BOB COLLUM AND THE WELFARE MOTHERS – Pay Pack And Carry (own label)

Pay Pack And CarryBob Collum hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma but now lives in Essex – actually, we’re beginning to detect a pattern there. His band is Macs Leyton, Matthew Hall and Paul Quarry and there are a number of guests including Martin Belmont formerly of Ducks Deluxe, Graham Parker and Nick Lowe: Peter Holsapple of the dBs and steel guitarist Allan Kelly. He released a number of albums in the states before moving to England and I think that Pay Pack And Carry is the third album recorded here along with a number of EPs.

The band’s name comes from Neil Young and it would be so convenient if Bob sounded anything like Neil but he doesn’t. He’s a fine songwriter and the presence of steel guitar echoes some of Neil’s work but that’s about it. ‘Across A Crowded Room’, which opens the set, is a real American rocker with some tasty electric guitar – possibly Belmont. The second track, ‘Catherine Row’, has a very British feel even with its Americana overtones. Strip the decoration away and you could perform it on an acoustic guitar quite successfully.

The title of the album and its title track is an American expression I suppose – something to do with supermarkets – and the song is pure country led by pedal steel. In contrast, it’s Leyton’s violin that leads off ‘Mr McGhee’ and it’s odd, but I keep hearing Ray Davies in some of Bob’s lyrics. Towards the end we get a surprise in the shape of Mike Heron’s ‘Long Cabin Home In The Sky’. It was written as a country song, of course, and Bob’s interpretation of “a man must run from the deeds he has done” somehow elevates it from the lighthearted piece that the ISB recorded. The lighthearted follow-up is ‘Tin Can Telephone’, one of my favourites, and the final track is another cover, Mike Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’.

Pay Pack And Carry has certainly grown on me with repeated playing and I know that Bob Collum has some dedicated fans. This should do well.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website:

‘Mr McGhee’ – official video: