This month sees the long anticipated new album from Glasgow based singer-songwriter MARTHA L HEALY. It’s been four years since she released her highly acclaimed debut album, “Better Days”. Martha took a life sabbatical two years ago, moving to Nashville for several months, to work on “Keep The Flame Alight” (Frog Eye Records), and the end result is released this month, with a launch party on Saturday afternoon, October 6th at The Glad Café in Shawlands, as part of the Glasgow Americana Festival.
The album kicks off with “No Place Like A Home”, a song she started writing before heading for Nashville. It demonstrates that, despite recording the album in the States, Martha’s roots are from this side of the Atlantic. It’s a strong song which really shows that Martha’s magical vocals. A perfect start.
The title track tells of keeping the balance of chasing creative goals, and personal wellbeing.
“Woman With No Shame” is a light and breezy insight into the life of a high flying female executive, who has it all, yet has nothing.
In a similar vein, “Living Someone Else’s Dream” is a bit more uptempo than the other tracks, but covering a lot of common ground- doing what others want, and not doing your own thing.
“Fall In Love Again” is a strong song, about not letting an old love go.
“We Will Be Okey” is a pleasant song offering hope and promise, whilst “Sisters To Strangers” is a ballad, which shares the pain of family break ups.
There is a celtic feel to several of the tracks. “Unmade Bed” is a good example of this. I love the accordion sound on this one. “Mickey” is another. A slower story ballad telling of an Irish lad, who left the home farm in search of fame in London. It’s a really strong song, and a bit different to anything else on the album.
The album covers a range of personal emotions, some ups and some downs. She counters with the closing track, “Don’t Give Up”, offering inspiration and hope.
Nine of the album's ten tracks were self-penned and the one co-write is with friend and Nashville artist, Wendy Newcomer, who also brings the background vocals. David Spicher produced, with a host of Nashville session players, including Bill Cooley, who is well known for his work with Kathy Mattea (guitars/bazouki), Todd Lombardo (guitars/mandolin), Rory Hoffman (accordion, piano), Eamon McLoughlin (Fiddle), Dave Racine (Drums) and Chas Williams (Dobro).
Bringing her Nashville experience home, Martha set up a Glasgow chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, who meet regularly, to collaborate on songs together.
Martha has brought her own Nashville experience home with this new album.
A superb album, from a real shining light on the Scottish music scene.
BRANDON McPHEE has really made his mark in recent years. Firstly as a champion accordion player, and also as a fine Country singer. He has brought both styles together on his latest album, “All I Want To Do” (Pan Records).
There’s one original song on the album. “She Wrote It In A Country Song”, which was written by Crawford Bell. It’s probably my favourite track on the album.
The album kicks off with Brandon’s version of “Bubbles In My Beer”, a cover of the Willlie Nelson version. There are a few other covers from “the masters”, including Johnny Cash’s “Give My Love To Rose” and Marty Robbins’ “You Gave Me A Mountain”. There’s also his take on “We Should Be Together”, previously recorded by Crystal Gayle and Don Williams.
Brandon is a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and has included “Someday, Somewhere, Somehow”, alongside “Achy Breaky Heart”.
He also covers Debby Boone’s “Are You On The Road To Loving Me Again”, acknowledging that he found the song on a Gerry Ford LP he found in a charity shop. Gerry’s playing Brandon’s music on his radio show out in Australia, so this is payback. He does a good job on the song.
There’s more Down Under connections, with two songs which he found courtesy of Australian duo The Sunny Cowgirls, The first, “Take These Wings” is quite a beautiful, inspirational number, the other being a Sunny’s original, “Little Bit Rusty”. He even gets one of them, Celeste, to join him on harmonies on the track.
There is Scottish music on the album too, with a couple of dance tunes, a version of “The Dark Island” and his version of The Alexander Brothers’ “Jimmy Shand The Legend”. Brandon is touring with “The Jimmy Shand Story” this month.
Recorded in Wick, the album features local musicians, Manson Grant, Robert Cameron, Alastair MacDonald, Gordie Gunn, Addie Harper and Keith Macleod, with Ireland’s Crawford Bell, The Benn Sisters and Richard Nelson, alongside Nashville based Orcadian Philip Anderson.
Another winner from young Brandon!
KATEE KROSS is a young lady from Bishopbriggs, who has been making plenty of noise on the Scottish music scene in the past couple of years. She performed twice at last month’s Millport Festival, to add to her list of appearances, which include supporting Seasick Steve at Wembley and the Kelvingrove Bandstand, and working with Barbara Dickson and Sandy Thom, to name a few.
Her third album, “Body & Soul” will be released on Saturday, October 13th at Nice’n’Sleazy in Glasgow.
The album does a great job at showcasing this young lady’s writing and singing talent. Several of the songs have appeared as singles, including the gentle opening track, “Bluebird”, which really is a beautiful introduction to the album. The instrumentation on this track is very simple, and lets Katee’s voice to show it’s full potential. The same applies to “Heart Of Wood”, another stunning song. Other ballads include “Troubled Mind” and “Worried Mind”.
Of the upbeat songs, another single, “Count To Ten” really stands out. It shows that Katee isn’t just a ballad singer. “Working On The Dream” and “Shadow Falls” are also upbeat numbers, the former having quite a honey bop feel to it.
Although Katee’s music will appeal to Country fans, I think she’s demonstrates a lot of crossover potential. That said, “Old Soul” has particular Country appeal. It has quite a soft Country sway to it, which really stands out for me. And, “After The Show” takes us to another era. With a hint of harmonica, and backing vocals, she conjures up memories of Patsy Cline, without sounding anything like her.
Katee is certainly making an impression with her music, and that can only be enhanced with the release of this new album. Another homegrown talent we should all be getting behind!
Country music from the Western Isles next, and, yes, it’s a bit different to anything you’ve heard on the mainland.
THE TUMBLING SOULS describe themselves as “Brand new music that sounds old, from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. A super group of local musicians playing cajun, country and folk infused songs”. That sounds pretty accurate to me, if a listen to their new album, “Between The Truth And The Dream” (Wee Studio Records) is anything to go by.
The band is led by Willie Campbell, with Stephen Drummond, Iain Spanish Mackay, David Calum Macmillan, Paul Martin, Keith Morrison, Louisa Maclean Barron and Jane Hepburn Macmillan.
Together they have created a sound, which has a real celtic feel to it, whilst embracing everything from Country and Folk, through to Cajun, bluegrass and even a bit of 60’s pop.
The latter is especially evident on “Heart To My Soul”, with superb harmonies.
The opening track, “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” recreates the sound of Scottish folk – country bands like The Clydesiders, and is a perfect introduction to the CD.
“City Of Adelaide” is the catchiest folk song on the album, telling the story of a great grandfather sailing with Scottish emigrants down under. It’s a great wee tune.
“Wishing My Time” has a superb bluegrass style harmony intro, leading into a superb Country foot tapper.
“Dance A Little Better” is a catchy little number, which reminded me a bit of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It has a nice Cajun feel to it. “Rain And Clay” and the closing “Years Go By” are also good catchy upbeat numbers.
Stand out Country track for me has to be “Torn In Different Ways”, a mid tempo number, which I really enjoyed.
They slow down the tempo on a couple of numbers, including “King Of The Moon” and “My Foundation”, not to mention “Stornoway at 2am”, which is a really strong song.
Recorded in Berneray, with all songs written by Willie, this is a really interesting, and refreshing album. One you should really check out.
Perth has a long tradition of bands playing original Country Rock music, and LONGSTAY are the latest to join the list. Malcolm Swan and Callum Campbell front the band, with George Staniforth, Cameron McCafferty and Drew Spark-Whitworth. Originally formed as a trio in 2014, they quickly became regulars on the local music scene, and have grown to a 5 piece full country sound with the addition of drums, bass and piano. Despite having this 4 year pedigree on the live circuit, the average age of the band is still only 17!
Now comes their debut album, “Calling Me Home” (Goldrush Records), recorded in their hometown at Clearwater studios, produced by Gavin JD Munro (frontman from The Red Pine Timber Company).
Their musical influences range from Creedence Clearwater Revival through Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, right up to current day artists such as Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. This heady mix is apparent in their own songs which form the core of their debut album.
All but three of the songs were written by Callum Campbell. The exceptions are John Fogerty’s “Lodi” and Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away”, alongside Gavin Munro’s “A Ring Of Fire”.
The album kicks off with “Mariah”, an upbeat, guitar driven number, which is a good opener. Most of the album is quite upbeat. Stand out tracks include “My Turn”, which has quite a rocky beat, but the harmonies really shine through. The closing track, “Leaving” is also really upbeat, with the addition of trombone and trumpet, courtesy of Chris Small. A bit of Red Pine influence coming through here.
“Too Long” and “Summerton” are a bit more mellow, although not what I’d call ballads.
One song, which is very much a ballad, is “Remember”, from which the title track comes from. It’s piano led, and again features some impressive harmonies. It has quite a celtic feel to it too. A bit different from any of the other tracks, but works well for them.
“Thoughts I Cant Find” is also a pleasant ballad, this time, guitar led.
“Forever”, has an impressive harmony led intro, before developing into quite a radio friendly pop-py number.
It is certainly more Country-Rock than mainstream Nashville, but for a team of Perth teenagers, this is one really strong debut album. We’re certainly going to hear more of them. That’s for sure!
RAYMIE WILSON is something of a Glasgow musical institution. He’s been playing in the city bars since before he was age to get into such places, played on cruise ships, in a Hendrix tribute band, and with The Legendary Ladies of Rock’n’Roll in Singapore. He later found musician roles touring with Joseph And His Technicolour Dreamcoat”, and “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”.
All the time, Raymie was jotting down ideas for songs, and thankfully decided to record his original material on several CD’s & EP’s over the past few years.
His latest collection, “Missed Trains, Absent Lovers & Broken Whiskey Bottles” has just been released. The first few tracks, including on the title track, and “Ward 53”, offer quite a raw guitar sound.
There are two very different tracks with the same title. “Chicago Saint (Pt 1)”, is quite bluesy, whilst Part 2, with a bit of banjo flavouring, sounds a bit more Country.
By contrast, “Boy On A Bridge” is quite a story song, with almost a gospel feel to it.
The banjo is prominent again on “Fallen Trees”, a real bluegrassy number, which Raymie’s gravelly vocals really fit quite nicely.
I also enjoyed “The Preacher And The Hobo”, which had quite an upbeat Celtic feel, mixed with Native American overtones.
“The Last Number”, which conveniently closes the album, is probably the straightest Country number, a well constructed ballad, with some nice steel guitar presence.
It’s an interesting album from Raymie, who Glasgow based readers can catch at The Snafflebit (Oct 13th), Blackfriars (Oct 21st/Nov 25th, or Mondays at The Beer Cellar.
Another true Country album comes from JOSHUA HEDLEY, who some of you may have caught live when he played in Glasgow last month.
Joshua was born in Florida, and has been playing fiddle since he was just 8 years old. He moved to Nashville when he was 19, and found himself in demand at places like Robert’s Western World. Such was the respect he gained in that part of town, he was known as “The Mayor of Lower Broad”.
He began writing songs in his late 20’s and unlocked a flood of creativity.
His album, “Mr Jukebox” was released ahead of his tour here, and what a breath of fresh air it was. It’s real Dale Watson inspired “Ameripolitan”, honky tonk!
It all starts with the ultra cool, pure Country ballad “Counting All My Tears”, which recreates a Ricky Van Shelton / Gene Watson sound.
There’s a real Texas dancehall feel to the upbeat numbers like the title track, “This Time” and “Let Them Talk”.
“Weird Thought Thinker” is a bit more mid tempo, and sounds like it comes straight out of a movie. “I Never Shed A Tear” has quite a bouncy feel to it, and would have been all over the radio, had it been around back in the 60’s! “These Walls” also stood out. I could just hear Willie Nelson doing this one!
There are some slower numbers, which come right out of the 50’s/60’s tearjerkers styling, including “Lets Take A Vacation” and “Don’t Waste Your Tears”.
He rounds off the album with the only cover on the CD- a moody, emotional, “When You Wish Upon A Star”.
Rolling Stone calls Hedley, “Country Music’s New King Of Broken Hearts”.
I’d say that he could just be Classic Country music’s saviour. Great to hear some real Country music, as good as this, coming out of Nashville, and even better, seeing him perform it to a sell out crowd in Glasgow!
A new album from ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL is always something special. Led by its inception, in 1970, by Ray Benson, the band have always done a fine job at keeping the Texas Western Swing sound alive.
“New Routes” (Thirty Tigers) maintains that philosophy, while branching out in new directions. Keeping a band together for 48 years is quite impossible, and it’s no surprise that over 100 musicians have passed through the ranks, whilst recording the band’s 25 albums. They’ve also appeared on a string of other people’s projects.
This album features a “new” team, but still keep the Ol’ Wheel magic. Ray Benson, as ever, is at the helm, with Katie Shore providing the female vocals, as well as Eddie Rivers (steel & sax), Dave Sanger (drums), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle & mandolin), Josh Hoag (bass), Connor Forsyth (piano) and Jay Reynolds (sax & clarinet).
Fort Worth born and raised Katie Shore makes the biggest impression, with a number of lead vocal tracks throughout the album.
She opens with catchy swing number “Jack I’m Mellow”
The ballad “Call It A Day Tonight”, written by Shore & Benson, is the first time, since the 80’s that Benson has co-written with a member of the wheel. It’s a lovely track.
She does sound a bit more jazz/bluesy on a couple of tracks, including “I Am Blue” and “More Days Like This”. Her vocals smoulder irresistibly on these numbers.
“Weary Rambler”, another of Katie’s self penned numbers, starts as a ballad, with the pace rising to mid tempo, quite delightfully.
Katie really lets rip on the Johnny Cash classic “Big River”. June Carter lives on! A really convincing delivery on this one.
Other covers include a rockin’ version of “Seven Nights To Rock”, and a softer, moody rendition of Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”. The harmonies really shine on this track.
The Avett Brothers join up for the closing track. “Willie Got There First”. It’s probably the straightest Country song on the album, with more than a shade of Nelson influence.
There’s also a Scottish connection, as Ray Benson covers Paola Nutini’s hi-energy “Pencil Full Of Lead”. It’s a big production number, with lots of instrumentation mixed with the quickspeed lyrics. An interesting transformation, for sure!
As I said, an Asleep at The Wheel album is always special. Katie Shore really makes this one though!
TIA McGRAFF is a Canadian singer songwriter whose Scottish roots keep bringing her home. Her mother was a MacDonald from the area around Nairn, and she’s been building a career here through regular visits in recent years. She’s just finished a lengthy tour of the UK, which saw her return to Nairn, and Fife.
Her latest album, “Stubborn In My Blood” (Bandana Records) is her eighth release, and features a strong set of songs, all but one, written by Tia, and husband Tommy Parham, with a few co-writers along the way.
The title track has a real Celtic feel to it, as she recalls her Scottish and Transylvanian roots (her dad’s side), and how that has formed her. She really captures a Braveheart influence on it.
“Let Em’ See Your Strong”, which was the advance radio single from the album, was co-written with Devon O’Day. It’s a delicate piano led inspirational song, which really demonstrates the emotion that Tia can put into a song. It’s a really powerful performance.
“Travelling By Guitar”, a co-write with Wood Newton, is a musician on the road number. It also features some Texan influence, as Cindy Cashdollar’s dobro was recorded in Austin. It’s a catchy number which captures the life of an aspiring musician.
The album opens with “Pilot Of Change”, which paints a picture of when you need space to take stock of life. “Hole In My Heart” is a gentler number, advising a friend that a heartache will heal.
“Own Your Sunshine”, is an upbeat “go for it” positive song.
“Here With Me Tonight” is probably the most straight Country ballad on the album. It’s a really, gentle love song with a catchy hook. There are a couple of tracks carried over from her EP release last year, including the lovely “Far Away Man”, and the rallying “The Faithful Ones”.
“Forbidden” is a song with a UK connection. Co-written with Pete Riley and Henry Priestman, the song features ukulele & electric guitars from the British pair, recorded in Anglesey. The track, which closes the album, has a different sound to the rest of the album, with some nice harmonies, and simple arrangements. It’s really quite catchy and infectious. I really liked it.
The only song not written by Tia & Tommy is “One Tin Soldier”, a 1960’s anti war song. Tia really delivers the song as her own.
Tia has proved shown her strong on this album, songs of positive inspiration, delivered from the heart, as only someone with “Stubborn In My Blood” can provide.
A really “strong” album.
KATHY MATTEA has been one of my long time favourite artistes. The Cross Lanes, Virginia native made her mark on Country music in the 80’s & 90’s with hits like “Eighteen Wheels & A Dozen Roses”, “Goin’ Gone”, “Where’ve You Been” and “Come From The Heart”.
These days, her music is very different to the hits she was producing back then.
But Kathy actually started her career in a bluegrass band, and the folky/bluegrass influence was always around her, even in many of her hits.
In recent years, her albums have been really stripped down acoustic affairs, and her latest album, “Pretty Bird” (Captain Potato Records) continues the trend.
This album, her first new studio album for 6 years, sees her team up with producer Tim O’Brien.
The title track, which closes the 12 track collection, is an acappella rendition of fellow West Virginian Hazel Dickens’ song. It really shows Kathy’s beautiful vocal range. A stunning track.
Before you get there though, the album begins with the upbeat “Chocolate On My Tongue”, and a superb cover of “Ode To Billie Joe”. She does a take on Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now”, which I really enjoyed. Other covers include Joan Osborn’s “St Theresa”, and Pete Meyer’s “Holy Now”.
“I Cant Stand Alone” was written by Martha Carson back in the 50’s. Kathy’s version is quite spiritual in its style, starting a cappella, and joined by a choir.
“Little Glass Of Wine” is one of the most gentle ballads, as is “October Song”, which sounds so much like an early Christmas Song. One of the songs I really liked was “Tell Me What You Ache For”. Kathy really delivers from the heart on this one.
Her celtic influences come to fore on the traditional “He Moved Through The Fair”, and “This Love Will Carry”. The latter was written by Kathy’s long time friend and Perthshire folk icon, Dougie MacLean. Dougie also provides harmonies on the track.
As I say, Kathy’s music today is different to her hits of thirty years ago, but this is the real Kathy Mattea. Music straight from her heart.
And about time she was coming back to see us.
There is a constant stream of new talent coming out of Ireland, but JORDAN MOGEY is different from the rest. For a start, he’s 100% Country, but more than that, he writes his own stuff, and writes about experiences in a style that is far beyond his years.
With his previous two albums, he had been likened to a modern day Hank Williams, or a young Johnny Cash.
On this new album, “Love Lovin’ You”, Jordan has a bit more mellow a sound, a bit like the other Williams (Don), but maintaining an a bit of an attitude. The opening track, “Who Needs You Anyway”, and “Learning To Live” are prime examples of this.
The title track is another gentle ballad, as is the preview single, “Hold Onto That Thought” and “Out Of Her Mind”.
Quite a few of his songs do involve the demon booze. They include the moody “Better Things To Drink About”, the tongue in cheek, remorseful, “What Was I Drinking”, and “The Worst Hour Of My Life”, which although a fun number, gives a realism only gained from experience.
“She’s All Over Me Now” is a bluesy ballad, laced with some beautiful steel licks. It’s pure Country class, in a kind of Mickey Gilley kinda way. It’s Gene Watson who comes to mind, as Jordan delivers another killer Country ballad, “I Wont Have To Worry ‘Bout You Leaving Me Anymore”. Superb stuff.
He lifts the tempo with the fun laden “Rockin’ At The Nursing Home”, in contrast to most of the other songs.
Jordan hasn’t moved on completely from his Hank Williams inspiration, with the inclusion of “Hankaholic”, which namedrops a few of those classic song titles.
As I say, Jordan Mogey is True Country. Brilliant stuff.
KERRY FEARON has quickly established herself on the Country scene, well beyond her native Northern Ireland, in a very short time. It was only in 2016, she was a finalist in the Irish TV talent show, “Glor Tire” (the same TV which launched Lisa McHugh’s career). Now Kerry hosts her own TV show on Keep It Country TV, and a radio show on Downtown Country.
And now comes her first full size album.
“Honky Tonk Girl” features 10 Country classics, all well produced and performed by the petite singer.
The title track is a cover of the same song which launched Loretta Lynn’s career.
Other songs include Jessi Colter’s “Storms Never Last”, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cotton Jenny” and Susannah Clark’s “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose”.
She really stretches back into the archives to bring us Mother Maybelle’s “Jukebox Blues”, a real old timey number, which Kerry really maintains the traditional style.
One of the classics, “Red River Valley” is a duet with fellow Northern Ireland singer songwriter Jordan Mogey. And a great version, it is.
It’s not all classics though.
Kerry does cover a couple of Ashley Monroe ballads’ including “I’m Good At Leavin’” and “If The Devil Don’t Want Me”, giving them both strong traditional arrangements.
Rounding out the listing is “That’s What I Like About You”, written by Kevin Welch, and recorded by James House and Trisha Yearwood, and Emmylou’s “Luxury Liner”.
It’s a good mix of songs, known, but not overdone, and Kerry’s versions are first class. Well worth a listen.
BRACKEN SPRINGS is the latest project from Edward Bracken, who we previously heard from, as part of The Bracken Brothers, with brother George.
As was evident from his previous recordings, Edward’s biggest influence was Buck Owens, whom he played alongside several times at Buck’s Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. Buck gave Edward the encouragement to write his own songs, and after writing much of the 2011 album, “After My Own Heart”, his new 5 track EP continues the trend.
Five original songs, which are totally Country, well produced and performed.
“Before You Can Say” is a catchy mid tempo number, whilst “I Love Us” is a bit more upbeat.
I really liked the steel laced ballad, “Please Never Stop Loving Me”, and the quick paced “Bank Of Mum And Dad”, which has quite an Irish radio friendly sound to it. By contrast, “The Bottle Hit Me Back” is a catchy number, somewhere between honky tonk and straight Country. Wherever it lies, it works for me.
A very entertaining EP from Bracken Strings.
Bluegrass has always been a family orientated scene, and one which supported each other. Back in 1987 the IBMA(International Bluegrass Music Association) set up a Bluegrass Trust Fund, to help fellow bluegrass musicians in time of emergencies (bear in mind, America doesn’t have an NHS to look after it’s sick). To date, over $800,000 has been used to support musicians in time of need.
Now a number of artists and musicians on the North Carolina based Mountain Home label have got together to produce, “Come See About Me”, a benefit record for the cause.
Featuring 11 tracks, all specifically recorded for this project, the album features a title track which sees the coming together of over 20 of the musicians who took part in the bigger project in true “Live aid” style. The track, a solid mid tempo number, enriched with weeping steel, lilting mandolin, fitting dobro and a fluid banjo line, was produced by the legendary Doyle Lawson.
The CD is full of songs, either of hope and inspiration, or of eternal thanks.
The album kicks off with six piece band, Sideline, with “Their Hands Made The Music”, which sets the tone. It’s a gentle, easy listening tribute to musicians, past and present, with the message that “for all that they have given, we cannot give back enough”.
That’s followed by “A Little Trust”, a jaunty little song from Donna Ulisse, who has just one of these beautiful bluegrass voices that I could listen all night to.
As well as leading the title track, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have two contributions to the album, “All The Good Things We Could Do” and “We’ll Never Walk Again”.
Balsam Range contribute the upbeat “We’re All In This Together”, and Chris Jones & The Night Drivers deliver on “Glimpse Of The Kingdom”.
One of the most beautiful songs on the album is “Those Tears”, from Darin and Brooke Aldridge. Brooke’s vocals on this song is stunning. She also joins the Lonesome River Band for a cover of Townes Van Zante’s “If I Need You”.
The Grascals bring back The Beatles as they contribute a banjo laden “Help”, an arrangement which works so well.
The other well known cover is Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”, performed here by five man Love Canon.
Apart from the cause, the music on this album is just such a joy to listen too. Full of inspiration and thanksgiving.
Another interesting modern bluegrass collection is SONGS FROM LYON COUNTY (Gracey Holler Music). The project is the work of Kentucky songwriter Dennis Duff, created from his desire to write songs that connect current and future generations to a past that is quickly disappearing around us. Lyon County, in the south western corner of Kentucky, has a rich history. The civil war, tobacco wars, floods, moonshine, TVA, the iron industry, and a steady faith in God have all had a huge impact on the area, its landscape and its people. These songs were written from the point of view of the people who lived them.
Songs cover the whole of the bluegrass state, from “The Road To Dover” in the north east corner, to “Castle On The Cumberland”, the state Penitentiary, which overlooks the river. There are stories handed down, like that of the old still at “Wilson Holler”, and “Iron Hill” where the hoboes rode the rails, and ”Night Riders”, with their own brand of law enforcement.
“TC & Pearl”, which features Darin & Brooke Aldridge, is all about Dennis’ parents, who grew up through the great depression.
There’s stories of disasters to hit the area, like the “37 Flood”, and the man made problems caused by the Tennessee Valley Authority (“Hey Mr TVA”).
Paul Brewster, from Ricky Skaggs Band, leads the vocals on the opening track, “Wilson Holler”, whilst Holly Pitney (Mo’s sister) and Bradley Walker join forces of the album’s beautiful closing number.
It’s a really beautifully created project. Lovely music which is Sen ominous with the area, and that captures the life and history of Lyon County.
Something of a musical masterpiece!
Another bluegrass offering comes from the Pacific Northwest of America. THE PINE HEARTS, who release their new album, “Carousel” this month, are led by Joey Capoccia, with Derek McSwain and Dean Shakked. They have proven through their three albums, to have a refreshing sound, with both upbeat tracks and softer ballads.
The album kicks off with the slow and moody “Living With Depression”. It may not be the best opener they could have chosen from a subject point of view. I wouldn’t say it’s representative of the album as a whole. It is, however, a serious song, with a message which they want to get over, and they do succeed in that respect.
Next up, is a true Country sound on “The Pedal Steel Let Me Down Easy”. The instrumentation is superb, with banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and of course, steel guitar caringly placed throughout the song. The vocal delivery is spot on too, reminding me of early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band numbers. I really enjoyed it. That’s followed by the equally as appealing “Open Road”.
“Good Luck By The Sea” and “Crying For Another” are more obvious foot tappin’ bluegrass numbers. “Virginia” doesn’t quite offer the same upbeat pace, but still steeped in beautiful bluegrass notes.
“Back To Sustain”, “Carousel Horses”, “Holding On” and “Keep It Warm” have a softer ballad feel to them, but still keeping that bluegrass feel.
Most of the songs are written by Capoccia. The exceptions are “Good Luck By The Sea”, and the George Jones classic “Window Up Above”, which is given a real old timey treatment. There’s also a traditional instrumental on “President Garfield’s Hornpipe”.
I really enjoyed listening to this album. The harmonies, the instrumentation, and the arrangements are just spot on. A real pleasure to listen to.
IAN CAL FORD has been around the UK Country & Rockabilly scene for over 30 years. With his band, The Railmen, Ian was especially popular at festivals like Americana, and played all over, including Europe. He even has an album on Germany’s Bear Family label, which specialises in traditional Country music.
These days, Ian performs with his Acoustic Preachers, and is still playing the old time traditional Country songs, 14 of which are featured on his latest CD, “Wood & Wire”.
The album, recorded in Pembrokeshire, features Ian, with the support of Dave Luke on a 1956 Gibson mandolin & Carl Beddis on a 1930 German made Upright bass. Ian’s guitars include a 1937 CF Martin. The full spec of the instruments and microphones, are detailed on the CD credits, which really adds to the authenticity of the project. There’s certainly no modern enhancements in this recording. What you get is an authentic, honest, musical experience.
One of Ian’s projects around 20 years back was a Johnny Cash album called “Strapped For Cash”, so it’s no surprise that the Cash influence has remained, and there are three Cash compositions on this latest album. “Walk The Line” and two lesser known numbers, “Belshazzar” and “Loading Coal”.
He also does a take on Jimmy Driftwood’s “Tennessee Stud”, which Cash also recorded.
There are covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cold On The Shoulder”, The Hag’s “Working Man Blues”, Billy Joe Shaver’s “Willy The Wandering Gypsy And Me”, and even “Delta Dawn”, which launched a young Tanya Tucker’s career. He does a very different version, probably more akin to the original Tennessee singer songwriter Alex Harvey’s version.
The album kicks off with The Delmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train”, delivered in a Jimmie Rodgers style. That really sets the tone for the album. He also does a deeply soulful version of Hank’s “House Of Gold”, and an effective working of “My Rifle, My Pony And Me”, which Dean Martin & Ricky Nelson popularised in the film, “Rio Bravo”.
“Just Because” dates back to the 1920’s, and has been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley. Ian’s version is catchy, yet simple, and probably the closest track to his rockabilly roots here.
Ian has totally captured the old time, traditional Country feel of these songs.
In today’s over produced musical world, this is a breath of fresh air!
There are many Johnny Cash tributes around, mostly concentrating on his pioneering early career, but he picked up an army of new fans in her later years. He, of course, produced a very musical family, most notably through daughter Rosanne and son John Carter Cash, not to mention the expanded Carter Family, which he married into.
Now, the next generation of the Cash clan has arrived.
THOMAS GABRIEL is Cash’s grandson, son of Kathy, who has picked up where Johnny left off. His influence is certainly based on his grandad’s later life, if his album, “Long Way Home” is anything to go by.
The album kicks off with “Everything Must Be Sold”, written by Executive Producer Brian Oxley, who wrote three of the 11 tracks. It’s a song of poor times, and getting what you can with what you have.
“Twangtown” is reflections of a changing Music City, whilst “Get On Home”, moves the scene to Atlanta, with a haunting, chanting number. There’s also a bit of chanting going on in “Never Going To Back To Down”.
Not quite Folsum, but there’s a jail song in “1974”, his prison number, not the year.
“Come To Me” is one of the most gentle ballads on the album, alongside the title track. I also liked “Always Is Forever”, which was quite pleasant. The album closed with the delicate “Slipping Away”.
I have to confess that I never got into Johnny Cash’s later life music, but have to admit, that his grandson has captured it well.
Sometimes you find that travel is as much part of a musician’s life, as the music itself. That’s certainly the case for MARTHA FIELDS. Born on the West Virginia/East Kentucky border, her music branches out between Appalachia and Texas, made all the more impressive, when you find that she lives part of the year in France, where this album was recorded.
Her third album, “Dancing Shadows” has just been released here, and features a gutsy sound, which nicely cradles Country and rock influences.
The opening track, “Sukey” is an ode to a Cherokee ancestor, who raised her kids in a cave in West Virginia. It’s quite a rock opening track.
Her French connection is captured in the slow and emotion filled “Paris To Austin”, and her travels are also to fore on “Exile”, and “West Virginia In My Bones”. Her homeland also comes through on
“Demona”, which has quite a traditional Appalachian sound to it.
Some of the upbeat numbers were my favourite tracks, including the driving beat of “Last Train To Sanesville” and “Maxine”. There’s even a bit of Rockabilly in “Hillbilly Bop”.
The most Country sounding numbers come towards the end of the album. The bouncy “Fare Thee Well Blues”, laced with some nice steel licks, is a stand out track, but also listen out for “Said And Done”, a good ol’ fashioned foot tapper, taking us back to the era of June Carter. The album rounds off with a gentle Country waltz, “Lone Wolf Waltz”, which I also really enjoyed.
Martha covers a lot of ground on this album, and is certainly an interesting listen.
What do you call Americana music, which isn’t from America? Well, a few years back Laura McGhee coined the “Celticana” tag, there’s “Canadiana” and now, courtesy of DAN WEBSTER, comes “Anglicana” !
Dan is a seasoned English singer songwriter, who has just released his fourth album, “Devil Sky” (Paper Plane Records).
The 10 track collection kicks off with “Playing Cards & Late Night Bars”, an update on an earlier recording of a song called “Playing Cards”. It has a really catchy, folksy opening, leading into a good upbeat number.
The other upbeat track of note is “Bo”, which is a real fun, foot stomping number. It’s a father & son journey through childhood. Dan’s son is actually called Ben, who provides backing vocals on the track.
“Joe” is Dan’s murder ballad. It’s quite uptempo, co-written with Tom Gill and Evie Rapson, It’s the only song Dan didn’t write on his own.
Amongst the slower numbers are the simple “Home Again” and “Haul Away”, which features Danni Nicholls on harmonies. It’s a song of loss and moving on. “Mary Anne” is also a bit of a mellow number, a bittersweet song of hope. Nice harmonies here, courtesy of Evie Rapson. “Freedom In Suburbia” deals with the media and politics, whilst “Nothing At All” takes on the topic of unrequited love.
The album closes on a soft note with “Anyway”, a song of time healing.
It’s a pleasant nice easy listening album. Worth checking out!