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The Driving Test

A Musical Car Ride

Whilst we would love to give every album/EP/single a full indepth review,we are only human and don't have a time turner so we aren't able to give every release the time and attention it deserves.

In the past that would have ment that we either reviewed a release or we didn't, but now we have a third option, a middle way.

The solution here has been a simple one. Rather than review individual artists' CD's at length, we play them one after the other on a long car journey. The simple listening test is: "are they bearable in the car - interesting, enjoyable, not distracting". This may not be how the artists want us to hear their work, but it's how a lot gets listened to for the first time and at least raises awarenes! The rating system is simple and provides a shorthan for reference.:

***** Classic album, standout artist - a joy to listen to anywhere
**** Great album - the perfect soundtrack to a long car journey
*** Good album - pleasant background in the car - but nothing unique
** You have to be a fan of this music/artist. I've spared you a review
* You are either the artist or a close relative. (As I'm not, sorry no review)

PIERCE EDENS - Stripped Down Gussied Up ***

Newly teamed on disc with long-time live sideman Kevin Reese on guitar, mandolin, banjo and percussion, this is Edens' fifth fully independent album, one that draws on Appalachian roots but also holds fast to the grunge rock influences of his youth to give things a gritty edge. Roughly translated, that means you get both things like the throatily delivered bluesy acoustic 'Daffodils' and the hoarse sung 'It's Alright, It's All Wrong' on the one hand and the rumbling, shouty 'Bonfire' with its almost tribal rhythms or the urgent pysch-folk of 'I Can't Sleep' on the other. Featuring mandolin, the six-minute 'The Bells of Marshall' is a particular highlight and, curiously, opener 'Sirens' reminds me of early Tyrannosaurs Rex, but there's not a lot here that's going to attract anyone not already a fan and, indeed the 73 second junkyard freak out version of Tom Waits' 'Mr Siegel' might give a few of them second thoughts. (MD)

PETE BODDIS - Spinning Wheels ***

A Stourbridge-based singer-songwriter, storyteller and owner of a vintage guitars and music memorabilia shop, Boddis has a relaxed, easy on the ear style heard to good effect on this collection of acoustic folk-country that calls to mind the likes of Tom Paxton, Gordon Lightfoot and Don Williams. Recorded with just guitar over the course of one day, with overdubs - pedal steel, harmonic, piano, strings, melodic, washboard, etc - added later, it opens by particularly evoking thoughts of Townes Van Zandt with 'Said Goodbye To You', a reflection on restless souls, and proceeds through a dozen more songs about the heart, the road and time passing. Marilyn Bose provides harmonies on the similarly themed twangsome ,Spinning Wheels, as well as sharing lead on ,We Don't Dance Anymore' while the strummed 'Pontchartrain Hotel' tells the story of a bar room player and the woman that sat in and sang with him, until her addiction got the better of her. Elsewhere, 'Hurricane' spins the story about folks rebuilding their town after a devastating flood and 'Here I Go Again', 'Midnight In The City' and the very Kristofferson-like 'Fate Will Lead You There' are all tales about characters chasing a dream, even if they don't know what it really is. Turning to busker washboard, blues he muses "Maybe I'll Be Famous When I'm Gone"; hopefully, this album will earn him some deserved recognition well before then. (MD)

GREENMAN RISING - Devils and Doxies

There's something admirably straightforward about this Midlands folk band - their style is not the most polished, their vocals far from the purest, their playing not always the sharpest and yet it's clear that were anyone to come across them at a festival side stage/beer garden/cellar bar/bandstand their honest to goodness approach would be difficult to resist. Versions of Robb Johnson's searing Ballad of Vic Williams and, in particular, Sandy Denny's poised Winter Winds lift this above the ordinary, but the real meat is in robust versions of familiar traditional fare such as Bedlam Boys and Lowlands of Holland. (NC)

TONY NATALE - The Camden Promise ***

A bit of a mixed bag here from the New Jersey drummer living in London - it's at its best (What If You Did?), Promiseman) when the percussive R&B groove allows the guitar and bass to conjure a clipped soul shuffle that backs a whispered vocal. With a squint of the eye and a kind heart there are moments when it reaches for the sound of prime time Jimmy Miller, via early solo Ian Brown and maybe The Charlatans as spiritual lyrics dip in and out of the human condition. However, glimpses of magic are too often overshadowed by what sounds like session muso self indulgence as various sideman let loose. (NC)

NIGEL STONIER - Love And Work ****

Nigel Stonier is well renowned as a producer and musician, with a wide array of artists. He is often seen and first came to my attention, on the road with his wife, singer songwriter Thea Gilmore? Less well known, perhaps, is that he is a singer in his own right. Love and Work is his sixth album release and the follow-up to Built For Storms, which was released in 2014. It features Thea on backing vocals and both Robbie McIntosh, James Hallawell and Chris Hillman on guitars. The album's title track has an interesting back story, being derived from the William Morris quote; "Give me love and work, these two only." The first single, "You Need Love", was mostly written on a train to Cambridge. It followed a conversation with a friend the previous day, which inexplicably had stayed with him. Ready to begin, something of a social commentary, has a more country rock sound, whilst Work in Progress has a quirky, almost island sound. The music of Frost Flowers, totally captures the atmosphere of the song and Nigel explores his blues side for Drink it In. Making Moments holds a message I love; a reminder to enjoy the little things and moments which constitute our lives. Listening to this CD would be a good start. (HM)

BeX - Story So Far ****

This is the first album that I have reviewed as a Road Test and I must admit that it is a very different way of assessing the receipt and joy of new music. BeX is a singer songwriter from the Isle of Wight but her musical roots are firmly based in Nashville. Over the last few years there has been a flood of artists who have joined the Country music scene and some are better than others. Bex is most certainly better than most and lovers of this genre of music will lap this album up. She has a great voice, a real rocker when needed combined with subtlety at times. She possesses the type of voice that will sit perfectly in the home of Country music. I have to say that the accelerator took some beating with a couple of the tracks here. A delightfully produced album! (RS)

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