Reviews – Bus Depot Blues

R2 Magazine (Rock n Reel) November 2014

Bus Depot front for web bHeading back to a time before electric blues and to that genre influenced by the English folk scene , rather than, say, plantation blues, John Cee Stannard is a cultural guru of sorts, as his adventures include roles as a radio presenter, actor/extra and writer of novels.  Folk fans will know him for the 60’s group Tudor Lodge.  This album is a courteous diversion into foot-stomping tunes that are guaranteed to conjour images of a past time, but one which Stannard clearly embraces.
Recruiting Mike Baker on guitar and Howard Birchmore on harmonica completes the Blue Horizon combo and their experience in the game is reflected in their unambiguous, tight and loose performance.  With one exception, ‘That’s Alright’, the songs are originals and Stannard shows a penchant for the songs of the time, notably ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘I’ll Take Care Of Mine’.
Interestingly, he states that he has been influenced by Hugh Laurie, with a desire to emulate his understanding of light and shade in the genre.  Perhaps given the opportunity, the same might be said in reverse, as his half a century of singing and playing ought to receive greater recognition.

GARETH HAYES – R2 magazine November 2014 

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A TOTAL Winner… this is so straight unpretentious… this is what most recent music lacks…”
Lord Litter – Broadcaster and musician          December 2014

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Om Country                    Swedish magazine           June 2015      (paraphased)

… The Cd “Bus Depot Blues” had a strong appeal to me … in trying to define the album based on geographical concepts it is easy to get lost: West Coast; Memphis; New Orleans; it sounds like authentic Delta Blues … this album is loaded with happy blues – great craftsmanship of a happy man …

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Bus Depot Blues (CastIronCIRCD024)


Bus Depot BluesFrom the Thames delta area of Reading comes the debut album by John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon; a set of original blues songs with one standard – Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’. Alongside John in the band are guitarist Mike Baker and Howard Birchmore on harmonica and they are joined on the album by a group of sidespersons including drummer Julian Bown who is a major part of their sound.

John Cee is a fifty year veteran and readers with long memories may remember him as a founder member of folk band Tudor Lodge back in 1968. He’s done a lot since then, finally arriving at this particularly English take on the blues. This isn’t straight 12-bar, in fact there is as much skiffle underlying the songs – I swear there’s a washboard in there – and most of the songs are taken at a cracking pace. The themes are traditional enough and expressed in titles like ‘Solitary Vacation With The Blues’ and ‘Bad Luck Rain’, but often with a twist: ‘Hard Times – 83’ is clearly rooted in modern financial fraud and heartless bureaucracy. ‘Flood Water’ immediately contradicts everything I’ve said by being a heavy, grungy 12-bar in the classic style.

That aside, this is the happiest blues record I’ve heard in a long time. ‘I’ll Take Care Of Mine’ is a defiant message to the world to back off and leave the man be, a new take on ‘Nobody’s Business But My Own’ and ‘When You Need Them Most’ is almost comical in its portrayal of misery. The playing has a fluidity that comes with experience and the band conjures plenty of variety from a few simple ingredients – and sometimes simple is best.

Dai Jeffries       November 2014

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‘Bus Depot Blues’ is an outstanding album. Each track is a delight to the ear. The songs are catchy, the humour flows from start to finish. Many of the lyrics are drawn from most unlikely sources. The ideas work though. I recommend this to everyone looking for a refreshing change from tired blues clichés. Give it a listen. My audience on Thursday afternoon certainly will be.

Jolly Roger                          October 2014

Jolly Roger’s Blues & Roots Show

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After the last album “The Doob Doo Album”, which was supported by a large number of fans of traditional acoustic blues, John Cee Stannard in June this year announced the release of his new album, “Bus Depot Blues” for the same record label (Cast Iron Recordings). What is it?

After his initial success, John Cee founded the band Blue Horizon, which consists of Mike Baker on guitar and Howard Birchmore on the harmonica.  Both musicians had contributed to the last album, and they did a really great job.  On Bus Depot Blues they are joined by two other excellent musicians the bassist Andy Crowdy and Julian Bown on drums, Altogether it points to a winning formula, so this new album is not just an ordinary bus stop, but it is a place where this ingenious and impulsive team brings real fun to the album and provides the audience with a great opportunity to really spend their free time in a fantastic way. I should not forget to point out the contributions made by Melissa Lynch on the violin, the backing vocalist Alison Rolls and Alex Steer on the tambourine.

Eleven of the tracks are original with one cover song by Arthur Crudup will take us back to the time when the blues was not like the current and thunderous noise. It takes us back to the time when, somewhere the 30s and 40s of the last century, such blues was performed in the basement, smoky bars and to a time when rhythmically kicking was the only expression of intoxication with this music. John is no stranger to musical expression and has been on the folk scene since 1968.  Actually, John Cee founded the famous folk group Tudor Lodge.

But now on this album John Cee combines blues, jazz and a mild influence of ragtime. And so it was in 2011, that John Cee began to focus intensively on his solo career, and concentrate on a traditional blues expression. He was absolutely correct to do so and in fact, this opened up some new and exciting possibilities for him. These twelve songs offered an impressive package which must be listened to in your leisure time – it will be well spent. The team at SoundGuardian discovered the recording of this album, and the audience was given a unique atmosphere to listen to music which they will not give up so easily. Is not that the main task of each album – to entertain the audience?

RECOMMENDATION: This is the kind of album that remarkably transfers you to the live band sound, with an appreciation of each musician, each of which shares their obvious good fun on the album with you. “Bus Depot Blues” takes you into the safe and long-trodden routes of this demanding blues style; you just relax and listen to the music coming out of the speakers.

Mladen Loncar – Mike  –   The Sound Guardian   –  Croatia- September 2014

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Real Roots Cafe              Dutch magazine             March 2015

“I have been a professional singer-songwriter for more than fifty years” says John Cee Stannard. He began his career as a member of the English folk group Tudor Lodge in 1968. Three years later, he saw 150,000 people on the Weeley Festival. Linda Thompson was part of the group briefly before everyone went their own way. In 1980, a reunion took place and after a few personnel changes Tudor Lodge became the duo it still is today with John and Lynne Whiteland who provides them with material.  After the first Tudor Lodge album in 1971 John wrote very little until, in January 2011, a creative burst produced six songs including a blues number. This set the directing he was to move in.  The result was the 2013 release of “The Doob Doo Album2 by the John Cee Stannard Blues Orchestra.

John then formed Blue Horizon for live performances of the material (Mike Baker guitar and Howard Birch,ore harmonica), together with guest musicians on the new CD “Bus Depot Blues”; Traditional acoustic folk blues with hints of skiffle (“Bus Depot”) and ragtime (“I’ll Take Care Of Mine” and “When You Need Them Most”, a rich, yet cutting view of friendship.)

With his unmistakable accent, the subjects of some of the songs are also inspired by British politics and social injustice.  Like a good teacher, there is polite and restrained anger – playing with words.  My favorites are “Lady Luck” (reminding me of “Midnight Special”) and more than five minutes of the threatening “Flood Water”, the slide guitar playing beautifully together with an enthusiastic harmonica on a rhythmic base.  In “Bad Like Rain” there is a lovely Spanish guitar, and later in “Best I Can For You” a violin.

The only cover is Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright”, with an appreciative nod to the performance by Elvis Presley. The album ends with the catchy uptempo “Not Until It’s Gone” which makes me want to grab a tambourine … Blues was always meant to give people a better feeling and in that, this album is totally successful!

John is determined not sit still, because in the meantime he has written a book, he presents a radio show and he thought that it would be fun to play small parts in movies. We can see him in ‘Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, ” “The Da Vinci Code” and “James Bond – Skyfall’.

(Independent)  Johanna Bodde 26th March 2015


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worldMuziekwereld                Dutch magazine                           17th March 2015  (paraphrased)

Stannard began to write blues-based material in his living room in 2011, and this became a fully-fledged album in 2013.  Following that ‘dream come true’ comes the release of an acoustic blues album “Bus Depot Blues”.  We get to enjoy twelve songs including one cover; the Authur “Big Boy” Crudup song “That’s Alright” made popular by Elvis Presley or more recently, Rod Stewart.  Prime cut.

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Sur La Route de Memphis n°118  (France)               First quarter 2015                       page 32   (Paraphrased)

It was in England that John Cee Stannard played in a folk group called Tudor Lodge from 1968 to 1972 and was then reformed in 1980 and still plays although John Cee stannard undertook a (parallel) solo career in 2011.  If Tudor Lodge were to be considered as folk training, then that is evidenced on “Bus Depot Blues” which is not blues in the usual sense of the term.  Whilst it contradicts expectations. Listening to the CD it is clear we have exceptional musicians.  50 years of activity leaves its mark. John does not have a voice, but sings blues without complexity and with ease, and is accompanies by Howard Birchmore on harmonica who did an outstanding job on all tracks, as did Mike Baker on guitar who played with finesse throughout the recording.  Of course they used bass and drum, and also added violin which adds a remarkably swing feel.  There are jazzy songs like “I’ll take care of mine” and “Best I Can For You”, others are more bluesy, such as the pleasant “Solitary Vacation With The Blues” or “Bus Depot”, then there are more up modern tracks such as “Flood Water” and songs with a country feel such as “When You Need Them Most”, all presented with a good dose of swing. Note that the only cover on the album “That’s Alright Mama” is presented with great results.  The arrangements all make for a relaxed atmosphere – a particularly cool and agreable CD.   GD

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Country Jukebox (Germany)   Feb 2015

Released in 2014, the album “Bus Depot Blues” by John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon breathed new life into the British music scene – really strong! The blend of traditional, almost old fashioned country blues with New Orleans / Memphis Blues, Folk and Old Time music is driven by a magnificent energy that immediately jumps out to the listener.  The enjoyable and mostly original acoustic based songs there is one cover – a wonderfully thrilling remake of the classic “That’s Alright” originally written and recorded in 1946 by the Delta Blues singer Arthur Crudup.  A truly great CD – there is definitely no foot that can stay still.


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Heaven – Dutch magazine   –  February 2015 – Pieter Wijnstekers

“If Gregory Page and Pokey LaFarge can be successful by connecting all sorts of old blues, jazz and country styles then there’s no reason why I could not do likewise,” the Brit John Cee Stannard must have thought judging by his CD Bus Depot Blues. In a most highly entertaining way, with fun songs and a fresh look, Stannard, veteran of seventies folk formation Tudor Lodge, transports us to a time that never existed because it combines the twenties with the fifties and sixties, and without making any excuses that it has stayed there. And so of course it must, because if you do choose to make retro music, you should not try to put a modern spin on it.

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By Fabio Cerbone (26/01/2015)      RootsHighway

Except for the very well-known classic That’s Alright by Arthur Crudup, which Elvis brought to new glory whilst working with Sun studios, the twelve tracks which comprise Bus Depot Blues all have the original imprint of John Cee Stannard. And it is without doubt the best compliment that you can make to this seasoned English musician, who makes the repertoire credible and faithful to his sources of inspiration, the country blues of yesteryear.  He is devoted to the language of the country blues genre but without giving up a jazzy sophistication (and this shines most of all, with Bad Luck Rain and I Can Best for You). Stannard presents his blues orchestra blues trio, called Blue Horizon, featuring Howard Birchmore on the harmonica and accompanied by Mike Baker on the guitar. They have fun singing the porch blues in Bus Depot and 83 Hard Times, echoing old resonator guitars in Lady Luck and indulging in a retro style in I‘ll Take Care of Mine, with a certain easy-going irony which is perfect for such occasions. The voice is not exactly a miracle for the genre, and it is less raucous than one might expect for an experienced musician, although it is reflective of Stannard’s roots in the English folk circuit. His breakthrough into the blues is recent, and judging by the results, this was a good move. His discography includes a rather long history with Tudor Lodge, including an album for the prestigious Vertigo label back in ’71, collaborating with Linda Peters as well as playing at the Cambridge folk festival. After years of anonymity, his love for rural America was born: the basic trio was enhanced in Bus Depot Blues, with the addition of Julian Bown and Andy Crowdy in the rhythm section, and with some support from Melissa Lynch on the violin. The formula is simple and true to the essence of the material, reminiscent of our own Red Wine Serenaders, Veronica Sbergia in the revival of certain jug music from the American “deep south” and brings home a truly enjoyable experience from days gone by.

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Rocktimes             2nd Feb 2015         –            Steve Braun   –     With unavoidable para-phrasing in the translation from German

I have to admit that the name John Cee Stannard was new to me, and I’m probably not alone.  A little research then connected him to the much loved progressive folk band of the early seventies, Tudor Lodge, which remains active, now as a duo, to the present day.

In this solo project, this Briton from the Southern English town of Reading provides contrast with a modern take on the traditional country blues. A year after his debut solo album “The Doob Doo Album” Stannard launches his new album “Bus Depot Blues”.

Once again, his interpretations are old fashioned – in a positive way, and transport you back to the fifties. This may be quite logical as his musical development started in the era of Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s alright’ as delivered by hip-swinging Elvis.  This is the only cover on the album “Bus Depot Blues” and it sets the scene for the entire album.

Like the music, the old-time feel is maintained in the artwork for this digipack release which could have been an album cover from the fifties or sixties.  This does not seem contrived as it remains very stylish and touches on the realities of life which are described authentically.  These twelve songs comprising “Bus Depot Blues” are not just the sound of Reading, but also of Memphis, St Louis and New Orleans.

There are folk and country blues threads throughout these recordings, which were all played largely acoustically.  Acoustic guitars dominate the sound, with semi acoustic slide used to enhance.  The bass bubbles and the drums are largely played with brushes.  The rhythms would often suggest a washboard or cajon would not be out of place.  With the squeals of harmonica and touches of fiddle, you feel transported back to a time when life still flickered in black and white and Al Capone fired his machine gun from his armoured 38er Series341-Cadillac.

The first seven tracks are tight and spirited – like the resonator dominated ‘Lady Luck’ or the previously mentioned ‘That’s Alright’- arranged and produced in a foot-tapping country blues style.  The atmosphere of ‘Flood Water’ makes you believe that this song could have come from the banks of the Mississippi.   And then you get a glimpse of Stannard’s folk roots (When You Need Them Most) or traditional jazz (Best I Can For You).  ‘Flood Water’ and ‘Bad Luck Rain’ are my two favorites from this section of “Bus Depot Blues”.

John Cee Stannard’s new album, with its gorgeous old fashioned musical content is completely out of time, making it a timeless beauty.

Steve Braun                       Rocktimes   02/02/2015

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Keys And Chords    30th December 2014   Cis Van Looy

In his homeland, guitarist and songwriter John Cee Stannard enjoys cult status as a founding member of Tudor Lodge, a folk group that, four decades ago, was making quite a stir on some prestigious stages, even outside the folk circuit.  Linda Peters (later Mrs Thompson) figured briefly in 1972, and her departure marked the provisional end of the group.  Then in 1980, the original group, Stannard, Lyndon Green and Anne Steuart reunited for a few months. Since the mid 80’s, Tudor Lodge has continued as a duo featuring Stannard and Lynne Whiteland.

Blue Horizon, as the name suggests, is a blues trio formed by Stannard which looks more at music’s blues corner, and the opener ‘Solitary Vacation With The Blues’ leaves no doubt as to which corner we are visiting.  In a dozen songs, with Mike Baker, Howard Birchmore and a number of guest musicians, Stannard explores the blues world – specifically, an entertaining folk and country take on the blues.  The only cover, the Crudup song ‘That’s Alright’ immortalised by Presley, gets a dynamic treatment which is closer to the original and fits seamlessly between songs like ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘Flood Water’ – whih we thought was located in the vicinity of the Mississippi Delta – but could it really be somewhere in Reading, England, on the banks of the Thames?


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3rd Coast Music Magazine | FREEFORM AMERICAN ROOTS CHART |FAR#185 (December 2014)
BUS DEPOT BLUES appears at No 21  

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John Cee Stannard And Blue Horizon – Bus Depot Blues | Album Review                      December 21, 2014            Marty Gunther

Cast Iron Recordings CIRCD 024          12 songs – 44 minutes   

One of the biggest stars in the folk music movement in Great Britain during the 1970s, John Cee Stannard attacks the blues format to deliver this collection of 11 originals and one cover, his second work in the format in a career that’s stretched back more than 40 years.

A solid guitarist and songwriter, Stannard achieved cult status in the 1970s as founding member of Tudor Lodge, a folk ensemble featured at festivals drawing crowds of up to 150,000 music lovers, which toured through the 1980s. He’s worked as a radio host and actor, appearing in small roles in several box office blockbusters, including The DaVinci Code, James Bond Skyfall, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. He began shifting to the blues in 2011 after penning several songs in the genre that struck a positive chord. “It’s as if I’d finally found my voice,” he says. It was a dream he’d nurtured for decades.

Those tunes and several that followed comprise his first blues release, The Doob Doo Album, out of which Blue Horizon was formed. The band’s a trio, featuring Mike Baker on second guitar and Howard Birchmore on harmonica. They’re joined in the studio by drummer Julian Bown, bassist Andy Crowdy and violinist Melissa Lynch with Alex Steer appearing on tambourine and Alison Rolls contributing backing vocals. The sound they produce is modern while being somewhat a throwback to that of many of the small folk-blues groups that played coffeehouses in America in the 1960s. The material’s highly original, and is delivered clean, in a straightforward manner with Birchmore’s harp prominent in the mix throughout.

Available through CDBaby or any of the major download sites, the album kicks off with “Solitary Vacation With The Blues,” a sweet number about meeting a woman who appears out of nowhere to turn the singer’s life around in a positive way.” It features a bright, upbeat acoustic guitar line with harp response. The trip continues with “Bus Depot,” a syncopated country blues memory of a dark, damp wayside where Stannard’s character landed after the end of a love affair. The theme continues with “Hard Times – 83,” about an investment in a company that fails. The figure in the title refers to the age of the subject at the time the firm failed…and the age at which he wishes he’d died, too.

“Lady Luck” is a heartfelt plea for better times, followed by “I’ll Take Care Of Mine,” which affirms the singer’s resolve atop some solid brush work on the skins and an all-too-brief guitar solo. A spritely cover of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s Alright” precedes “Blues In My Life,” an image-filled complaint about how the mood colors the singer’s life. The moody “Flood Water” features a repetitive slide line to drive home the feeling of the water rising steadily since the singer’s woman’s left home.

The music brightens for “When You Need Them Most,” while the theme of lost love and life lived in reverse gear carries forward as the singer yearns for friends to lift him up when they’re only letting him down. “Bad Luck Rain” features a Spanish-style guitar intro before Stannard addresses his troubles as the personification of the title and demands it leave town. The album concludes with “Best I Can For You,” which delivers a lounge band feel, and “Not Until It’s Gone,” an uptempo country blues number that about being unable to understand the depth of loss until the separation already has occurred.

If your tastes run toward acoustic folk blues, you’ll enjoy this one. The instrumentation is sharp throughout and the songs, which being familiar in theme, sparkle with originality.


Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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Style : Blues
Rate (1-5) :   ***
Bus Depot Blues is the second album By John Cee Stannard. He released his debut about 11 months ago and wrote more then 30 songs for his debut. Naturally not all of them made on his debut and after some thinking (and a little pushing by his friends and band mates) a second selection was made. Enter “Bus Depot Blues”. “Bus Depot Blues” is a collection of different blues genres including Field Blues and Swamp blues amongst others but most of all it’s a blues album that toys around with old fashioned blues styles. Amongst my favourite tunes on this collection you’ll find title track “Bus Depot,” “Flood Water”, “Bad Luck Rain” and of course the cover version of Big Boy Crudup’s song, “That’s all right” that was immortalised by Elvis Presley. While this album is not strictly for blues lovers, it’s certainly aimed at that audience, so you be warned…the rest, please enjoy Bus Depot Blues!

Mr. Blue Boogie –



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Published December 25, 2014 at 14:40 by Roger BENGTSSON (Para-phrased)

John Cee Stannard was one of the founders of the English folk group Tudor Lodge who released their first album in 1971. A year ago he released his first solo album, and to tour the album he subsequently formed his Blue Horizon which have just released the sequel to the first album presenting similar songs but the emphasis is clearly on the live band and overall the songs are more catchy.  The tracks are country blues with the emphasis on blues. Overall it is a fine album where Stannard’s vocals together with the musicians lively approach is joyful and shows that they have fun when they play together. It is nice and lively even though they are beginning to get on in years.

s  25 Dec 2014

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

Posted by David James Innes on November 11, 2014 at 17:00

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.
DAVID JAMES INNES   – Flyingshoes – November 2014 

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Marshtowers – blogspot

This acoustic trio was formed to tour John Cee Stannard’s first solo album in 2013. The gigs were a success and new songs continued to flow.
John is going through a very productive period. ”I have been asked several times where the songs come from. The truth is that in 2011 one day a door opened and they all started coming through.”
The songs on Bus Depot Blues are all originals bar a single cover ofThat’s Alright by Arthur Crudup.This is a slice of feel good music, pulling the standard blues trick of making sad songs sound happy. Pop it into your CD player, tap your feet and forget your own troubles for a while.

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Review: John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon

Bus Depot Blues

Posted on: Saturday, Nov 8, 2014


Singer and guitarist John Cee Stannard was a member of the folky outfit Tudor Lodge, who recorded a number of John’s songs back in 1971 on the Vertigo label but he then put his song-writing skills largely on the back seat; just over forty years later, John got together with some session musicians and some new blues songs he had written, and recorded a solo album.

Touring soon followed and John has now made this very appealing follow-up. The sound is generally acoustic based, though there is a band on some numbers and Mike Baker plays second guitar throughout. Forget trying to sound American – John has a quintessentially English accent, as for example, on the ragtime inflected ‘I’ll Take Care Of Mine’. There are elements of skiffle to be heard here (try the title track for a good example) and a more generic “East Coast” fingerpicking based style, including hints of jazz in a couple of places, with the resulting recordings conveying – mostly – a sense of fun.

The only non–original is a chugging cover of Big Boy Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright” that owes a lot to Elvis, though Howard Birchmore’s harmonica playing keeps it grounded in the blues. ‘Flood Water’ relies on a heavy, electric slide guitar riff to create a menacing atmosphere, but most of the remaining numbers are less threatening and John’s sense of humour is in evidence. A very entertaining release…

NORMAN DARWEN    November 2014


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John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon, Bus Depot Blues. Album Review

Published on November 4, 2014 by Admin in Music

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

The light at the end of the tunnel is always best illuminated by missing the last bus home. The dejection and disappointment of having to walk the miles from the last chance saloon to the cold and unfriendly home is always punctuated by the chance to listen to whatever music infects your ears and take in the natural air that dances sickly in urban abundance as you walk the walk home and keeping the eyes firmly fixed on the way ahead; only your ears press ahead with learning something new.

For John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon, Bus Depot Blues is a mix of inspiring greatness tinged with the cold harsh reality that life in 21st Century Britain is singed, shattered and broken like a burnt, smashed mirror with the inflexibility imposed upon each of us and the con that somehow we have signed up for.

For John Cee and his travelling players, Mike Baker, Howard Birchmore, Julian Bown, Andy Crowdy, Melissa Lynch, Alex Steer and Alison Rolls, Bus Depot Blues represents a critique on the way life has become in many ways something insidious but delivered with the cunning punch of a genius comedian who knows how to play with words and subtle imagery. Bus Depot Blues should be seen as repository for the affable anger that resides in us all but at times we are just too comfortable to rise above the rage that builds at the stupidity in Government to do anything but give a non committable tut.

Nowhere does this anger hurt more than in the songs Hard Times 83I’ll Take Care Of Mine,When You Need Them Most and Best I Can For You. Hard Times 83 is a damning indictment to the way that no matter how hard you try to get ahead of it all, someone, somewhere, normally with intellect that inspires Mammon and with the legal jargon in which to hide behind, is able to place you in the position of pauper. The unfairness of it all is astounding and yet this legal robbery, the way in which insurance firms protect themselves against all eventualities, much like the gambling dens that doubled as whore houses and molly shops in 19th Century London were able to do.   

If the last bus has made it to the depot, if the Blues have got you wondering just who has won in the wacky world of the Westminster Empire and the conglomerations that whisper slowly in their ears, then John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon have succeeded in their mission to educate, entertain and inform. Bus Depot Blues should be the first port of call in any thought of departure from the way we have been shuffled around like a badly drawn pack of cards. Tremendously enjoyable!

Ian D. Hall

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John Cee Stannard And Blue Horizon
Album: Bus Depot Blues
Label: Cast Iron Recordings
Tracks: 12

Well there is one word to sum up this great collection of good old country blues and that is – jolly!

It’s a jolly well good collection of songs which have a good-time feel with some excellent playing.

With eleven original songs and a solitary cover of That’s Alright, this is an album bursting with bonhomie.

If I had to turn my nose up at one thing it would be some of the harmonica is a little too eager, particularly in the laid-back lounge blues Best I Can Do For You.

But overall this album is a credit to all involved.

John Knighton     FATEA – records      November 2014


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Attentive readers will note that John Cee Stannard has come back very quickly with a new album. It’s actually not even a year ago that we could imagine since we introduced “The Doob Doo Album” to you with great enthusiasm. And it’s been no different with this “Bus Depot Blues”.

Stannard was started 2011 with a flurry of blues-based material, enough to produce a fully-fledged solo album, true. When that album appeared he had written around thirty songs, but at that time, had no further plans with the songs that ultimately did not make the album. Two of his musical friends who also were to be found on the previous album, however, managed to convince John to do a few appearances. A group was quickly formed: John Cee Stannard & Blue Horizon. The acoustic blues trio was so successful that hit the gig calendar began to fill with performances.

Plans for a new record on which to reflect as much as possible the sound of the live performances, was the next logical step. So besides John, this album features the two great musicians Mike Baker, guitar, and Howard Birchmore, harmonica, who also previously did such great work on “The Doob Doo Album”. The trio is for this occasion assisted by bassist Andy Crowdy and drummer Julian Bown. Other sporadic but successful contributions fall to record Melissa Lynch on violin, backing vocals by Alison Rolls and tambourine Alex Steer.

The twelve songs we get to admire include one cover. Written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup “That’s All Right” and you may recall the familiar sounding version of Elvis Presley or later Rod Stewart. However, the arrangements of John Cee make us regain a refreshing version of this here classic. The trio is indeed very successful in such a “feel good” atmosphere to create this release. A CD which it is pleasant to play many times. After each number you will get a spontaneous smile on your face.

It’s the kind of album where you are feel that it you are listening to them live in a club you are lucky to attend. Instantly you know the band is having fun, and you imagine, preferably in the company of an attentive audience, because despite the somewhat light hearted character of the record we can not forget he great lyrics of John Cee Stannard. There is also more than to admire. Enough variety in the songs Wonderful Country Blues as in “Bus Depot”, the swampy, boggy, great sliding “Flood Water”, at the same time our favourite track this fantastic laid back song “Best I Can For You”.

And what is again high musicianship here! The inventive guitar parts and at times the quite brilliant blues harp licks. Meanwhile, we have also learned that John Cee has almost a hundred (sic) songs has written songs since 2011, which will most likely say that we have a new release again soon. Great. Foreseeable future. That is certainly a fact that we cheer!

Luc Meert                    August 2014

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Before releasing this blues album, John Cee was a founder and long time member of folk duo/ group Tudor Lodge, based in Reading, UK. By his own admission, John “wrote the majority of the songs for our first album back in 1971, [but] I wrote very little in the intervening 40 years.

Then in 2011 John Cee wrote a few blues based songs which he was pleased with and this CD is one of the results (John Cee is also a radio broadcaster, published author and occasional film extra!).

Here, working with Mike Baker,(g) and Howard Birchmore (h) and a select group of guest musicians, Mr Stannard gives us eleven of his own songs (some of which are more country than blues) and one cover (That’s Alright, the Arthur Crudup song famously covered by Elvis Presley).

That’s Alright quite rightly has echos of Scotty Moore’s axe work but is enhanced by some driving harp work from Mr Birchmore. Bus Depot. the title track, reminds me of Sleepy John Estes while Bad Luck Rain has IMHO shades of jazz embedded in it. Blues In My Life is a skiffly piece with clever lyrics and a busy harp part.

Don’t expect anything like pure blues but there’s some fine music here nevertheless.

Ian McKenzie                   October 2014
Founder Member of the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association (IBBA)
Editor Blues In The South (

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