JACKIE STORRAR’s legacy CD, “Behind Her Eyes”, is an absolutely stunning album. Her voice sounds wonderful throughout, despite being recorded in the final months of her life. The musical arrangements really suit the style of the songs, and is a real credit to her husband Steve Thiebault and Bones Parker.
When listening to the songs throughout the album, knowing Jackie’s health situation when she was recording it, it’s easy to appreciate how a songs words can be adapted to match the occasion. Take the opening track, for example. “One Night at A Time” has a completely different meaning from Jackie, than it ever was with George Strait. Similarly, “But I Will” was on Faith Hill’s first album, but with lines like “The next time would be the last time, and that time came this morning”, you cant help feel how poignant the song was for Jackie.
The album includes four tracks written by Jackie & Steve, including “The Future’s Ours”, a lovely ballad which was the first song they wrote together.
They also wrote the title track, which Jackie writes on the sleevenotes is about people not being what they seem. Again, with Jackie’s positive outlook during her illness, it fits her legacy so well.
The album does include a few songs that Jackie had released as singles over the years, but had not made it onto an album. Included is “My Angel”, which the pair wrote in 2004 after TV presenter Caron Keating lost her battle with breast cancer. How sad that Jackie would face the same battle.
Jackie’s musical tastes were quite varied, and that is demonstrated on the album, by the inclusion of Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”, and there’s quite a celtic feel to her version of The Killers’ “Human”, and “Wild Mountainside”, written by John Douglas from The Trashcan Sinatras. She also gives another airing to Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”, and, in contrast also covers Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”.
Steve Black wrote “I Stand Gere Tonight”, and she also covers Shania Twain’s “No One Needs To Know” and The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive”.
It’s a beautiful album. It’s one that I’d appreciate whatever the situation.
Thanks for the music Jackie. It’s a wonderful legacy for us all to share in. And remember, the main beneficiaries are Maggie’s Fife.
She has established herself on the dance circuit in Ireland with a number of upbeat fun numbers, and whilst there are a number of these included here, including covers of Crystal Gayle’s “Why Have You Left The one You Left Me For”, Alan Jackson’s “Lets Get Back To Me And You”, and her latest single “Satisfy You” (the old Sweethearts Of The Rodeo number), this album does show Lisa’s versatility in mixing in some really traditional Country and folk sounds into her sound. Indeed Lisa says that “the music is slightly more subtle and leans more towards a bluegrass country style than the “comin’ at cha’ songs we’ve done previously”.
There’s certainly some signs of that. Her versions of “Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels” and “I Hope You’re The End Of My Story” are both laced with some lovely mandolin, and “Who’s Gonna Be Your Next Love”, has a good bluegrass drivin’ beat.
The album kicks off with “He’s A Good Ole Boy”, the old Chely Wright number, which Lisa recalls from her younger days growing up on Glasgow’s South Side. And she goes back to Joni Harms for “That’s Faith” to close the album. Joni, of course, wrote Lisa’s early career song “Old Fashioned Girl”.
She turns in some lovely ballads, including “26 Cents”, and “To Say Goodbye”, which serves as a beautiful tribute to Joey Feek. The song, co-written by Rory, was originally recorded by Joey & Rory.
There’s a duet with Malachi Cush on the old Canadian folk song, “Peggy Gordon”, but for me, stand out track is the old Loretta Lynn song, “Success”. Pure Country. And not one of the most obvious Loretta numbers to choose.
Lisa’s come up with another winning package of songs, than can only further enhance her career.
DEAN OWENS has been one of Scotland’s main Country singer songwriters for over 20 years, firstly with The Felsons, and later with a number of solo albums.
Although very much a songwriter, Dean did acknowledge one of his hero’s Johnny Cash with an album called “CashBack” in 2012. Now, to coincide with a select few gigs, including Southern Fried and the Edinburgh Fringe, he has honoured Hank Williams on “Setting The Woods On Fire (Songs I Learned From Hank)”.
With a neat trio, comprising Stuart Nisbet and Kevin McGuire, (The Celtabilly Allstars), they have come up with an effective sound, which recaptures the original styles of the songs, whilst at the same time, sounding perfect for today’s audience.
There are some of Hank’s biggest songs in the 12 track collection, including “There’s A Tear In My Beer”, “I Saw The Light”, “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, alongside a few, perhaps, less obvious numbers like “Alone And Forsaken” and “I Wont Be Home No More”.
As he did on the Cash album, Dean has written one song for the album. This time, it’s “Celebrate The Life”, which could quickly become an anthem for Hank.
Hank Williams music is timeless. Over seventy years on from his death, his songs are still some of the most recognised across all musical styles. Dean does justice to those included here.
A Deluxe version of Dean’s previous album, “Into The Sea” has also just been released.
Another Glasgow girl going places is MARTHA L HEALY. She’s currently in Nashville working on her second album. But for fans who can wait for the follow up to her acclaimed “Better Days” album, she has released a four track EP, “To Be Free”.
It’s a four track collection, recorded at Glasgow’s La Chunky Studios earlier in the year, featuring two original songs and two classic covers.
What really works for me, is the simple acoustic set up. Martha plays acoustic guitar, alongside Rebecca Brown on fiddle, Sean Thomson on banjo and David O’Neill on Upright Bass. Together, they produce a stunning beautiful sound, which really let you hear Martha’s superb vocals.
The lead track is Martha’s own “To Be Free”, a song which really won me over from first listen. It’s a really strong song, and Martha’s voice really delivers. First Class.
The second song, “Too Much Time” was co-written with her brother Paul, who also provided background vocals on the CD. The two classic covers are Patsy’s “Walking After Midnight” and Hank’s “I Saw The Light”. The arrangements make interesting listening.
Altogether a very nice EP. I don’t know if it will keep her fans satisfied for now though. It’ll whet the appetite for more. Don’t be too long with that second full CD Martha!
Now let’s move across the Atlantic.
THE TIME JUMPERS are an amazing band of individuals who have been charming Nashville audiences with weekly jam sessions at 3rd & Lindsey, for the past 20 years. Their music has a distinct Western Swing influence, which is so refreshing to hear in Music City these days.
The main players in The Time Jumpers are Vince Gill, Paul Franklin, Ranger Doug, Larry Franklin, Joe Spivey and Kenny Sears. Kenny’s wife Dawn was also a main player in the band, before her brave battle with cancer was lost in December 2014.
No surprise that their new album, “Kid Sister” (Rounder) is dedicated to her memory. The album was in the works prior to her passing, so Dawn is, indeed, featured on the opening track, “My San Antone Rose”. It’s the last song she sung.
She also sings harmony on the rather personal “I Miss You”, co-written by Vince & Ashley Monroe. The song first saw life as a song that Gill co-wrote and recorded for his most recent album but didn’t use. On it, Dawn sang harmony. To give it a proper place in this group album, Gill stripped off the original instrumentation and rewrote some of the lyrics to reflect Kenny’s perspective on missing Dawn and had The Time Jumpers replay all the music.
Kenny, in turn, delivers a heartfelt “This Heartache”.
But it’s Vince who delivers the stunning title track. Just listen to Paul Franklin’s weeping steel guitar. And there’s a lengthy instrumental close to the song, with three fiddles and Jeff Taylor’s accordion. It’s so beautiful. So fitting.
But the album is much more than just a tribute to Dawn Sears.
With the release of “Kid Sister”, the band now has its own official theme song, a scorched-earth romp called “We’re The Time Jumpers.” Gill, who wrote the tune, name-checks every member of the band in the lyrics, as well as giving a nod to Dawn.
Paul Franklin’s steel guitar-driven “All Aboard” roars with the excitement and inevitably of a runaway freight train as each member takes a turn at pouring on the instrumental coal.
“Honky Tonk”, an upbeat swing number written by Gill & Troy Seals, is given a real authentic delivery thanks to Larry Franklin.
There’s a few long lost gems from the past getting a new airing here.
“I Hear You Talkin’” is a Cindy Walker gem from the 1940s that both she and Bob Wills recorded before Faron Young ran it up the country charts in 1959. Joe Spivey delivers the vocals here.
Another Time Jumpers resurrection is “Bloodshot Eyes,” a slice of comic despair that became a Top 5 hit in 1950 for its co-writer, Hank Penny, and later an Asleep At The Wheel staple. Gill brings back “Table For Two,” the achingly forlorn lament he and Max D. Barnes first contributed to Loretta Lynn’s 2002 album, “Still Country”. “The True Love You Meant For Me” is a another Vince Gill trademark ballad. His vocals and Franklin’s steel just blend together so beautifully.
Rounding out the list are “Empty Rooms,” sung by Ranger Doug, and Billy Thomas’ veritable trail of tears, “Blue Highway Blues”.
It’s great stuff. The best album to come out of Nashville this year !
It’s not many albums that are so iconic, that they deserve high profile reissues thirty years down the road. But when the albums feature Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, then you can understand what the fuss is all about.
All three were, (and still are) huge stars when the idea of “TRIO” was first muted. They had performed “Light of The Stable” for Emmylou’s Christmas album in 1979, but their busy schedules prevented them recording together again until 1987 when the first “Trio” album was released. That was followed up with “Trio II” in 1999.
Now Rhino Records have released a series of collections to commemorate the iconic recordings of three Country superstars who have sold over 200 million albums between them.
The main release is “The Trio Collection”, a 3CD collection, featuring the two individual albums, together with a 20 track third CD, featuring seven alternate takes from the previous releases, and another thirteen recordings that were unreleased from the original recordings.
An alternative release is “My Dear Companion”, which features 14 tracks from the main package, ten from the original albums, two alternate takes and two previously unreleased tracks.
“Trio II” has been released on LP for the first time, as has “Farther Along”, a double LP of the Unreleased and Alternate takes.
It’s all very confusing, but the music on these collections is such an iconic part of Country music, that every Country fan should have, at least part of it, in their collection.
Now for some new Nashville music. JAKE OWEN is one of the biggest stars of the past ten years since he signed with RCA in 2006. The Florida native has notched up 5 Number One’s to date, including “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone with You”.
His 5th album, “American Love” has been given a UK release (Sony) and features the single “American Country Love Song”.
The eleven tracks have been written by some impressive Nashville writers, including Jared Johnson, Shane McAnally, Hillary Lindsey, Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley. Owen, himself has only one co-writing credit, for “LAX”, the most Country track on the album, with some nice steel and female harmonies.
“When You Love Someone” is a soft, piano led ballad, that stands out.
One of the quirkiest numbers that catches the attention is “VW Van”, a tribute to the iconic touring home. Other makes are available of course, so radio may not want to give free advertising to one, however famous. Of course, VW may adopt it.
Most of the other tracks are modern sounding Nashville tracks, the most appealing being “After Midnight” and “Everybody Dies Young”.
It’s a modern Country album, and Jake has found his place with this latest album.
DRAKE WHITE is one of the newest hitmakers from Music City. He did have a self released album before getting a record deal in 2013. That deal only netted one single, but now Drake has emerged on Dot Records (part of Big Machine Records) with “Spark” and it’s already getting him some attention.
He co-wrote 11 of the songs, with established writers like Jason Sellers, Mark Irwin, Shane MacAnally and Shane Minor. In true record label style, the only track he didn’t write, “Livin’ the Dream” is the single release from the album.
The first track, “Heartbeat” was quite a rocky number, but the fiddle intro into the second track, “Story” got me really interested in the album. It’s a good catchy little number, which is certainly radio friendly. I also really liked “Live Some”, it’s another that will stick in your head. Any song called “Elvis” needs a listen. This one is a bit rocky, and nothing to do with The King. “Waitin’For The Whiskey To Work” is a slower number which is growing on me.
“Make Me Look Good Again” is an interesting ballad that had an almost gospel feel to it. There was a touch of blues on “Equator”, but it was catchy enough to maintain my attention.
It’s an interesting album, with some signs I liked. There’s also quite a few tracks that didn’t appeal to me. Check it out though.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE are a duo consisting of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly. One comes from Georgia, the other from Florida, which explains the name. They met whilst studying at Nashville’s Belmont University, at the top of Music Row.
Their huge hit “Cruise” established their name across all musical genres in America, and they later visited the UK as part of the c2c Festival.
They are one of the main players in today’s Nashville music, which get plays on Country radio in the USA, but, in reality, have very little country music on offer.
Their latest album, “Dig Your Roots” (Big Machine) isn’t all that bad an album, but it’s just pop music, They include some guests you wouldn’t expect to find on a Country album, namely Bob Marley’s son Ziggy, and 90’s boy band The Backstreet Boys.
They do include Tim McGraw on one track, “May We All”, to try to give the album some Country credibility, but it fails.
The single from the album, “HOLY” isn’t too bad a song, and I really quite enjoyed “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old”, which come along quite late in this 15 track album.
But it’s not what I’d call Country !
JACK TEMPCHIN is one of these multi genre songwriters and musicians that just seem to have been around forever. He is best known for writing several of The Eagles biggest hits, including “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “The Girl From Yesterday” and “Already Gone”, He also wrote an array of hits for the likes of Glen Campbell, George Jones, Olivia Newton John, Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker and Sammy Kershaw.
He’s no stranger to recording either. His new album, “One More Song” (Blue Elan Records) is his tenth release, and is a really pleasant listen. He says that the album honours his coffee house roots, “a guy, an audience and a song”.
It’s a very acoustic album, with the minimal of instrumentation, just guitar, some harmonica, and a sprinkling of other instruments.
The album features some songs from Jack’s past. A few have been recorded 40 years ago by his early band, The Funky Kings. The title track was previously recorded by Randy Meisner, and apparently performed live by Jackson Browne. The 12 track collection kicks off with “Slow Dancing”, a hit for Johnny Rivers. Jack’s own version is extremely slow.
“Circle Ties That Bind”, one of the first songs that he ever wrote, is a really nice ballad. One of the more recent songs is another ballad, “Still Looking For A Way To Say Goodbye”, which he co-wrote with Lisa Angelle for a film score. The song never made the movie, but it makes it on here.
But it’s not all slow numbers. There’s quite a catchy feel, complete with Dylan style moothie on “Singing In The Street” and “So Long My Friend”.
There are a couple of songs co-written with Bobby Whitlock (from Derek & The Dominoes). “Old River” is a beautiful song, which I really liked, whilst “I Got Her Right Where She Wants Me” is a real tongue in cheek Country number.
Great to hear one of the great writers doing some of the songs we’ve not heard before. A really nice listen.
Another great singer songwriter, producer and musician is MAC McANALLY. He’s a real Nashville legend, He’s written such hits as “Old Flame” for Alabama, “She Put The Sad In All His Songs” (Ronnie Dunn) and “Thank God For You”, one of several for Sawyer Brown.
He’s been the CMA’s Musician Of The Year for the past eight years, and has twelve previous albums, before his latest “Aka Nobody” gets a UK release on Wrasse Records.
There’s a real mix of material on the 15 track self produced CD. He has worked with a number of big name writers, like Al Anderson, Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett and Chris Stapleton.
The one song not written by McAnally is Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi On My Mind”.
Many of the songs have a soft easy listening gulf coast sound to them, an influence he’s picked up by touring with Jimmy Buffett.
I really liked “Coast Of Carolina”, co-written with Buffett. “Proud To Be Alive”, was more upbeat, but still had that gulf feel to it. “Everything” was a bit different. It’s probably the most Nashville track on the album, with just a hint of gospel.
One refreshingly different number is “Zanzibar”. It’s not Country, but really catchy, with its’ 40’s type feel, and instead of The Andrews Sisters, Mac got his McAnally Sisters to do the backing vocals.
A couple of other upbeat numbers, included “Loser Gumbo” and the bluesy “Better Get The Story Straight”, which had quite a gospel feel to it.
I really enjoyed this album. I have a CD he released in the early 90’s, and still play it today. Good to add some more Mac McAnally to my collection.
JASON ALDEAN is one of the biggest Country hitmakers over the past 10 years or so. The Macon, Georgia, native is one of the artists who has blown away Country music’s boundaries, by giving fans a much more rocky sound.
His 7th studio album, “They Don’t Know” (Sony) has just been released here, which will appeal to the fans who saw him at the c2c Festival.
The album kicks off with a typical rocky number, “Lights Come On” and finishes with one called “”When The Lights Go Out”. The album also includes the recent UK radio single release, “A Little More Summertime”. This single is growing on me. It’s a bit more mellow than some of his previous hits.
Indeed there are some interesting songs amongst the 15 tracks on the CD.
“In Case You Don’t Remember” is one of the more pleasant ballads on the album, whilst “All Out Of Beer” and “Any Ol’Barstool” should appeal to the honky tonkers- or maybe not.
But most of the songs are rather samey pop sounding numbers. Amongst them is a duet with newcomer Kelsea Ballerini on “First Time Again”.
Amongst the songwriters credited are Neil Thrasher, Tom Shapiro, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Rhett Akins.
I cannot argue with 17 Number One records stateside, but the guy just ain’t Country enough for me !
Back to the UK now.
ORFILA are a family trio from Kent, with a catchy modern sound that is quite similar to the Ward Thomas/Shires sound, which is getting a lot of airplay these days. “Never Slowin’ Down” (Black Dog Records) is their second album, and features ten self penned original songs. The trio are made up of Abi & Louise on vocals, and Matt on guitars. Abi also adds piano, and they have brought in a number of musicians for the recordings, in both London & Nashville, including BJ Cole on pedal steel, and ex Steeleye Span drummer Liam Glenockey.
The album kicks off with the catchy “Floor It”, but it was the steel intro to track 2, “Just Somethin’” which really caught my attention. “It Would Be You” is a big more upbeat, with some catchy banjo, thanks to Travis Troy. Other upbeat tracks included “Second Wind” and “Raise A Glass”.
They slowed things down on “All Along” and the harmonies between the girls really shone through. Other ballads, where the harmonies really impressed, included “Carry On” and “When You Look at Me”.
A few of the tracks, like “Fine Tooth Comb” and “Hit The Ground Running” were just a little too pop for me.
I liked the album. They have a good modern sound. I’m sure we’ll hear more from Orfila.
THE COAL PORTERS are now an established part of the British Americana scene, although their music does defy boundaries. Listed on wikipedia as “bluegrass”, they can also claim folk, celtic, alternative and indie influences. The band, led by ex Long Ryder Sid Griffin, was founded by Sid when he decided to turn away from the electric music. They haven’t looked back.
Their latest album “No.6” (Prima Records) is a fine mixture of styles.
The album kicks off with a lament to the era of punk rock. “The Day The Last Ramone Died” is an upbeat bluegrass banjo, fiddle and harmony lead number, which crosses musical boundaries in itself.
That’s followed by Neil Robert Herd’s celtic influenced “Save Me From The Storm”. There’s more Scottish influence on “Unhappy Anywhere”, with mentions of Aberdeen in the same line as California”.
“The Blind Bartender” is an epic 7 minute latin fused story song, which is immediately followed by “Cropping The Garlic”, a wild fiddle instrumental. Now, there’s a contrast in styles !
“The Old Style Music Break” is a really catchy upbeat bluegrass number that really stands out, whilst “Another Girl-Another Planet” is much more of a ballad, with some nice banjo and fiddle. “Salad Days” is quite a story of the music business. Although starting off accapella, it bursts into a superb banjo led bluegrass number.
There’s also a track written and performed by trained vocalist and fiddler Kerenza Peacock, who has two hit classical CD’s to her credit and currently touring with Adele.
CHRIS WHILE and JULIE MATHEWS are both stalwarts of the English folk scene, but as Wikipedia points out, both girls draw from Country and Americana for their music. Both have worked with various bands and projects over the years, including The Albion Band.
As a duo, “Shoulder To Shoulder” (Fat Cat Records) is their 10th album together.
It’s an extremely pleasant listen, with 11 original songs, written by the pair, with three co-written with Charlie Dore.
“Leap Of Faith” is a lovely song about the ties between mother and daughter, regardless of time or distance.
Other tracks that stood out were the opening track, “The Skin That I’m In”, “Are We Human” and the softer “Pinjarra Dreams”. Some excellent musicians including Danny Hart, who plays with The Mairs Family Band, playing fiddle on several tracks.
A lovely listen. Nice & relaxing.
THE JIGANTICS are an English based five piece outfit, who, I’ve got to say, don’t, to me, sell themselves from their name. Their name suggests something more of a heavy metal band, than the beautiful music that they actually produce.
“Seconds Out” is their second album, and it really packs a punch, without going over the top.
From the opening beats of “Take Me For Longing”, led vocally by Marion Fleetwood. It’s a bit more gutsy than the Alison Krauss version, but with Marion’s folksy vocal style, it comes over with a completely original feel to it.
More transformation to follow, as they cover Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. You would never guess it was the same song from the laid back easy listening version here. Another cover of note is the haunting “Blue Side Of The Mountain”, written by Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson, and most notably a hit for The Steeldrivers. There’s also an interesting version of Jackson Browne’s “The Crow On The Cradle”.
I really enjoyed their cover of The Claytones’ “Out On The Road Tonight”. Again with Marion on lead vocals, this time, with a very Country feel to it.
But this isn’t an album of covers. There are four tracks written by the band’s Martin Fitzgibbon, two with fellow group member Mark Cole. Stand Out track for me is “Radio” with it’s driving beat. A real good radio song, I have to say.
I really enjoyed this album which fuses many different styles. There’s Country in there, with a rather folksy feel to it.
Now for some Southern Country Rock, (Southern Britain, that is) courtesy of JERICHO SUMMER, a duo comprising Jay Zeffin and Vanessa Joy. They met twenty years ago, but this is their first album together. Both had been involved in music prior to their meeting. Vanessa had even starred as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Their album “Night Train” (Devil’s Blade Records) features Izzy Stradlin, the original rhythm guitarist for Guns’n’Roses, and bass player Marco Mendoza from Thin Lizzy.
But, to maintain a little Country influence, it also features Albert Lee and Stuart Duncan, who has a long list of Nashville music credits.
It is a very rocky album, in a southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd/ ZZ Top) style. But there are some tracks a bit closer to Country than others, notably the softer ballads “Live For The Moment” and “Lonely Town” and the livelier “Does It Matter” and “Good One Coming On”.
It’s a bit different. One for the rockers !
There are a lot of diverse musical acts on the Irish scene, but none have the stand out gimmick of THE INDIANS. For 45 years they have been entertaining in their full Indian dress. It may detract from the music, but once you sit down and listen to a CD like their latest, “Hello World”, you get to appreciate just how good musicians and singers they are.
Whilst many of today’s new Irish breed do try to maintain some Country music credentials, when you’ve been around as long as The Indians, you know you’re audience and what’ll appeal to them.
The title track, “Hello World” is a catchy upbeat fun number, as are many of the tracks here, including a cover of Tracy Byrd hit, “I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel”, which is given a catchy TexMex feel to it.
They slow it down with Dan Hill’s classic song, “Sometimes When We Touch” and Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love”.
There’s also “Save The Last Dance For Me”, the old Fureys number “Red Rose Café”, Peter & Gordon’s “A World Without Love”, and even “It’s Alright, It’s OK”, the theme to the New Tricks TV series.
David Sheriff also gets in on the act, by contributing “My Baby’s Never Wrong”
Of course there are several theme songs, including “Indian Lake”, “Indian Love Call” and “Qualalinta”, written by Roger Miller.
It’s a good mix of songs that’ll keep any showband party swinging.
Next up, we have a CD from singer songwriter MIKE CULLISON. Mike came to music quite late in life. Although it was always part of his life, the release party for his first CD, was also his retirement party after 32 years with The Bell Telephone Company. That was in 2004.
As far as I can gather “Front Porch Philosophy” is his 4th full album, which was recorded live at the Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville.
The 11 track album of self penned songs, kicks off with “West Texas State Of Mind”, and that really sets the tone for the whole album. He certainly does have a Texas feel running through the album.
There’s a honky tonk influence on upbeat numbers like “Aint Enough Whiskey” and “The Devil Sitting Next To Me”. Other uptempo songs include “Just That Little Thing”.
Some songs, like “This Disguise” are softer “hangover” numbers.
Other ballads include “Family Man” and “I Cant Throw Stones”, whilst there’s a touch of blues on “Little Bit Country” and “Dorothy’s Shoes”.
It’s an interesting album. Some real Honky Tonk Country on offer. Thanks to Ken MacLeod for passing the CD onto me for review.
We don’t get too many real Country & Western albums, but when one comes along, titled “Western & Country”, it’s worth a listen. It comes from DENNIS JAY (Linkhorn Music) and produced by Texan legend Lloyd Maines.
Dennis got his musical education whilst in Germany as an Army child, by listening to the legendary AFN Radio. When he returned to the USA, his family settled in Maryland, where he bought an old Martin guitar and started writing songs. He released his first album in 2003. He eventually made it to Texas, and is now based in San Antonio.
This latest album is a lovely mix of old timey cowboy songs, and Mexican ballads. They’re all original, except for the classic “Streets Of Laredo”.
It all kicks off with a jaunty 2 minute instrumental intro to “Texas Skies Shining In A Cowgirls Eyes”.Many of the songs deal with love in the Ol’ West, from the bouncy Mexican beat of “Primcia” to the honky tonk influenced “A Picture In My Wallet”. There’s also vintage Country on “My Baby’s Arms” and the slower “A Cowboy Tune”.
There’s also the stories of personal battles in “The Lights Of Deadwood”, “Right Up On The Edge” and “The Gamble”.
Dennis hasn’t the most convincing voice, but that gives this whole album a real authentic sound. There are duet vocals from Lisa Gamache on a couple of tracks, which blend with Dennis beautifully.
In a world of modern over produced music, this was a breath of clear western skies.
THE HONEYCUTTERS are a 5 piece band from Asheville, North Carolina, led vocally by Amanda Anne Platt, who also wrote most of the songs. Their fourth album, “On The Ropes” (Organic Records) has just been released here in the UK, and it’s a real winner.
With a fresh, in the main, upbeat set of songs, Amanda has a great voice. It’s Country, maybe too Country for Nashville, but really appealed to me.
The one song that Amanda didn’t right is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which is given a fresh upbeat treatment.
It all kicks off with the punchy title tracks, and it really got me interested in listening further.
“The Handbook” is a quirky fun sounding number, which features a trio of ladies from, a group which Amanda also plays with.
Stand out tracks for me include “Lets Get Drunk”, which features some great honky tonk piano and hip harmonica, and the softer “The Only Eyes”. Several songs, like “500 Pieces” and “Useless Memories” have some lovely steel guitar licks.
The album concludes with a five minute anthem to bar staff everywhere. “Barmaid’s Blues” has a slow a start, but builds up nicely to a superb Country number.
I really loved this album. The Honeycutters play the type of music that puts Nashville to shame. This is the kind of Country they should be producing in Music City.
THE BELLE HOLLOWS are a new bluegrass influenced trio featuring siblings Rachel and Jeremy Johnson and Robert Phaneuf, who first played together in the Nashville based band, The Barrell Jumpers.
Now, together, they release their first album, “Millers Creek” (Elm Hill), which takes us on a musical trip from “The Ocean Song” to the moonshine mountains of “Rebel On The Run”.
Jeremy wrote most of the songs, the exception being “Careful How You Break My Heart”, which was written by Canadian writer Jory Nash.
There is a bit of a Commonwealth thread running through the album. “San Remo”, which closes the album, is a nicely paced banjo infused number, which is inspired by an Australian seaside village. Another of the tracks, “Jonah” was a finalist in a UK songwriter contest. On this track, a haunting “Enya-ish” type number, the trio are joined by the ladies of Harpeth Rising.
FELLOW PYNINS are Dani Aubert and Ian Van Ornum, from Ashland, Oregon, in America’s great Northwest. They previously played in a six piece band called Patchy Sanders, but are now on their own, and have just released an album, “Hunter & The Hunted”, which is released here, ahead of a possible tour here next year.
All the tracks are self penned, and cover stories of childhood memories, shepherding and growing up. It’s all very acoustic, old timey music, relying on banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Many of the songs are quite slow and lengthy (they’re all over 4 minutes long, and two run over 6 minutes).
There’s a quirky bluegrass instrumental, with an even quirkier title, “Henry’s Got Freckles In The Summertime”. It’s really catchy.
One for the aficionados of old timey bluegrass music.
ROGER ROGER are a Canadian sibling duo from Winnipeg, The brother-sister haven’t always played music together. Lucas had played in a local rock’n’roll band, whilst Madeleine was more involved in theatre.
Their debut album, “Fairweather” (MFM) features 9 songs written by the pair, and lead vocals are shared between them.
The title track is a nice pleasant ballad sung by Lucas, whilst rocks it up a bit on “You Came Around”, “Mad Trapper” and “Dead Horse Creek”. The latter is probably the strongest and most Country on the CD.
Madeleine leads the vocals on the opening track, a nice melodic number “13 Crows”. She also leads on “Another Girl’s Shoes”, which is a strong upbeat number, but slows it down on “O Rainy Day” and “Scott Free”. I quite liked the bouncy “Think Of Me”.
A nice sound. Quite a good listen.
THE O’s are a Dallas based roots duo, comprising John Pedigo and Taylor Young. We have reviewed their music before. Indeed, “Honeycomb” (Punch Five Records) is their fourth to date.
I’d describe their music as progressive bluegrass. The banjo is the main instrument throughout the album, but there’s certainly a rocky edge to their sound. Indeed, in pointing out the difference on this album, prom their previous outings, Pegido says, “We used more delay on the banjo, and tried to sing together more”.
Their songs are quite upbeat in the main.
The 12, all self-written, songs kick off with the catchy “Fourteen Days”, and the Country flavoured “Medicine”.
“Halfway Sideways” and “Retribution” are really bouncy banjo and vocal led numbers, which I really liked a lot.
But there’s also some slower numbers, like “Reaper”, and “Wanted”.
Some of the tracks do come over a bit more pop/rock, like “Shooting Star” and “Go Slow”.
There’s a Scottish connection, in that Justin Currie, from Del Amitri, guests on “Woken Up”. The song does have a Del Amitri sound, it has to be said.
Altogether, I really liked the sound of The O’s. Worth a listen.
Finally, CHRIS MURPHY is a talented violin player from New York City, whose latest album, “Red Mountain Blues” (Teahouse Records) is quite a treasure if you like old timey fiddle and bluegrass tunes.
Born into an Irish-Italian family, he grew up immersed in music. He grew up to be a dabbler in various instruments, from mandolin to percussion, but the violin became his forte.
The 14 track collection is all self penned, and features a number of instrumentals from the foot stomping opening title track to the old time waltz of “Wilt Whitman”, and the slow air of “Johnson County”, which is actually labelled here as Western Saloon Music. There’s even some progressive Newgrass on “High Country”, whilst the fast paced “Cast Iron” is a real bluegrass breakdown number.
There are a number of vocal arrangements too, ranging from the traditional “Black Roller” and the fast paced “Dry County” to “Kitchen Girl” and “Meet Me Tonight”, both of which are more straight Country.
He even has Herb Pederson and Tim O’Brien guesting on the album.
Really refreshing. Really enjoyed it.