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JOHN CEE STANNARD & BLUE HORIZON. Bus Depot Blues CD review

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.

www.johnceestannard.co.uk

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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