Feature: Albums that time forgot…CALVERT FLEMING PROJECT – Shotgun Pixie

Calvert Fleming Project - Shotgun Pixie

Amazing Radio 2021

‘Shotgun Pixie’ is the ultimate album that time forgot, except it’s not been forgotten. This post psychedelic gem of an album by Ohio  guitarist Jimmy Fleming and Robert Calvert’s grand daughter Maya Calvert is very much available again on the Amazing Radio platform.

It’s also an album with a back-story tracking the ten years of its inception.

11 years ago I discovered a magnificent duo jam band from Ohio called Uncle Mont’s Quandary. Led by Jimmy Fleming, a guitarist who was mentored by Woodstock promoter Artie Kornfeld, he established himself as an independent solo artist, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, writer, owner of independent Regalia Records and more recently founder of the ground breaking website called Guitardoor.com.

Well now he’s back a neo psychedelic rock album called ‘Shotgun Pixie’ which is inevitably shot through with the ghost of Uncle Bob – Maya’s lyrical acumen sounds like its been handed down through the generations -  while Fleming revels in jammed out guitar lines that owe much to the early Hawkwind.

The album which came about through sheer chance, took some ten years to realise and one fevered month to write and record.

Jimmy Fleming was researching a piece he was writing on Hawkwind’s influence on contemporary music, think dub, rave EDM, doom and flat out psychedelic rock.

He happened upon Alex “Maya” Calvert, the grand daughter of the late Robert Calvert (writer, poet and musician with Hawkwind, Hawklords and Michael Moorcock).

She was into poetry and self reflective lyrics and took her stage name from Nik Turner’s ‘Coming of The Maya’ from his ‘Space Gypsy’ album.

Sometime later Fleming sold his house and found himself with enough money to pursue a musical dream.

He invited her to fly over from Ramsgate to Chillicothe Ohio, and work in his Studio as well as hooking up with producer/musician Matt Moon.

It proved to be an inspired catalyst for as Maya’s lyrics and evocative vocals, while multi instrumentalist Jimmy filled the tracks with his post Psychedelic grooves.

In the true tradition of the post Woodstock generation they later headed to the local woods with producer Moon and within 30 minutes they had the instrumental concept of the title track. Another 30 minutes of creative input from Maya produced the lyrics while a few days hard graft gave them the basis of a project which was to become ’Shotgun Pixie.’

It proved to be the culmination of an idea realized over 10 years of transatlantic messaging and was originally released on Fleming’s own Regalia record label and has now been reissued in the digital age by Amazing radio platform.

It’s an album on which 3 creative spirits coalesce. There’s Fleming overall vision, his unrelenting energy and multi instrumental versatility. Then there’s and Maya’s lyrical bent and vocal phrasing which being the songs to life. And then it’s its all glued together by Moon who polishes up the sonic input through a combination of his own drums, bass and keys as well as production.

Jimmy riffs start where Maya’s lyrical imagination leads him, in an organic outpouring captured on the barn burning, gnawing psychedelic hard rock of ‘Cells’, which along with ‘Ode To The Others’ represents the 2 songs from the duo’s original collaboration.

The album opens with the chunky riffs of ‘Running’, which dials into Hawkwind late 70’s sound, before Calvert adds some stop time lyrics, about: “Running for a long time, from myself.”

She provides a kind of a lyrical tension Jimmy that fills out with a psychedelic groove.

‘Remembered’ has a shimmering swampy feel, reminiscent of the Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ as Jimmy whips out his best ‘Keef’ licks.

‘Ode To The Others’  finds Maya’s  gentle whispered phrasing cushioned on a sinewy guitar and warm piano line with what sounds like rain as a backdrop.

It got a real haunting quality, as her voice impressively rises above Fleming’s intricate accompaniment on one of her best vocals on the album.

You can feel the album building by degrees. The collective confidence surges and the interplay become more mellifluous as Maya really finds her voice.

And as if seizing the moment, Fleming let’s rip on ‘Lucifer My Brother’ with some gnawing wah-wah, interwoven into a track that builds to like a psychedelic drone on the back of Maya’s melodic hook.

It feels as if all the subliminal Hawkwind influences pour into this track. Fleming’s guitar playing is an object lesson in focussed intensity giving the song a bigger vista, while Maya’s vocal is full of presence which provides perfect contrast to the lyrical refrain.

The whole album is anchored by the title track ‘Shotgun Pixie’, on which Fleming represents the shogun and Calvert the Pixie.

It’s a perfectly balanced piece that evokes Zeppelin and Sandy Denny, but it’s cut with its own cloth, being forged by of Matt Moon’s mandolin, some intricate percussion and Calvert’s lyrical mantra: “If you can’t see it’s not mean to be.”

Both ‘Shotgun Pixie’ and the closing Fire & Brimstone’ are the highlights of an album you will probably keep returning to as there’s so much to explore.

There’s spiralling psychedelic fuzzed up wah-wah guitar, a manic blur of rumbling bass, crashing cymbals, and chick rock vocals.  It’s all part of a layered post psychedelic bluster, on which the original spirit of Hawkwind lives loud and clear.

The perfunctory ending cleverly draws the listener into the following  ‘Home’ on which Fleming again digs deep for some Keith Richard riffs on country tinged Stoned style number, shaped by a lo-fi arrangement, which though lacking bottom-end is counterweighted by a busy drum work and a would be anthemic chorus.

Jimmy’ s ascending guitar line evokes Jerry Garcia, while  Maya’s repeated hypnotic hook leads to a perfect guitar and piano finish that The Allman Brothers would have been proud of.

The album also owes much to its thoughtful sequencing. All 8 tracks illuminate every aspect of the songs and Jimmy’s overarching musical vision.

Better still, he’s joined by Chad Stout on second guitar and Dan Smart on the concluding instrumental ‘Fire & Brimstone’, which opens as if Paul Kossoff had just discovered reggae.

It’s a supreme jam track that bubbles up beautifully with the kind of pulsating bass that was missing earlier on in the album.  Fleming adds heavy duty fuzz guitar and coruscating wah-wah on a post reggae groove full of flinty tones.

It’s the perfect resolution to a finely honed album, though I’ve since discovered that Maya couldn’t make the final session, as they finished late on the night before she has to fly back.

In sum, the lo-fi production and jam band feel aligned with Calvert’s singer songwriter introspection sits perfectly with the contemporary music scene.

Fleming’s guitar squalls are bathed in subtle echo reverb and paint their own pictures on a psychedelic canvas, as the ghost of Bob Calvert and Hawkwind subtly infuse an album with 70’s antecedents.

Robert Calvert may be gone, but his poetic bent lives on in Maya’s lyrics, while the original spirit of Hawkwind resides safe in the hands of guitarist Fleming whose spacey bends and aching tone conjures up a warriors on the edge of time. Simply magnificent. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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