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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)

TIM ROSE - Tim Rose ****

Originally one of the Big 3 alongside Cass Elliott and James Hendricks, when they split the gruff-voiced Rose went solo, releasing his debut album in 1967 and instantly winning acclaim for his dramatic versions of two ant-war numbers, Come Away Melinda and Bonnie Dobson's Morning Dew. His was one of the first of the latter's many covers as indeed was his version of Hey Joe that would prove the breakthrough for Jimi Hendrix. Earning him comparisons to Ray Charles, the rest of the album is a fairly standard cocktail of soul, blues and folk, including Long Time Man, his rework of the trad It Makes a Long Time Man Feel Bad, the strings arranged ballad You're Slipping Away From Me with Felix Pappalardi on bass and a slow building, resigned version of Gene Pitney hit I'm Gonna Be Strong Despite the initial buzz and excellent 1968 groupie-themed single Long Haired Boy (to the best of my knowledge still never included on any album), substantial success never materialised, but this remains one of the classics of its time. (MD)

JACK TEMPCHIN - Jack Tempchin ***

Following the demise of the Funky Kings, Tempchin launched his solo career with this easy rolling collection of California AOR, invested with some southern soul courtesy of recording at Muscle Shoals. Almost 40 years later, it rather merges with many similar albums from the period with nothing to really stand out in the crowd, despite his slower version of the song he wrote for The Eagles, Peaceful Easy Feeling, the rare sighting of a Tom Waits co-write with the not entirely memorable Texicana waltzing Tijuana and guest appearances from Jackson Browne and Glen Frey. Pleasant to listen to, but he's making much better music these days.(MD)

JOSEPH EID - Watch It Fall

Born in Liberia, raised in New York and now based out of L.A., Eid has been slowly building a buzz, earning himself a slot as one of the 100 Hottest Live Unsigned Artists by Music Connection Magazine. A six-track EP, this offers up amiable Americana-tinted acoustica with the catchy pedal steel accompanied title track , adding a touch of calypso sunshine on the brassy Diary and a dash of radio friendly 90s acoustic based rock with Tomb (Walked Away) while Let Me In offers a lurching Marleyesque reggae beat. Not all of it works and it takes a while to settle in to, but he's worth keeping an eye on.(MD)

BENJAMIN FOLKE THOMAS - Acoustic Classics ***

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A rather novel concept for the "it's going to be a while until I've finished writing some new material, so in the meantime here's a live album" stage of an artist's career, whereby on this 12 track album, Benjamin Folk Thomas (or BFT if you prefer) has recorded the album live in his living room with his biggest fan in attendance - himself! "I wanted to have the friendliest audience I could think of, and my biggest fan is probably myself, no matter what others think. So I was my own audience! I recorded each handclap, each chuckling laugh, and very excited call for more. Me, me,me…!" he states with tongue firmly gorilla-glued in cheek! The cheesy cover artwork gels nicely with the equally cheesy between-tune tales, and the songs themselves are culled from his previous 4 albums. Just one man, his acoustic guitar, a wicked sense of humour and a clutch of country-folk tunes that will serve as a fine souvenir of his live shows.(KB)

TG SWAMPBUSTERS - Swamp Rock Country Blues ***

TG Swampbusters, aka Canadian Tim Gibbons, gives us three musical genres right there in the title, and the follow up to his acclaimed 2015 release "Swamp Tooth Comb". I think you can see where he's going with this! It's all highly competent southern blues rock 'n boogie, nothing that's going to send the originality meter through the roof, but very well played, and recorded with a nice bright and slightly rough edge (which is of course how ALL blues-infused paeans should sound!). Relationships are, as standard, explored but with added humour in "She Always Ate Her Crackers In Bed", but TG are at their best when they're rocking out in fine style on numbers like "Georgia Rollin' Stone", "One Hundred Proof Blues" and opener "Honky Tonk Song". No prizes for the album cover which is truly awful, but the music itself is a highly listenable cocktail of, err, swamp rock country blues…..! (KB)

DUANE FORREST - The Climb ***

Ah, "The Climb"! For sure a metaphor for life and love - and the trials and tribulations of a musical career. And that's exactly what Canadian resident Duane Forrest clings to on this release, an album that highlights the multitude of evocative influences that this man, and his Jamaican heritage, have absorbed over the years of a slightly nomadic lifestyle. So from opener "Edge Of The Sea" to the penultimate "End Of The World" and final goal "Mariela Of My Dreams", Forrest takes the listener on a far-ranging musical acoustic journey taking in the gentle reggae sway of "The Walk", jazzy rhythms of "Chevrolet" and soothing soulful stylings of "Wedding Bells". "I wrote most of this music after going through some hard times, so it's very personal. Learning to be ok and happy with myself before moving into a relationship with others. And then there are my hopes and dreams there as well" he says honestly. And ultimately this is an 'up' album, that brings the Forrest ambition to blossoming fruition. (KB)

RED MOON JOE - Time & Life ****

A revived, renewed and reinvigorated Red Moon Joe give us all a firm metaphorical cuff around the ears with this rollicking country rocking follow up to the comeback album "Midnight Trains". This little gem sees the reformed roots renegades baring their souls and influences, "Elvis, Townes and Hank", and combining the more rootsy elements of americana, like bluegrass, cajun and the blues, with their own electric take on the genre. The result is an album chock full of fine tunes such as "Hard Road" that rocks equally hard (complete with an almost Skynyrd-esque guitar solo), and the whimsical western balladry of "Please Take My Broken Heart". Red Moon Joe are at their best though when they're country-ing it up in rock n rhinestone fashion, a la Steve Earle, on crackers like "Slow Sun Wheeling" and "The High Lonesome". No overblown squeaky clean pristine country production for these boys - "Time & Life" is bar room ready, and guaranteed to rock n roll in the finest garage country band style. (KB)

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