River Drivers – Big Oak Road

photo by Ron Donocoff

It is fair to say that at The RR our knowledge, awareness, and subsequently appetite for folk music is on the side of limited compared to other flavours of temptation. Even so a regular courting of folk punk offerings leads to moments more established in the traditional breeding of the genre which have from time to time sparked our pleasure and attention, the debut album from River Drivers now one such occasion.

Big Oak Road offers up ten songs which grab ears and imagination alike with their stories; tracks bearing tales of people and suffering so often borne from the affluence and powerful which prosper from and cause their struggles and hardship. They are accounts wrapped in sounds which proved just as captivating, Celtic, Americana, and Appalachian influences sparking the Philadelphia band’s own individual ideation and passion within a record which works and tempts on many levels and one which only nurtured the want to know more about band, folk music, and the background to the chronicles of life and history within it.

River Drivers is the creation of Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo, bass) with Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, melodica) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle) completing the quartet. We mentioned the flavours embraced in the band’s sound but equally there is a rawness in sound and emotion which has a punk breeding, no doubt a hue feeding on the years McCloskey was part of hardcore punk band Wrong Answer. It all adds up to a richly alluring persuasion within Big Oak Road and its mix of original and more obscure folk songs, and immediately within opener Children’s March (Mother Jones). It is a track which carries an infectious swing from its first breath, melodies coaxing swift engagement as McCloskey’s earthier tones draw the drama of the true U.S. Irish history plucked story inciting the imagination of song and listener alike.

It is a great rousing start to the release quickly matched in strength and captivation by the similarly lively and catchy Going Once. It too is a song inspired by a true story, that of a mother‘s plight finding a new home for her nine kids after their Torresdale farm is sold at auction for back taxes. The woman was Murray’s grandmother and brought to life magnetically by the vocalist’s emotive tones before a just as thick emotional intensity lines the voice of McCloskey within Crooked Jack, a cover of a song written by Irish singer songwriter/novelist/playwright Dominic Behan. As in its predecessors, the strings of the band’s instruments cradle and cast tempting shadows thick with warmth and melancholy; a craft heavy combination almost as romantic as it is dramatic and provocative and just as potent within the following Sí, Se Puede, another song drawing a picture of the hardship and exploitation of hard working men.

Isn’t It Grand Boys (Look at the Coffin) revels in its Irish breeding next, a Pogue-esque croon shaping its take on The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem classic. It is one of those songs which instinctively gets under the skin, a temptation relishing the enterprise of Moran’s whistle embracing breath, as too proves the album’s title track which is next up. This time the fiddle of Ratini primarily flirts with ears as it dances with the spirit and the other equally enthused textures making up the highly enjoyable song.

Through the great thick drama in sound and word of Cumann na mBan, the track proving another major favourite within the album, and the poetic rendition of traditional song, Moonshiner, greater attention was easily sparked by the band while the Tim Stafford written Union Man simply epitomised the strength of the release to pleasure, spark participation, and inspire an appetite to explore the origins of its story.

Big Oak Road concludes with Farewell Johnny Miner, just one more captivating slice of historically and intimately inspired folk written by Ed Pickford and invigorated by River Drivers, the band embracing its British heart.

The music world is so vast and rich that it is impossible to explore every plateau within its glorious landscape but we have definitely missed out not venturing into folk deeper and more often but grateful for having the rather excellent River Drivers and their similarly thrilling Big Oak Road as a new incitement.

Big Oak Road is released October 18th with pre-ordering available @

https://theriverdrivers.com/   https://www.facebook.com/theriverdrivers   https://twitter.com/theriverdrivers

Pete RingMaster 03/10/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

St. Christopher Medal – Hoof!

Hoof! sees the return of a particularly firm captivation going by the name of St. Christopher Medal. It was four years back that the Scotland hailing outfit bewitched attention and praise with debut album Sunny Day Machine and can look forward to much more of the same with its successor.

In many ways simply taking up the persuasive enterprise their first album left us with, Hoof! takes the listener deeper into the imagination and evocative fusion of country rock and Perthshire bred Americana which marked its predecessor. It brings a realm of melancholic poetry and melodic intimacy to the bracing remote isolation of the highlands but hope embracing songs which for the main effortlessly nestled under the skin as they ignited the imagination amidst personal associations.

Hoof! opens up with its first single, Fallen Angel rising up from a stark breeze to magnetically head through ears. In moments the spirited sounds of the track embraced ears, the earnest tones and words of Alistair Mathieson riding the bold stroll of rhythms as the evocative tapestry of Andrew Jeffries’ keys and the piano of Liam Cassidy weaved its suggestion. It is an immediately infectious affair with a tenacious rock heart aflame with the almost searing enterprise of guitarist Kenny Mathieson and a great start to a quickly compelling release.

The sensitive hug of Country Music follows, the song wrapping its melancholic reflection with the familiar essences of the wrapping its title suggests. It is a flavouring which does not generally spark our fires here yet in the craft of St. Christopher Medal only enticed as its in-depth experiences echoed before Wayne, Moon Pilot emerged from its spatial poetry aligned flight with its own expressive saunter, melodies and heart sharing voice again simply relaxing into one magnetic union with just a tinge of Bowie to its cosmic glide. Once more the band equip beauty and elegance with a sturdy rock ‘n’ roll spine, the rhythms of drummer David Mack and bassist Billy Nisbet almost imposing as they fire up the heat of the spiral of melodic fire escaping guitars.

From the dark shadows and sorrow of Baseball Jacket with the vocals of Steph Fraser a radiant companion to the more homely tones of Mathieson, and across the expansive landscape of the ultimately insular exploration of The Desert Wind & The Jazz Wolf, band and album only continued to seize attention and appetite with the latter especially commanding though soon outshone a touch by the Americana poppiness of Family Tent with its thick swing and contagious energy.

There is no lessening of temptation as Silver Lake and The Ties That Bind share their individual consternations, the first sharing a downcast examination before the second reflects on life within a bolder country rock canter with a certain wild west romancing to it, the easily enticing pair though eclipsed by the simply bewitching Diablo, a song which just kissed personal likes with its smiling melodies and virulent hook.

The album closes out upon the ripe sunset of Those Nights and its title track, each easy but inescapable temptation which sparked thoughts as firmly as attention, the last especially irresistible whilst epitomising the craft, imagination, and soul-stirring heart-rending prowess of St. Christopher Medal.

Whether Hoof! will cheer you up when truly down is debateable but it makes for an understanding companion whilst providing music which just captures the imagination; what better reason to immerse in the melancholia rich world of St. Christopher Medal.

Hoof! is out now via Stereogram Recordings; available @ https://stereogramrecordings.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/st.christophermedal/   https://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk/artists/st-christopher-medal/

Pete RingMaster 02/07/2019

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Joensuu Riihimaki Talks…


Finnish trio Joensuu Riihimaki has just released their third album, Highwater a released taking the band’s roots rock/Americana sound to new adventures. We had the pleasure of talking with the Turku hailing outfit about their new offering, the band’s origins, and much more…


Hello, can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and what brought you all together?

Sami Joensuu (lead vocals/acoustic guitar/banjo/harp)

Kari Riihimaki (electric/acoustic guitar)

Moilu Moilanen (drums/backing vocals)

We started JR back in 2013. I met Kari at the songwriter’s club I was hosting at the time and we’ve worked together ever since. We found out that we were both looking for the same things in music and soon after, we played our first gigs.

Things worked perfectly right away and we released the first single, Joe’s Café Blues/ A Pale Wind Comin’ in 2014. Our first album, Greetings From The Edge Of The World was released in the spring of 2015 with Running Moose Record Company with which we have released all three JR albums.

Initially, we were going to play as a duo, but we soon realised that we needed a drummer, and that’s how Moilu joined the group.

Have you been involved in other bands before? If so has that had any impact on what you are doing now, in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction?

Yes, we all had several bands before Joensuu Riihimäki, Moilu used to play alternative rock band called Russian Love and Kari´s former band among others was Doggtown. I have almost always been a solo artist. Each musical backgrounds have contributed a lot of to JR. Diversity has always been a big part of the JR music.

It is obvious where the band name came from but the thinking behind it?

Joensuu and Riihimäki are our last names and it sounded good and “weird” at the same time. We have never thought to change the band’s name, even though we knew it is difficult to pronounce outside Scandinavia. Both the last names are also town names in Finland.

Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer and how would you say it has evolved over time?

The first idea was to set up an honest band with a sound which should be timeless and original. The band must be at its best on the album and live. It felt like Joensuu Riihimäki needed to bring together; all the music around seemed so hollow and empty.

I wanted to offer something that matters. Maybe I wanted to bring something back from the roots. That’s why the roots music, and the same things still drive the band onward when it was fresh-faced and what the band is now. I’m so happy about it. Since our early days our sound is fuller and has more shades

Has it been more of an organic movement of sound or more the band deliberately wanting to try new things?

Yes, JR has always been more of an organic movement of sound but we have always been experimenting with new ideas with the sounds in every level. Our purpose is to create music that will last over time; we have our own sound which we want to hold on to.

Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating music?

A wide range of inspirations, definitely. I have a very personal approach to music and writing music. Somehow in the process of creation all that process is very private and own, you know, at that moment.

Is there a particular process to the songwriting and where do you draw the inspirations to the lyrical side?

I write down what I witness into a notebook, which I carry around with me all the time, and turn them into lyrics. I generally observe society and people, the inspiration for the songs comes from ordinary life, really and I usually write rather symbolic stories and the lyrics and music are usually generated at the same time

Give us some background to your latest release.

We released our third studio album Highwater on December 1st last month. The reaction has been great. The reviews have been great and encouraging. Many of the songs from the album have received airplay all over the world and many of the songs can be found on top ten radio charts all over the world. So many cool things have happened in such a short time. We are really happy about all of this.

Could you give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.

Highwater has ten different stories that tell about change in people and society these days, love and history; history that we must not forget. Sometimes everything seems so clear and clean, but there are always things on the other side, about these things have been Highwater done.

Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?

The structure of the songs is usually quite ready by the studio, but the final arrangements take place in the studio. I usually come up with the ideas and everyone writes their own parts.

Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?

We are absolutely at our best when we play live. We always put on an energetic show and we live in the moment, our live shows are just intensive. We try to let the audience be completely overwhelmed by our music. We just live with situations and with the audience. Interaction and communication with the audience is the most important thing. On stage I really feel alive!

It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it?

That’s true; here is no easy way to success. It has to do a lot of work. You just have to believe in yourself and you can be sure that you will be disappointed in many things and promises, that’s for sure. Each defines goals for itself.

How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date?

These days, it seems that social media plays a major role in marketing. Social media and the internet is an indispensable media but it is understandable that it is difficult for some to use it. For us, the internet has brought friends and fans around the world. That is awesome and we use social media every day.

A big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?

Thanks to all our fans. Follow us on social media so you know what’s happening.

Highwater, the third album from Joensuu Riihimäki is available now to stream, download and purchase from Spotify, iTunes, YouTube etc…

Further info on Joensuu Riihimäki can be found through the following sites:

http://jrofficial.fi    https://www.facebook.com/joensuuriihimaki    https://twitter.com/jrrootsrock   https://www.instagram.com/joensuuriihimaki

Pete RingMaster 23/01/2018

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Jane Allison – Methylene Blue

As 2017 went through its final handful of rewarding weeks, it is fair to say it produced some of its biggest musical treats, one of which was the new album from singer songwriter Jane Allison. The follow-up to her hypnotic debut album Just Another Girl three years earlier, Methylene Blue is a tantalisingly magnetic affair in its own right deserving of all the praise carrying attention it can muster.

The former vocalist of indie outfit KarmaDeva, Jane Allison Stanness to give her full name is one of those talents and voices which almost haunt the imagination. Her songwriting is an embrace of observation and intimacy, her fusion of folk and Americana a warm melancholic hug on the senses which carries you away in thought and creative seduction. Proof came with Just Another Girl and its bewitchment of emotive shadows and personal angst, attributes all the richer within the breath-taking thought courting adventure of Methylene Blue which confirms Jane Allison as one of Britain’s finest modern day troubadours, or should that be trobairitz.

Unveiling tales of “dereliction, salvation, obsession and allure, with its title track inspired in parts by the breath-taking love letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West”, all providing an “homage to triumph, defiance, the heroine, the daughter, and the muse”, Methylene Blue was recorded in fits and starts during Kula Shaker’s 2016 20th anniversary and K2.0 world tour. Blessed with the backing vocals of Audrey Evans from Mediæval Bæbes, the album arose at a time of great personal loss and during the devastating attack on Brussels. There is sadness at its heart but equally defiance and hope thick warmth which brews a melancholy so easy to immerse within.

The album opens up with Ain’t Wreckin’ Me, a country fuelled canter with the rich familiar twang the style often brews; its lure wrapping Allison’s enticing tones soon backed by equally beguiling harmonies. Rising from the ashes of a lost relationship, the track is a bouncy self-affirming affair getting the album off to a very potent start.

The outstanding Another Prayer follows, its mellow sighs riding a captivating swing as Allison again lures total attention with her bewitching voice and keys bred melodies. The darker pulse of bass is as compelling; its lurking presence engaging as the song with a certain Kirsty MacColl hue to it sublimely seduces ears and appetite before Hollow Rock slips in on a vibrant shuffle, growing second by second into a similarly absorbing proposal. Harmonica and guitar weave their own Americana spawned temptation but there is no denying that it is Allison’s voice and craft which takes the tightest grip.

Oh Girl is next, caressing ears with its gentle but determinedly infectious and lively serenade while its successor, For What It’s Worth shares a heart spilling ballad. From its initial breath, the first of the two is working away building towards a galvanic crescendo, Allison the fascination at its core while in contrast the second strolls along with reflection and brewing affirmation for company. Both songs simply charm in their individual ways as too the album’s title track, another skilfully catchy and soulful croon upon the ears hard to get too much of.

That is something which applies to all tracks within Methylene Blue, as the charismatic saunter of Forgotten Son and the brooding drama of Outlaw Valentine prove. The pair seizes ears and imagination with unstoppable ease, the first arresting ears with its expression and emotion, the body with its bounce while its companion takes the listener into a spellbinding landscape of long shadows and dark romance with a delicious carnival-esque hued undercurrent. The track, the best or not on the album, is undoubtedly the most enthralling.

The smiling invitation of Texas Baby blends the country joy of its named state with Nashvillian flavours before Unknown Soldier bring things to an alluring and haunting close. It is a fascinating and highly enjoyable end to an album which commands regular attention. It is fair to say that the genres at the heart of Allison’s music do not generally induce our passions but in her hands they combine to truly pleasure our ears and enrich our days.

An accomplished actress in her own right and soon to be seen in the film Slaughter House Rulez, a Simon Pegg / Nick Frost comedy horror movie directed by Crispian Mills and surely basking in plaudits for Methylene Blue, Jane Allison could find 2018 a very big year.

Methylene Blue is available now @ https://janeallison.bandcamp.com/

https://janeallison.net/     https://www.facebook.com/janeallisonmusic/    https://twitter.com/JAStanness

Pete RingMaster 10/01/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

John Stamp – Blowing Me Kisses

Giving a potent lure to the just released Franklin54, the new album from singer songwriter John Stamp, Blowing Me Kisses is the kind of lead single which only charms further investigation. Featuring the captivating tones of Leigh Nash from Sixpence None The Richer, the song is a relatively short but golden kiss on ears and imagination sure to draw attention to its larger companion.

Returning to music after eighteen years developing his business and career as a residential childcare specialist including training as a Music and Arts Therapist in 2012, Stamp quickly found his creative side flowing again. The evidence is upon Franklin54 and very openly in Blowing Me Kisses.

Its country/Americana bred stroll instantly and easily slips through ears, a sultry twang courting the vocals of Stamp and the strum of guitar. As rhythms dance, Nash steps forward with her distinctive and ever magnetic voice, the flirtation of harmonic backing vocals an extra seduction within the increasingly infectious canter.

As the duet forms and unites, the song increases its magnetism; a lure over too soon but making a memorable and lingering impression impossible not to embrace and suggest many others grab a slice of.

Blowing Me Kisses is out now on iTunes as too the album Franklin54.


Pete RingMaster 17/10/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Miss Chain and the Broken Heels – Uh Uh/Standing the Night


Breeding some tasty Americana/country-esque flavouring in their garage pop sound, Italian outfit Miss Chain and the Broken Heels recently ended 2016 in fine style with latest double A-sided single Uh Uh/Standing the Night. It was a year seeing the band stepping out from a quiet time after the release of second album The Dawn and extensive touring in 2015 as members pursued solo careers, built a studio, and just simply took a breather. Now they are ready to go again and after some shows earlier this year set about getting body and spirit dancing with their new two-track offering.

br-88-front-cover-1_RingMasterReviewUh Uh instantly bounds in, its initial lively melody carrying an appealing tang as boisterous rhythms flirt and entice. That countrified scent swiftly lines the infectious proposal, its body stirring up an appetite for fifties rockabilly and sixties power pop while entangling it in modern imagination and boldness. Flirtatious and mischievous in energy and sound, the song is web like in its lure, vocalist Astrid Dante charm and enticement before the similarly infectious lure and imagination of her and Disaster Silva’s guitars.

Bringing a calmer, though no more reserved proposal, Standing the Night swings seductive prowess around ears from its first melodic breath. The welcoming rhythms of bassist Franz Barcella and drummer Miracle Johnny alone ensure feet and hips are involved while the beckoning tones of Dante and surrounding harmonies brag ears and imagination as freely. There is a Pauline Murray (Penetration, The Invisible Girls) air to Dante’s voice and with its country spicing the song reminds a little of Fool, The Only Ones track the English vocalist featured on.

Produced by Brown Barcella, Uh Uh/Standing the Night is an irresistible ‘return’ of Miss Chain and the Broken Heels and an enjoyable appetiser ahead of a third album currently in the works.

Uh Uh/Standing the Night is out now via Bachelor @ https://misschainandthebrokenheels.bandcamp.com/


Pete RingMaster 17/01/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

A Blue Flame – What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remain

A Blue Flame_RingMasterReview

Three years after the release and success of a debut album, A Blue Flame has released successor What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains, a collection of songs which musically tug at the imagination and lyrically at the emotions.

A Blue Flame is the solo project of British songwriter Richard Stone, a Leicester based artist who has been stirring attention these past months through a host of suggestively ripe and ear pleasing singles. What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains follows his 2013 cast first album someone else’s dreams will fill our home; an offering released under the name of Woodman Stone. As suggested, it was a proposition which grabbed ears and plaudits alike, its lead song Does Madonna Dream of Ordinary People especially drawing strong support and airplay across the likes of BBC 6Music and BBC Leicester with Tom Robinson calling Stone’s music: “wonderful unashamed pop music that comes with an inbuilt English Pop sensibility running through to its very core“.

Featuring some of Leicester’s best musicians including co-producer Adam Ellis on guitar and Tony Robinson from The Beautiful South on keys and brass, What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains is now whipping up even more loud attention. It needs little time to make a potent impression with When Time Slowed Down first up and readily caressing ears. Stone’s sound is a folk scented mix of British flavouring from pop and Brit Pop to a more rock hued proposal. The album’s opener is a gentle folk coloured slice of enterprise, a flavoursome coaxing gently drawing the listener into a release which just grows in strength and stature song by song. Keys and guitar cradle the dusty tones of Stone, a jazzy whisper coating every note and tone of the engaging start.

ablueflame_RingMasterReviewEveryday Yesterday similarly makes a low key entrance though there is a latent sturdiness from its start. With the firm beats of drummer Damon Claridge leading the way as guitar and keys amidst warm harmonies colour the track’s sky, a captivating catchiness descends on ears.  It is a quality ever present in Stone’s songs, making an increasingly vocal present here and in the following The Girl Inside of You. The new single, the track is a rousing slice of melody thick revelry embraced in Brit Pop meets folk rock flavouring. Increasingly addictive with every listen, the song has bodies bouncing and thoughts thickly involved as Stone’s lyrical and vocal prowess works on the imagination. A thumping proposition setting an early peak to the album it is also the spark to a new plateau within What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remain.

Next up is Our Memories Fade, a less energetic endeavour initially which grows in energy and emotion as sultry guitars glow across crisp beats. It too has an instinctive infectiousness, an organically appealing swing wrapped in Americana-esque charm while Stone grips attention with his words and inviting vocal style. Its highly pleasing endeavours make way for Be Kind To Yourself, a smouldering ballad which might not have the same spark as its predecessors but simply beguiles with its fifties hued cry.

Earthy punk infused rock ‘n’ roll treats ears next in the shape of the excellent I Don’t Know, another imposingly enjoyable sing-a-long canter with Skids like fuzzy guitar, while the equally compelling Out There Somewhere shares its own piece of rock where again a Stuart Adamson comparison arises as the song has a touch of Big Country to it. Both tracks increase an already eager appetite for the release, a satisfaction which From God on Down feeds with even greater strength. Flirting ears with a twist of reggae inspired devilry and slight dub effect within its formidable rock ‘n’ roll, the track takes top honours.

A Julian Cope feel shades the inescapable magnetism of Marlborough Park Avenue, a scent which only adds to its bewitching prowess and success whilst The Sun Refused To Shine dips into the fifties/early sixties again with its teasing melodies aligned to another potent Stone croon and alluring harmonies. The two songs alone reveal the diversity of sound and invention which frequents the album, a variety continued by the country twanged folk of Feeling The Same and finally Goodbye as What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remain goes out with the same poetic gentleness it began with, if with greater melancholy involved.

Enjoyable on the first couple of listens and near on essential thereon in, What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remain announces A Blue Flame and Richard Stone as one of Britain’s most compelling propositions and exciting songwriters.

What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remain is out now @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/a-blue-flame/id1078425623 and http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ABlueFlame across most online stores.


Pete RingMaster 25/08/2016

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright