BLUES MATTERS MAGAZINE : ‘Ticket Of Life’ is a collection of songs in various Blues styles – from a dark and soulful Mississippi Blues style through Blues with country touches and some delightful lithe Blues picking too. ‘House Of Blues’ is wonderful: dark and hypnotic with some beautiful guitar playing, ‘Ticket of Life’ has real Dire Straits touches with more upbeat playing and a whispery vocal and ‘Gonna Be B.B. King’ has a gently rollicking gait. ‘Old New Borrowed and BLUE’ continues the mix, opening with the atmospheric ‘You Were My Angel’ – massive nod to Chris Rea and a wonderful track to just cover yourself over with and float off into the bayou: never mind Mighty Boss Cats, this is wonderful number by anyone. ‘She’s My Best Friend’ is a paean to a guitar – with you through thick and thin and always there when all else has failed you. Only eight tracks here including the deep and emotional ‘Omagh’ but immensely satisfying. ‘78RPM’ is Richard Townend solo and now you can hear who the lead vocal was for most of the Mighty Boss Cats. He wields what sounds like an original resonator and plays with a lot of considered depth and natural charm – lovely songs performed with real heart and love. These three albums show some of the best of the modern age – three albums from out of nowhere, created by musicians for the love of it and not needing to bankrupt themselves to record and press (I assume) and marketed through the wonders of the t’interweb. On the other hand if I were not in the lucky position I am I might never have heard of them. Really fine music and on a sweltering August night they really do fit the bill.
There are some lovely sounds here.The music is varied across each CD with laid back music showing real style and sophistication. Dreamy openings to songs such as’ Silver Coin’, are impressive, a cool, jazz feel in ‘Someone will do it back to you’,reminds you of the strengths of this genre ,a haunting reminder of the London bombings and how strangers showed compassion to strangers forms the basis of ‘You Are My Angel’ and fast talking fingers in ‘Little Stevie’ are the focus of a tribute to a musician killed in a plane crash. A diverse range of experiences and an eloquence that is stunning at times echo musicians such as Simon and Garfunkel in ‘Silver Coin’ and elsewhere of Seasick Steve and Glenn Campbell .The songs carry a moral authenticity,the music is superb .....................
WE ARE WHERE WE ARE : This ten track CD is a gem. The whole CD hangs together brilliantly with a clear and mellow voice where all the lyrics are audible, balanced with a deep understanding of ‘swamp’ music that really evokes the Deep South. This is a sophisticated and confident CD covering religion, relationships,life experiences and for me, one outstanding track about a Southern lynching that catapults the listener back into dark and troubled times. There is a languid quality, speakeasy smells and sounds, laid-back yet insistent blues and sunshine.Exquisite and occasionally haunting,this CD takes a more varied musical approach than previous albums and shows a cohesiveness that promises exciting times in the future.One of Townend’s strengths is that he allows the lyrics to accompany the listener rather than pushing concepts and conclusions in their faces. Even the track ‘Ain’t got no religion’ based on personal and probably painful experiences hasn’t got a trace of bitterness and ‘Ring’ shows the same self control. The listener is free to accept or reject his ideas. The music however is different. Within the first few seconds the warmth of the deceptively effortless blues sound hooks in and doesn’t let you go as it widens and deepens between one instrument and the next.A thoroughly satisfying CD.
WE ARE WHERE WE ARE :
A graduate of the Leeds College of Music, anything conventional about Richard Townend’s musical journey ended with his studies. In a thirty-year career, guitarist has played for artists as diverse as the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, crooner Tony Christie, and even Ronnie Corbett. After several abortive attempts at forming his own band, Townend hung up his six-string for a brief period, before being inspired to come out of retirement by the vibrant music scene in his Essex home town. And thank god he did, because with several members of this scene, Townend formed the Mighty Boss Cats - the friends in the title – and recorded this excellent album. Stellar contributions from the Mighty Boss Cats - including a wonderful saxophone solo on the title track – and Townend’s smoky voice and heartfelt guitar playing enrich the sometimes pedestrian songs here, and are a fine tribute to a musician who perhaps hasn’t achieved the degree of recognition his talents deserves. Nine of the songs on this album – all save blues standard ‘Little Red Rooster’ – are self-penned, and they, including the exceptional and exceptionally atmospheric ‘Hang An Innocent Man’, prove Townend is an great writer as well as musician. We are where we are could read as a statement of weary resignation to an unfulfilled career, but this would be wrong: Townend’s career and talents are worth celebrating, and ‘We Are Where We Are’ does exactly that.
Old, New, Borrowed and Blues opens with a deep, grumbling bass like the sultry warning of storm, whilst gentle piano keys break the still and the howl of a blues lead guitar shares its pain with the world. Soon enough the rattle of national steel-style slide joins the thick gumbo of orchestration, partnered by the insistent stabbing of a string section during the urgently repeated “You were my angel” refrain of the chorus. An epic sense of minor key gloom dominates this standout track inspired by the experiences of a friend during the 7/7 bombings, which sets an incredibly high bar for the tracks to follow.
Instantly the mood lifts with track two, She’s My Best Friend, a swinging, light-hearted blues number about a faithful old guitar. Don’t let the easy-going swing of this tune make you ignore the astonishing nature of the acoustic guitar solo that is frankly breathtaking both in musicianship and in sense of melody. Much more than the album opener, this track sets the tone for this album (Nobody Loves You Like the Way I Do and Let’s Call it a Day have a very similar sense of swing and fun) an album packed full of rootsy boogy-woogy and swinging blues.
There is something reminiscent of the acoustic moments of Dire Straits or some of Mark Knopfler’s film scores about a lot of Richard Townend’s songs. But this isn’t just another white man playing the blues as learned from Clapton, Knopfler et al, there is a real sense of authenticity in the raw grit of the recording, where squeaks and scrapes can be heard from the strings of guitar and cello, where the sound of brush on snare sounds like it’s actually in the room, not in some anechoic box with reverb added courtesy of a digital VST.
There are thoughtful reflective moments too, with themes very much reflective of the mindset of a maturing musician, such as in the mournful yet hopeful The Next Room, with its perfect interplay of fingerpicked guitar and solo cello, slowly joined by more and more layers of orchestration as hope in the lyric is built up out of sadness. Closing track Omagh has the most Knopfler-esque feel of all the tracks, ending the album with a plaintive harmonised chorus “What you gonna do now they’re gone? What’s it got to do with them?” and a gentle, slow motion waterfall of an electric guitar solo.
All in all a consummately thought out and recorded set of highlights from a mature and prolific blues musician, and definitely worth seeking out.
Ticket of Life
The Mighty Boss Cats hail from Essex and are led by Richard Townend he plays guitar and sings and writes most of the songs, Terry Hiscock also plays guitar and sings. The line-up is completed by Geoff Conway on bass, and Fred Fluff on percussion. This is their third album within a year, yes Richard is prolific. He has an interesting background having played for such as the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, crooner Tony Christie, and even Ronnie Corbett. What he actually played for them the website doesn’t tell us. If you Google for Townend you can find him playing an eclectic variety of music – this includes solo performance of jazz standards such as Jerome Kern’s ‘All the Things You Are’, he doesn’t play them in jazz style but in an interesting instrumental style of his own concentrating primarily on the melodies. That eclectic background informs this interesting album. It draws on several roots based influences and his laid back vocal style recalls Chris Rea, John Martyn and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler. It’ the Chris Rea influence that shines through most strongly. Guitar wise al the influences are there and there is also some tasty ragtime picking as well. It’s a mellow sound and the songs are well constructed and melodic with an underlying funkiness. We wouldn’t say there is a killer song here, but it is well worth a listen. The impression is that Townend has been waiting a while to have his say. The song ‘Lost on the Way’ is a poignant love song which recalled to us Runrig, and Dougie MacLean type sounds from around the mid-late 90’s. Our favourite would have been the closer ‘Seven Long Year’ a minor (ish) key blues starts with some resonator that harks on Jimmy Page’s intro to ‘In My Time of Dying’ then its into a really nice traditional (See that My Grave is Kept Clean) blues – its moving nicely, then the drums come in…and for us that rather killed the song it didn’t need drums. Shame about that but, nonetheless, a good album and we look forward to the songs to come from Mr. Townend.
Richard Townend is the leader of Essex based band The Mighty Boss Cats, they’ve produced a steady trickle of albums recently. On this one Richard steps outside the band to do some solo stuff. In truth it’s not that different to the band stuff because the mellow acoustic ambience from the band albums is retained here; it’s a tad mellower and stripped right back. At times on this his vocal recalls the slurred sound of John Martyn and also the close-in breathy sound of Chris Rea. A nice batch of songs and we liked the vintage American ballad style of ‘What’s Got Into You’. We also liked track 7 ‘Gonna be Walking’ a nice lilting song that (maybe) pays homage to Dylan’s ‘Walking Down the Line’. All in all this is a nice album to chill out to. Finally, we loved the artwork – nice cover pic; ‘where’d you get that hat son?’ and a label design that made us go all sentimental for the old style record labels.