Press

“A set of remarkable quality which shows versatility in the writing rarely found in the loose category that is Americana.  If you’ve ever fancied hearing Son Volt jamming with Merle Haggard and Guy Clark, your dreams have come true.” Justin Currie

Consistently solid songs, tight, top-notch band backup and the convincing roots-country baritone of vocalist/guitarist Mark Wilkinson make for a set that grows more appealing with each listening. Principal songsmith Wilkinson is strong both on his own and in collaboration with bassist David A. Smith or multi-fretboard man Steve Conway. In addition to the title track, “The Blues”, “Valediction”, and the Conway/Smith-penned “Girl I Use To Know” are standouts. (4/5 Reviewed by Duane Verh for Roots Radio Network, USA)

After building a reputation as one of the UK’s finest country guitarists, Mark Wilkinson formed Red Moon Joe in 1985, releasing their acclaimed debut album five years later. But by 1993, he’d folded the band and taken to the road as sideman for hire. Then, three years ago, he decided to revive the band, recruited all the original members (David A Smith, bass; Paul Casey, drums; and David Fitzpatrick, banjo, mandolin, harmonica) and added multi-instrumentalist Steve Conway to the line up, heading into the studios to record their rather belated follow-up. Musically, it neatly divides between those songs driven by electric guitars with a rocky punch and the more bluegrass inclined numbers favouring banjo, harmonica and mandolin, ready examples being Midnight Trains, Save Me and The Blues on one hand with the sprightly Drop The Anchor, and Valediction, a bouncy lament about the decline in British pubs. Given the time Wilkinson spent with assorted Americana legends, it’s not too surprising to hear things that have rubbed off, most evident on the slower, reflective tracks such as Our Song and the slow swaying border country tinted Listen To Her Song with its troubadour stylings of Clark. Indeed, the man himself provides the very title of the album’s closing track, a playful, mandolin-accompanied talking country blues where, seasoned drawl to the voice, Wilkinson wryly looks back over his life and career, touring the world, playing a set for Stonewall Jackson and how he once ‘rolled Guy Clark a cigarette’, before slipping in to a burst of Let It Roll. This album deservedly marks another highpoint. Reviewed by Mike Davies for  www.netrhythms.co.uk

There is always a question hanging over a band not from the USA who play Americana. That question is; authenticity. With a host of human jukeboxes playing passable covers of country classics to audiences who only want to hear the same old songs, being original is not an easy task, especially playing a form of music that, although part of its roots are from these Isles, is essentially seen as American. There have been, of course, some fine examples of UK and Ireland based acts who understand and underscore the fact that good music is universal. My Darling Clementine and Bray Vista are two such examples and there are others.Another album of note is Red Moon Joe's Midnight Trains. The band is a vehicle for guitarist Mark Wilkinson, who originally formed the band 1985 and reformed it in 2010, rounding up original members to record this album with Gary Hall at Hall’s Voodoo Rooms studio. The album features 11 songs written by various band members, solo or in combination, but with Wilkinson’s name attached to the majority of them. They capable and seasoned players who feature steel, dobro, mandolin and banjo over the bass, drums and guitar foundation. Wilkinson handles the lead vocals with all of the other members adding vocals so there is no shortage in that department. The music incorporates some touches of both blues and bluegrass into its rootsy mix, showing that, although this is their first album in 20 years, they understand and are fully at home with the music they play. These guys obviously felt they had unfinished business and that they still mean business. The harmonica on The Blues heightened the songs sense of loss for a dying town. Listen To Her Songs is about hearing someone play music at night. Midnight Trains is full of atmosphere and without naming specific places suggests another continent and another time. One Day Ahead is acoustic instrumental, Save Me is a vibrant up-tempo rocking rootsy blues. In some ways, the song that sums up their attitude is the closing tribute, a memory of once rolling Guy Clark a cigarette Those times and hopes and wishes is delivered in the way that the master himself, Guy Clark might do it. It ends the album with a smile and shows that Red Moon Joe have their hearts in the right place and that their music is coming from that place too. (reviewed by Stephen Rapid for www.lonesomehighway.com)

The ‘Americana’ tag gets attached to any old hobbledehoy with a checked shirt and a battered guitar these days, but it wasn’t always like that, especially this side of the pond. Though largely undetected on the commercial radar at the time, a small but dedicated roots-rock movement emerged in the North of England in the late 1980s, long before the term ‘Americana’ was coined. Liverpool’s woefully under-rated The Onset arguably got it down first on vinyl with their ‘The Pool Of Life’ LP (on Geoff Davies’ Probe Plus imprint) in 1988, but they were soon followed by a fantastically unsung Lancashire-based trio: Gary Hall & The Stormkeepers, Mirrors Over Kiev and Red Moon Joe.  All three of the above made great roots-inclined LPs around the cusp of the 1990s for Fred Underhill’s Devon-based Run River label (also home to the likes of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn for a while), but while it was highly-respected, it didn’t – unlike Jeff Barratt’s Heavenly imprint which signed The Rockingbirds – have the sort of hip cachet that allowed performers to gain easy access to the London-based media tastemakers: something which sadly made a difference back then. Red Moon Joe’s excellent 1991 LP ‘Arms Of Sorrow’ found them shaping up as a Northern English Uncle Tupelo; mixing and matching punk rock energy, bar-room brawling rock’n’roll, folk and country melancholy and creating something highly accomplished and individualistic in the process.  Perhaps inevitably, the LP became something of a lost classic, but if there’s one good thing to come out of the whole ‘Americana’ boom, it’s that the playing field has been levelled somewhat for the likes of RMJ, whose surprise – but most welcome – return comes out of the blue with ‘Midnight Trains’: their first new LP in 22 years. They split in 1993, but they haven’t been idle in the meantime, of course. Frontman/ main songwriter Mark Wilkinson, especially, has since built up a reputation as ‘picker of choice’ and has shared stages with hallowed names such as Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Jay Farrar, yet with ‘Midnight Trains’, it really feels like Red Moon Joe have never been away.
Self-produced and recorded with Gary Hall at The Voodoo Rooms, ‘Midnight Trains’ finds the old Chorley gang – Wilkinson, multi-instrumentalist ‘Brave’ Dave Fitzpatrick, bassist David A. Smith and drummer Paul Casey – all back in harness, though they now have a secret weapon: pedal steel/ dobro meister Steve Conway, who (often in cahoots with Smith) also knows how to pen a mean tune or three.
‘Midnight Trains’ showcases a band painting from a broad palette of country/roots stylings without ever sacrificing their own individuality or a belief in the strength of their songs. At times the results rock (the bittersweet drive of ‘The Blues’, the Tupelo-esque cut’ n’ thrust of ‘Save Me’); more often they’re steeped in melancholy (the Byrds-y chime of ‘Girl I Used To Know’, the gorgeous ache of ‘Our Song’, updated from ‘Arms Of Sorrow’) but it’s always credible and it’s not averse to a healthy dose of self-deprecatory humour either. Make straight for ‘Guy Clark’ - Wilkinson’s wonderfully witty tribute to Texan troubadours, French rolling tobacco and “knocking Chet Atkins on his 70-year old ass” - if you can’t take that last claim at face value.
Elsewhere, they’re more than ready for the country on the feisty, bluegrass-y hoedown ‘Drop The Anchor’ or capable of penning the elegant likes of ‘Listen To Her Songs’, which recalls Townes Van Zandt at his most romantic. Loss and a striving for redemption are the emotions most frequently shadowing the songs and they reach their restless height on the smouldering title track where Wilkinson sings “lights on the horizon, a thousand falling stars/ They don’t light the darkness, the darkness in my heart” as the band ebb and swell around him.
It’s a tough old world out there and it’s a brave band that jumps back into the fray right now, yet Red Moon have done so with both feet and landed with a comeback LP that’s as fantastic as it is unexpected. Let’s hope they’ve a whole load more boxcars to jump before they ride off into a glorious sunset this time around. 9/10 (Reviewed by Tim Peacock for
www.whisperinandhollerin.com)

Currently there seems to be a bit of a trend towards musicians of a certain age getting together and knocking out some pretty fine rootsy music, and Red Moon Joe are not only the latest but one of the best. First seen in the mid-Eighties, they folded in 1993 but are now having a second crack and hurrah for that, for “Midnight Trains” is a mighty fine album indeed. Rooted in classic country rock, they have grit in their souls and fire in their fingers and whether its classic laments like “Girl I Used To Know”, the driving “Valediction” or the wry closer “Guy Clark”, wherein they itemise their missed opportunities with the rich and famous but delight in having once rolled the great man a cigarette this is forty-five minutes of musical joy.The band can play – leader Mark Wilkinson has spent more than a few years honing his guitar skills as an in-demand session man, and the rest are as good. They have tunes, they have words, and they have soul. An awful lot of reunions are a massive disappointment, this one is long overdue and the only disappointment is that they didn’t do it sooner.  8/10 (Reviewed by Jeremy Searle for www.americana-uk.com)

Resurrected from way back when (1985-93), Red Moon Joe have added all-purpose music man Steve Conway to the original line-up of Mark Wilkinson (guitar/vocals), David A Smith (bass), Paul Casey (drums) and David Fitzpatrick (banjo, mandolin, harmonica, etc). With a bunch of new songs written by Steve Conway, David Smith and mainman Wilkinson, they’ve come back with a first album in twenty years that is as fine an example of UK Americana as you’re likely to find. This is the kind of music that generally only gets made by mature, seasoned players well past the need to pose; everything about this album has a harmonious balance that expresses satisfaction in making melodic music that touches the heart. Somehow all the songs, no matter who the writers are, hit a similar sort of tone; there is the wryness that comes from having seen most things in life and still having an affection for the foibles of human nature, but there is also a heart-swelling romanticism, the kind that comes from a deep love for the American musical form in which these songs are dressed. It doesn’t matter if we’re hearing a song about a North of England pub (Valediction), this feels like a Technicolor world somewhere not so far from the border with Mexico. There is a kind of broad division between songs that are dominated by electric guitar and bright, motoring pedal steel from Steve Conway, and the more acoustic numbers where banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar are more to the fore. On the former they sound quite remarkably like modern California country band I See Hawks in LA, whilst on the latter they’re rather more in the mould of fellow UK Americana guys, the Southern Tenant Folk Union. They’re certainly as good as either of those two fine acts, and there’s a blokish straightforwardness to their collective vocal performance that is really appealing. I’m not sure if the whole band sing together at any point; it sounds like it could be at times and there’s an honest togetherness in their ensemble singing that is the country equivalent of that thing folk bands sometimes do. The most obviously immediate song is Mark Wilkinson’s wry look at his near brushes with fame over his long career as a sideman; Guy Clark tells the tale of the best of all those nearly moments – the time he rolled Guy Clark a cigarette. Of course, he closes with a little nod to the great man, a wee snippet of one of his songs, and what else would it be, but Let it Roll? It’s a sweet way to end the album, but this is forty five minutes of happy pleasure for all lovers of non-Nashville country – great music, great songs, happy times. (Reviewed by John Davy – http://flyinshoes.ning.com)

There is always a question hanging over a band not from the USA who play Americana. That question is; authenticity. With a host of human jukeboxes playing passable covers of country classics to audiences who only want to hear the same old songs, being original is not an easy task, especially playing a form of music that, although part of its roots are from these Isles, is essentially seen as American. There have been, of course, some fine examples of UK and Ireland based acts who understand and underscore the fact that good music is universal. My Darling Clementine and Bray Vista are two such examples and there are others.Another album of note is Red Moon Joe's Midnight Trains. The band is a vehicle for guitarist Mark Wilkinson, who originally formed the band 1985 and reformed it in 2010, rounding up original members to record this album with Gary Hall at Hall’s Voodoo Rooms studio. The album features 11 songs written by various band members, solo or in combination, but with Wilkinson’s name attached to the majority of them. They capable and seasoned players who feature steel, dobro, mandolin and banjo over the bass, drums and guitar foundation. Wilkinson handles the lead vocals with all of the other members adding vocals so there is no shortage in that department. The music incorporates some touches of both blues and bluegrass into its rootsy mix, showing that, although this is their first album in 20 years, they understand and are fully at home with the music they play. These guys obviously felt they had unfinished business and that they still mean business. The harmonica on The Blues heightened the songs sense of loss for a dying town. Listen To Her Songs is about hearing someone play music at night. Midnight Trains is full of atmosphere and without naming specific places suggests another continent and another time. One Day Ahead is acoustic instrumental, Save Me is a vibrant up-tempo rocking rootsy blues. In some ways, the song that sums up their attitude is the closing tribute, a memory of once rolling Guy Clark a cigarette Those times and hopes and wishes is delivered in the way that the master himself, Guy Clark might do it. It ends the album with a smile and shows that Red Moon Joe have their hearts in the right place and that their music is coming from that place too. (reviewed by Stephen Rapid for www.lonesomehighway.com)

This is full of great songs arranged inventively with a definite country tinge provided by pedal steel, harmonica, mandolin, Dobro, banjo, twanging guitars and great vocals and harmonies. Maverick magazine UK