MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT – The New Mine (MIG)

The New MineThe New Mine is the second wonderful blast from the re-constituted Matthews Southern Comfort.

A little history: I had lost track of Iain Matthews. But Like A Radio was a seismic surprise. And this new The New Mine is a very welcome and melodic aftershock. Both albums groove with carefully arranged and then re-arranged ‘Throwaway Street Puzzle’ pieces of rock, folk, pop, and (a touch of) jazz.

The New Mine begins with a brilliant rendition of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant song, ‘Ethiopia’. The tune oozes concern for humanity. Of course, Matthews Southern Comfort’s first big single years ago was a take on Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, and the two songs compress the years into very simple plea for a more intelligent, melodic, and vital world. Iain’s voice sings with a deeper pathos than his 70’s recordings, and even touches the raw passion of Bruce Cockburn.

‘The Hands Of Time’ ups the gospel ante and conjures joyous comfort, while confronting a time “when the sleep won’t come”. This song dips into the same spring water as The Band, spring water that flows with a pure and sepia melody.

Now, Robert Palmer had a big hit song with ‘Simply Irresistible’. I think he was singing about a woman. But the same could be said of ‘Feed It’. The tune bulges with a quick melody, a lively lyric, a soulful chorus, and an (almost) 50’s hamburger joint vocal. The songs buzzes with joy, a fluid acoustic guitar solo, and a jazzy piano. Sometimes, even pop music gets to touch the heavens.

And then the album dives into deeper waters. ‘Patty’s Poetry’ has a very catchy chorus and a friendly electric guitar. The title track is bluesy, acoustic, and piano jazzy with a very modern message that seconds the motion of fellow ex-Fairport Richard Thompson’s song that warns, “We’re all working for the Pharaoh”. Then, ‘Starvation Box’ begins with ‘Battle Of Evermore’ Zep thought, but then dissolves into the tale of a Vietnam vet who “won’t go back”. Of course, they nab the guy! And a nice guitar circles the defiance and deep psychology of the song.

A little more of history: Iain sang Fairport’s ‘Meet On The Ledge’. And that song is tattooed on the soul of any British folk-rock lover. ‘Nuff said! The original Matthews Southern Comfort cut three albums of folk music that gave a big wave to west coast Americana music. Then, there was a series of (blessed) solo records, the first two on the (equally blessed) Vertigo label. He moved to Elektra. These albums were tapestries of self-penned and covered songs that, despite their near-perfect beauty, never really sold many copies. He also played in Plainsong with Andy Roberts on guitar and recorded the very great album In Search Of Amelia Earhart. Then countless labels and countless records, including albums with Elliot Murphy and David Surkamp (of Palov’s Dog fame!) proved that Iain, when singing Richard Thompson’s words, did “really mean it” way back in Fairport history.

And, by the way, fans of (the great) Gene Clark and Mason Proffit (of ‘Two Hangmen’ and ‘Eugene Pratt’ fame) will find lots to love in those early solo records.

And now he has resurrected MSC with new members Bart Jan Baartmans, Bart de Win and Eric De Vries in a band that echoes the great sound of Steely Dan or the pop-rock perfection of China Crisis. This album also cuts similar grooves with Nick Lowe’s all over the place Jesus Of Cool (known in America as Pure Pop For Now People). So, this is quite serious rock, folk, pop, and (sort of) jazz stuff.

But, as I often quote Procol Harum, “Still there’ll be more”. ‘C’mon Amigo’ is country acoustic music that hovers in harmonious west coast folk rock beauty, with banjo and accordion breaths. ’The Hole’ slows time and asks the necessary questions about the future of all we hold so dear. The chorus, again, is a melodic exclamation sing-a-long pointed truth that overwhelms cynicism and demands an answer. ‘A Secret Is Gone’ is yet another accordion pulsed tune with urgent psychological plot. If this covers some of the same catchy ethos of the before-mentioned Nick Lowe’s Pure Pop For Now People, it also sings to the Pure Pop People who enjoy good and intelligent rock music.

The final three songs stretch the album to its finish line. ‘The Sacrificial Cow’, again, returns to gospel spring waters, with the nice touch of jazz piano. ‘Inbetween’ rolls with New Orleans flavour, and recalls the easy Big Muddy flow of Bobby Charles’ classic 1972 self-titled album. And then ‘In My Next Life’ is acoustic and confessional soft passion that sits well beside Rick Danko’s take on Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ from The Band’s Moondog Matinee. It’s a really nice final thoughtful groove.

Way back a long time ago, Iain sang his song, ‘Knowing The Game’ on his Journeys From Gospel Oak album that professed, “You may be taken down, you may be written off, it’s knowing how to stay the same, knowing how to play the game”. Sure, the good stuff always “comes around again”, and this is really good stuff, stuff that knows “how to play the game” but it still tent stakes a tough soul “to stay the same”, and then manages, against a lot of odds, to create yet another Iain Matthews album of near-perfect beauty.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: http://iainmatthews.nl/

There’s nothing from the new album yet but we love this song, re-recorded for Like A Radio:

FAIRPORT CONVENTION – Shuffle And Go (Matty Grooves Records MGCD056)

Shuffle And GoFairport Convention’s Shuffle And Go is a “green and pleasant” lovely folk album that winks and waves at the past, and (to almost quote Procol Harum) it “trips the light fandango” and indeed, still “turns cartwheels ‘cross the floor”. This is wise and warm music.

Now, in his book Meet On The Ledge A History Of Fairport Convention, Patrick Humphries says that Full House’s ‘Sloth’ is “a complex narrative, the novel that Thomas Hardy always meant to write”. Well, that’s a dart to the triple twenty spot. The epic tune bleakly suggests a past that anchors its characters into an ink blot where “She’s run away, she’s run away/And she ran so bitterly” because “Now the right thing’s the wrong thing”.

The comparison is apt. Hardy’s Tess is haunted by her past, and Angel Clare and Alec return again (and again) to signpost her fate. Of course, The Mayor of Casterbridge tells the tale of Michael Henchard, he who has it all, and is dragged down by a dredged past because Elizabeth Jane really isn’t his child, and then that wedding gifted song bird dies in caged neglect. Let’s not even talk about Obscure Jude and Little Father Time! So, yeah, ‘Sloth’ touches a live wire that’s very human, very electric, and fueled with an ill-fated certainty.

But Shuffle And Go has very little to do with any unwritten Hardy novel. Truly, this album doesn’t get caught up in past glories. The band is simply comfortable in its own skin. As said, this record winks, waves, and then nods at its own history; and to quote another ageless band, Fleetwood Mac, simply chooses to Then Play On.

The first two songs are quite wonderful. ‘Don’t Reveal My Name’ is a spooky Chris Leslie penned song with Biblical references galore and smoky guitars. It’s a nice tune, with or without the Fairport tag. Oh my! ‘Cider Rain’ is folk pop perfection with the sturdy comfort of a Simon Nicol vocal.

This is good music which closely shadows their resurgent album, Myths & Heroes. ‘Good Time For A Fiddle And Bow/The Christmas Reel’ could pump up any flat tire with enough umph to dance into many more dawning miles. Oh my! (again), Simon Nicol captures the beauty of England’s public houses, places where free speech in ‘A Thousand Bars’ and sad reflections are poured to match any locally pure and melodic brew. And then there’s Leslie’s title tune ‘Shuffle And Go’, which is up-tempo with an almost Americana zydeco pulse. ‘The Year Of Fifty Nine’ is again, quick with Ric Sanders’ violin, while the lyrics mention “Sputnik”, which is a long way from John Babbacombe Lee or “sad little Matty Groves”. Ditto for the Dave Pegg’s bass bulging in Sanders’ raucous ‘Steampunkery’, as it glances with modern gusto at the ‘Dirty Linen’ of long ago.

There are light-hearted moments. ‘Linseed Memories’ is a casual stroll, and would fit into the relaxed grooves of Ralph McTell’s 1973 very fine album, Easy. ‘Jolly Springtime’ (written by James Taylor!) is a clever choral tune as various voices weave yet another “green and pleasant” moment that conjures the plaintive sound early Steeleye Span. And ‘The Byfield Steeplechase’ is timeless Fairport, with yet another epic (!) tale, in almost Morris-dance time.

Two songs touch history. ‘Moondust And Solitude’ envisions an Apollo Moon landing, with includes a radio broadcast from the time. It’s important to remember that Fairport were an essential addition to the broad and inclusive hope of the late 60’s, despite the occasional rather tragic lyric about ‘Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman’ and ‘Crazy Man Michael’. It was all part of a very nice game.

‘Moses Waits’ is the odd tune out, written (by Rob Beattie) from the point of view of a Kenyan who “waits for the tips that make up his rent”, “the union to organize”, and he thinks of “his children with their heads bowed down at school”. Then the music slides into an ethnic shuffle that touches a simple beauty that, hopefully, fulfills the pure intent of the pre-Fairport Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra. As Fairport’s signature song Meet On The Ledge still proclaims, even after all these years, “If you really mean it, it all comes round again”. It’s a brilliant tune that conjures the thought of Vin Garbutt’s very necessary song, ‘When The Oppressed Becomes Oppressor’.

The final song is a violin slow dance, ‘Precious Time’. It’s nice. It’s beautiful. But (perhaps, a gripe) Myths & Heroes also did that with ‘Jonah’s Oak’.

That said, in his old (but still optimistic) age, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in ‘Terminus’, “I trim myself to the storm of time”. Fair enough. But he also wrote, “Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime”. That’s what Shuffle And Go does because, as Emerson also said, “every wave is charmed”. And, in Fairport’s case, “every wave” is “green and pleasant” and “charmed”, thankfully, over and over again.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: www.fairportconvention.com

It took some finding but here is ‘Shuffle And Go’ live at Cropredy:

THE CRAVATS – Hoorahland (Overground Records)

HoorahlandThe Cravats’ Hoorahland whirls complex rock, punk, and jazz into a narcotic hurly-burly of melodic musical defiance.

But is it folk? Well, I have a “born in the U.S.A.” friend who is 1/32 Puerto Rican (on his mother’s side), and that qualifies him for that country’s Olympic wrestling team. It’s something like that.

But as my friend, Kilda Defunt, often says, “All great art must have a deep root that touches tradition, and if music doesn’t connect to the past, well, then the record sounds like Boy George and Culture Club”.

And, as Kilda also often says, “This ain’t that”.

But, as reference points, these grooves can claim more than 1/32 genetic linage to The Edgar Broughton Wasa Wasa Band, Peter Hammill’s Rikki Nadir alter-ego and dystopic Pawn Hearts VDGG, the early sax pumped and later Starless And Bible Black King Crimson, The Stranglers’ Rattus Norvegicus, Magazine’s Secondhand Daylight, The Fall’s Live At The Witch Trials, Screaming Lord Sutch (and his heavy friends), Bobby Pickett’s ‘Monster Mash’, anything by The Cardiacs, and, of course, the very loveable Bonzo Dog Band.

So, as Kilda, is equally prone to say, “This is that”.

But to the music: A horn just howls and ‘Goody Goody Gum Drops’ rocks with catchy anarchy. The lyrics lurch over dada words while the guitar and sax pump even more hydrogen into the universe. “Shy” confesses anger like X-Ray Spec’s ‘Oh! Bondage Up Yours!’, and the Psychedelic Fur’s ‘India’.

And that Jericho horn just continues to howl. ‘Same Day’ is driving rock with nary a moment to breathe. The Mekons’ album Rock ‘n’ Roll comes to mind. ‘Good For You’ gets weird in a fun house mirror sort of way. The song is a strange dance that could have made the Rocky Horror soundtrack or an early Van Der Graaf Generator album (but not necessarily in that order!). ‘Oh How We Laughed’ is a sax spooked (sort of) instrumental ride into dark space, like a siren’s alluring call into Black Hole mystery.

Now, in his book Close To The Edge: How Yes’s Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock, Will Romano writes, “I have, for some time, made a connection between the hypnotic one-chord Delta blues music (and even some of the electric Chicago blues) classical Indian, Celtic music, and prog rock”.

This album, in its own complex rock, punk, and jazz way, is that, too.

And, by the way, this is yet another rock‘n’roll resurrection. The original band formed in the punk heydays of 1977, and released a final EP in 1985. Original members The Shend (vocals) and Svor Naan (sax) reignited the band in 2016 with new guys Viscount Biscuits (guitar), Joe 91 (bass), and Rampton Garstang (drums).

But back to the music. Ah, ‘There Is No God’ has a self-explanatory lyric that, oddly, manages at least one “hallelujah”. This one rocks with Crimson guitar prog business. Yeah, there’s a Fripp guitar vortex that decries any ‘Great Deceiver’ with “cigarettes, ice cream, and figurines of the Virgin Mary”, and who lies about all things metaphysical.

Of course, “March Of The Business Acumen” conjures a tune from Henry Cow or those spin-of Art Bears, except, this gets sort of full-throated funky with tough guitar chords, with marvelous muffled strings ala Tull’s ‘Locomotive Breath’.

And then the rock ‘n’ roll dam breaks. ‘Trees & Birds & Flowers & Sky’ simply rocks. This is the stuff Peter Hammill concocted through his Rikki Nadir alter ego and rebuffed prog rock and embraced “the beefy punk songs, the weepy ballads, the soul struts”. Put simply: This is exciting rock music. ‘Jam Rabbits’ recalls the odd side of Andy Partridge’s ethos with an English Settlement sound that is seasoned with sapid Eastern spices. ‘Morris Marina’ plays a poker hand of dense and spellbinding ageless rock ‘n’ roll sinister sounds.

The final tune, ‘Hoorahland’, again, gets funky and bulges the beat while riding an electric Talking Heads’ current that flares the dancefloor lights and sings with a heavy nod to any pretty great (and old ball) Pere Ubu Dub Housing tune.

You know, temper is an odd word. It implies the toughness of an iron alloy sword, yet it also assuages iron alloy anger. Go figure. But that’s the gist of this record: It waves the flags of rock, punk, jazz and even, perhaps, 1/32 of a folk entry into an Olympic contest. It welds the soft stuff into the hard stuff. And then it simply, with sparks galore, vibrates great rock ‘n’ roll with deviously clever off-kilter tunes and always sublimely adamantine jukebox music.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://www.thecravats.com/

‘Shy’ – official video:

RY CAVANAUGH – Time For This (Cav Productions)

Time For ThisRy Cavanaugh’s album Time For This could well be the soundtrack from a History Channel search for the grave of Henry David Thoreau. That sort of thing still gives us hope, just like a really good John Prine tune that has “broken the speed of the sound of loneliness” and always manages to crack a tough alkali Alamo smile. This record plays the music of our patchwork sampler Constitution, which against a lot of odds, always hopes for the best.

And it’s important to mention that Ry is a member of the odd-duck (and roots wonderful) “folk band in a whiskey bottle”, Sessions Americana. Now, this is Ry’s first solo album in twenty years. Not only that, but these are songs written by his late father George, so this music is a return, with deep admiration, to a folk singing dad and wonderful days of childhood.

That said, America is a gambling casino that always throws its dice. And this album throws a lot of acoustical American dice. ‘Carillon’ rings a clarion call that evokes slow danced railway American travel, with a simple but deeply passionate guitar, and a desire to find the train “to carry me back home”. ‘Cold Wind’ ups the tension with a sturdy pulse. Ry Cavanaugh’s soothing “old rugged cross” voice is accompanied with acoustic guitar (aided by Duke Levine) and Jennifer Kimball’s lovely backing vocals. So, this is simple stuff. But the tune dances with Mr. Bojangles’ depth. And ‘Too Tired For Drinking’ is a waltz timed confession that really touches a somber early Dylan root.

Ah, ‘Lost Woman Song’, spins tradition into a very modern up-beat testament for mutual respect. It’s a nice tune. And always remember The Band’s enduring question from their song ‘Across The Great Divide’: “Now tell me, hon, what ya done with the gun?”.

The title song, ‘Time For This’, travels down to Bleeker Street, with a soft melody that floats like a really nice dream of unwritten Fred Neil songs.

‘Trinity’ gets (sort of) religious, as American literature does from time to time, and a “phone call from God” is always (sort of, again) something of importance to mention in a folk song.

A pause for an unsolicited plug: Lovers of earthy Americana folk should check out Bob Martin’s 1972 album, Midwest Farm Disaster on RCA and more recently on Riversong Records. It’s a lost masterpiece!

But to get back on track, this album is filled with acoustic tunes that, with repeated plays, get etched into the music memory. ‘Sink Or Swim’ just begs for that hum. What a wonderful chorus! And the song simply sags like a nice and slow pony ride. ‘Help Me Doctor’ gets bluesy, but sings with a familiar Mississippi River pulse.

It’s just an idea, but it’s important to remember the Apollo 11 astronauts, at the last minute, switched off the computer auto-pilot and landed on the moon with human hands on the controls. Ry Cavanaugh, likewise, cuts through all the auto-tuning everything technology, and has made a record that is simple, direct, and is tempered with an acoustic soul.

Then, ‘Gypsy Dad’ says, “magic is going to make you strong”. True. But it also sings about a runaway “gypsy dad” who will “live my life in my own true way”. Lots of pathos. Freedom often leaves yet another “trail of tears”. And “a bird takes flight”. This is a brilliant song that catches the curve ball of reality’s grip on a tough slider. There are no answers. There’s just the stuff that happens every day. This is (sort of again, again!) deeply psychological with a very American ethos always singing, like the before-mentioned John Prine song, that we travel with ‘The Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness’ because “You’re out there just to be on the run”.

Let’s just say, this record, like any true American music, will always sing (with the simplest of tunes) the Bruce Springsteen declaration of independence that proclaims, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run”.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: http://www.rycavanaugh.com/

‘Carillion’:

SARAH JANE SCOUTEN – Confessions (Light Organ Records)

ConfessionsSarah Jane Scouten’s Confessions destroys polite convention: This album can, indeed, be judged by its cover. A snake curls around of a bottle of medicine, which sports both a butterfly decoration and a yin-yang circle. The flowers that frame the edges bloom in both dark and light beauty.

As the poet, William Blake wrote, “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence”.

Sure, that’s James Taylor “fire and rain” stuff.

And this is also folk music that defies convention. ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ begins with a bluster and then dissolves into a bluesy and sympathetic ode to a broken heart. An organ swells, and a French voice makes a weirdly dramatic entrance for a moment (inspired by Serge Gainsbourg); and then the tune returns to its open wound proclamation of human pain, which is punctuated with more spoken French, that huge organ sound, and a tough electric guitar.

Then, in contrast, ‘You Are The Medicine’ is acoustic, breezy, melodic, and dare I say, hopeful?

There’s more tough stuff: ‘Breaking And Entering’ rumbles with spite, strident chords, and an eerie guitar solo that sings with beautiful grindstone passion while a necessary piano plays simple sympathy. This tune has the sound of ghosts, risen from the grave, who are still thirsty to play the blues. ‘I’m A Rattlesnake’ ups the ante with music that, again, spits a bit of venom with yet another pretty great guitar solo and heavy percussion. This echoes the talent of Australian roots singer Kasey Chambers. ‘You Still Love Him, Kid’ quells the mood and confesses an uneasy truth, and perhaps, a psychological depth, with more organ, guitar, percussion, and pathos.

Oddly enough, amid all the hurly-burly, this is still folk music.

William Blake also wrote. “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”.

So sure, the snake and the butterfly, contrary forces, both get to sing on this record. And that’s just the point. And, by the way, Sarah Jane has a wonderous voice that sings with the very same ardent passion of Tish Hinojosa, Nanci Griffith, or Patti Griffin.

Then the there’s a curveball tossed into the mix. ‘Pneumonia’ is odd. It’s folk. But’s still odd. Bless me Father (the album is called Confessions!), and this song simply (and painfully) opens a heart like Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne. This is reality set to music, and it is art that transcends commercial fodder. Sarah Jane’s voice sings with the soul of love and dark introspection, knitted to a chorus that has the power of an exploding heart. It’s nice song.

‘Ballad Of A Southern Midwife’ continues to punch at conventions. This tune pulses with tough “confessions” that rest at the tip of a dagger. (The protagonist “set fire to the church house at the age of three!”) An organ, again, swells the tune into a deep dance (and recalls the great Jimmy Smith of Back At The Chicken Shack fame!) and announces the results of some ancestral DNA test that has nothing to do with genetic kinship with George Washington. This is dirt road stuff that mines the old the archetype of Robert Johnson’s ‘Me And The Devil Blues’.

But this is a folk album. ‘Show Pony’ is a wish-filled with a nice melody, some steel guitar, and a wonderous organ. Now, I could be wrong, but this may well be the best joyous ‘Pony’ song since Los Lobos’ ‘Jenny’s Got A Pony’ from their The Neighborhood album. Then ‘Poison Oak’ puffs white smoke with a beautiful and simmering song that conjures old-time country with a petal steel that oozes Fifties slow dance security, and tube amp radio memory.

The final song, ‘Crossing The Bar’, is the dart in the time-worn folk bullseye. This is pure modern acoustic stuff that sings with tradition. And speaking of William Blake’s “Eternity”, the lyrics paint that duality between life and death, which is a fine ending to an album that tightrope walks, with yin-yang slippers, over the taut tendon that separates bluesy rock music and the sincerity of any coffee house folk singer.

Sarah Jane refers to her music as “space-country”. Fair enough. And I’ll simply refer to those Harmoniums, the “gracious” Kurt Vonnegut Sirens of Titan created creatures who live in the caves of the planet Mercury, thrive on vibrations, and have two quiet telepathic messages: “Here I am, here I am, here I am” and “So glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are”. This music sings that beautiful song, too. And by the way, back here on planet Earth, Confessions exhales the pristine air of Western Canada and Ian Tyson’s four strong winds.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website: https://www.sarahjanescouten.com/

‘You Are The  Medicine’ – official video:

CAVE FLOWERS – Cave Flowers (Hard Bark Records)

Cave FlowersCave Flowers’ self-titled album burns its own brand into the worn leather of alt-country rock ‘n’ roll.

And that’s a difficult thing to do.

The Eagles commercial sound didn’t help the genuine genre. Many years ago, about the time with ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ or ‘Take It To The Limit’ ruled radio air waves, I saw (the great) Neil Innes of Bonzo Dog fame, in some London pub. He played a song with perfect 4/4 time and an irresistible melody. As an American, I felt right at home. But then the tune went on and on, and quite frankly, couldn’t find its way out of Hotel California. At the ten-minute mark, I got the sarcasm. By the way, the song was called ‘Boring’.

I mean, alt country is sort of Americana’s reggae: The form has strict rules, a certain expected sound, a cowboy hat or two, and a pledge of allegiance to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s brilliant album, Everyone Knows This Is No Where. Let’s face it: those songs like ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’ and ‘Down By The River’ are sonic pictographs graffitied on the Cavern’s rock ‘n’ roll walls.

That’s a tough act to follow.

But Cave Flowers pump blood life into the EKG of all things Americana. ‘Best Lonesome Friend’ has the big and glorious gas tank full-overdrive eyes-open road map-fast food fueled sound, like Son Volt, The Rave-Ups, Cowboy, Translator, Uncle Tupelo, and our unsung hero (and American treasure) Alejandro Escovedo. This is throttle open Jack Kerouac prose. Andy McAllister’s vocals hang on the hope for no more dust storms and vibrate like the wind against a prairie sod house.

‘Renter’s Life’ is a prayer to better times, with guitar sonics that touch the heavens. And the vocals sing a low solemn ode to old time music. This is Crazy Horse ‘Danger Bird’ stuff.

But the album has the alt country (without the rock) vibe. ‘Country Fan’ dances with lovable percussion and a barrelhouse piano. The Band’s ‘Rag Mama Rag’ comes to mind. Andy McAllister sings “My gut has a hole where all the drinking songs go”. Yeah, it’s that kind of record. ‘Midnight Movie’ has a great lyric worthy of Ray Davies’ Misfit ethos. This is such a fluid song, with whiskey vocals that anchor the song into the backstreets of sincere late-night flickered fantasy. ‘Hideaways’ is strummed with a rebellious Phil Ochs’certainty. This is dramatic country rock, with the tough beauty, perhaps, of a Lewis and Clark campfire sing-a-long. ‘Upperhand’ almost strangles in its dense folk-rock confession. But then, Henry Derek Elis’s guitar sings the song into a sublime collective ‘Mr. Soul’ bluesy orbit.

There is more music that escapes Neil Innes’ sarcasm. ‘Trick Tears’ is slow dance country purity. ‘Friendly Reminders’ answers with a quick pulse and an emotive vocal. ‘The Stranger’ continues with the equally quick folky pace and a deep memory of an electric guitar solo.

Ouch! ‘Greatest Hits’ rocks with the folky guitar spit that doesn’t want to play obvious songs to people who want to hear obvious songs.

In his own way, Neil Innes, with his satirical song, did the very same thing.

And then ‘Little Worries’ stretches passion about getting old, and well, “getting stuck” in all sorts of situations. The song is a quiet resolution to the complexities of life. Sure, it’s a tough illusion “to join me on this island”, but at least it’s an idea, an idea with the comfort of country alt rock that touches a beautiful tradition.

This album is old, and it is new; then it is old and new all over again. It rocks; then, it doesn’t rock. That’s the gist of a really nice record, a record that sings Jack Kerouac, and then manages a soft, but very melodic folk-rock alt country landing.

But, ultimately, this is an album of Cave Flowers, those oddly beautiful growths that vibrate, like brand new sonic pictographs, that will always be painted—with all the other great graffiti–on any Caverns’ forever rock ‘n’ roll wall.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/caveflowers/

‘Best Lonesome Friend’: