Reviews roundup – Status Quo vs. Lex Grey vs. Andy White vs. Little Mike vs. The Goat Roper Rodeo Band

91ws0p4veal-_sl1500_STATUS QUO
Aquostic II
Universal

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first ‘Aquostic’ although hats off to Francis Rossi who finally realised his dream of turning the Status Quo into a country rock band.  But, fair play, it went Top 5 and got them another gold disc for the collection so who can blame them for punting out another one in jig time.

It follows the same format as the first one but it actually works better this time around.  Maybe I’m more used to it, maybe the song choice is better.  Whatever.  It’s really enjoyable.  They kick things off with a tune from ‘Blue For You’ before a radical reworking of “Roll Over Day Down” which is one of the album highlights.

Some songs are more predictable with ‘Dear John’ and ‘In The Army Now’ mellow shuffles to begin with.  But “Hold You back” is brilliantly transformed and even if the three new tracks – “One For The Road”, “Is Someone Rocking Your Heart?” and “One Of Everything” could have come from the Rossi/ Frost years they’re still decent enough.  What is odd, is two of them are Andrew Bown songs and the other a Rossi / Bob Young cowrite.

As well as the standard CD you get a deluxe edition with a bonus CD featuring six tracks recorded at the band’s 2015 Stuttgart Aquostic show.

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61jyzj2budyl-_ss500LEX GREY & The Urban Pioneers
Heal My Soul
Pioneer

We’re off to New York City now for some wailing blues rock courtesy of Lex Grey & The Urban Pioneers, whose sixth album this is.

And they’re almost the ultimate bar band as they set about ripping the ears of your head with some raunchy rocking blues which is powerful enough to light up a small city.  Which is grand if you like the feeling of getting your ass kicked.

They’ve got plenty of live experience under the belt and you can tell how tight they are on songs like “Factory”m “Junkman” and “Black Stallion”.  There are plenty of dynamic arrangements which bring in mandolins, organ, violins and a brass section as and when required.  It’s not all balls to the walls stuff as the title track will attest, as does “Quiet Place” but it’s when the vocals hit the ceiling that it all works best.  A good one.

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41q5mwbkxglANDY WHITE
Imaginary Lovers
independent

It’s thirty years since Belfast born, Australian based Andy White released his debut album.  Me, I’ve never heard of him which just goes to show how much music there is out in the big bad world.

And it turns out he’s one of them there indie alt-folkers.  Although calling someone an alt-folker in a Belfast accent is most definitely not recommended.  Lyrically, it’s an introspective release looking at the usual suspects – love and loss – but with a middle aged filter.  Which makes a nice change from a bunch of pampered tweens banging on about how tough life is.  The little shites.

Personally I prefer when he’s a bit stripped back as I prefer my rock to rawk, so it’s songs like “Anywhere With You Babe” and “The Only Thing Missing Here Is You” that really float my boat, especially the latter which is a quite stunning song.  So, for every amped up track like “And I Want You” which bypasses me completely, there are two that draw me in.  Which are pretty fair odds.

This may be a new album but it’s also forming part of a twelve album box set retrospective ‘Studio Albums 1986-2016’ released by Floating World Records.  So it’s a bumper Autumn for fans of Mr White.

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510jxw1ojql-_ss500LITTLE MIKE
How Long?
Elrob

Little Mike may have lost his Tornadoes on the cover but he certainly hasn’t lost his zest for red hot blues.  Because this is just what you would expect from the harmonica boss.  The opening “Cotton Mouth” sets out his stall in fine fashion before he blasts off into a great turn on the JB Lenoir penned title track “How Long” which has some fantastic piano playing.

The groove is mainly Chicago based as he swings between original material and covers in the company of his fiery band – Cam Robb on drums, Dave Sweet on drums, Troy Nahumko on guitar, John Edelman on guitar, Joe Fontenot on bass, Ken Stearns on bass and guitar and Mitch Margold on Hammond B3.

Whether it’s the swinging Bobby Timmons cover “Moanin”, the funk drenched “Whatcha Gonna Do?” or one of all time favourites, Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy”. this is a blues record full of sass and swagger.  Highly recommended.

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a1j2bn6qkcnl-_sl1500_THE GOAT ROPER RODEO BAND
Cosmic Country Blue
Aveline Records

The dreaded phrase “recommended by Bob Harris” loomed large before I dared put this record on.  That’s usually guaranteed to mean sub Neil Young / Townes Van Zandt mewling and a rush for the paracetamol.

But not this time because once you head off to the wilds of Welsh Wales with the terribly named Goat Roper Rodeo Band you can’t help but have a good time as they take you on a retro country blues journey which hankers after Hank.  And that’s Williams not Langford.  Turns out they’ve been making a bit of a name for themselves at the Maverick Festival, Country to Country’s Saloon Stage the Cambridge Folk Festival and others.  A name that seems well merited if this is anything to go by.

They’ve got some of the best harmony vocals around today and even if some of the songs aren’t up there with the greats from years gone by, they’re making a fair fist of it on numbers like “Don’t Believe In You”, “Mean Man” and “Rhythm Of Love”, even if the latter two titles smack of someone with a dodgy eighties metal collection.  There are a couple of numbers where they veer over into the parody that was Gram Parsons but otherwise it’s an album oozing with potential.

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