changes partway through, slowing down, and the song becomes prettier. “All I hear now is the wind blow, riding shotgun through the past” (a line I’m particularly fond of). It then soon picks up again.

“Miss My Life”

“Miss My Life” features a somewhat slow, good rock groove with a southern rock vibe. Actually it reminds me a bit of some of John Sebastian’s work. The chorus is, “I miss my life/I miss the way it was/I miss my life/I miss it just because.” For a moment, vocally it has something of the rhythm of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (on the lines “Work hard, play harder/Get stoned, be smarter/Left, right, up down, where do we go?/Money’s gone, rent’s due”). I love the change too: “Tell me to forget her/Man, you never met her.” I am totally into this. And I like the work on piano toward the end. This, for me, is one of the album’s highlights.

“Records In Bed”

Something about “Records In Bed” oddly reminds me a bit of Paul Simon’s work from the 1970s – the style, the structure, the drumbeat – not the vocals. It has a bright feel. And the repeated lines (like “round and round and round so slow”) are actually comforting in a way. There is something so sweet and likeable about this song. It had me smiling pretty quickly. It has an interesting ending. This song's lyrics also provides the CD’s title.

“Since I’ve Been Home”

“Since I’ve Been Home” begins with the lines, “I’ve been trying to catch up on things since I’ve been home/Trying to get used to not being on my own.” This is sweet, quiet folk song, with some very nice vocals. It is one of my favorites, because of its feel, and also because of great lines like, “We break like bad habits never could.”  This is simply a good song – nothing flashy or showy – just a really good, strong, melancholy song. The opening line is then repeated as the closing line, the perfect way to end this song. Again, it’s a simple statement that perfectly captures the mood and tone, and its repetition has a kind of resignation about it, as well as a sadness.

“One More Trip”

“One More Trip” is a song that got right to me. Its first lines are “One more trip around the sun/Another year has come and gone/Look around, I don’t feel old/But the clock keeps swinging like a wrecking ball.” I really like the comparison of a clock to a wrecking ball. You automatically get a vision of those old clocks with the pendulum, and the image of the damage time causes. And we can all relate to the line, “I turn around, but there’s no way back.” It’s a song of regrets, of memories, and yet still of hopes (like in the line, “Here’s to good times yet to come/One more trip around the sun”). This track features Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel.


Sunday Morning Record ends with “Texas,” a song about Austin, the band’s home town.  But I never wanted to leave this town/Austin’s been a friend of mine.” This song has such sweet vibes, like a good, tall alcoholic beverage on a slow, hot summer day.

CD Track List

  1. Shotgun
  2. Caroline Williams
  3. Miss My Life
  4. Girl With Indigo Eyes
  5. Records In Bed
  6. Since I’ve Been Home
  7. The Same Picture
  8. One More Trip
  9. Shake The Foundation
  10. Had It All
  11. Texas


The Band Of Heathens is Ed Jurdi on vocals, guitar, keyboard and percussion; Gordy Quist on vocals, guitar, lap steel, and percussion; Trevor Nealon on keyboard and percussion; and Richard Millsap on drums and percussion. Joining them on this release are Ryan Bowman on upright and electric bass, Nick Jay on bass, George Reiff on guitar and fuzz bass, Joshua Zarbo on bass, and Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel.

Sunday Morning Record is scheduled to be released on September 17, 2013 on the band’s own label, BOH Records.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Graham Parker & The Rumour: “This Is Live” (2013) Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

This Is 40 is a really bad, lazy, repetitious, unfocused, poorly conceived film. One of the few things making it worth watching is Graham Parker’s presence. Well, I have some very good news. Shout! Factory has released all of the concert footage shot for the film on a DVD titled This Is Live. So now you can skip the film altogether, and just enjoy the music. I’m glad This Is 40 was made, because it made this new DVD possible. Now toss away your copy of This Is 40, and enjoy This Is Live.

This footage was shot as Belasco Theater in Los Angeles. It is weird, because in a few of the wide shots, people cross in front of the camera, but those are extras, not real concert-goers (at least as far as I know). So there is an odd aspect to this performance, because it was staged for a movie. According to the DVD credits, there were four cameras used for this scene. I do wonder if the songs were repeated several times, to get additional shots (like from behind the band), and how the performances were edited together (because of course we never see any of the other cameras in any one camera’s shot).

But what is important here is the music. And the music is so damn good. This band still totally has that special something, and these songs are fun and vibrant. The band does twelve songs, beginning with “Fool’s Gold.” Graham Parker plays acoustic guitar on several of the tracks, including “Local Girls.”

There is some new material, from the band’s 2012’s release Three Chords Good, including the title track and “Stop Cryin’ About The Rain.” “Long Emotional Ride” is a nice new tune with a sweet vibe. Graham Parker sings, “I never took one word of advice/Never in my whole life.” But then: “I dreamed I saw a movie of my life/I thought I dreamed it, but it was real/I realized I’d been surrounded by friends all of the time.” Nice, eh? And appropriate, considering this was shot for a movie. This is one of my favorites.  And speaking of references to the movies, in “Passion Is No Ordinary Word,” Graham sings, “The movie might be new but it’s the same soundtrack.”

“She Rocks Me” is another highlight, a fun tune. And yes, that is a kazoo in Graham’s harmonica holder. This performance also includes a very cool rendition of “Stupefaction,” one of my favorites from this band. “I can’t see the point, but I see the attraction.” What a great song. By the way, you can see a much earlier performance of this song on The Best Of Fridays, which was released by Shout! Factory on August 6th.

The band ends the set with “Soul Shoes” from the 1976 album Howlin' Wind. (“Sirens In The Night” plays during the closing credits.) The DVD is approximately fifty-five minutes, and contains no special features.

DVD Track List
  1. Fool's Gold
  2. Nobody Hurts You
  3. Protection
  4. Local Girls
  5. Long Emotional Ride
  6. She Rocks Me
  7. Passion Is No Ordinary Word
  8. Discovering Japan
  9. Stop Cryin' About The Rain
  10. Three Chords Good
  11. Stupefaction
  12. Soul Shoes
This Is Live was released on August 27, 2013 through Shout! Factory.

Note: I also posted this review on Pop Culture Beast.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I See Hawks In L.A.: “Mystery Drug” (2013) CD Review

In March of 2012 I See Hawks In L.A. released New Kind Of Lonely, which was one of my favorite CDs of the year, and probably the best album the band had ever recorded. Now they’re following it with Mystery Drug, which has something of a similar feel. That is, it’s a heavily acoustic album, focusing on the vocals and songwriting. And this is another great batch of tunes, all original compositions.

Not all of these tracks are mellow, however. Check out the energy on “My Local Merchants.” This band combines folk, country and rock, with modern sensibilities and subjects but with a deep knowledge of and respect for tradition. So they really create their own distinct sound and world. They even have a song about buying a ride cymbal. I can’t think of a single other song on this subject. This is one of the tunes that is more in the rock vein, with a Rolling Stones reference. And then a song like “Tongues Of The Flame” has quite a different feel. It also has the line, “Who knew of the past, but not history,” which I love.

Rob Waller is one of my favorite singers these days. He has such a great, emotional voice that feels both friendly and experienced. Like an old friend that is often on the road and drops in occasionally late at night with tales both funny and sad. It’s a beautiful country voice, a voice that does not sound like a typical Los Angeles voice, and yet these songs are steeped in L.A. details and atmosphere. And perhaps that’s not a surprise, as the city is part of the band’s name. Just listen to “If You Remind Me,” in which he sings about first meeting someone at the corner of Gower and Sunset. And in “Stop Driving Like An Asshole,” they mention the 405 highway (a road I do my best to avoid).

The album opens with “Oklahoma’s Going Dry,” which has a sweet country-folk vibe, Rob Waller’s vocals possessing the right melancholy quality mixed with hope. His vocals also rise to certain heights at key moments. “Now we pray for rain/Dig our wells a little deeper/There ain’t nothing we won’t try/Oklahoma’s going dry.” This is a wonderful, moving track to open the album.

The CD’s title track begins as a quiet acoustic tune, with the focus on Waller’s vocals over some really nice work on guitar. The lyrics are anything but usual for a folk tune, and show a certain sense of humor: “I am a lonely primate/Craving drugs to soothe my mind and body,” and then “I am a lonesome pirate/Sailing these old pirate seas with other pirate men/We’re not friends.” The song takes on a brighter, more eager tone on the repeated lines, “Where did you find it/That’s what I want to know.”  This song, like most by this band, also features a nice blending of vocals.

There are more sweet vibes and great vocals on “Yesterday’s Coffee,” one of my personal favorites. This one has a sort of 1970s feel at times. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Yesterday’s romance/Just like a slow dance/Ended too soon/Now you call the tune/Nobody’s sleeping/Chamomile’s steeping.” And I love these lines: “Don’t say you miss me/I love a mystery.”  This track also features some excellent work on pedal steel by Rick Shea.

“The Beauty Of The Better States” is more of a rock tune, the guitar having a sort of urgency. This is one of those songs you want playing as you drive along the blue highways with the windows down, no thought of speed limits or destinations. Just the moment, the wind and the heat. “Existence, existence, existence, existence.”

As for “We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight,” this country tune mentions that song all musicians and concert-goers can’t ever quite escape, as it’s always on the lips of some silly bastard in the audience. I’m talking, of course, of “Free Bird.” The line is, “Before you play ‘Free Bird’ don’t forget to ring the bell.” My favorite line, however, is “Jump off the cliff and turn right.” This song was written by Rob Waller, Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall.

“One Drop Of Human Blood” is a very cool folk tune about a ritual at a wedding. Some nice work on accordion by Richie Lawrence adds a sweet sort of celebratory vibe to the song.  A raven wandered far from home to witness the deed/One drop of human blood.”

“If You Remind Me” is an interesting nostalgic love song recounting the tale of how a couple met, the chorus being the line “If you remind me.” The backing vocals in the chorus give this country song a bit of an early 1960s pop feel. “And when I come to my last page/When I’m lost in a far-off gaze/Don’t let our sweet thing slip away/I won’t forget if you remind me.” It seems to be about more than one love, for at one point he sings about how they first met at Gower and Sunset in Los Angeles, but in the beginning he mentions how she rode on the handlebars on his bicycle down Mission Blvd. in San Francisco. Perhaps he wishes to be reminded of all of his romances. Pete Grant adds to the song’s sweet atmosphere with some gorgeous work on pedal steel.

“Stop Driving Like An Asshole” is a short and direct song that opens with the lines, “Stop driving like an asshole/You know who you are/Did you think when you cut me off/It would help you go farther/You’re an accident waiting to happen/A flipped over SUV.” The bit about the angels singing makes me smile every time I listen to this one. And the ending is great. By the way, if you live in Los Angeles and you’re driving slowly, get the fuck out of the left lane. Thank you.

Mystery Drug ends with “The River Knows,” a great folk tune featuring Rick Shea on pedal steel. I love how this song takes its time. It kind of pulls you in and sweeps you along with its travels. It has a pleasant, easy vibe that I just love. “I am craving swift cold water.” As it fades out, it sort of leaves us behind (which makes me want to start the album over again).

CD Track List

  1. Oklahoma’s Going Dry
  2. Mystery Drug
  3. Yesterday’s Coffee
  4. The Beauty Of The Better States
  5. We Could All Be In Laughlin Tonight
  6. One Drop Of Human Blood
  7. Sky Island
  8. If You Remind Me
  9. Rock N Roll Cymbal From The Seventies
  10. Tongues Of The Flame
  11. Stop Driving Like An Asshole
  12. My Local Merchants
  13. The River Knows 


Musicians appearing on this release include Rob Waller on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Paul Lacques on guitar and vocals, Paul Marshall on bass and vocals, Shawn Nourse on drums, Victoria Jacobs on drums and vocals, Anthony Lacques on drums, Marc Doten on bass, Rick Shea on pedal steel, Pete Grant on pedal steel and Richie Lawrence on accordion.

Mystery Drug was released on August 20, 2013 through Western Seeds Records.