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Anthony Toner A LIGHT BELOW THE DOOR Dozens of Cousins DC002 HHHH Bittersweet songs of love from a mature viewpoint There appears to be a vibrant music

scene in Northern Ireland at the moment, with a few young singers and bands slowly coming to the attention of the radio stations and publications across the Irish Sea, but some acts of the slightly older generation like Anthony Toner, still need a push in the right direction. Previously, he was a journalist that will never see 21 again, and has supported just about every ‘name’ act to visit Belfast in the last 10 years. This is his fourth album since 2002 and it sounds like a man that has found a writing and singing style that he’s finally comfortable with and to Hell with trying to be cool! Toner writes about what he knows and

it’s apparent that he knows what it feels like to be rejected, as well as being an observer of human behaviour. That said, even his saddest songs sound as if he has a rueful smile on his lips as he sings: ‘I lay my pearls of wisdom before her, but after ten minutes they just bore her back to tears’— East of Louise, which just happens to be one of the finest songs I’ve heard this year. Still Unsigned will resonate with anyone who had (or still has) a favourite unsigned band and is written from the point of view of a teenage girl having the time of her life, then meeting a boy who kisses her before telling her: ‘…she goes to school with his older sister.’ You just know it’s not going to have a happy ending. I love Toner’s Belfast accent when it

creeps in and out of songs in the way Van the Man does, and at times there is more than a bit of a Van influence on some of the arrangements, but not enough to worry about, as Anthony has a voice and style all of his own. One really special song is The Great Escape, which is about a woman who came into his life as a child and whom he called Auntie, but wasn’t related to but was a constant figure in his young life. It’s actually two love songs in one, as she dies of a broken heart and that appears to have had a lasting effect on Toner, the romantic songwriter. Grateful sounds particularly poignant and will touch both male and female hearts that

94 Maverick

have been broken by a selfish lover. I could easily bore you silly by

continually quoting snippets of lines and choruses to impress you with Toner’s songwriting skills, but I won’t—you’ll just have to buy the album to hear how good he is for yourself. A LIGHT BELOW THE DOOR is an exceptional record from an exceptional talent, who really should get out more— preferably on tour. Alan Harrison

Bibb City Ramblers MOUNTAIN AIR Groove ‘n Records BCRCD006 HHHH Bluegrass and country blues are fun—this band is very good A four-piece outfit from Georgia, Bibb

City Ramblers, now onto a sixth studio album, are very popular at festivals and hoedowns across southern USA. It’s not difficult to realise just why they’re so sought after, especially to support the big names they’ve already appeared with; their music is as fresh as ‘mountain air,’ and they convey immense enjoyment in the playing of it. Songwriting duties on all of the tracks is

divided between group members, Dan and Gini Davidson and mandolin player, Brian Fowler. The fourth band member, Steve Wildman, who seems very aptly named, confines himself to the washboard. On the invigorating title track, which is first up, Dan sets the mood: ‘mountain air filling up my lungs, when the morning comes this is where I want to be’. Nearly all of the tracks are upbeat, including the misleadingly titled Reuben’s Lament, which comes hard on the heels of the opener. Gini’s distinctive vocal styles come well

to the fore on several tracks, notably the dark Katie McGee—a tale of robbery and killing—and a tune and sound, which reminds me a little of old timer, Charlie Daniels’ Devil Went Down To Georgia. Another of Gini’s solos, 3 Bullets is my next best on the album—a cheating song, which rips along in the best tradition. The husband is away from wife and family for days and found in the arms of a friend’s daughter, the 3 bullets making sure he pays the ultimate price. There are three high class instrumentals interspersed amongst the twelve tracks,

the best of which is probably Whitetail Ridge on which Brian Fowler’s frantic mandolin and guest, David Blackman’s exquisite fiddle brings the album to a pulverising climax. It may be a bit predictable to include a drinking song but I also really enjoyed Dan Davidson’s Drink Drank Drunk, which relates the scourge of too much alcohol in a droll, amusing and very matter of fact style. The loud splash of southern colour certainly extends to the sleeve, in fact a bit too far south; the cadavers in hats and with guitars having a Mexican flavour. It’s fun and just like their hugely enjoyable music, it grabs your attention. Paul Collins

Crosby, Stills & Nash CSN 2012 CSN Records HHHI A twenty-five song, live video album from ‘three together’ CSN 2012 is released on Blu-ray,

DVD/2CD and digital download. In addition to the concert footage, filmed at The Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo, California during April this year, extras include interviews with support musicians Todd Caldwell (organ), Shayne Fontayne (guitar), Steve DiStanislao (drums), plus—from Jackson Browne’s band—Kevin McCormick (bass) and Crosby’s son, James Raymond (keyboards). The closing year of this decade will

mark half-a-century since the appearance of their self-titled debut, and CSN 2012 finds this ‘longer-in-tooth’ trio perform twenty-five songs, with Disc 2 introduced by a five-song set, solely featuring three- part harmonies and acoustic guitars. A crucial factoid, twenty selections pre-date the trio’s 1982 album DAYLIGHT AGAIN. Amongst the foregoing, Stills reprises his mid-1960s stint in Buffalo Springfield with a six-minute rendition of Bluebird plus the band’s late 1966 chart entry For What It’s Worth. There’s a reprise of Love The One You’re With from his 1970 self-titled solo debut and As I Come Of Age from STILLS (1975). In the early 1970s, Stills formed Manassas, and Johnny’s Garden and Learn To Live (So Begins The Task) are taken from their double-disc debut. Graham Nash’s only solo career offering is Military Madness which opened SONGS FOR BEGINNERS (1971).

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