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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)


Dandelion charm hail from Newhaven, they are John and Clare Fowler and "Tiny Drop" is their first album. I think. The scarcity of the press release is designed perhaps to create mystery. It doesn't though prepare you for the fullness of the music, the beautiful harmonies, the sheer musicianship that one moment floats out of the car hi-fi then suddenly becomes a blast of power. On "Why Does It Hurt" it sounds like they've snuck Steely Dan into the studio, that's a compliment by the way. "Flower Child" rocks. And in between you could be forgiven for comparisons to Fleetwood Mac of the Seventies. The production throughout is smoothly superb, there's clearly a talent here, and, for driving music, this keeps you pleasantly rolling on. So if you are fans of the above mentioned groups you will love this and no doubt their new EP which is due out on the 20th November. For me a little more detail (instruments, lyrics, background) would work wonders. One to watch out for. (IPC)

MICK RYAN & PAUL DOWNES - The Passing Hour ****

Mick Ryan possesses a voice of a deep timber, he is a gifted storyteller to boot and for the fourth occasion is joined by Paul Downes who abilities on Acoustic Guitar and Banjo are well renowned. On this outing we are treated to a seamless mix of originals, of less well known traditional songs and a smattering of covers, the latter two categories are chosen exceedingly well - the all inclusive "Bartholamew Fair" a true delight as is Tom Lewis's "All at Sea" which turns a phrase more associated with being lost to being a celebration to a way of life. A way of life is remembered in Ryan's "Thankful Village" as their loved ones all returned from the war to a man, "We are thankful, we are grateful, we are blessed", yet those who returned were strangers "Inwardly and outwardly they are scarred by the blade of battle, they live and cough and rattle". Thoughtful stuff, as indeed is "One Day" conjured up by the belief that since WW11 there has only been a single day when the world hadn't been at war somewhere around the globe. Now if this is painting a sober picture then it's not all that bleak. "The Parson and the Pig" is a humorous take of a meeting between greed and a sow whilst "Oh Swine" is an eulogy to the versatility of all things pork. This is folk music of the highest quality, a studio album whose stripped back arrangements give the feel of a live gig, one that you'd be delighted to have attended. The sparsely used Viola of Jackie Oates, the Cello of Kate Riaz and the Concertina of Martyn Bradley add just the right amount of atmosphere and variety. Finally a confession, this record is too good to only listen to just once and having done so I'll hopefully catch the pair live in the future. (IPC}

JAY PINTO - Jay Pinto ***

Originally hailing from Boston, Pinto is firmly in the West Coast acoustic strum singer-songwriter tradition, his music drawing on folk pop influences with touches of Jackson Browne evident on 'Through The Eyes of a Fisherman', one of the album's highlights. He takes a slow chug through the bluesier 'Paradise', shows some deft fingerpicking on 'You Are Here' and 'Change of Heart' calls to mind Bruce Cockburn. Ultimately, it tends to remain on much of the same level throughout, but it's never less than accessible listening. MD

PI JACOBS - A Little Blue ***

The Los Angeles singer songwriter described her sound as an 'Americana bluesy rock thing', which roughly translates here as an album of breathily sung old school bluesy-toned country. opening with the descending chords of 'Dance Clean'. She does uptempo solidly enough, as on the slide guitar driven 'Good Things' and the boogie rhythm 'Dead Man', but the vocals can lack muscle and she's better at the slower, more soulful material, of which the 'Weed and Wine', 'She Don't Love You That Way' and the suppressed anger of 'When My Father Is Gone' are the strongest here. MD

MOJO MONKEYS - Swerve On ****


An LA trio who also serve as backing band for Beth Wimmer, Messrs Raven, Watts and Prodaniuk make fun, good time music that draws on soul, blues, rock n roll, country, jazz and western swing in equal measure, the latter getting the ball rolling in fine form with 'Tusacaloosa Maybe', swiftly followed by the finger clicking, brushed snare jazz-blues vibe of 'Two Shots' and the rockabilly boogie of 'About To Get Gone'. As their cover of 'Ride Your Pony' suggests, they're clearly a great live bar band, they also pull it off on disc too, the slow, soulful country title track calling to mind The Band while 'All The Wrong Things' swaggers with the same punch of early Huey Lewis and the News and the spoken narrative 'Argyle & Selma' has a swampy Creedence groove. Fine stuff. MD


2017 has been a vintage year for instrumental albums and "Luckpenny" from Karen Tweed & Tom McElvogue is another addition to that fine crop. Concentrating of traditional tunes, there is a sparseness about the album that won't be to everyone's taste, but also a delightful bitter-sweetness that will provide real succour once it does bit. The musicianship is not only exceptional, but played with real feeling and a sense of reverence and passion for the music. (NK)

NICK TANN TRIO - Authentic ***

There is something strange about calling a mini-album "Authentic" with the implication as to what has gone before is somehow fake, but having heard the album, I can understand what Nick Tann has done it. I've always been impressed by Nick Tann as a songwriter, but stepping up from a solo artists into a trio allows him to explore his songs in a way you can't as a solo artist and by doing so has been able to give those songs more definition, delivering a release that is both refined and easy to listen to. (NK)

CAROUSEL - Carousel ****

Carousel's self-titled EP should really step up the process of bringing the Essex country rockers to wider acclaim and recognition. This is music that should be eating up the highway like an eighteen wheeler and sounding the horns and flashing the lights as they are definitely coming through. This is an EP that's packed through with energy and one that will get the fingers tapping away on the steering wheel. Just remember to check your speed every now and then. (NK)

BILLY STRINGS - Turmoil & Tinfoil ***

I tend to be wary of novelty names and titles, they tend to wring alarm bells, but Billy Strings with "Turmoil & Tinfoil" reminds me why this is a guideline and not a rule. This is 13 tracks a pretty fine bluegrass, including a 9 plus minute epic, "Meet Me At The Creek", that delivers some great homespun old timey lyrics interspersed by more than one instrumental adventure that highlights the quality of playing that is to come across the rest of the album. If bluegrass is your thing, this is definitely an album to check out. (NK)

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