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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Aug 2014

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m usually less than enthusiastic about compilation CD’s, but our next offering is something quite outstanding. “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats : A New Music City” (Sony Legacy)  is a 36 track double CD collection, released to coincide with an exhibit at Nashville’s Country Music Hall Of Fame.
It takes us back to a time when Dylan arrived in Music City to record “Blonde On Blonde”, and Cash was recruiting folk & rock musicians for his ground breaking network TV show.  It’s a time when Country music, and Nashville, came out of the box, and gained much wider appreciation.
Bob Dylan may not be the most melodic vocalist in the world, but he certainly is one of the planet’s most prolific songwriters, having his material recorded in all genres of music.
This collection features three Dylan self-compositions, including an unreleased version of “If Not For You”. There’s also “Girl From The North Country”, which he wrote and recorded with Cash.
Johnny Cash, for his part, is featured performing Dylan’s “It Aint Me Babe”.
There’s a fair sprinkling of classic folk rock tracks from the likes of The Byrds, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristofferson, Country Joe McDonald, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joan Baez, Steve Goodman, Neil Young and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
But there’s quite a few surprises too. There are individual tracks from George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, signifying The Beatles influence on American music generally. All three tracks are very different, and all fit nicely into this collection.
Would you believe, Derek & The Dominos are in there too. Of course, Eric Clapton was in the band, and he later extended his Nashville connection by working with Don Williams. The track here is from the Johnny Cash TV show, where they jam on “Matchbox” with Cash & Carl Perkins.
Then, up pop The Monkees, or perhaps more correctly Mike Nesmith, on his own “Some Of Shelley’s Blues”. What a great song, later recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Finally, such a joy to hear Linda Ronstadt team up with Earl Scruggs on The Hag’s “Silver Wings”, and there’s a great version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road”.
It’s some collection. It’s certainly not a random set of songs from a label catalogue. A lot of thought has went into its’ compilation. It features some real gems, and comes with a 32 page booklet with sleevenotes from Tracy Nelson, Pete Finney and Michael Gray, and information about all the songs.
As a piece of Country music history, this CD should be in every fans collection.

For the past 25 years, ALAN JACKSON has proved himself to be one of Country music’s most popular international entertainers, without really touring a whole lot outside of North America.
His latest album, his 15th mainstream studio album, is “Angels & Alcohol” (Humphead), which continues the Alan Jackson sound that we’ve been accustomed to.
He starts off with a slow intro into “You Can Always Come Home”, but a minute in, he lifts the tempo to that trademark AJ sound.
The title track is a beautiful ballad, which Alan does his own way. “The One You’re Waiting On”, is another lovely ballad, this time from the pen of Adam & Shannon Wright, the duo Alan has nurtured over the years (Adam is his nephew). No favouritism here though. The song wins its’ place on the album on merit.
“Gone Before You Met” featured some really nice instrumentation, that it could’ve been a throwback from his recent bluegrass album.
“When God Paints”, another ballad is a very simple ballad, which wouldn’t have been out of place on his gospel albums.
He has a couple of upbeat tracks including “Jim and Jack and Hank” and “You Never Know”. Rounding off the album, “Mexico, Tequila and Me” has a familiar feel to it. I really expected Jimmy Buffett to pop up on it.
There’s loads of Country guys appeared on the scene since Jackson was the new boy on the block. But 26 years on, he’s still making great records, and one of the few true Country Boys in Nashville!.



Texan singer songwriter KACEY MUSGRAVES has really took Country music by storm since release of her album “Same Trailer Different Park”, and hits “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go Round”.  It proved that TV talent shows aren’t the only way to break into the music business. (She only came 7th in the 2007 season of “Nashville Star”)
Now, she’s back with her second major label album, “Pageant Material” (Mercury). The title track sums up Kacey nicely. Don’t tell her what to do. She’s her own person, and wont follow protocol, just because that’s what you should do.
That’s even evident in her international career. I can’t remember the last time that a Nashville artist got their album released here, on the same day as it’s American release, and promoted it with a different radio single!  I’m glad she did. “High Time”, which opens the album, but hasn’t been a single back in the states, is an absolutely gorgeous song, which has had a lot of radio play here, especially on Radio 2.  It’s a brilliant song, a shade nostalgic, a simple arrangement, with such an easy, irresistible whistle along chord.
Elsewhere, there are shades of Loretta Lynn or Bobbie Gentry, as she uses her deep Texan drawl to deliver songs like “This Town” and “Dime Store Cowgirl”.
“Biscuits”, the US single, has quite a catchy chorus line, and even Willie Nelson gets in on the act here. “Late To The Party” is a lovely romantic ballad, which she hasn’t really delivered before, but proves quite capable.
Apart from “High Time”, I really like the self centred “Somebody To Love”, laced with some beautiful steel guitar courtesy of Paul Franklin. Paul also helps out on the business bashing “Good Ol’ Boys Club”. The bouncy “Family Is Family” really hits hometown life on the nail.
As I say, Kacey ain’t like anyone else in Country music today, or in the past. She’s breathing new life
Into the music.
A real winner !

THE BELLAMY BROTHERS are something of a Country music institution. This year, Howard & David are celebrating their 40 years of hits, and to mark the occasion, the aptly titled “40 Years” (Proper Distribution) has been released. It’s a 2 CD set. CD1 features 20 of the Brothers’ big hits, like “Let Your Love Flow”, “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body”, “Old Hippie” and “Kids Of The Baby Boom”. The other CD features 20 newer songs, all but one original. The exception is “The Rock”, written by Scotland’s own Frankie Miller.
I do like The Bellamy Brothers sound. I always have. Hailing from Florida, they perhaps have never been fully accepted in Nashville, as they don’t sound like everyone else. They’ve been nominated for Country duo more than any others at the CMA’s, yet have never won. That’s a crime!
Although I enjoyed their new songs here, I was to say that I was a shade disappointed. They sounded just like ….. themselves!. Some of the songs were very similar to previous hits, but then, why change a winning formula.
I did especially like “Heaven And Hell”, a lovely ballad, which didn’t sound too familiar. “Together We Have It All”, is a simple old fashioned love ballad. They acknowledged their international following on “Jet Lag Journey”, which was a bit more upbeat.
They could court some controversy with “We Don’t Call 911”, suggesting that if you arm yourself with a gun, you can take the law into your own hands. There’s also one called “Boobs”, a tongue in cheek number which you’ll have to check out for yourself.
I’ve several Bellamy hits collections, but I guess another to mark their 40th Anniversary, is a good deal especially when marketed with newer material.

Country music has its’ legends, but there is no doubt that WILLIE NELSON and MERLE HAGGARD are the two greatest living legends in our music. They’ve teamed up for “Django & Jimmie” (Sony Legacy), a new 14 track collection, which features new material, as well as reworking of song old classics.
The album, and titled track, was inspired by Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. Both, influential in each of their careers, apparently.  Another inspiration was obviously Johnny Cash, and, together with Bobby Bare, they pay homage to him on “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”. They do the song in Cash’s own style, and cover some aspects of his life, which aren’t all favourable.
The lead single, “It’s All Going To Pot”, covers the cannabis culture, which is legal in some US states these days. “Live This Long”, was written by Shawn Camp and Marv Green, but is such a great song for this pair, it could’ve been written by themselves.
Willie, and long time producer Buddy Cannon wrote the uptempo “It’s Only Money”, the catchy “Driving The Herd” and the rather sad “Where Dreams Come To Die”, whilst Merle wrote “The Only Man Wilder Than Me”.
Of the classics, Willie’s “Family Bible”, and Merle’s “Swinging Doors” and “Somewhere Between”
are given the 2015 treatment, as is Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.
Great to hear these two legends still delivering such great music. Just the way you’d expect them to.
A superb album!

JOHN & JACOB are a Country act which hails from Birmingham, Alabama, but are intent on making a name for themselves in the UK. They’ve played several gigs here, and had a couple of songs playlisted on Radio 2. Their self titled debut album has just been released here, and is already getting some good reviews.
The first thing that strikes you about “John & Jacob”, the CD, is the cover picture, which has five guys on it. John Davidson and Jacob Bryant have known each other since childhood, and spent over a decade playing clubs, bars and festivals around America’s Southern states, before the act evolved into a full band. So whilst John & Jacob are the act, Jake Thrasher, Trevor Davis and Austin Taylor Smith completer the band. Hopefully that clears up the confusion.
Their influences are as diverse as The Beatles, Blitzen Trapper, Southern Soul & Gospel, and Classic Country. And, indeed, it’s a sort of sixties pop sound that came over for me throughout the album.  The vocals are clear, the guitars’ twang, and it’s quite a listenable album, but wasn’t very Country in my opinion.
The lads are writers for Nashville publishers, which will naturally find them mixing in Country circles. All eleven tracks are self penned, and they deliver them well.
My choice cuts would be the rockin’ “Breaking The Law”, and the bouncy “Be My Girl”.

BILLY CURRINGTON is one of Country music’s most established male singers.  The Savannah, Georgia native singer has just released his sixth album, “Summer Forever” (Humphead) since first hitting the charts twelve years ago. In that time, he’s notched up nine Country Number One’s including “People are Crazy”, and “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer”.
This latest album continues the style that Currington has become recognised for. It features a dozen songs from a stellar list of Nashville writers including Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Hillary Lindsey, and was produced by Dann Huff.
There are some good songs here, most notably, “Drinking Town With a Football Problem”, which I’m sure could be adopted here, even if the football is a different game.
“Don’t It”, which opens the album, is a modern upbeat number. In contrast, “Give It To Me Straight” is more of a ballad. “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used”, the one track which Currington was involved in the writing, is an OK song. It’s a little repetitive, but quite enjoyable.
“Do I Make You Wanna” and “Nowhere Town” also had some appeal.
Other tracks, I’m afraid were lost on me. “Soundtrack”, and the title track should have no problem getting airplay on pop radio stations. Just didn’t sound Country to me.
It’s modern Nashville male Country. If that’s your thing, then check it out !

EASTON CORBIN is one of the newer Nashville guys, whose sound I’d actually call Country!
He burst onto the scene in 2009 with “A Little More Country Than That” (co-written by Rory Feek).
Now Humphead have just released “About To Get Real”, his third album.
I’ve always thought Corbin had a natural George Strait sound, and that is still evident on the title track, and the closing ballad, “Like A Song”, amongst other tracks.
“Wild Women And Whiskey”, written by Ronnie Dunn & Terry McBride, is the stand out track for me. It’s pure Country, and worth the price of the CD alone.
“Baby Be My Love Song”, is quite a catchy number. It’s his latest stateside single, and doing real good for him. “Just Add Water” is another uptempo song, which I really enjoyed.
“Are You With Me” is much slower a number, again reminiscent of Mr Strait.
It’s another superb album from Easton Corbin, who may not quite have had the recognition he deserves (especially over here). Hopefully this album will win him many more fans.
Highly recommended.

MIKE DEVINE is one of Scotland’s longest established Country entertainers. He’s played support with many Irish and American acts, and even played the Wembley Festival, and that wasn’t yesterday.  He plays mainly in the North, but fans everywhere can enjoy his music with the latest of many CD’s he has released through the years.  (another six currently available on his website)
“Love You Every Second” was produced by Ronnie Ross at Kirhill Recording in Inverness, and features a nice easy listening Country.
The album kicks off with a cover of Isla Grant’s haunting “Ghosts Of Culloden”, and closes with Dave Sheriff’s “Best Of Friends”. In between, you’ll hear everything from “Galway Girl” and the popular line dance tune, “Closer” , to two Charlie Landsborough numbers. He does a really nice version of Katy Moffatt’s “Walking On The Moon” and “I’ll Leave This World Loving You”  really stands out. There’s also Alan Jackson’s “Livin’ On Love” and Mark Chesnut’s “Ol’ Country”.
A really nice listen.
www.mikedevine.co.uk

Now, as they say, for something completely different.
Some readers may be familiar with THE HELLFIRE CLUB. They have played around West of Scotland’s Country venues in recent years. But their roots were in the indie scene, and they’ve went back to that side of the live scene, although they’ve certainly kept some of the Country influence for this album, titled “Songs For Fallen Stars”, recorded in Glasgow at La Chunky studios.
The band is a seven piece outfit featuring Bob Anderson, Rab Armour, Nick Ronan, Mark Ferrari, Helen Brown , Willie Brown and Kenny Irvine.
Some of the tracks are quite rocky, but listen out for the Country tracks.
“Cal” has some superb west coast influences, somewhere between Gram Parsons & The Eagles.
“Hint Of A Wink”, reminded me of that other Glasgow band from years gone by – The Humpff Family. A real good time sound, with some great fiddle in the mix.
“Absent Friends” is a bit slower. The instrumentation is quite retro Country. Certainly not a modern Nashville sound.
“Deli’s Clock” is a real uptempo foot tapper, with a really infectious fiddle, and chorus line.
Like some concept albums, there are a few short interludes between some of the tracks. They hardly got going, before fading out. I’m afraid I missed the point of them.
But, I have to say this album was a pleasant surprise. Not what I was expecting. But I liked it.  

DARK GREEN TREE are an Alt-Country trio, whose roots can be traced back to a meeting during the Edinburgh Festival, 5 years ago, between Jay Brown and Ross Cockburn. They discussed  
writing songs together, but it was a few years later before that idea became a reality.
Last summer the pair get down to recording at the Home at Heriot Toun Studio, when they realised that their songs could incorporate close female harmonies. Enter Cera Impala, and Dark Green Tree was complete.
The album, “Secret Lives” (Haven Records) with 10 self penned tracks, is full of haunting vocal harmonies. Their music has been likened to Buffalo Springfield, and certainly the opening track, “Yearn For Love”, has that guitar driven west coast soft Country rock feel to it. “Rolling Wind” and  “Secret Life” are in the same mould.
There’s some nice fiddle from John McCusker on the folksy feeling “Sarah”.
“Skin And Bone”, “Heart Of Winter” have more a haunting celtic feel to them.
It’s an interesting album. Dark Green Tree have an interesting sound.

For the past nine years, Gram Parsons music lived on across the Scottish music scene, thanks to THE CITY SINNERS. But things move on, and the band recently called it a day.
But, as a souvenir, the band made one final recording, “The City Sinners 2015”, a seven track mini-CD, which, maybe surprisingly doesn’t include any Gram Parsons songs !
There are four tracks from the pen of band leader John Hinshelwood, including “What’s Left (Is What’s Right” and “Tell Me Something”, which have also appeared on his own albums.
There’s an original song, “Newborn Man” written and sung by Kathy Stewart. Kathy also takes lead vocals on Ian Tyson’s classic “Someday Soon” and “Not Yet”.
There’s a lovely blending of vocals on Jesse Winchester’s “A Showman’s Life”. The track also features some wonderful steel guitar courtesy of Malcolm McMaster.
Although the line up changed through the years, this farewell CD , recorded at Carlton Studio in Glasgow, features John, Kathy & Malcolm, alongside David McKee, Iain Barbour and Frank McHugh, with additional vocals from Paula McKee on the harmony laded original “Not Yet”.
This CD is meant as a souvenir for City Sinners fans, and isn’t on general release. But do check the website www.littleroots.com. I’m sure you’ll can secure a copy there.

NATHAN CARTER is currently the hottest property on the Irish scene. Of course, hailing originally from Liverpool, and the great musical heritage they have there, he picked up the best of both worlds.
After building up his Irish career for the past few years, he has now been picked up by Decca Records.
Being with a big label, means promotion like national TV exposure. The label appreciate what he’s achieved to date, and want to bring the songs that have worked for him to the new audiences. The down side, is that his debut big label album, “ Beautiful Life”, features mostly material that his long time fans will already have in their collections.
But Radio 2, and TV show’s like “Lorraine” can win many new fans for his versions of “Wagon Wheel”, “Where I Wanna Be”, “Saw You Running” and “Drift Away”. The album does include three of Nathan’s own compositions, including “Boat To Liverpool”, “Welcome To The Weekend”  and “Call You Home”, a brand new song, co-written with John Farry and Nashville based Canadian songwriter Ralph Murphy. It’s a beautiful ballad which I really enjoyed.
The other track that really stood out for me was “On The Other Side”, another beautiful ballad, written by ex Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, Tom Botkin and Kevin Denney.
Nathan is a superb entertainer, and deserves his break. Hopefully, the success of this album will encourage the label, and others, to seek out other home grown acts for their labels.

NICKY JAMES has been building up a solid Country music career across the UK. Originally from Ireland, he’s spent time in Switzerland, and these days, is based in the North west of England, and visits Scotland regularly.   Back in the 1980’s he played in a band with his brother Joe McShane. As a solo act he won the BCM Award for Male vocalist.
This album, “About Time” is well titled. Nicky has been working on it since 2008. But it’s well worth the wait. There are 15 tracks, ranging from Country classics like “Make The World Go Away”, and “The Running Kind”, to the evergreen folk classic, “Hard Times”, and recent US Country hits like “Is It Friday Yet”.
Nathan Carter joins Nicky on a cover of Buck Owens’ “Come On In”, and there’s some lovely harmonies from The Haleys. I enjoyed the whole album, but especially want to mention the catchy “You’re In Love With The Wrong Man”, Harlan Howard’s “You Heart Turned Left”, which is a real toe tapper, and the superb ballads “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” , “Once More” and “My Time With You”.
Nicky James is a superb entertainer, and this album really was worth the wait.

DAVE SHERIFF is certainly one of the UK’s major Country music entertainers, with years of experience. He’s covered the UK scene from every angle, and still keeps his act fresh. He’s been playing music since the 70’s, and been releasing his own CD’s since 1991.
His latest album, “Undecided” (Stomp) features 22 original self written songs. And the impressive thing for me is that, they are all different styles. Dave covers an amazing amount of variety on this album, from “Highway Trucker” and “Highway Bandido” to the romantic “Kristina’s Smile”, or “All Alone In Limburg”
In between there’s up tempo foot tappers like “Take Me For What I Am” and “Mama Said”, and   classic Country sounds on “You Cant Do Better Than That” and “One Way Or Another”.
There’a a bit of rock’n’roll on “Money Lovin’ Valentine” and 50’s style ballad on “I Know One”.
“Live Until You Die” has a distinct Irish feel to it, whilst he appeals to the Scottish ceilidh fans on “West Highland Home”.
The backing is superb, and it all makes this album a very entertaining listen.
http://davesheriff.co.uk/

Next up, we have a Welsh rock musician, whose album certainly appealed to a Country boy
 like me. STEVE LOGAN is very much influenced by Neil Young, and it’s that acoustic folk rock sound that gives his latest album, “Deliverance” quite a Country feel in places.
The album, recorded in Cambridge, features 11 self penned songs. Some of the songs will be too rocky for Country fans, but several are certainly aimed at the Country fan, especially ballads like “Where Eagles Fly”, “Just The Way Your Heart Beats” and “Way Out”.
“Spanish Steps”, has a nice relaxed feel to it, with some nice harmonica, during it’s 60 second intro.
“Long Way From Home” is a more uptempo number, with a driving beat, which I really enjoyed.
“Real Thing”, which closes the album is another track which draws heavily from the harmonica sound.
Steve has a fair voice. Not traditional, or modern Country. I guess it’s an Acoustic, alt-Country album, which I must say, I quite enjoyed.

JACE EVERETT was one of the artists who came over a few years ago to Celtic Connections, as part of the CMA’ “New From Nashville” campaign. In fact, Jace was part of the promotion two years running.
He is a singer songwriter from Indiana, but travelled via Texas before completing his education, and starting his musical career in Nashville. His claim’s to fame include writing Josh Turners No.1 hit, “Your Man”, and performing “Bad Things”, the theme to the HBO TV series “True Blood”. That song actually made the UK pop charts, back in 2009.
He’s had considerable success in Norway, where “Bad Things” reached No.2 in the pop charts, and one of his albums reached No.12.
But his US Country success was limited to one song, “That’s The Kind Of Love I’m In”, which only reached No.52 on the Country charts.
But Humphead Records, here in the UK, have shown their support for Jace, with several single releases throughout the years, and have just released a “Good Things …The Best Of”, which features 18 tracks, including four live tracks. The afore mentioned US hit, is not one of the tracks!
Jace has quite a unique sound. It’s certainly not the sound that you’d expect to hear coming out of Nashville. He has more of a haunting rock edge to his music, but, having said that, several of the songs on here, have a real Country feel to them.
Listen out for “Pretty Good Life”, which has quite a radio friendly sound. Then “No Place To Hide”, which is labelled “Mountain Mix” sounds like something out of a western movie.
It’s an interesting album, but didn’t really appeal to me that much.

JONATHAN EDWARDS is one of music’s unsung heroes. He’s been around the music scene since the mid sixties, and is a highly respected singer songwriter and musician, without getting the popular recognition he deserves. He was born in Minnesota, found his musical roots whilst at University in Ohio, before moving to Boston to play in the thriving scene there. A certain Joe Dolce was in an early band with him.  He later played on Emmylou Harris iconic “Elite Hotel” album.
To date, Edwards has released 17 albums, the latest, “Tomorrow’s Child” (Rising Records) is an easy listening Country folk outing, which is a real joy to listen to. Edwards wrote 5 of the tracks himself, and another with Jon Vezner (Mr Kathy Mattea). Other contributions come from Marcus Hummon, Joe Walsh , Malcolm Holcobe and Stephen Foster.
It’s quite an acoustic album, which you hear every note on every instrument and every octave in Jonathan’s vocal range.
The album kicks off with the lilting “Down In The Woods”, which is a really bright start to the album. That’s followed by the rather haunting track, which features some effective harmony from Allison Krauss, whose tones can make any record.  Vince Gill harmonises on a couple of tracks, including the gorgeous “The Girl From The Canyon”
“Mole In The Ground”, has a bit more of bluegrass sound, thanks to the banjo, and “This Old Guitar”, sounds more old timey. Then, the emotional “Johnny’s Come Home”, which closes the album is really folksy.
His version of the often recorded “Hard Times” is sung in a stunning accapella gospel style with Sarah Dugas and Odessa Settles. It’s so different to other versions of the song,  that it really stands out.
It’s great to hear Jonathan Edwards back on the CD player again. An acquired taste, but someone that deserves much more recognition than he gets. A worthy listen.

Next up, THE MIKE + RUTHY BAND, principally Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar, who spent seven years in Pete Seeger’s grandsons’ band The Mammals, before forming their own outfit.  Now comes the album, “Bright As You Can Be” (Humble Abode Music / Thirty Tigers).
To say that the album portrays an eclectic musical mix would be something of an understatement. They draw from folk, bluegrass and Country, to rock and even Motown throughout the album.
The opening and title track has quite a modern bluegrass approach, and certainly got me interested from the off. “Word On The Street” is more of a straight Country song, with lots of fiddle and steel in the mix. Then we get into a couple of more soul sounding tracks before “Freckled Ocean”, a rather pleasant song, with quite a folksy feel to it.
“The Ghost Of Richard Manuel”, the only song on the CD not written by Mike & Ruthy, displays some neat harmonies, with some nice Country instrumentation. Got me thinking what Lady Antebelum could sound like with a Country backing. “Simple & Sober” is another really nice, simple bluegrassy number, which Ruthy’s vocals really suit. “The Farmer” appealed as well.
It’s an interesting album.  If you like bluegrass with a twist of pop and soul, check it out!

ED DUPAS is a singer songwriter from Michigan, although he was born in Texas, and lived for a while in Canada. For the past ten years, he’s performed self penned acoustic material in Detroit bars. Now he has released his debut album, “A Good American Life” (Mackinaw Harvest).
It’s an enjoyable set of strong songs, taking in patriotic angles on the title track, and “Flag”, whilst homelife is covered in the simple arrangements of  “This Old Town” and “Home In Time”.
“With Love You’ll Never Know” is an exceptionally nice ballad, with Tata Cleveland on harmony vocals. I also really liked “Whiskey Bones”.
It’s a pleasant listen. Worth checking out.

SAM LEWIS is a new name to me, but has being making a lot of pleasing noises in Nashville lately. “Waiting On You” (Brash Music) is the follow up to his acclaimed self titled debut three years ago.
Personally, although appealing to Country fans, I’d say he has more of a bluesy sound, than Country. He reminded me of T Graham Brown, and his bluesy sound didn’t stop him having a successful Country career, so I feel Sam could follow suit.
Lewis wrote all the songs, except “Little Time”, which he co-wrote with Taylor Bates. Musicians include Kenny Vaughn (from Marty Stuart’s band), Darrell Scott and Will Kimbrough. There’s also harmonies from The McCrary Sisters.
“Never Again” is probably the most Country track on the 12 track CD. It’s a slow ballad with very little backing, although the weeping steel guitar sounder wonderful on it. Mickey Raphael’s wonderful harmonica really makes “Texas” stand out. I also really liked the nostalgic “Virginia Avenue”, a real front porch song, and “I’m Coming Home”, where it was keyboards that really stood out.
This album really grew on me. I don’t know if it’s because the more Country songs were later in the album, but, even the bluesy numbers were quite listenable.

 Finally, THE RAILSPLITTERS are a Colorado based band whose music is described as “Rockygrass”. There’s certainly a bluegrass feel to their second album, “The Faster It Goes”, which was released here to coincide with a recent tour here.
The five piece band features neat vocals from Lauren Stovall, banjo from Dusty Rider, fiddle from Christine King, Peter Sharpe on mandolin and Leslie Ziegler on bass.
They have come up with an enjoyable album of original material. Only one track, the closing, “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” wasn’t composed by members of the band. This track also stands out as it’s the only track with a male lead vocal.
I loved the opening track, “Tilt-A-Whirl”, a really catchy number to get us in the mood.
“Tell Me” has a bit of a nostalgic feel to it, whilst “It’s A Little Late” has quite a bluesy angle to it.
“The Estuary” is a lovely instrumental half way through the album. It has a nice folksy feel, and you can just imagine it playing as you sit by a river somewhere. There’s another instrumental, “Goosetown”, which is altogether a bit more upbeat.
It’s an interesting album, from a very talented bunch.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

June 2015

There’s no denying that REBA MCENTIRE is one of Country Music’s leading female entertainers. She’s been at the top of her game since first bursting onto the charts back in the 1970’s. Incredibly, “Love Somebody” (Decca/Nashville Icon) is her first new release for four years.
The album sees Reba continue the sound that has made her career through the years.
The opening track, and first US single, from the album is “Going Out Like That”, a feisty upbeat female number, which certainly gets her noticed. “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” is another with a rockin’ Country beat, which Reba does so well. 
 “Until They Don’t Love You” has more of a pop sound that Country, but Reba has always been that bit more pop than Country to me. (Apart from her first few albums). The title track, actually has more of a rap feel to it – with a Country accent, if you like. Interesting mix.
There are several ballads, which would fit into pop as well as Country radio formats, such as “Promise Me Love”, and “I’ll Go On”.
There’s also a power ballad, “Enough”, which teams Reba with Jennifer Nettles.
“She Got Drunk Last Night”, “Just Like Them Horses”, “Love Land”, I felt had much more of a natural Country ballad sound.  There’s also a rather repetitive “Pray For Peace”, which was written by the icon herself.
For me, my favourite track is the very last one. “More Than Just Her Last Name” has the vintage sound that her early career was built on. It’s a nice bouncy song, co-written by c2c visitor Brandy Clark (one of three contributions from her).
Great to have Reba back with new music. If you’re a fan, you’ll want this new album.

DARIUS RUCKER has built up quite a following in recent years in American Country music. The former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman turned to Country in 2008, and quickly hit the charts with songs like “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, “Alright” and “Wagon Wheel”. He was even inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member in 2012.
Personally, I hadn’t convinced myself of Darius’ Country credentials until this new album, “Southern Style” (Humphead) found its way onto my CD player.
WOW! What a surprise I was in for.
The album opens with “Homegrown Honey”, a pop number which had previously been released as a single. This song, like much of his previous material did nothing for me.
But then “Good For A Good Time” followed, and what a great song it is. A fun, party number that really set the scene. And it just got better. “Baby I’m Right”, is a really catchy duet with the highly underated Mallary Hope. It’s the type of duet that Country was big on thirty years ago. Great to hear this style coming back, and hopefully kicks starts Mallary’s career (She was signed to MCA in 2009, but only got two singles released). The song has also been released as a single here in the UK.
The title track, “Southern Style” was another winner. A great title track, really captures the homespun feel of the south, and surely a future single.
I also enjoyed the laid back “High On Life” and “So I Sang” and the catchy “You, Me & My Guitar” and “Half Full Dixie Cup”.
A real pleasant surprise. An album that I’m really loving listening to.
Check it out.

ALLISON MOORER has been around the Country scene since the late 1990’s, after following her sister Shelby Lynne to Nashville. “Down To Believing” is her ninth album, and is available on Proper Records. It’s also her first new album for five years.
She has covered a wide musical range during her career. But I have to say, I quite like where she is on this outing.
Allison has teamed up with Kenny Greenberg, who produced her first two albums. In some ways, she’s returned to her roots, but moved ahead at the same time. She wrote 12 of the 13 songs. The exception is a wonderful cover of John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”.
The title track is a soft ballad, which Allison really delivers a strong, yet delicate vocal performance.
There’s certainly a rocky edge to many of the songs, but it’s a style that really suits Allison’s voice. Stand out tracks for my include “I Lost My Crystal Ball”, but it’s the softer ballads that really impressed me. “Blood”, is such a beautiful song.
“If I Were Stronger” and “Gonna Get It Wrong”, which closes the album, are also nice soft ballads, which she delivers well.
I’ve enjoyed some, but not all of her previous work, but this album did really impress me. Not stone Country, but if you like your music with a bit of an edge, this is for you.

Humphead’s latest “Definitive Collection” features a real legendary Country star, who stood out for his individuality. ROGER MILLER grew up in Oklahoma and began his musical career as a songwriter in the late 1950s, penning such hits as "Billy Bayou" and "Home" for Jim Reeves and "Invitation to the Blues" for Ray Price. The most notable hits of his recording career were novelty numbers like “Dang Me”, “Kansas City Star”, “England Swings” and “Do Wacka Do”, whilst his biggest success was “King Of The Road”, which has been often recorded and, indeed, parodied by others, including The Proclaimers.
This 2 CD collection features 50 of Miller’s songs, some which will be lesser known than others. You’ll probably recognise “Walking In The Sunshine”, “Engine,Engine Number Nine”, “Husbands And Wives”, “Tall Tall Trees” and “Old Toy Trains”, but others, like “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” or “My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died” may not be familiar to you, but worth checking out, just for the titles.
It’s 23 years since Country music lost the talent of Roger Miller. Thanks to Humphead for the memories.

Humphead have also released an interesting compilation called “Country Songs Of Faith”, which features 25 tracks from some of today’s biggest Country stars, and some who aren’t as well known in Country circles.
There’s no particular qualification for the material here. It’s basically a set of popular Country singers and songs, with a loose faith theme. The seriousness of the message varies from “Bless The Broken Road” from Rascall Flatts and Johnny Cash’ “Daddy Sang Bass”, to Craig Morgan’;s “What I Love About Sundays”. It’s a lovely song, but hardly a song of faith.
There’s Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel”, Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train”, Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” and Leann Rimes, “Ten Thousand Angels Cried”, to name just a few.
My favourite tracks would be the Kenny Chesney/Randy Travis duet on “Baptism”, or Brad Paisley & Dolly’s “When I Get To Where I’m Going”. 
It is a modern set of songs, which are aimed at the modern Country fan, rather than bible stores.   
George Jones is teamed up with Vestal Goodman for a sacred version of “Angel Band”, which is so traditional, it almost feels out of place on this “Faith” album.
At the other extreme, there’s “The Duck Dynasty Song” from Amanda Ryan !!
It’s a nice listen, not too serious. A chance to feel the faith without going to church.

STEVE WARINER is one of the nicest guys in Country music. He was a popular artist on the Nashville charts, notching up almost 50 Country hits from the late 70’s right through to the mid nineties, ten of them hitting the Number One spot.
He started off on RCA, where I, personally think he did his best stuff. But it was his years at MCA in the second half of the 80’s which were certainly his most successful.
Now Humphead have captured these years with the release of “Heart Trouble: The Best Of The MCA Years”. The double CD set features 40 of his hits from the period including chart toppers like “Some Fools Never Learn”, “You Can Dream On Me” and “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, a duet he recorded with Glen Campbell.
I really enjoyed Steve Wariner’s music back then, and I really enjoyed reliving the 80’s with this collection.

Next up, we have , not one, but two CD’s from Duke Boy and Northern Nashville Festival compere GEORGE MALCOLM.
The first CD, “Inspiration” is mainly original songs written by George. You may recognise some of the songs. The opening track, “Broken Hearts And Broken Dreams”, was the title track to one of the Dukes old vinyl albums. The songs on this album, vary from the pleading “Lost Love” and the self pity of “Lightning Wont Strike Me Down”, to the bright & breezy “Room Full Of Roses” and “Goodbye Norma Jean”.
One track that really caught the ear was “Country Music”, another Dukes number from way back. It’s a fun number, but George has added to the arrangement, with some non Country instruments like sax. Surprisingly, it works really well.
The one track that George didn’t write is “Bright Lights Of Dallas”, which was written for The Dukes by Tam White.
The CD cover features various members of his family, who he cites as being his inspirations.
The second CD, “ A Man This Lonely”, features covers of Country hits like “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes”, “Blackboard Of My Heart”, “Pop A Top” and “Seven Spanish Angels”.
The title track is a cover of a Brooks & Dunn song. He also covers Buck Owens, George Jones and The Statlers numbers.
Both albums were self recorded by George in his Caithness backroom. He does a really good job at delivering the songs, whether his own, or covers of others.
Check them out.

Irish born NORMAN BORLAND has been a popular name on the Scottish scene for some years. We lost him for a wee while, when he moved to Australia, but he’s back in Scotland, with a new album, “I’m Just Me”.
The album, recorded at Glasgow’s Stealth Studios, features a good mix of 16 tracks.
Songs vary from “classics” like “Ashes Of Love”, “Ring Of Fire” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again”, to newer covers like “Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Wagon Wheel”. There’s a little Irish influence on “Home To Donegal” and Derek Ryan’s “Life Is A River”.
The title track is an old Charley Pryde number, It’s a song that suits Norman to a tee.
I really enjoyed this album. Norman is in fine voice, and the production is first class.  Make sure you pick up a copy when he play’s near you, or get a copy direct from  normanborland@yahoo.co.uk.

Another home grown offering comes from Glasgow based sextet JAMES EDWYN & THE BORROWED BAND, who were formed in 2013.  The group features Edwyn, alongside Emma Joyce, Scott Keenan, Ronnie Gilmour, Ross McLaughlin and Neil McDonald.
Their debut album, “The Tower” features 12 songs written by the frontman.
McDonald & Gilmour produced the album, at the band’s own “The Cell” studio and at New College Lanarkshire. There was also a session recorded in the Czech Republic, with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, with Roddy Hart guesting on the vocals on “The Last Waltz”.
The album kicks off with an uptempo guitar strumming number, “A New Arrival”, which certainly stirred my interest in the album. It’s followed by the quirky “On Meeting The Man In The Suit”, which kept the tempo up.
“Progress” has quite an upbeat feel to it, with some nice harmonies in the mix. Probably my favourite track on the album. There are a number of slower, more haunting songs, with the harmonies adding nice touches to songs like “Something Cold”
“Epilogue”, is, as you would expect, the closing track to the album. It’s quite an anthem, with a chorus and handclaps from the college students. 
They don’t claim to be Country. In fact their bio labels them “a mix of alt country and folk rock roots-orientated Americana”.  Whatever, it’s not a bad listen.

Next we have something definitely Country.
Caithness visitor JUSTIN TREVINO’s latest album is a little self-indulgence in the form of a tribute to his boyhood hero Johnny Bush. Bush is something of a legend in Texas, but is probably best known outside of the lone star state for writing Willie Nelson’s hit “Whiskey River”. He played, with Willie, in Ray Price’s band.
In later year’s Justin played in Johnny Bush’s band, and heavily influenced the young Trevino, who, in turn is helping influence Texas honky tonk music worldwide.
“Justin Trevino sings Johnny Bush”(Heart Of Texas), is by no means, Justin’s first acknowledgment of his musical hero, but here, he devotes a full album to Bush. Not that they are all written by Bush. Some of the songs are written by big name Nashville writers like Larry Kingston, Harlan Howard, Dallas Frazier and Glenn Sutton. Johnny Bush only wrote two of the songs: the slower, steel guitar laden, “Conscience Turn Your Back”, and, of course, “Whiskey River”. 
Indeed, the first track, is written by Justin himself, recalling “One Night At A Johnny Bush Dance”, which really kicks the album off in true Texas honky tonk style. The whole album has, as you would expect, a real Texas feel to it.
Justin produced the album himself, with musicians like Jake Hooker, Jim Loessberg and Jade Jack (Stone) adding to the sound.
He proved himself at the Caithness Festival, to be an extremely talented, and respected musician. This album is great testament to that.

Another Heart Of Texas artist that we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing over here yet, is KAYE TOLSON. Her album, “Share My World” is a very enjoyable listen. Perhaps a bit more gospel than the usual honky tonk fayre from Heart Of Texas, Kaye has a lovely voice, with some great musical accompaniment, from the likes of Justin Trevino, Jake Hooker, Randy Lindley and Hank Singer.
The album kicks off with a swinging version of the old Ray Price hit, “I’ll Be There”, followed by Ian Tyson’s classic, “Someday Soon”. Her version of this song, is heavily laced with some beautiful steel guitar licks courtesy of Jim Loessberg.
Her gospel offerings include “He Picked Me Up”, “Jesus Hears, He Cares, He Can”, “Once Upon A Hill” and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”. I really enjoyed these songs.
But she can do a great Country song too. She ups the tempo on Billy Sherrill’s “Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home”, and slows it down on Highway 101’s “The Blame”, Rhonda Vincent’s (Carl Jackson) “I’m Not Over You” and Charley Pryde’s “Old Love Turned Memory”.
The album was produced by Justin Trevino, who duets with Kaye on “I’ll Share My World With You”.
I was really impressed with this album. I look forward to hearing more from Kaye in the future.

Bakersfield is suddenly becoming cool again. Alabama born GRANT LANGSTON moved out west and found himself playing, what he says, is “the roots music that Nashville didn’t want”. He’s had five albums released, and his latest “Hope You’re Happy Now” (Californian Roots Union) will further his career. This is my first listen to him, but apparently this album does indicate a shift away from a hard edged telecaster Country sound, that he was his stock & trade.
According to the press release, this album is “chock full of booze, broken dreams and busted marriages- but this record is dark, moody and veers into downright sombre”.
I can’t say that would be my description of an album, which I really quite enjoyed listening too.
Like the album cover, I detected a bit of a nostalgic sound. Some of it, not particularly Country sounding, but other tracks certainly were.
There’s quite a honky tonk feel to the album from the steel influenced opener, “Drive” to the closing “Me And Margaret”.
“The Trigger” is quite a simple, “me & my guitar” type arrangement, which is really effective. ”Me And The Missus” is similar.
 “I Work Too Hard” is much more uptempo. It’s much more of a honky tonk type song, which I really liked. “The Nonsense” is also quite a breezy track.
“The Only One” is a very soft ballad that really suited his style.
It’s certainly a different sound. But I really liked it, for being different.

KEITH SHAW is a singer songwriter from Berkshire who has just released “Ghosts” (Silver Heart), the follow up album  to last year’s “Dreams”. Keith is no newcomer to the scene. He’s played in various bands over the years, most notably, “Country Network”, which began as a six piece, and ended as a duo.
This album features eight tracks, all self penned. Most are soft ballads.
“We Will Be There” is the most uptempo track, whilst “I Wont Be Coming Home” is a mid tempo number.
“The Wine Goes Down” stands out for me. It has a bit of a stronger arrangement. “Daniel” also quite a good story to it.
A nice easy on the ear album.

Sarah Ogan Gunning sang lead with Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie back in the 1930’s. In the 60’s she performed with Pete Seeger at Newport. Now Sarah’s memory is recalled in a new album from SUE MASSEK, who has performed traditional music for the past half century as a solo act, and as a banjo player with The Reel World String Band.
“Precious Memories” (Strictly Country (NL) is based on a musical theatre production scripted by the legendary folk singer songwriter Si Kahn, which has played venues around Appalachia and the South in recent years.
It features an array of traditional sounding songs, many, but not all, from Sarah Ogan Gunning. Many are based on the mining industry in Kentucky. Some of the songs are familiar. The opening track, “Down On The Picket Line” is perhaps better known in post “Oh Brother” days as “Down To The River To Pray”, and there’s Sue’s gender changed “Girl Of Constant Sorrow”, another “Oh Brother” favourite, but you’d never recognise the traditional version here.  The title track is the old gospel classic.  There are a few bonus track’s featuring Si Kahn and her brother Jim Garland.
Obviously, George Clooney’s “Oh Brother” film has inspired a lot of interest in the traditional music of Appalachia, but Sue, Si, and Alice Gerrard, who also guests on the album, have taken the music right back to it’s roots.
A few years ago, Kathy Mattea’s “Coal” album covered a lot of the same ground, though not the same songs. But Sue has really stretched back to capture a real authentic sound of the era.  
A hauntingly beautiful album, it has to be said.

Another old timey album comes from JOHN McCUTCHEON, an American folk singer, who is best known for “Christmas In The Trenches”, the inspirational story about the World War One truce. His 37th album, is “Joe Hill’s Last Will” (Appalsongs), an album devoted to the music, and memory of a Swedish-American labour activist  and writer, who was killed by firing squad 100 years ago this year.  It’s not a particularly Country album, but you’ll recognise a few songs, or at least tunes. “It’s A Long Way To The Soup Line”, is the same tune as “Tipperary”, and there’s “Casey Jones”.

DAN WEBER is a songwriter from Rochester, New York, who now calls Vancouver home.
“What I’m Lookin’ For” (Highway 142) is his second release, and features a good mix of self written material.
The title track has an old west feel to it, which leads nicely into “Do You Ride Horses” and “Cowboy Style”.  “I Deal With Crazy All Day” and the Waylon sounding “Leaving Texas” are both good catchy upbeat song.
“Pretty Good Tonight”, has a good upbeat Country feel to it, whilst “Ain’t Done Ramblin’ Yet” is a bouncy bluegrass influenced number, whilst “Oh Woody” has a traditional Woody Guthrie style. “Separate Ways” is a very slow and sensitive ballad.

It’s an interesting listen. I enjoyed it.   

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

April 2015

Country music compilations are nothing new. Sony Music’s latest mass market seller is “First Ladies Of Country”, a 2CD , 43 track, collection of Country girls, old & new.
As with many such compilations, many of tracks are the same hits which keep coming out. The diehard fan will already have many of these tracks, but they are the songs that are most likely to sell the album, (and the newer names on it) to a wider audience.
You wont be surprised to find Dolly’s “Jolene”, Tammy’s “Stand By Your Man”, Patsy’s ”Crazy” and “Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden”. There’s also Emmylou. Linda Ronstadt, Tanya Tucker, Billie Jo Spears, The Judds and Martina McBride.
Some of the songs are a little less obvious. I wouldn’t consider “Fancy” to be one of Reba’s obvious selections, and Allison Krauss has more recognisable songs than “Simple Love”.
Some of those included are hardly worthy of “First Lady” status. Gretchen Wilson, did burst onto the scene with “Redneck Woman” in 2004, and Heidi Newfield, short time member of the group Trick Pony, went solo in 2008 to release “Johnny & June”, which failed to hit the Top 10.  There’s a cover version of “Need You Now” by Wonderland, an Irish girlband formed by Louis Walsh which disbanded a few years ago. There’s also a track by Swedish duo, First Aid Kit, who have had some TV exposure over here, but hardly established.
However, great to see Elizabeth Cooks “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”, and the real version of Sara Evans’ “No Place That Far”, complete with Vince Gill’s harmonies. When the song was originally released here, they stripped Vince’s harmonies from the track to make it sound less Country.
These compilations are always hard to review. Getting the balance right, between making it commercially attractive to record buyers, and useful to radio in new material, will always be a difficult job. With 43 tracks it’s great value, either way.

The recent Country2Country Festivals around Europe, and spin off concerts in Glasgow, brought some of the newer Nashville names to our attention. Congratulations to the Humphead label, who have come up with a 20 track compilation to mark the event, simply titled “Country to Country”.  Unlike to First Ladies CD, this selection doesn’t feature any tried & tested classic Country “sellers”, but will serve to introduce a number of names that the label have released CD’s from here, so this CD will serve as a shopping window for new Country talent.
There are a few names who will be better known, like Vince Gill, Brad Paisley &  Martina McBride, who have appeared at previous C2C events, alongside some of this year’s acts like Luke Bryan, Kip Moore and Lee Ann Womack.
The most satisfying thing about this album is the inclusion of British acts, like our own Raintown, The Shires, Ward Thomas, and a stand out track from Alan West.
This album serves as a great reminder an event, which may just be a memory by the time you’re reading this. It also serves as a sample of the best of what Country music is today.

LUKE BRYAN has established himself as one of Nashville’s top male stars since bursting onto the scene back in 2007. Before getting his own record contract, the Georgian native had written songs for the likes of Billy Currington and Travis Tritt.  He has won the CMA’s Entertainer Of The Year for the past two years, and made his UK debut in Glasgow last month, followed by headlining the Country2Country festivals around Europe.
“Crash  My Party” (Decca/Capitol Nashville), is his 4th album, and the UK release has an extended 19 tracks featuring no less six tracks that have already topped the American Country charts.
Many of his tracks are hot summer party type songs, notably the opening track, “That’s My Kind Of Night”, “I See You” and “Sunburn Lips”.
“Beer In The Headlights”, “Roller Coaster”, “You’re Mama Should’ve Named You Whiskey” and “Drink A Beer”  have more of a softer summer evening sound, in a rather Kenny Chesney style.
There are a few tracks that stood out, notably “Play It Again”, which I really liked.
“Goodbye Girl” and “Shut It Down” are really nice songs, but “Dirt Road Diary” is probably my favourite.
This is flavour of the month music in Nashville these days. It’s pleasant, easy listening, but it’s not my kind of Country, I have to admit.

KIP MOORE is another of the current crop of Nashville artists who came over for the Country 2 Country Festivals, and included Glasgow in the trip. To coincide with the trip, Humphead released his album “Up All Night”, which was originally released stateside in 2012.  The Deluxe edition does include seven extra cuts, including his debut single “Mary Was The Marrying Kind” and five live tracks.
Moore, from Georgia, moved north to Nashville in 2004, initially to become a songwriter.Then MCA signed him, and this album is the result.
Every track was written by Kip, with help from some of Nashville’s elite writers, including Brett James, Aimee Mayo and Troy Verges.
There’s quite a mix of styles. From relaxing ballads, like “Hey Pretty Girl” and “Faith When I Fall”, to more of a soft rock approach on “Beer Money”, to the more  raw and earthy “Fly Away”, and “Something ‘bout A Truck”. Kip has a definite modern sound, but it’s a modern approach that encompasses Country music. Not everyone in Nashville manages that these days.   
I really liked his debut single, “Mary Was The Marrying Kind”, but have to say that I did quite enjoy the whole album. His second release shouldn’t be far behind.

Another c2c Festival artist was JASON ALDEAN, who has notched up no less than 12 Number One’s from the six albums he has released over the past ten years. Sony Music in the UK have now made all his albums available here for the first time, including his latest album, “Old Boots, New Dirt”.
The album is certainly value for money, with no less than 18 songs, written by accomplished singer songwriters like Rhett Atkins, Neil Thrasher, David Lee Murphy and Dallas Davidson, amongst others.
The tracks range from rather pop sounding numbers like “Burnin’ It Down” , which was the first US single from the album, to softer Country ballads like “Tryin’ To Love Me”, “Don’t Change Gone”  and “Too Fast”.
The title track is a mid tempo track, with a strong production. “Miss That Girl”, the UK single release, is a rather pleasant, if uninspiring song. What track would I have chosen for a UK release ?  Maybe “Fast Lanes”, a soft rock ballad, although my favourite track is the ballad, “Aint No Easy Way”, which closes the album.

So much for Country2Country. We all know that if it’s real Country music you want, then Caithness is the place to be. This year’s Northern Nashville Festival is full of great Texas music, and this next album really got me in the mood.
COBY CARTER is a young man steeped in Western Swing. He was born in Lubbock,Texas and grew up across the state line in New Mexico.
His debut album, “Legends”, is dedicated to Western Swing and Texan influences like Ray Price, George Strait, Buddy Holly and even Glenn Miller!  The project is produced by Bobby Flores, and really captures the Texas Dance hall spirit.
Many of the tracks are uptempo dance numbers, like “Somewhere In Texas”, “Back In The Swing Of Things” and “West Texas Town” (which also features Jody Nix).
He covers George Strait’s “Dance Time In Texas”, and with George coming off the road, this lad could just be the one to fill his travelling shoes.
But there are some real slower numbers, which Cody handles just as well. They include Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town”, Conway Twitty’s “Lost In The Feeling”, and Buddy’s “True Love Ways”.
Leon Rauch and Jake Hooker join in the fun on “That’s What I Like About a Country Song”.
And the Glenn Miller influence ? A western swing version of “In The Mood”, no less.
Young Coby covers a lot of ground on this album, but maintains a fabulous authentic western swing feel throughout.
A must have for Caithness next year !

Someone who is at this year’s Caithness Festival, as he has been in recent years, is local lad, BRANDON McPHEE. 18 year old Brandon has something of a double career. He is highly accomplished in traditional Scottish music circles, as a master of the 3 row button key accordion, and indeed, is the current All Scotland Senior Accordion Champion. But, there is also “The Country Side” to Brandon, which just happens to be the title of his new CD (Pan Records), and this is the side of Brandon that Caithness Festival goers will enjoy on the Saturday afternoon.
The youngster has, of course, worked with Manson Grant & The Dynamos for the past few years, and Manson, Robert & Keith all contribute to the album, which also features Nashville musicians like Steve Hinson on steel guitar, Hank Singer on fiddle, and Music City based Orcadian Phil Anderson.
I quite liked the variety of songs. He’s obviously a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, covering some of his hits like “She’s Not Crying Anymore”, “Where’m I Gonna Live” and “Could’ve Been Me”. There are a few older songs, like Haggard’s “Branded Man”, Olivia’s “Let Me Be There” and Cash’s “I Got Stripes”.
I enjoyed hearing his version of  “It Must Be Love”, written by Keith Macleod’s father, David, as well as “Rose Of My Heart” and “Wagon Wheel”.
It’s a real feel good album. Brandon handles the songs well, and the whole project is very well produced.
Highly recommended.   

I’ve been championing the music of TEEA GOANS in recent years. She’s one of the few Nashville based singers who are keeping traditional Country music alive, through her own music. She is regularly featured on the Country Family Reunion TV series, and recently nominated for an Ameripolitan Award.
Her third album, “Memories To Burn” (Crosswinds) is a step back in time, as Teea revisits some classic, but not overdone Country songs. Songs, she says, “that would be familiar to many, but still allow for an experience of rediscovery”.
She kicks off with a medley of “Old Fashioned Love” and “What A Wonderful World”. Following on, Merle Haggard is remembered in “Sing a Sad Song” and “You Take Me For Granted”, Gene Watson on the catchy title track and Ronnie Milsap with “Stranger Things Have Happenned”.
A big fan of the late Ray Price, Teea covers “I Wont Mention It Again”, and lets it swing on Charlie Walker’s “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down”. 
She does a delicate version of “What’s Forever For”, written by Rafe Van Hoy, and also features the old favourite hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”.  As a bonus, there’s also a couple of Christmas tracks.
Teea is a lovely singer, and does a really good job delivering these songs. An album, I could listen to over & over again.  

In the last issue, my colleague Ken MacLeod commented on the aging Grand Ole Opry cast list, and mentioned JIM ED BROWN as one of the oldest regulars. He first appeared on the Country scene with his sisters Maxine and Bonnie, as The Browns, back in the 1950’s. and started releasing solo records in 1965, and then duets with Helen Cornelius. According to Wikipedia, Jim hasn’t released a new album since 1980 (a duet with Cornelius), and his last solo album was back in 1974!  It’s really hard to believe!
But Jim Ed is back, at the age of 81, with a long overdue new album, “In Style Again” (Plowboy Records).
It’s an easy listening album, with one or two older songs, but mainly new material, written by Don Cusic, who produced the album. Several of the songs are quite a reflection on life, with titles like “It’s A Good Life”, “Older Guy” and “The Last One”.
Quite a few of the tracks are commercial enough for today’s Country radio.  Standing out for me would be “Lucky Enough”, which was written by Opry pal Bill Anderson, and Canadian youngster Victoria Banks.  “I Love It”, the old Cindy Walker song is given new life. It’s dated, but just so classy.
“Tried And True” is also a catchy number, and features harmonies from none other than Vince Gill.
There are other guests on the album. The Whites join him for the old Forester Sisters hit “I’d Choose You Again”, and Helen Cornelius, who recorded five duet album’s with Jim Ed back in the 70’s, reunites with him on the classic, “Don’t Let Me Crossover”.
And The Browns are reunited for a really special version of “When The Sun Says Hello To The Mountain”. Those unique Brown’s harmonies blend together with Chris Scruggs pedal steel so beautifully.
But, saving the best for last, “Am I Still Country” is a light hearted poke at how Country life (not just the music) has become more cosmopolitan.
It may be 40 years since Jim Ed had a CD out, but he is definitely “In Style Again”. Let’s hope it’s not 40 years before the next one!



Country music has many different facets. One that has stood the test of time, is Western Swing. Bob Wills is credited with being the king of the genre, but Ray Benson and ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL have certainly done their bit to keep the music alive. “Still The King” (Proper) is an incredible tribute to Bob Wills from Asleep At the Wheel and a whole list of Nashville and Texan stars.  This is, in fact Asleep At The Wheel’s third Bob Wills tribute album. Yet, it still sounds fresh.
Merle Haggard teams up with newest Asleep member Emily Gimble (granddaughter of fiddler Johnny Gimble) on “Keeper Of My Heart”, and Willie Nelson joins The Quebe Sisters on “The Navajo Trail”.  George Strait is “South Of The Border, Down Mexico Way”, and Brad Paisley  has “My Window Faces The South”.
Of the lesser known names, Kat Edmonson delivers a smouldering jazzy version of “I Cant Give You Anything But Love”, and I just love Elizabeth Cook’s take on the 30’s tune “I Had Someone Else Before I Had You”. I love Ray Benson’s sleevenotes referring to Cook’s “Betty Boop” style!
The Devil Makes Three gives us “Bubbles In My Beer” and it’s left to Shooter Jennings to deliver his dad Waylon’s own tribute song, “Bob Wills Is Still The King.
There are some really authentic old timey numbers courtesy of Pokey La Farge, Old Crow Medicine Show and Robert Earl Keen, who joins Ray on “Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas”.
Del McCoury lends his vocals to “Silver Dew On The Bluegrass Tonight”,
A Bob Wills classic that always stands out is “Faded Love”, and the version here is no exception. It’s a blending of two superb bands, Asleep At The Wheel and The Time Jumpers, with no less than seven vocals, including Ray Benson,Vince Gill, Ranger Doug, and the recently deceased Dawn Sears. The track was recorded in Vince’s own studio, and is a fitting tribute to Dawn.
22 tracks, great value, and a really honest tribute to the man who inspired Ray Benson, and so much of Texas music.

Once upon a time, we had “Country & Western” music. Over the years, the western side has taken a back seat, but it does still exist. One of the biggest supporters of the western sound is JONI HARMS, who has toured here several times. She’s back in the autumn. Sadly, despite trying to get a Scottish date, it looks like she wont be heading north of the border this time.
But we can, at least, enjoy a most interesting double album from the voice of the west.  It’s a live album, not recorded in her native Oregon, but in Ireland, and is appropriately titled “From Oregon to Ireland”.  Across the 22 tracks, she’s supported by The Sheerin Family Band, and the project is produced by Des Sheerin.
Fans will recognise some of  her most popular numbers featured here, like “Old Fashioned Girl”, “Louisiana Hot Sauce”, “Two Steppin Texas Blues”, “Cowboy Up” and “Catalog Dreams”, but there’s some good, newer material too. “Harms Way” is a beautiful personal ballad about her family upbringing. And there’s a big of a western/celtic feel to the title track. It’s certainly one that will get your feet tappin’.
I remember seeing Joni play at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry a few years back. She’s certainly a superb entertainer, and that really comes across on the album. Glad to hear she got a two song encore, wrapping it all up with her theme song, “Let’s Put The Western Back In The Country”.
Let’s give Joni a big listen on this entertaining double CD.   

The Humphead label have come up with a great series of definitive collections in recent years. Their latest 2CD collection is from PATTI PAGE, with “Sings Country Memories”.  Best known for her “Tennessee  Waltz”, I wasn’t too familiar with much more of her music. But she did chart 20 times on the Country charts between 1949 right up to 1982, and had a lot more pop hits that didn’t hit the Country charts.
This collection has no less than 50 tracks, many of them covers that were hits for others, like Patsy Cline, Hank Locklin, Leroy Van Dyke, Kris Kristofferson and Marty Robbins.  Interesting to hear female versions of “Big Bad John” and “I Walk The Line”. I also noticed that there are two tracks which are also on the Asleep At The Wheel album, reviewed earlier. Very different versions of “Faded Love” and “South Of The Border”.
Most of the tracks have a wonderful nostalgic feel to them. One track which stood out was her cover of The Bee Gees’ “Words”, which, although a nice version, just didn’t fit the album somehow. Just sounded too modern!
The most interesting track, for me, was “Hello, We’re Lonely”, a duet with Tom T Hall. It’s a wonderful track.  Tom T also features on “We’re Not Getting Old”.
Thanks to Humphead, for a great double album of nostalgia, and for greatly increasing my Patti Page music library.

Now, for something different.  “The 45th Parallel”, is the title of a new CD from NEPTUNE’S CAR, the duo of Holly Hanson and Steve Hayes, who are from Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They have a lovely vocal driven acoustic sound, which I loved.
The title track is about a small town called Atlanta, Michigan, which is located half way between the North Pole and the equator. There’s also a superb uptempo road song, which takes us from Ann Arbor Up North Atlanta”, before they head farther west to Montana, for “Fly Fishing the Big Hole”. 
“BackCountry” is a short medium tempo banjo influenced number, which should appeal to bluegrass and folk fans. “Emily Dickenson” is the track which stood out for me. It’s about a historic poet from Massachusetts.
“River Street” and “The Storm” both features Steve on lead vocals. They offer quite a contrast to the rest of the album, which is lead vocally by Holly.
“Emily Dickenson” is the track which stood out for me. It’s about a historic poet from Massachusetts
9 of the 10 tracks are originals. The exception is a Sandy Denny cover, “By The Time It Gets Dark”, which they deliver as their own.
They have a really nice sound. I really enjoyed this album.

CAROLINE COTTER is a well travelled young lady. She’s worked and lived in places like Thailand, Peru, Spain & Portugal, but home is Maine in America’s north east. She has already got recognition by winning the 2012 Maine Songwriters Association Songwriting Contest. The singer songwriter gets her first major release with “Dreaming As I Do”, an eleven track collection of interesting and varied songs, ranging from the catchy “ Bella Blue” to the simply acoustic closure , “This Place”. In between, there are classical touches in “Journey In C “, and even a couple of effective French language songs. Stand out track for me is “A Midnight Escape”.
Now for some real authentic old timey bluegrass, from Oregon’s THE FOGHORN STRING BAND, who were formed in 2000, and have since taken their music all over the world, from Orkney & Shetland folk festivals to Malaysia, and they’ll be back in Edinburgh & Glasgow next month. “Devil In The Seat” is their eighth album, and they are sounding superb, it has to be said.
Their tracks range from hoedown fiddle tunes like “Chicken Reel” and “Paddy On The Turnpike” to beautiful harmony rich ballads like “What Will We Do” and “Henry Lee”.
Songs led vocally by the guys Caleb Klaunder and Sammy Lind, sound more oldtimey, than those lead by the girls, Reed Willms and Yukon based Nadine Landry.
I really like their sound. A really enjoyable album.

BILL FEEHELY is a singer songwriter, actor and playwright based in Nashville. He wrote the book for “American Duet”, with fellow Music City singer songwriter Marcus Hummon. His musical upbringing was back in New Jersey, with a band called The Ranchers.
Now Feehely is back to music, with an interesting album, titled “Lucky Struck”, produced by his wife Celeste Krenz, who also co-wrote two of the songs.
He has been likened to Steve Earle. I’d say that he’s not quite as edgy as Earle. More of a Mellencamp sound to me. He has a much more smouldering feel to his music, especially on “Independence” and “House Of Cards”.
Tracks like “Thousand Stories” and “I’m Alright” are more uptempo. And “Bottom Town”, probably stands out as the most mainstream Country track on the album.
“Fly Away” is a haunting ballad which works really well, whilst “Wild Horse” has such a lovely feel to it.
He is using voice synthesisers on a few tracks, like “Side Pockets”, but it’s quite catchy, and the steel guitar, and chorus, makes it work.
It’s certainly a different sounding album. One that’s quite refreshing to listen to. Worth checking out.

Finally, another homegrown album, this time from Alloa’s BILLY HAMMOND. His “Shades Of Country” CD was recorded at the town’s Bowmar Soundspace studio, and features a mixed 14 track selection.
The album kicks off with the old Randy Travis hit “1982”, and he goes on to cover Charley Pryde’s “Comfort Of Your Wings” , Becky Hobbs’ “Jones On The Jukebox”, Alabama’s “Old Flame” and Dr Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother”, amongst others.
There are a couple of Irish flavoured tracks, “Back In 68” and “Belle Of Liverpool”, which are possibly the strongest tracks on the album. I also liked the uptempo version of “Speed Of the Sound Of Loneliness”.

Billy had been singing around local venues for many years. Good to hear him eventually putting some of his favourite songs down on disc.