The latest venture by Rob Peters sees him teaming with Dog Walker as, well, PETERS & DOG for their Welcome To The World Of album, a set of 10 individually-penned acoustic folk-pop numbers. Peters kicks off with Stage Fright, an urgently strummed track evocative of 60s protest folk with cascading vocals scales and a middle blues guitar break to be followed by Walker’s first offering, (We Can Be Like) Soccer Buddies, a number closer to a sort of busker Streets marking him as the more playful half of the duo. The credits alternate, Peters providing the Roy Harperish When We Fall, Jesus In The Parking Lot, another urgent, angry strum social-commentary, and the Velvets and Beatles-referencing Finger Rain, its Eastern and gypsy guitar coloured intro giving way to a lengthy psychfolk bluesy break midway through its near eight-minute span.
The blues are there too on Walker’s six-minute Road Movie, a harmonised slice of parched desert Neil Young, and the driving Beatles-esque Alternative Futures with Death of A Salesman back in a vague Mike Skinner mode, but here channelling Jonathan Richman, and winding up the album with the jerky scratchy busker strummed Life & Love & Sex & Friendship. There’s two other tracks, Burning Wings Are On My Shoulders an Eastern-tinged Lennon-influenced Peters co-write with Niecey Mann and an untitled hidden bonus cut effects-laden psychedelic blues instrumental that ends in a cacophony of feedback.
Peters, of course, was both engineer and producer at HIGHBURY STUDIOS, from where this may well prove to be the last recording to emerge following the announcement that financial pressures have forced it to close. Pretty much Birmingham’s answer to Abbey Road, it’s a huge loss to the city’s music scene, both in terms of heritage (UB40, OCS and Duran Duran among those who recorded their) and as a valued studio for musicians, local and otherwise, to rehearse and record. It’s to be hoped that Peters continues his fine work as a producer and that manager John Mostyn remains a pivot of the city’s musical framework.
Born in Oxfordshire, but Birmingham-based for the past umpteen years, KATY ROSE BENNETT releases her fourth album, the first her actual name (the others being as KRB), with a titular acknowledgement of her adopted city. Produced by brother Joe, Songs of the River Rea sports a strong autobiographical streak in its songs of love and loss. The upbeat, countrified Driving Home is about returning from the hospital after her partner gave birth to their son while close harmony piano ballad One More Time is a pledge of everlasting love to her. Featuring brother Robin (like Joe, also from Dreaming Spires) on flute, the lazingly lovely Soul In The Soil is a tribute to her late green-fingered grandmother and her love of the land while rippling album opener Cold November Day is also a song in her remembrance. Elsewhere Counting Kettles is a playful number about distracting herself on a train journey from London to Moor St, Fried Green Tomatoes, a summery fingerpicked lighthearted character sketch of herself and Jack & Ivy”, a gentle waltzer about former elderly neighbours.
Less overtly personal, One Day summons cowbells and shakers for a Gracelands-like perky bounce, We’ll Keep Trying is a chorus friendly defiant ode to positivism and, a personal favourite, Rusted Ring is classic catchy honky tonk country about a broken relationship, the album closing with the strummed, military beat of the anthemic My Friend about not wanting to lose a friendship just because a romantic relationship is over that builds to trumpet break and a capella chorus before the big final flourish. Terrific stuff.
Recently signed to Reveal Records, home to Eddi Reader, Boo Hewardine, Lau and Kris Drever, DAN WHITEHOUSE releases label debut Introducing, an eight-track EP that, with the clout of the label behind it, should bring him to the wider audience he’s long warranted. It features four tracks from his Sunshine album, which received a limited private release last year and is now scheduled for full release in September. The first of these is the soulful That’s Where I Belong, a full band recording featuring organ and a song he says is “about the places we take each other during conversation…how the sounds we make, can sometimes be more comforting than the words themselves.” Nothing’s Gonna Change It also has a funky, soulful groove, again organ-led and featuring fulsome brass, while the upbeat, handclappy Work brings a vague calypso/reggae feel to his Paul Simon influences and should sound great blaring out of the radio on a sunny summer’s day. The fourth album taster is CCC, another track with R&B undercurrents to its striding rock drive, suggesting a meeting between Mark Knopfler and Jack Savoretti.
The four other cuts are recorded live, the EP opening with the lovely Close Up, an ageing photographer’s confessional co-penned with Hewardine and sung as a duet with Jess Morgan, The Places We Have Been is another song from the album, here stripped of the brass and drums, fully exposing the emotion in his voice. The remaining tracks are both covers, a raw version of Chris Woods’ Two Widows accompanied by just mournful piano and what sounds like Kyoto and a terrific simple Springsteenesque acoustic guitar take on the Cowboy Junkies’ classic Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning, albeit substituting the more English ‘telly’ in the line “maybe I'll add a little T.V. too.”