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JOHN CEE STANNARD & BLUE HORIZON
Bus Depot Blues
(CAST IRON RECORDINGS)
For forty years, John Cee Stannard composed no songs despite having more or less written Tudor Lodge’s eponymous album in 1971. His belief is that the completion of his first novel, The GRiPPENHAM Tales – The Hidden Truth, in 2011 rekindled his musical creativity. Bus Depot Blues follows on from The Doob Doo Album where Stannard reveals that he found his blues voice.
It’s a blues voice that is unmistakably English. Stannard emotes almost politely, as if these are blues for the grey generation, who continue to live by a code of lost manners.
The country blues laze of ‘Solitary Vacation With The Blues’ is an evocative opener, setting the relaxed tone, and Stannard sings from the heart of his resignation to ageing with good grace. That’s not always positive though, and the gentle ragtime of ‘When You Need Them Most’ masks the loneliness, where 'my life changed from top gear to reverse'.
There’s thinly-disguised bitterness in the protest of ‘Hard Times – 83’, the lyrical content of which rails resignedly but with barbs, at the corporate financial betrayal of the baby-boomer generation by the post-consensus amoral greed-is-good sharks. Bus Depot Blues does get low-down, and if not dirty, at least slightly unhygienic with the swampy, sleazy-sounding snakiness of ‘Flood Water’.
The one slight drawback of the album is blues harp player Howard Birchmore’s over-exuberance. He is an excellent player, perfect for the band but he might have reined back his contribution somewhat. His instrument should flavour and season songs without dominating as it tends to do. Less is more.
Overall, Bus Depot Blues has that uniquely British skiffle feel of musicians enjoying themselves paying tribute to the enduring Afro-American-based melting pot that is the blues, all the while putting their own home-grown stamp on it. Gratifyingly, that means that it sounds natural, organic, and largely free of muso hyperbole or histrionics. That’s very British too, at times evoking that marvellously self-effacing tongue-in-cheek Flanders and Swann atmosphere on a fine album of unpretentious laidback country blues.
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