The NBT Review 11


Umbrella Man – Scott Albert Johnson (Independent Release)


From the shuffle bop of ‘Spaceman’ to the swinging jazz of the Wynton Marsalis tune ‘ In The Courts of King Oliver’ there is a warmth and a deep soul to this latest offering from harmonica virtuoso Johnson.

Backed by the best musicians Jackson Mississippi has to offer, and recorded in that city and New Orleans these tunes rollick and pulse their way into the listeners heart.

Gifted with a clear emotionally satisfying voice and a complete grasp on what makes an honest thoughtful song work, Johnson invites us to dance the night away, get hot, get sweaty and get involved.

There is a rare love and passion in these recordings, an uncompromising dedication and a joyfulness, in even the the most thoughtful ballad (stand out track ‘The Best Of Me’ ) that sets this way above many similar attempts.

This isn’t music from some rock star , distant , too distant from the crowd that comes to hear him play, this isn’t some roots blues rock n roll researcher/revivalist digging up old chords for new albums,

this, is the sound of someone who lives and breathes the music he creates and wants to share it with anyone that will listen.

My advice is buy this CD and listen, but don’t forget to boogie crazy while doing so.


Get the music and read info about the recordings here



Shadows – Strangers In Wonderland (Last Refrain Music)


Deep into the second track, `Every Day, Every Night’ the listener is made aware that hiding behind this perfect pop electronic funk (edging into new wave) even a simple love song has its own fears and darkness.


Shooting then into a slow blues, these Strangers show their wonderland can be full of a fragile and pulsing desire. This Wonderland is seductive and slightly dirty and not always as safe as the sugar coated music sighs would suggest. But who wants safety when the pleasure is in the hidden ragged beauty of the needs and the dreaming of this band.


We come now to what is my favourite track, `Still Standing` a song that distills essence of the ghosts in the radio, the lost spirits caught among the shifting airwaves, this glides and swirls , uneasy yet powerful.


More cool slightly on the edge tunes follow, the sound of what should be on the nations pop charts, the alternative strokes within are subtly painted and without sacrificing the catchy, there are enough twists to comfort the listener who wants a bit more.


This is the kind of album that makes those people who categorise tunes for ipods tremble, cause it slinks from style to style, keeping though, the essence, the DARKNESS of the band.


Mention must be made of the Chuck Dread remixes included on the CD, adding a neon dance floor glow and kapow to the tunes, a late night strobe shiver, bring even more magic to this strange Pop-land.


Find their music and more here:




Both these artists will be featured on the NBT podcast going out on the 4th Sept 08




The NBT Review 10


Ice – Liam Live (Independent Recording)


This starts as it means to go on, with a wonderful dramatic flair added to spiky soul electronica, Pure crafted pop that even the Timberlakes and Timbalands of this music universe will sit up and take notes.


Liam seems to have found one of the secrets to creating radio hits that will stick with the listener long after the show or the CD has been played. A subtle feel for the power WITHIN the song itself, letting the structure of the composition seduce (as in the tune ‘Amazing’) and allowing a bitter-sweet tension hold our attention.


Equally at home with slow burning ballads and thrilling dance swing, It is the simple keyboards and voice and shear belief in himself and his music that keeps the album shooting out delightful surprises.


Stand out track for me is ` The Light` a song of hope and I think, the perfect soundtrack to couples falling in love, perhaps catching Liam `LIVE` and using the song to stitch their new born romance fast together forever.


Beautiful songs that don’t feel the need to force themselves upon us to impress.


A winner.


Find this at



Love Is My Language – Aquamanda (Fairy Cake Universe)


A delicate mix of trip hop , acid jazz and ambient folk, this is a drifting, floating, flying dream of a collection.


Autumn makes love to Spring, there are shy giggles and knowing vocal strokes, as they tumble though the calm fluid electronic dawn, even the Sun holds its harshness back, letting this Aquamanda world breath eternal in the dawn.


This is a world of whistles and orchestra, a world of a voice that is almost too personal, but always rather seductive. Never sleazy always sensual, it is a world where heartbreak has been vanquished but still remembered with a careful respect, a world of hope and the calmness of tommorrow.


A world Full of nature and its sounds BUT never in awe of it. One of the most peaceful recordings coming my way this year.


Find this world at


The NBT Review 9


The Return Of The Heise Bros. (III) – The Heise Bros. (CTL Records)


The first track is the kinda of song that you can imagine being played as the opening credits roll over some indie cult flick about betrayal and redemption. Instantly catchy and refreshingly rough, there is a sweetness in the harmonies counterpointing no thrills rock swing.


In these days of every voice heard being pumped up and polished technically and every song being produced to a crystal clean sheen, its some kind of wonderful to hear songs that roll about in the dirt, and gleefully invite ragged inspiring harmonies to sit a while, maybe even stay the night.


In ‘Satisfy’ for example, there is a sly swagger,a goofy insecurity that gets to the heart, a messy exuberance that seems born on stage and survives the studio.


But don’t think this is some red neck bar band, this is Alternative Country flirting with a Replacement soaked Punk down in the front car at the drive in.


The album has a sincerity that I have missed since playing my old DBs plastic to shreds.


Stand out moments: the the lurking menace of `Lemon`, and the near Psychedelica of `African Beauty’ a song stolen from the early 70s and brought twisting into the new century.


The show ends with a fragile ballad , slightly skewed and haunting, the ghosts in the song threatening to make a place in your home.


More to this recording than initially meets the ears it seems and a good thing too.


Find them at



The Emergency Lane – Dudley Saunders (Fang Records)


This is a scary beautiful dream, the images float past and disturb, the world is slow motion here the colours are bruised rubbing into each other, chalk in the rain on city streets, sometime just before the morning.


This is a haunting love story, the characters are wounded and bear the weight of Love in all its fierce brutality.


This is a collection of songs about the people behind locked doors, or hidden in crowds or just out of sight.

Dudley Saunders though sees it all, them all. The world, the flaws and the wonder.


A mix of subtle rock frenzy and cinematic orchestra, the faces the bodies, swoop past, the lyrics sink in the mind slow and sweet and the voice, Saunders not so secret weapon, hooks us so we cannot turn away.


A contender for one of the NBT albums of the year. This CD slow burns harsh comfort and strange desires.


It seems the second it is played, that, it has ALWAYS been there.


Find this at




Catch songs from both of these new releases on the NBT Podcast this Friday the 22nd August