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Saturday, 30 May 2020

June 2020

The following reviews would normally appear in the printed pages of the bi monthly Country Music & Dance In Scotland magazine. However, due to the current Covid-19 situation, with all live entertainment venues currently closed, the June issue of the magazine has not been published.  
These reviews will all be included in the next issue, hopefully August, but I wanted to get them out there in a timely fashion, in the meantime. 


AMBER DIGBY won many fans over here from her appearances at the Northern Nashville Caithness Festival, with her traditional style. I was one of them.
With seven previous albums, the most recent being back in 2013, new music from Amber was long overdue, and here it is. “Heroes, Mentors And Friends- The Legends Project” (Heart Of Texas). The title tells it just as it is.  Whilst many singers get round to recording a collection of classics, Amber has collected a stunning set of songs, which are not the most obvious tried and tested numbers. But she has lined up an amazing list of, as the title suggests, musical heroes and mentors, and musical friends.
Mix in stunning steel guitar from Tommy Detamore and fiddle, courtesy of Hank Singer, and the best of musicians in the business, and we have a real cracker of an album, which I could listen to on repeat all day long.
The best known song on the album features the legendary Loretta Lynn on the Kitty Wells’ classic “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. When you consider that it took a lifetime for Loretta to record a duet with her sister Crystal Gayle, this is a real big deal. And their version is the real deal. It’s just superb!
She also duets with other legendary ladies, including Jeannie Seely on “Today Is Not The Day” and Jeannie C. Riley on “The Heart He Kicks Around”.
The opening track, “Texas Dance Hall Girl” is a Heart Of Texas standard. This version of the Justin Tubb number features Jerry Naill.  Amber really sounds so at home doing the Texas swing numbers.
She joins The Whites on the bouncy “I’m Hanging Around” and Moe Bandy on “Soft Lights & Hard Country Music”.
She can also deliver traditional Country ballads, like “You Go Around”, which features Johnny Rodriguez, and the stunning “It Should Be Easier Now”, with Willie Nelson. Texas legend Johnny Bush joins in on “I’ll Warm By The Flame”, Larry Gatlin on “Take Back It’s Over”, and big fan Vince Gill rounds off the collection on “Under These Conditions”.
Vince is quoted as saying “When Amber Digby sings – people listen”. That certainly applies to me. She has a great Country voice, with some great players behind her. And that makes for one remarkable album.
You probably won’t hear a better pure COUNTRY album this year!

Calling Native Tennessean DARYL MOSLEY a singer/songwriter is only correct in the most basic sense. Daryl is a gifted songwriter and storyteller who paints vivid pictures of life as it could be, used to be, or might have been. The experiences of life, work, faith, and love that resonate so strongly in this community are the very foundation of his songwriting. Daryl writes about real, salt-of-the-earth people and their personal struggles and victories on life's journey.
Mosley's musical poetry has led to him being twice honoured as Songwriter of the Year, six #1 songs, and three Song of the Year awards. Other artists including Lynn Anderson, Bobby Osborne, Josh Williams, the Booth Brothers, and Carolina Blue are among the many who have recorded Daryl Mosley songs.
Throughout the 1990s, Mosley toured as the lead vocalist with the much-celebrated bluegrass group New Tradition. In 2001, he joined the legendary Osborne Brothers. In 2010, he formed the band, The Farm Hands, who quickly became one of the most awarded acts in bluegrass music. Yet, the common thread throughout his career has been the union of Mosley's picturesque songs and his easy vocal delivery.
In 2020, Mosley's talents step brighter into the spotlight with the release of his first solo album. “The Secret of Life” (Pinecastle Records) is an album of Daryl’s originals delivered pure and honest.
The title track is a gentle, mandolin infused, number, inspired by a local barber, who, like the whole album, is based on simple, family values. 
The opening track, “A Few Years Ago” is a lovely song looking back at mistakes made growing older and wiser.  “I’d Write You” is an interesting song. He questions how other less creative types express their love, whilst appreciating that his creative talent allows him to express his feelings and thoughts through writing.
I really liked “In A Country Town”, inspired by his own hometown of Waverly,TN, just west of Nashville, and how traditions and values are maintained. Similar themes run through “All The Way Home” and “It Never Gets Old”. 
Whilst the album, in the main, is a gentle stroll, the one track which stands out is “Do What The Good Book Says”, which has a real good time gospel feel to it. The closing track, “Heartache’s Moving On” is also quite catchy and upbeat.
There are a couple of old tracks from his “New Tradition” days, including “Hands In Wood” and “A Piece At A Time”. If they tell us anything, it’s that Daryl has been writing and playing this type of music for many years.
His solo debut album is long overdue. All original material, performed gently and effectively. A really nice listen.

Mickey Newbury is one of these guys who has quietly contributed to Country music, gaining high respect from others in the business, without too much public recognition. As a songwriter and performer, he racked up a 35 year career before his passing in 2002. His biggest hit was “American Trilogy”, later recorded by Elvis, and a staple of the Scottish Country club scene to this day. But he was much more than a one song man. Indeed, over 1500 versions of his songs have been recorded, across the musical genres from Tennessee Ernie Ford to Tom Jones and Roy Orbison to Waylon & Willie to BB King.
Now, GRETCHEN PETERS, one of today’s most respected singer songwriters pays her own homage to the legend on her new album , “The Night You Wrote That Song : The Songs Of Mickey Newbury” (Scarlet Letter Records).
The title track is one of my favourite tracks on the whole album. Originally recorded by Newbury back in 1979, it has a lovely lilting old time waltz feel to it.
Much of the music Gretchen has recorded over the past two decades has been emotional, soulful ballads, and she has captured these songs in her trademark style. “Wish I Was”, which features harmonica wizard Charlie McCoy, is a prime example of that, as is her covers of one of Newbury’s train songs “Frisco Depot” and the classic “San Francisco Mabel Joy”. Equally pleasing on the ear are “Heaven Help The Child” and “She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye”.
Her view that “Newbury was Country music’s Leonard Cohen” is echoed in the opening track “The Sailor” and “Saint Cecelia”, and takes things a generation further back with “Three Bells For Stephen”, where Gretchen tributes Newbury tributing Stephen Foster. 
“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, which was one of Kenny Rogers’ early hits is a bit more jazzy, and Gretchen keeps the smokey atmosphere that the song is famous for.
“Leavin’ Kentucky” has quite a soft rock feel to it, yet starts off with some lovely Appalachian fiddle. It’s a particularly strong delivery from Gretchen. Different to most of the album, but really works for her.
The biggest difference on the album though, has to be her rollicking upbeat version of “Why’d You Been Gone So Long”, recorded by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, The Nightdrivers, Bill Anderson and Jeannie C Riley. But Gretchen’s version, which also features Kim Richey really rocks!
Gretchen says that there was only two criteria for what songs she’d consider for the album – “Did I love it? And Did I think I could bring something of myself to it?”  I think she really has captured the second. She avoided the obvious “Trilogy”, but instead went for songs that she could really put herself into.
She recorded the songs in the same studio in Madison, TN  where Newbury recorded many of his most inspiring albums in the 60’s & 70’s. And helping along the way are folks like Will Kimbrough, Buddy Miller, Barry Walsh, Nelson Hubbard  and Wayne Moss.
It’s a fine tribute from one songwriter to another.

Raised in New York state, RUTHIE COLLINS quickly found way to Nashville. Signed to Curb Records back in 2011,  her songs straddle the line between Americana, Bluegrass, and modern Country, upheld by buoyant and agile vocals reminiscent of her musical icons, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris.
Her new album “Cold Comfort” (Curb) was released here back in April, and has been receiving some great reaction and airplay.
At home in nature, as well as in Nashville’s honky tonk bars, Collins considers the Joshua Tree National Park in California the place that holds the deepest meaning for her and her music; The first single from her new album, a song called “Joshua Tree”, was inspired by the love-story-turned-tragedy between Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. For Collins, the song feels “like a lucky charm," infused with the special energy of a place she’s returned to many times for inspiration, recharging, and peace. “This song means many things to me now. It’s not only a snapshot of a great love story that almost was, but it’s the idea that love is never truly gone, because love cannot die. No matter where you are in the world or in time, love always exists.”
It’s a gentle number which really emphasises the vulnerability in her voice, at the same time as her strengths. It’s quite a powerful number.
That’s followed by a much more mainstream sounding “Cheater”. The instrumentation is quite light, allowing Ruthie’s vocals to shine through. “Hey Little Girl” is also quite mainstream, coming over a bit more pop to my ears.
“Dang Dallas”, “Untold” and “Wish You Were Here” are soft, tender ballads. “You Cant Remember” and the closing “Beg Steal Borrow” are two of the most powerful ballads, again demonstrating Ruthie’s tender vocals.
“Bad Woman” has a bit heavier backing in parts, a bit bluesy in parts, and quite repetitive. It wasn’t one of my favourite tracks.
The album’s title track is quite a heavy ballad which work’s quite well for her.
Collins’ music features some upright bass and traditional bluegrass instrumentation in a style that’s both old-fashioned and completely modern.
Well worth checking out.

Throughout the years, as musical fads come and go, Appalachian music has remained intact with its old timey feel. THOMAS AARON GARLOW got the support of his hometown, Hickory NC, United Arts Council through an Innovative Artist Grant, to record his second album, “Waterfalls” (Windsong Management).
The title track was recorded in the old chapel at Church Of The Ascension in his hometown. It sets the tone for a lovely laid back album, of old time traditional values and memories. Some are sad, like “Only One Survived”, which relives the relatively recent (2006) Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia, followed by “Gloria”, immortalising a mountain destroyed by coal strip mining.
“There’s A Hole In His Pocket” is written and performed by the artist’s brother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
But there are some happier memories captured on the album. “REBO” is a fond memorial to his grandfather and the cabin he built for his wife Reba, whilst “Appalachian Lady” and “Wont You” are quite upbeat foot tappers.
The haunting “Cold Mountain Wind” was also recorded in the chapel, given some effective harmonies and fiddle from Molly Barrett.
And it all rounds off with “Katie’s Lullaby”, a personal little number written on the night Thomas was asked by his best friend to be godfather to his unborn baby girl. His friend played the song nightly for the baby to send her to sleep. A lovely sentiment.
This is a lovely, laid back album, where the music just gently sweeps over you.
The old time Appalachian sound remains strong to this day.

DARLIN’ BRANDO is the catchy new name used by Virginia born singer, songwriter & drummer Brandon Goldstien. He has travelled around the US, from LA, Brooklyn, Indiana and Nashville, where he found gigs at the American Legion Post 82 and The Nashville Palace, where he learned that dance ability (particularly the two-step) became one of his most important goals.
That lead to this first collection of songs for the 8 track album, “Also Too”.
The album is a throwback to the days of Gram Parsons. The musicianship, courtesy of The Streise Bar Band is superb, with Adam Kurtz adding some real magic on pedal steel. He even has his own Emmylou, in the form of his new wife, Edith Freni.  The two sing a duet together on the first song, “When You Don’t Fight” and their voices are perfectly suited.  It’s a really catchy opener to the album that really got me hooked. Edith also features on “Those old Demons”
“Therapy” is more of a driving Country beat that a dance tune, whilst “Weed & Flowers” is more a gentle ballad. “Last Call”, which features AJ Croce, is a real rockabilly belter.
“Crumbling Marraiges” is back to the Bakersfield honky tonk sound, whilst the album rounds off with the acoustic, “The Old Man And The Kid”.
As Darlin’ Brando states “I really enjoy two-stepping and wanted an album that people could two-step to and that would play well in any honky-tonk bar.”
And we really enjoyed it to.
Do check it out.

AMERICAN AQUARIUM are a Alt-Country band formed in Raleigh NC back in 2006. A lot has happened in that time, a lot of band changes, and a string of acclaimed album releases stacked up, but it wasn’t until they signed for the New West label, and the release of “Things Change” in 2018 that people outwith of America’s South East really started to notice them.
Even then the current line up of the six piece band have only been together since last year. BJ Barham has been there from the start though. They have an edgy, Country rock sound, which has been produced over the years, and has been brought to the fore by producer Shooter Jennings on their new album, “Lamentations” (New West). 
“Country music was the voice of the people. It wasn’t always the prettiest voice, but it was an honest voice,” says BJ Barham. “I think that’s where country music has lost its way.” He pauses, then adds “I operate in the dark shadows of what we don’t want to talk about in the South.”
It all kicks off with “Me & Mine”, a quiet song which looks back at a family history of troubles, a timely view on what’s went wrong in America, and the greater world.  “The Day I Learned To Lie To You” and “How Wicked Was I” are also slow ballads on the album, full of emotion, laced with a slither of steel guitar, which just adds to the emotion.
“Before The Dogwood Blooms” is a one of those “Elusive Dream” type stories, about leaving loved ones for work elsewhere, and promising to return. Along the same lines is “Six Years Come September”, about a lost love, and how that has become a lost life.
“Starts With You”, “Bright Leaf And Burley”, “The Luckier You Get” are good, catchy, upbeat number with more than a little Springsteen and Mellencamp influence.
With its steel intro, “A Better South” is the stand out Country number. And the closing number, “Long Haul” is probably the most important song for Barham, as he deals with three steadfast commitments that he stands by. It’s a real powerful number to close the album.
It may be a shade on the rocky side, but you can certainly feel the Country emotion and roots coming through. I really did enjoy the listen.

We’ve a very different album to finish off with. The NELL & JIM BAND are a Californian old time band led by Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally. “Western Sun” is their third album together, and was released ahead of a planned tour of the UK around now, which has, of course, now been cancelled.
They are actually 5 piece band featuring an array of instruments like banjo, fiddle, accordion, flute, piccolo and glockenspiel, as well as guitar, bass and percussion. It certainly makes for an interesting sound.
The opening track, “By Stars And Sunrise”, opens with a 45 second instrumental intro, which could be the theme to a film or TV show. The vocals on this track demonstrate strong harmonies. It sets the tone for the album nicely. It’s not a sound which will fit into any particular musical genre- there’s elements of folk, jazz, western swing and Country.
I wont go through all 15 tracks, but the most notable include “The Fire”, whose minute long intro is really quite solemn, but blends into a nice Country sounding song.  “Hurricane” and “Sequola Gold” both have quite an old time bluegrass/folky feel to them. “Handsome Medley” is more folky, but then “Woe Is Me” is more bluesy.
“My Beautiful Dream”, is a catchy little number, which stood out for me, as did “Travellin’the Road West”, a good upbeat bluegrass number lead vocally by Jim.
What you would expect to have been an obvious bluegrass number – Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” begins with a nearly 90 second drum intro, before Nell’s flute comes in giving it a different sound. It’s not until 2 ½ minutes into the instrumental track that the banjo comes to the fore. It’s certainly a different take on a standard old time bluegrass number.
“Poland” and “Isaac In Kolomej” are different again. With the flute as the main instrument, they’re more like Eastern European polka dance tunes.
If you’re looking for something different, Nell & Jim could be worth a listen. 

Saturday, 4 April 2020

April 2020

Young Bishopbriggs based singer songwriter KATEE KROSS has been making a name for herself over the past few years, with some notable support gigs and festival appearances.
Now comes her 4th album, “Show Your Hand”, which I think is her strongest yet. The variety of styles which Katee shows here, really is quite impressive.
With a whole album of original material, Katee has produced a 10 track offering, which will appeal to Country fans, but will find equal appeal to wider audiences too.
The title track kicks off the album. It was also the track selected as a single to promote the album. It is a particularly strong song, having quite a haunting “old west” feel to it. A really good, upbeat number to get the party started.  Do check out the video for this track.
That’s followed by “Two Outlaws”, which is much slower ballad, which really works for me.
The tempo lifts again, on “Diamonds In The Dust”, quite a catchy number.
“Dancing With My Past” is a strong ballad, which really showcases Katee’s sensitive side. It has to be one of my favourite tracks on the album.
By contrast, “Bumblebee” has a bright and breezy feel to it. It’s equally as effective, but completely different to the preceding number.
“Still The People Talk” has more of an edgy, rockier feel to it, but, again works for her. It’s a powerful song, well delivered.
“Please Stay” has quite a vintage feel to it, especially with the self harmonies, which I really liked.
“Never Meant To Be Forever” is another quite upbeat, catchy numbers, which I’m sure will get radio plays. Another of my favourite tracks.
“What Will Be” has quite a Country vibe to it, despite the instrumentation being a bit on the rocky side. It just emphasises how Katee can cover different styles, even within the same song. 
The album rounds off with “Keep On Keepin’On”, which is another of the more upbeat rockier numbers, but whether it’s upbeat or slow and sensitive, Katee Kross delivers.
She puts on a very strong performance throughout the album, covering different styles, which defy genre boundaries – if you need to label the music, let’s just say it’s “Katee Kross”.
Say No more!

DEAN OWENS has been a leading light on the Scottish & Americana scene for the past 20 years, and before that, as part of The Felsons.
“The Man From Leith (The Best Of Dean Owens)” (Eel Pie Records) has just been released, which is a great catch up on his career, if you’ve missed any of it. It features 17 self penned original tracks, scanned from seven different albums from 2001’s “The Droma Tapes” through to “Southern Wind”, released in 2018.
Dean’s appeal to me has centred around the inspiration that his homeland has played in his music. That’s evident from the biographical “Man From Leith” (about his dad) , which opens the album, through “Dora”,  ”My Town” and “Closer To Home”, to “Raining In Glasgow”, an appreciative tribute from a songwriter from Edinburgh.
But he isn’t afraid to tell of other places too, whether it be “New Mexico”, or on “Southern Wind” (one of two co-writes with Will Kimbrough, which feature on the album – the other being “The Last Song”).
Some of the stand out songs for me include “Whisky Hearts” and “Strangers Again”, which features Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart.
“Elvis Was My Brother” has always been one of my favourite tracks, and is featured here, as Dean recalls his childhood, and one of his main influences.  Johnny Cash was also an important influence, leading to his involvement in the “Cashback In Fife” Festival last month. Dean recorded “Cash Back – The Songs I Learned From Johnny” back in 2012, and features “The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin” here.
Dean has been involved in several other projects in recent years, including Buffalo Blood, Redwood Mountain, and a Hank Williams tribute, which don’t feature in this collection. But it does cover a good selection of songs from his 7 solo albums. The album is complimented by sleeve notes by author Irvine Welsh.
As well as CD and digital versions of the album, there’s also a 10 track LP version available.
This is a great catch up collection of one of Scotland’s Americana troubadours”!

BRANDON McPHEE has really established himself on the Scottish & Country music scene in recent years. The accordion champion has really came on leaps and bounds singing Country music, as well appealing to traditional Scottish dance band fans.
His latest album, “The Brandon McPhee Experience” (Pan Records) encompasses both sides of Brandon. Alongside a number of traditional ceilidh tunes (which he really does well), there is a good mix of Country songs. His latest single “I’m Gonna Find A Way” is a really catchy number, which was first recorded by an American Country band, The Remingtons, who had a handful of chart hits in the early 90’s. This wasn’t one of them, so well done to Brandon for unearthing a hidden gem and quickly making his own.
The album also includes “Walking On The Waves” the catchy Skippinish number which features Foster & Allen.
“Good Ole Boy” is one of the other highlights on the album, another that I wasn’t familiar with, and there’s also “Ties That Bind” an old Don Williams/Brook Benton song, which Brandon does his own way, and certainly not copying the previous versions.
Better recognised will be Highway 101’s “Barely Beating Broken Heart” and a couple of big ballads “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and “Hallelujah”.
A big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, Brandon has included his version of “Old Town Road”, the hit Billy Ray had last year with rapper Lil Nas X.
With the exception of “Waves”, which was recorded in Co.Westmeath, the album was recorded in Wick at Studio-D, with addition recording from Phil Anderson, steelie Steve Hinson and fiddler Aubrey Heaney in Nashville.
A superb album giving the listener the complete Brandon McPhee Experience!

From the far north of Scotland to the south of England - From down Brighton way, come a band called THE DIABLOS. They have been a lively part of the UK Country scene for the past fifteen years or so, playing original Country music. They’ve even had a song featured in a BAFTA winning movie “Beast”.
Now their fifth album has arrived, “Leaving Santa Rosa” (Wrong Guy Records) and it’s a real winner.
Although billed as Country rock, I think it’s more Country than rock, with a bit more of a tex mex feel to it.
The band’s current line up features lead vocalist Chris Nieto, Danny and Terry O’Loughlin, Adrian Marshall and Geoff Ansall.
The 13 track collection kicks off and closes with the catchy “The Ballad Of Johnny & Mary”. It opens with Part 2 and closes with a shorter Reprise. Both versions are superb. The title track has quite an Eagles feel to it, albeit, with a bit more energy on offer here.
“I Love This Band”, “Blonde Ambition” and “I Aint Too Old” are a bit more on the rocky side, “Don’t Ask Why” is perhaps a bit vintage pop, but still have a Country edge to it.  “Doing Alright” has a real old time rock’n’roll feel to it, and “Boogie Town Blues” speaks for itself.
There’s also a bit of rock’n’roll on “When I’m Gone”, which features duet vocals from Cat McKenna.
“Nature Of The Beast” is a softer ballad which stood out on an otherwise hi energy album.
“Still My Girl” is also a bit different, starting out with some sounds of Brighton’s seafront before launching into a mid tempo number, which is quite catchy.
This is a very enjoyable album – a little bit different, but not so that it wont appeal to Country fans.
I really liked it.

“Long Story Short” (Mole Lodge Records) is the new album from 77 year old Cornish born, Welsh based ANDREW HAWKEY.
As with many musicians and songwriters, Andrew has called many places home, from the metropolis of London, to the romance of Brittany, but has settled now in Powys. His involvement in music is just as varied as his movements.
Whilst working in a range of careers, from suit & tie, to agriculture, sales, catering and estate agency, he also found time to open for the then pop chart toppers Racing Cars (They Shoot Horses Don’t They- I even remember that one! ) to co-running a small recording studio where he produced everything from punk, to Welsh choirs. He also composed a body of incidental music for the launch of Welsh TV station S4C.  He’s worked with a range of blues artists, Texan Jerry DecCicca, zydeco star Cory Ledet, and Nashville singer songwriter Gail Davies.
This new album, a mainly acoustic affair, is the follow up to the acclaimed 2015 release, “What Did I Come Up Here For”.
His musical heritage is steeped in the blues, which comes over on tracks like “Jones On Me”
But there is more than enough elsewhere on the album to interest Country fans.
The opening track, “Dear Friend” is a pleasant opener, which invited me into the album.
That’s followed by the “Country-rock bar room nugget”, “Golden Heart (on A Rusty Chair)”, which is certainly the stand out track for me. Certainly David Trothon’s pedal steel added to the songs appeal.
“A Little More” is also a pleasant number, with some nice harmonies from Bel Merriman & Penny Jounert.
Most of the album is soft folksy ballads, like “The Painter” and “The Spirit” and there’s also the almost narrated “Stony Land” 6 minute epic tale.
All but two of the tracks were self penned. The exceptions include the folksy “You Knew”, and the slow “The Believer”.
It’s a nice listen. And has been a long time in the making.

Heading Stateside now, and one of my favourite duo’s at present is DARIN & BROOKE ALDRIDGE. The couple from the Appalachian areas of North Carolina have been making beautiful music together since 2005, both previously having been building separate musical careers. 
Their latest album, “Inner Journey” (Rounder) is something of a masterpiece. It’s such a beautiful album, featuring some brilliant banjo, mandolin and stunning vocals from Brooke. The songs are mainly covers, although not obvious one’s, and the duo give them a fresh original overhaul.
The exception is “Someone’s Everything”, which is one of my favourite tracks. It was written by Brooke as a meditation about preserving your home in your heart. Her mother’s inspiring words, “Always remember, you’re someone’s everything,” echo in the singer’s ears along life’s journey.
The album kicks off with “I Found Love”, a song written by Earl and Randy Scruggs and Vince Gill. It’s a superb bluegrass number fusing the traditional with a modern bluegrass sound.
“Tear Stained Letter” was written by Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, and covered Cajun style by Joel Sonnier. Now it gets a fresh bluegrass treatment, and it really works well.
“When You Love Someone” is a gorgeous ballad, which was written by Gretchen Peters and Bryan Adams. Peters also contributed “End Of A Long Hard Day”, with its echoes of Dolly’s “Wild Flowers”, is another of my favourite tracks.
“This Flower”, written by Australian Kasey Chambers, has a really neat homespun bluegrass feel to it, which I really liked. “Sweet Companion” really lets the couple’s harmonies come to the fore on a song written by Jon Randell, Jessi Alexander and Sally Barris.
Most readers will be familiar with the next two songs, Nanci Griffiths’ “Trouble In The Fields” and the much recorded “Teach Your Children”. The latter again highlight the couple’s close harmonies, as does “Everytime You Leave”, which takes us back to another legendary bluegrass duo, The Louvins.
Their international search for songs took them to Sweden for Scandinavian duo First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou”, before closing out with Doc Watson’s “Your Long Journey”.
This album takes us on quite a musical journey. Every song offers a different side to Darin & Brooke. It’s the kind of album, I’ll just keep playing over and over again.
Highly recommended .

Chapel Hill, NC based GLENN JONES comes up with an interesting collection on his third album, “Ready For The Good Times” (Good Guys Music). His early musical influence couldn’t be farther from where he is now. His older brother was playing in punk bands like The Hickoids, The Ideals and Big Foot Chester, when Glenn was only 6 years old. Not surprisingly, young Glenn followed his brother into the music scene, playing his first playing gig when he was just 13 years old and it never left him. In between times, he supported his family by earning a law degree at 40, working up from the mailroom to Senior VP/General Counsel.
But now he’s doing what he loves – music! Acoustic music, which covers everything from folk and pop across to Country and soul. This album has a gentle James Taylor/ Dan Seals feel to it- relaxing and heartfelt.
The 11 track, totally self penned, album starts with the fiddle infused “Ripples In The Pond”, a mid tempo number which really sets the scene, with some lovely harmonies.
That’s followed by the fun filled “My Baby Makes Pie”, which is a bit different. Joe McPhail’s keyboard skills really add something to this track, reminding me a bit of Mary Chapin’s “I Feel Lucky”. Really catchy.
But it’s “I’ve Got A Voice” which really won me over. I was really impressed with the female vocal by Rebecca Newton. The Goodloves add their vocals to the more bluesy “Lets Make Some Good Old Days”. “A Great New Pyriamid” also features some stunning harmony vocals from Rebecca. There’s some stunning instrumentation on this track too, worthy of note.
“Wish You Could See Me Now” is a very personal song, about fighting demons, and Glenn has fought more than his share.
“Heartland” is a particularly appealing ballad. Other ballads include “I’m Not Francesca”.
“No Fool Like An Old Fool” is a bouncy fun number, which kinda reminded me of Dr Hook in their prime.
If you need a Country justification for this album’s inclusion in these pages, then it has to be “Bury My Heart On Music Row”. There’s some lovely steel intro, and references to Nashville’s business area, and the hard task it is to make the break there. I just loved this track. The title track of the album, which closes the album, covers a lot of the same territory, the long hard struggle to make the break.
This could be album which really does it for Glenn Jones. It’s a really strong album, and one that I’m really enjoying playing.

I remember the name CLAUDIA NYGAARD from an album she released in the UK on Round Tower Records way back in 2001. That album got great reviews, and was even named one of the Top 12 Albums of the year by Country Music Round Up.
Her last album, “Let The Storm Roll In” was a No.1 record on the Cashbox Roots Country Chart, and a Top 10 on the Folk charts.
But her latest album, “Lucky Girl” (Bet The Ranch Records) will really get Claudia noticed, I’m sure of that.
Featuring 13 self written songs, she has teamed up with Neilson Hubbard on production, to bring us one outstanding album.
The title track, which opens the album, is a quirky number with rockabilly overtones, which looks back at the trials which were faced by her ancestors, compared to her own life today. The song won the Tumbleweed Music Festival Song competition, and deserved to.
By contrast, “Oklahoma” is a powerful ballad, which relates the great drives of the American west to life’s stages of grief. Claudia really delivers on this song. One of my favourite songs on the album.
A similar comparison of roadlife with personal life is found in the upbeat “Ol’ Buick”, which is really catchy.
“Me Too” also makes its mark. The title takes its name from the campaign to raise the issue of sexual exploitation within the workplace. She calls this her “Payback” song. The language is a little risqué, but I think realistic, however there is a “clean” version for radio play. 
“The Codependents National Anthem” is another song with a statement. It has a great honky tonk feel to it, and could’ve been called “It’s not your drinkin’ problem, it’s mine”, until she decides to turn it around. 
Other gutsy, upbeat numbers include “Like A Moth”, “Stitches” and “Or Not”.
“A Little Bit Embarrassed”, is a lovely ballad, which features some lovely ukulele.
Some of the other softer ballads include “The Hero”, “I Wonder” and “What I Don’t Like About You”.
There’s not much I don’t like about this album. In fact, I’m really impressed by it. I find myself listening to it a fair bit.
You should too.

STEEP CANYON RANGERS are an American bluegrass band based in Asheville North Carolina. Though formed in 2000, the band has become widely known since 2009 for collaborating with actor/banjoist Steve Martin (who they played in Glasgow with last month). In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album “Nobody Knows You” won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Altogether, they have recorded 9 solo albums plus two collaborative albums with Steve Martin.
Their latest offering, “Be Still Moses” is certainly different.  They have blended their unique bluegrass style with the classical instrumentation of The Ashville Symphony. And to add more to the mix, one of the tracks features soulful R&B trio Boys II Men !
The album kicks off in a very orchestral tone on “Easy To Love”, and continues on to a lesser extent on “Radio”. But the bluegrass kicks in, gently at first on “Be Still Moses” (the Boys II Men track) and “Call The Captain”.
The banjo and fiddles really come into their own, by the time we get to “Let Me Out Of This Town”.
“Between Midnight And The Dawn” stretches the boundaries farther, by sounding more soulful and bluesy. They do offer some wonderful harmonies on this track, it has to be said.
Toward the end of the album, they get a bit more downhome, with “Farmers & Pharoahs” and “The Mountain’s Gonna Sing”, the stand out track in my eyes.
And it’s a real rip-roaring “Orange Blossom Special” style finale with “Auden’s Train”.
A truly fascinating album. It certainly is different!

LETITIA VANSANT certainly made her mark with her debut album, “Gut It To The Studs”, which got great reviews and saw her tour the UK. And she’s back in support of her new album, “Circadian” this month.
“My last album introduced me to the world of songwriters” she says, “I gained a greater respect for the craft, but more importantly I learned a reverence for the creative force that moves through art. I stopped trying to ‘steer’ and rather tried to do greater justice to the songs that force their way out of me.”
With a few such compositions in hand, VanSant approached Nashville-based producer Neilson Hubbard whose production work struck her as lush, inviting soundscapes that never lose their intimate, down-to-earth nature and rock-solid grooves.
“I fussed a lot about making my last recordings painstakingly perfect, but this time I just wanted the songs to speak for themselves. My motto for this recording process was ‘if the groove is good, you can’t go wrong.’” 
This approach was a perfect fit for Hubbard, who encourages his artists to trust their first instincts. He assembled an all-star cast of session players including Will Kimbrough, Michael Rinne and Juan Solorzano. Hubbard sat in on drums. They holed up with engineer Dylan Alldredge at Skinny Elephant, the studio that Hubbard created out of an old garage. Harmony vocals were later added by her friends Mia Rose Lynn and long-time collaborator David McKindley-Ward. 
The 9 track album is made up of mainly deep, sensitive ballads.
The title track was inspired by light pollution, but the message, is that by keeping things simple, man of our problems could be resolved. 
“Most Of Our Dreams Don’t Come True” deals with the disappointments in life, from pregnancies, to careers.
“Tin Man”, may be a familiar title to Miranda Lambert, but it’s a completely different song. Letitia’s song here is a self written song inspired by an NPR podcast, and puts herself in the position of a lonely man, and his vulnerability. It’s certainly one of the album’s stand out tracks for me.
One of the tracks which really appealed to me was “Something Real”, a song inspired by fans mourning Jimmy La Fave at the Kerryville Folk Festival. It has a really catchy melody, which strong harmonies.
Letitia has a really nice vocal style which suits her songs here

Boston born EILEEN ROSE is a singer-songwriter who is known for her eclectic Americana music. She has released five solo studio albums and toured Europe and the US extensively with her band The Holy Wreck. She is also a member of the band The Silver Threads.
Her latest album, “Muscle Shoals” (Holy Wreckords) is released this month, and she’s also here to promote it. It is certainly an eclectic mix, recorded, in the famous studios in the Alabama town which the album is titled after.
In a throwback to the era of vinyl, there is an A side and a B side to this collection, on separate CD’s.
Side A is the “new” 9 track album, which kicks off with “She’s Gone”. Eileen’s vocals are certainly an acquired taste. Some tracks really suit her style, whilst she comes across rather strained on other tracks. This opening track falls into the latter category.
However, “He’s So Red” is more uptempo and more suited to her voice. Other upbeat songs include “Get Up”, which is quite poppy, the really fun sounding “On Shady Hill” and “A Little Too Loud”.
The tempo is slowed down on “Matte Kudasai”, which is one the tracks she didn’t write. Originally a King Crimson number, it’s a portrayal of the personification of the Japanese people who were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps during World War II. The other one she didn’t write fully is “The Auld Triangle”, although she did write an additional verse. It’s an old Irish folk number, which Eileen delivers a capella, and certainly stops the album in its tracks. 
Other slow numbers include the appealing “Am I Really So Bad” and “Hush, Shhh”.
Side B features 10 of her most beloved tracks over her 20 year recording career, re-recorded in the deep south studio.  Of the stand out tracks “Good Man” features some neat harmonica, which really caught my attention.  “Stagger Home” and “Sad Ride Home” are quite likeable ballads.
By contrast, “Walk The Jetty”, “Trying to Lose You” and “Queen Of The Fake Smile” both come over a bit rocky, yet at the same time, are quite commercial. To that end, stand out track on the package for me is “Old Time Reckoning”. This one features the fabulous Joshua Hedley on harmonies, and is really radio friendly.
I haven’t heard the original recordings to compare, but these re recorded tracks certainly sound fresh and worth checking out if you have her earlier material.

THE DANBERRYS are the husband & wife duo of Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry, who were high school sweethearts. They went their separate ways but their paths crossed at a gig in Cookeville,TN in 2006, and they were married a few months later.
Now, their third full length album, “Shine” (Singular Recordings) is out here on May 8th. The album marks a change from their previous acoustic sound to a much fuller sound ecompassing modern Country, alongside rock and blues influences. Recorded in Boston over a three day period, the album features 12 self penned songs, three of them alongside bluegrass writer Jon Weisberger.
The first single from the album, “The Mountain” which features Nashville singer songwriter Darrell Scott, is quite a bluesy number. 
The title track opens up the album. It’s quite a soft rock number, but with a distinct southern influence.
Similar numbers include “The Road” and “Maddie’s Glow”.
I really liked “Never Gone” and ”The Coal’s Glow”. Dorothy’s vocals come over as quite Country on both tracks.
“Rain”, which closes the album, is probably one of the closest tracks to their acoustic sound. It has quite a haunting folksy feel to it.
Other softer ballads include “Holding The Bag”, “The River Is Wide” and “Francis”.
All the fusions come together on “Loves Conquers War”. There’s a bit of blues, folk and Country, and it comes out sounding gospel. And it was incredibly catchy at the same time.
This is an incredibly diverse collection of material – The Danberrys are impossible to pigeon hole, but I think Country fans should enjoy their sound. Worth checking them out!

NORMA MACDONALD may be a new name to you and me, but she will release her fifth album, “Old Future” (Noyse Records)  here later this month. The Cape Breton born singer songwriter is a staple of the Halifax music scene, but, on this album, she takes the trip south, musically, through Appalachia towards Tennessee.
As the title suggests, there’s an air of nostalgia running through the album, with titles like “Golden Age” and “Some Days”. 
The album kicks off with the catchy mid tempo “Temperamental Year”, which serves as a welcoming introduction to the album. It certainly had me staying tuned for more.
“Trick of Light” inspiration is steeped in the insomniac hours of early morning , whilst on the lead single, “One Man Band”, one of the slower tracks on the album, she promises: “I’m here to tell you / Everything’s gonna be alright”. From “Wonder Of The Summer”, she conjures up images of sun-drenched beach days.
The Country influence runs through “Your Wedding Day” and “Some Days” especially. She really shines on these numbers.
As a song-writer, Norma manages to avoid cliché while still making every song feel familiar. MacDonald co-produced the album with Dale Murray; their musical kinship sounds effortless here, with no distance between MacDonald’s unmistakable vocals and Murray’s signature pedal steel and guitar chops.

Finally this time around, a charity single from Glasgow singer songwriter RAYMIE WILSON. “Gone” was inspired by Raymie’s mother in her last few months, when she was suffering from dementia. Although she played piano much of her life, she hadn’t in years, but one night, seeing Raymie working on his MacBook with a plug in keyboard, she asked if she could have a play. At that point. Raymie saw the power of music in front of his eyes.
The single is available on all the digital stores and streaming sites and at www.raymiewilson.com/music/
All royalties from the single will be donated to a Scottish dementia charity.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Feb 2020

We’ve a load of Irish Country CD’s to get through this time, which were all released in the run up to the busy Christmas period.
Leading the way was the sadly missed JOHNNY LOUGHREY, who built up a solid career between 1990 and 2005, before passing away at the young age of 59. His memory lived on when his son Shaun picked up where Johnny left off, building up his own career, but now fans can really recall Johnny’s career with the re-issue of ALL ten of his albums.
“The Johnny Loughrey Story” (Irish Music) is split into four packages, each with 3 CD’s (or in one case a DVD). As I say, this is the entire Johnny Loughrey collection, from his first album, “The Black Sheep” through to “Altogether Now”, which was recorded in the months before he died, and released after his death.
Johnny’s music stretched from Country standards like “Lonesome Number One”, “Welcome To My World”, “Long Black Veil” and “Rambling Fever”, to Irish favourites like “My County Tyrone”, “My Donegal Shore” and “Going Back To Ireland Again” – too many to mention. The Country songs greatly outnumber the Irish tracks.
One set also includes “The World Of Johnny Loughrey”, a compilation of his earlier material, all included on other discs in the collection, and another includes a DVD featuring the same tracks as the compilation, plus a few bonus tracks.
The complete package features 4 sets (which can be bought separately), 10 original CD’s, 1 compilation CD, 1 DVD, and a total of 172 tracks. Now this is what you call a box set !

Despite being Liverpool born, NATHAN CARTER is one of Ireland’s biggest stars at present, and has always included Irish material in his popular live concerts.  His latest album, “Irish Heartland” develops his love for his adopted homeland even further.
“Irish Heartland” (Sharpe Music) is summed up in the title. 18 tracks of pure Irish magic.
There are a few tracks from earlier in his career – songs which he’s released as singles, like “Temple Bar”, “Winnie O’Neill” and “On The Boat To Liverpool”, and there’s covers from other Country stars like Garth Brooks’ “Ireland”, and Nanci Griffiths’ “Trouble In The Fields”.
There’s also Pete St John’s “The Rare Old Times” and Sean O’Mears “Grace” alongside more traditional fayre like “On The Banks Of The Roses”, “The Mountains Of Mourne” and “Nancy Spain”. 
A few guests from the traditional folk scene have also added to the mix. Finbar Furey duets on “Donnybrook Fair”, “Heart Of The Home” features American celtic band Cherish The Ladies, and The High Kings join Nathan on the singer’s haunting self penned finale “May The Road Rise”, which is also his latest single.
It is a bit more of a folky album than Nathan’s fans will be used to, but I’m sure it’ll still be a huge hit. Nathan’s back in Scotland in next month with his own weekend in Glasgow, and tour dates in April.

Another of Ireland’s biggest male Country singers in recent years has been DEREK RYAN.  But Country wasn’t Derek’s first musical career. He was a member of boy band D-Side, which had three UK Top Ten hits, before embarking on a Country music career in 2010, with the release of “A Mothers Son”.
Ten years down the road, and Derek has released “The Hits” (Sharpe Music), featuring his biggest and most popular songs during the past decade. What makes Derek stand out from the pack is his knack for writing. He has written 16 of the 21 tracks on this album.
Probably his biggest song was “God’s Plan”, a gentle ballad which has been copied by many other artists.  Other ballads include “Life Is A River”, “To Waltz With My Mother Again” and “Made Of Gold”.
But Derek can also write fun, radio friendly songs too, like “Down On Your Uppers”, “Bendigo”, “Kiss Me Mary”, “Ya Cant Stay Here” and “100 Numbers”.
Of the few songs that Derek didn’t write, he really gives a good Irish feel to Canadian Dean Brody’s “It’s Friday”, and a strong delivery on Pete St John’s “Dreamers And Believers”, one of my favourite songs.
There’s a few guests who have helped Derek out along the way, like Sharon Shannon on “Hold Onto Your Heart”, Roly Daniels on “The Wrong Side Of Sober”, Lisa McHugh on “Honey,Honey”, and Cliona Hagan on his recent single, “Only Getting Started”.
Ten years of hit records, and you just know that Derek is just getting started. There’s a lot more to come from him in the years to come.

Back home, and SYDNEY DEVINE has had a long and colourful career, having started out as part of The White Heather Group in 1953. He has sold records by the millions and sold out theatres all over. And Country music has always been a main part of his music, and without a doubt, responsible for its popularity here in Scotland.
Despite well reported health problems, Sydney keeps busy. He toured Scottish theatres earlier this year, and, in between concerts, spent time in Scotty’s Sound Studios in Kilsyth recording this new album, “I’m Back”.
The title track is one that Sydney has recorded before, and has been something of a signature song for him.  Some of the other songs have also been recorded before, but these are all new recordings.
The album kicks off with Bruce Springsteen’s “Hello Sunshine”. I have to say that Sydney really handles the song really well, and the song stands out on the album.
There are Country favourites like “A Fool Such As I”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Paper Roses”, “57 Chevrolet” and “Half As Much”, alongside pop covers like “Beautiful Dreamer”, “Wedding Bells”, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”  and “Always On My Mind”.
I liked his version of “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight”, an old song that goes all the way back to The Carter Family, and the gospel classic, “In The Garden”.
“Makes Me Wonder If I Ever Said Goodbye”, an old Johnny Rodriguez song, really stood out for me. It could also sum up Sydney’s career. He’s definitely here for the long haul.  But in the meantime, in the words of the title track, he’s back and the fans know just what to expect- “bring me my usual”!

If you’ve ever caught the eclectic UK- American alt-bluegrass band, The Coal Porters, you’ll have seen the amazing talent that is Scots born NEIL BOB HERD. The Coal Porters were a formidable force on the Americana music scene for 17 years, releasing 6 highly acclaimed albums.
After the band’s demise in 2018, Neil formed a new band, The Dirty Little Acoustic Band, as a vehicle for continuing his writing and performing career. And now the recorded result is “Every Soul A Story” (Cattlecall Music) which is released on Vinyl LP & CD on Valentines Day.
For a guy who has lived for many years down in Kent, he has never lost his Scottish twang, which really comes over on this album.  Neil says the album is an extension of the Coal Porters, but with a bit more electric sound and a bit more rockabilly influenced.
It’s certainly a sound that defies any categorisation. But there’s enough Country/Bluegrass influence to interest readers.
The 10 track album, which was recorded in Folkestone, kicks off with a the catchy “Badlands”, which mixes a pop beat with rockabilly rhythms, followed by “As Much As I Need To”, which had a distinct Country feel, again with a rockabilly beat.
Andrew Stafford’s  double bass keeps the rockabilly flavour going on the catchy “Book Inside Them”, which also features fellow ex Coal Porter Gemma White on fiddle. I really liked this track. 
“Leave Only Love (Old Dog)” has bluegrass echoes of his Coal Porters days, but with his Caledonian vocal style shining through, making for a really nice listen.
“The Colour Of Spring” has quite a folksy feel to it, and features some lovely accordion, courtesy of Lucy Edwards, who some may recall as one of The Well Oiled Sisters, an Scottish Alt-Country band of years gone by. This track really stood out for me. 
I also liked the soft ballad, ”Coming Back As Jason”, with some really nice steel licks.
To close the album, “Best Song” isn’t! (in my opinion). It’s just too pop/rock, but, I had enjoyed the album immensely by then.
Well worth checking out this exiled Scotsman.

Next we have a new girl singer to introduce you to. KAILEY NICOLE was Vegas-born and California-raised, but now calls Nashville home, close to the family’s southern roots, which inspire her music.
She got her professional start singing and acting in theatre when she was just nine years old. She’s worked in film, TV, voice-over, and commercials, which has helped set the stage for her recording career. She made her first mark on the music scene in 2015 when she was just 16 years old, with her first EP, “Nashville Stick-up”. Now she’s back with a bold new self titled EP. With this new record, Kailey Nicole has found her harmonious sweet spot –the place where old and new meet.
The opening track, “Brand New Day” is a great introduction to her music. The song was originally a demo for Kenny Chesney. It has a haunting feel to it, yet quirky and upbeat, which really works for the 21 year old. I can’t quite hear Chesney singing it, I have to say. It’s much more suited to Kailey Nicole.
“Diamonds and Coal” is a real uptempo number filled with such energy. It was written after a breakup and leaves you with the sense that Kailey isn’t going to let anything get her down.
Slowing the tempo, “Save Me For A Rainy Day” is a song that Nicole said, “just fell out of me” and was inspired by Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight”. It proves that she can deliver a strong ballad as well as upbeat numbers.
“Country Love Song” starts off softly, but develops into a modern radio friendly upbeat number, which has “hit” written all over it. It was one of the first songs she wrote, when she was just 15.  “Tennessee” was, apparently, also going to be a heartfelt ballad, but somehow ended up being another break speed, fast, driving number. 
“Change My Way” is a bit different to the other tracks. Still a good song, but has more of a pop/retro feel to it. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but it works to showcase another area of Kailey’s talent.

THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS are a bluegrass band from North Carolina, who were happy gigging around their home state, until they teamed up with actor, comedian and banjo player Steve Martin, on his album “Rare Bird Alert” in 2012. The following year, their own solo album won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. Indeed they now have 10 albums to their credit.
For their new album, they’ve went back to their native state for “North Carolina Songbook” (Yep Roc), not only for the its live recording at Merlefest, but for the content, which all honours fellow North Carolinian musicians.
And they cover the whole musical spectrum, from Ben E King’s “Stand By Me”, which opens the set, through blues singer Elizabeth Cotton’s “Shake Sugatree” and jazz pianist Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk”, to James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”.
Of course bluegrass music is one of the state’s biggest genres, and no surprise to see Earl Scruggs & Charlie Poole recognised on the rip roaring “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” and Doc Watson’s “Your Love Journey”, not to mention banjo picker Ola Belle Reed’s “I’ve Endured”.
Although they cover several genres, all the songs are given the Steep Canyon Rangers treatment. In no way have they tried to copy them.
As a result, we have a superb high energy bluegrass album, which perfectly honours their own home state.
One North Carolinians will be proud of.

THUNDER AND RAIN are a four piece acoustic/bluegrass band from deep in the American Rockies.
Erinn Peet Lukes is the main vocalist and songwriter, supported by Ian Haegele, Dylan McCarthy and Allen Cooke, on bass, mandolin and dobro, respectively. Additional musicians include Chris Herst on dobro, Natalie Pedilla on fiddle and Aaron Youngberg on banjo. You already get a feel for the instrumentation that excels on this beautiful album.
“Passing In The Night” is their third album, featuring 10 tracks recorded in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“Two Ships” is a rip roaring number which really gets the album off to a superb start. Other upbeat numbers include “Run With You”, “Make It Better” and the folksy “Nobody’s Darlin”.
“Walk Right Through The Door Of My Heart” is a really pleasant, easy on the ear, mid tempo, modern bluegrass number, which really appealed to me. “10 Hour Flight” is another ballad, on which Erinn’s vocals really sounded like she flying through the air. Other ballads include “Uncharted Farewell”.
“House Of Light” and “Falling Down A Rabbit Hole” are perhaps a bit more contemporary, but still worked well.
This is a really nice album. I love the simple acoustic arrangements, and Erinn’s lovely vocals.
It certainly worked for me.

Another simply acoustic, bluegrass and old timey offering comes from THE PINE HEARTS, a trio of musicians from Washington State. The band is made up of Joey Capoccia on acoustic guitar, Derek McSwain on mandolin and Dean Shakked on upright bass.
Their fourth album since forming in the early 2010’s, “Back To Sustain” has just been released here.
It was recorded “live” in a community hall in the outskirts of Olympia, using an old Tascam 4 track cassette tape machine. The quality is superb.
The collection kicks off with the title track, a slow, story song, which was a slow burning introduction, but the tempo completely livens up with the catchy traditional “Stealin”, one of the few songs not written by Joey.
Other covers, include Tom Petty’s “Orphan Of The Storm”, which gets a particularly bluegrass makeover, thanks to the mandolin being so prominent. There’s also “Good Luck By The Sea”, from the pen of Scott Nolan, a quirky, upbeat fun number, and Lob Strilla’s “Standing In The Corners”, which has an old west feel, whilst still sounding like it’s rooted in Appalachia.
The rest of the songs are originals.
“Be You On The Bayou” is notable for it’s lengthy intro. “Alright Fine” is one of the slower numbers on the album, whilst “Living With Depression” really demonstrates the trio’s neat harmonies. 
“The Heartache Or The Whiskey” has a particular catchy Country feel to it.
The album rounds off with “All Night Long”, which is how long I could listen to this album for. It’s a bit different for sure, but a good listen, if you enjoy bluegrass and old time sounds.

And finally for this month, a brand new single from THE HAYLEYS, who recently marked their 30th Anniversary in the business.
“Lotty's Song” is a beautiful, yet powerful song, designed as a message of hope, for people of all ages, who have, or are going through mental health issues. The song came to Becky, from the beautiful daughter, of a very close friend of the group. The Hayley’s are well known for their beautiful voices, and their ability to deliver such stunning songs. This is up there with their best.
There is also a video, filmed, directed, & produced by James Varley. Just search for “Lotty’s Song” on YouTube, and the song itself, is available from your usual download or streaming site.
The group are using the song to raise funds for the phenomenal charity, MIND, who do so much for people, including raising awareness of the once taboo subject. To donate any amount, no matter how large or small, please visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/donate.
The Hayleys are back in Scotland next month at the new Johny B Events in Methil (March 27th) and also at Lee Blackstone’s Easter Jamboree in Prestwick on April 10th.

COUNTRY MUSIC  By Ken Burns (PBS DVD Box Set)
One of the biggest events in Country music in the past year has been the completion of a 16 hour documentary on the history of our music. “Country Music”, directed by acclaimed documentary maker Ken Burns, traces Country music back to the early days, and brings in all the different influences, which have blended together to make Country music what it is today.
Country Music explores questions –– such as “What is country music?” and “Where did it come from”?, whilst focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created and shaped it — from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more — as well as the times in which they lived. Much like the music itself, the film tells unforgettable stories of hardships and joys shared by everyday people.
No one has told the story this way before.
The series was first shown on PBS stations across America in September, and an 8 hour edited version was shown on BBC 4 on Friday nights in the run up to Christmas. The full series is now released on a DVD box set.

The series begins with a few notables, like Dolly, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Carlene Carter and Garth Brooks putting in their views on just “What Is Country Music “? The first face on screen is Kathy Mattea, whose first job in Nashville was as a tour guide at the old Country Music Hall Of Fame. Kathy recalled a painting on display there, called “The Sources Of Country Music”, which was a perfect introduction to what is covered in the next 16 hours of video.
The first artist under the spotlight was Fiddlin’ John Carson, from Georgia. The first episode also covered the travelling minstrel shows, the birth of radio, including WSM and The Grand Ole Opry, as well as The Bristol Sessions, which is often regarded as the birth of Country music. It certainly launched the careers of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.   
Episode 2 covers the great depression and the war years, between 1933 and 1945. Record sales were greatly affected during this time. But radio was booming. The WLS Barn Dance in Chicago was where Gene Autry found his feet, and a whole era of singing cowboys were born out of Gene’s success. There’s some interesting footage of when Gene bought his horse Champion on tour to London & Dublin.
Unregulated by US authorities, XERA, a powerhouse radio station across the border, in Del Rio, Mexico began playing Country music, and was heard coast to coast.
Pee Wee King was making his mark on the Opry, as was Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and Minnie Pearl, whilst Bob Wills was making a different sort of music in Texas, called Western Swing, before Bob and several band members went off to war, although Bob was back playing his music before the war ended.
The post war era is covered in Episode 3, which talks of the development of honky tonk music, a more electric hybrid between acoustic music, deemed too quiet for the rowdy bars, and the western swing bands, which were too big for the bars. This was also the era of Hank Williams short life, leading up to his death in 1953.
This episode also covers Ernest Tubb, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, Bill Monroe, Chet Atkins, Webb Pierce (and his guitar shaped swimming pool) , Hank Thompson, Kitty Wells, and Eddy Arnold, whose smooth sound, at the time was different to all the other emerging stars. Eddy’s place in Country music history is defined by his No1 records in 1948, when 5 of the chart toppers that year were by Arnold. In fact these 5 hits kept him at No.1 continuously for 53 weeks.
Episode 4 takes us into the 50’s and early 60’s, where the Sun Studios in Memphis created new sounds, and the first signs that Country music was expanding its horizons. This episode covers Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins as well the rise of Patsy Cline & Loretta Lynn. The new smooth Nashville sound is touched on, giving Jim Reeves only a fleeting mention on the way. In contrast, Ray Charles recording his Country album, including “I Cant Stop Loving You” is given quite a bit of airtime. This episode also covers the air crash which took the lives of Patsy Cline, fellow singers Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and pilot Randy Hughes. Grand Ole Opry legend Jean Shephard, who was married to Hawkshaw Hawkins, recalls the events (although this was edited out of the BBC version).
There’s a lot more about Johnny Cash in Episode 5, alongside Roger Miller, Roy Acuff, Buck Owens, Connie Smith and Charley Pryde. It covers the mid sixties period when Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard were on the rise. 
In Episode 6, the times the were- a-changing. America was in the thick of the Vietnam war, which was dividing the nation down the middle. There were those protesting against the war, whilst others protested against the protesters. Country music stars often found themselves in the crossfire. Stars like Merle Haggard, whose “Okie From Muskogee” became a huge hit, was interpreted in different ways by different folks. We hear how Jan Howard lost one son in Vietnam, and another at home who couldn’t cope with the grief, and her feelings towards the protest movement.
This episode also discusses the influence of Bob Dylan and The Byrds recording in Nashville, and Willie Nelson, who nobody in Nashville knew what do with him, and Kris Kristofferson.
There’s also the changing sound of bluegrass, and the arrival of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to record the original “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” album, with an array of established Country & Bluegrass musicians. Interesting to see that Opry star Roy Acuff snubbed the project, but turned up on the final day of the recordings, and was totally won over, and joined in with the session.
Episode 7 brings us into 70’s and 80’s, and to where most of us will be able to associate fully with the music. It features Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Dolly & Porter, Conway & Loretta, Texas songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zante, Mexican influenced singers like Johnny Rodriguez and Freddie Fender, The Outlaws, Waylon & Willie, and Gram Parsons & Emmylou.
Much is made of the Grand Ole Opry moving from The Ryman, to Opryland, and to the furore when Dame Olivia Newton John was awarded the CMA’s Female Vocalist of The Year Award in 1974. “It shocked me”, claimed Jean Shepard, “It was like the music is getting away from us. We were losing our identity!” How times have changed!
There’s also the story of Vince Gill, back in Oklahoma, playing in a bluegrass band, called Mountain Smoke, who got to open a gig for rock band KISS, which wasn’t  the ideal career break.
The final episode covers the period between 1984 & 1996. It starts with Country music on a downward spiral, Sales were down, radio stations were synchronising playlists, and Johnny Cash had been dropped from the label.
But the video age was about to beckon. Country TV networks TNN & CMT were launched, as well as the careers of the likes of George Strait, Randy Travis, Reba and Dwight Yoakam.
There was also openings for newer “fringe” artists like Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle. Kathy Mattea was also included in this group. They covered The Bluebird Café, and the beautiful song “Where’ve You Been”, written by Kathy’s husband Jon Vezner. Again the BBC edited this section out, but managed to keep the Bluebird’s link with Garth Brooks later on.
That’s followed by Vince Gill, explaining how he started out in a bluegrass band with Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley. Whitley died in 1989, which inspired Vince to write his classic, “Go Rest High On That Mountain”. Vince hadn’t finished the song, but resurrected it after he lost his own brother 4 years later.
It’s a fascinating archive, not only of Country music, but as American life, as a whole. The race divide over the years has been dealt with sensitively and more importantly, sensibility.  As I’ve said, the edited BBC version cut some highlights out in my mind, but the editing was well done.
There are a few omissions from the whole series. Jim Reeves made a bigger contribution to the music than the brief mention he gets. His death, in similar circumstances to Patsy Cline’s has been totally ignored.  In Garth Brooks early career he is described as “singing more Alabama, than Alabama”! The group are not recognised any further than that. And Alan Jackson is totally amiss.
On the other hand, Johnny Cash is covered in so much depth, across several episodes, that it got quite tiring. Yes, Johnny and June, and the Carters have been such an important and influential  part of our music’s heritage,  but there was a bit of overkill here.
But, all in all, a superb journal of Country Music- and 16 hours of homework which everyone needs to watch before calling themselves a Country music fan!


Friday, 29 November 2019

Dec 2019

We’ll start off our reviews this time around with a few Scots born singer songwriters.
ISLA GRANT is one of Scotland’s most successful Country music writers, with her songs like “Cottage In The Country”, “It’s a Dream Come True” and “Will You Walk With Me” being recorded by many other artists around the world.
Her latest album “Dream Of Me” includes four of her own songs, alongside an interesting selection of covers, from Grand Ole Opry legend Jeannie Seely’s “Leaving And Saying Goodbye”, to bluegrass duo The Osborne Brothers’ “Windy City” , Woody Guthrie’s “When The Roses Bloom Again” and Springsteen’s “Tougher Than The Rest”. On each of the covers, Isla has given the songs her own unique style.
The title track was a hit for Vern Gosdin, although it’s the Alison Krauss version which inspired Isla’s version here. “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”, a gospel song, written back in 1950 by Ira Stanphil, is another which Alison Krauss has also recorded. Another gospel number, “Climb Higher” closes the album, a song which Gene Watson fans will recognise.
Two of Isla’s own songs on the album, are re-recordings, simply as the originals are on old albums which are no longer available, but fans keep asking for them. In both cases, “Single Yellow Rose” and “Keeper Of my Heart” are given new slower arrangements.
Other original songs include the really catchy “Completely Over You” and “No One Knows”.
It’s a lovely easy listening album, which I really enjoyed.
Isla has built up a huge fan base over the years, and this album can only enhance her popularity. Look out also for a Live DVD of her “Opry Le Daniel” TV show, which was shown recently on BBC Alba.

Glasgow singer songwriter ELAINE LENNON will release one of the most eagerly awaited albums on the Scottish music scene during her concert at Celtic Connections on January 24th 2020.
Since her first live appearance last December, Elaine started 2019 winning the prestigious Danny Kyle Award, appeared at both The Millport Country Music Festival and the Glasgow Americana Festival, and has been named as the Nashville Songwriters Association International 2019 “One To Watch”.
Her self titled debut album (Little Sailor Records), recorded at Chem19 Studios in Blantyre, features 10 self written songs and one Country standard.  It would be a stretch of the imagination to label this as a Country album, but given that Millport and the NSAI have embraced her, then its only right we feature her in these pages too.
Several of the songs are quite bluesy/jazzy numbers, most notably, the lead single “Trouble”, “This” and “In Songs We Live On”. It’s a style which suits her voice on these songs.
But then again, on other tracks, I hear similarities with the likes of established Country singer songwriters such as Beth Neilsen Chapman and Lori McKenna.
The album kicks off with “Next Friday Night”, which has really grown on me over a few listens. Elaine plays piano, which features heavily throughout the album. The simplicity of the arrangement, highlights the piano, alongside her stunning vocals on this track. Similar ballads include the stunning “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Alone Here With You” and “By Your Side”.
She does lift the tempo on “Little Bird, Little Sailor”. Again a little bluesy, it kinda reminds me of the likes of Bobbie Gentry or Joan Baez. But it shows that Elaine isn’t restricted to piano led ballads.
The one song that Elaine didn’t write, is a cover of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You”. But it’s a song that she could’ve written. Stripped right down to the piano, and a subtle whiff of steel way off in the background, Elaine delivers a stunning slowed down version of the song. I have to say that having heard the song hundreds of times, I found myself hooked on every word Elaine delivered in this version, more so than I ever did with Patsy!
For a debut album, this is a stunning collection of material, and will establish Elaine as a real force on the Scottish music scene in 2020.

SANDY McLELLAND is an exiled Glaswegian, living these days in the big smoke of London, and beyond.
Throughout a long and respected music career Sandy has contributed to the artistic achievements of numerous artists and projects all over the world. His early days saw him work with the humblest of new pop artists such as Neneh Cherry and Bros, through to established international stars like Paul McCartney & Tears For Fears. He is a 3 times Grammy nominee and has won awards around the world.
His new album, “Cross the Line” brings him to the attention of Country & Americana audiences. 
There are vibrant and optimistic themes in songs like the celtic influenced, “We Always Will”, and charming, upbeat offerings, like ”I Believe in You”. 
The album kicks off with the title track, a mid tempo number, which has a smouldering vocal, which instantly conjours up comparisons to The Eagles sound.
“Already Gone” is a good upbeat number, as is “I’ve Ever Known”, the track released as a single to radio.  “All In The Name Of Love” was a bit rocky for my ears, but Sandy made it work for him.
Some of the slower numbers include “Before The Sun Goes Down”, “Before It’s Now” and “Reason To Believe”, which I really liked. 
“River Of Tears” has quite a haunting tribal feel to it, which suits the song perfectly.
“Poor Excuse”, which features vocals by Dee Jay did make its mark on me.
Stand out track has to be the very personal “My Home Town”, and fellow Glaswegians should check out Sandy’s video for the song, and try to work out his route as he drives around the city.
The album was entirely written, performed and produced by Sandy, in his own studio, with the help of a few friends. 
‘Cross the Line’ is unashamedly rooted in the American country, blues, folk and soul music he absorbed in his early days in Glasgow. It’s an album which certainly crosses genres, and should appeal to rock & pop fans alongside Country & Americana.

Moving across the North Channel, CHRIS NAPIER is a Country singer from Banbridge in Northern Ireland, whose music is totally traditional Country. He has spent 18 years working on the Irish scene with the likes of Philomena Begley, Stephen Smyth and Gerry Guthrie.
“Take The Smile From Your Face” is his third album, and features a good mix of stone Country covers from the likes of Mark Chesnutt (Old Country) , Travis Tritt (The Restless Kind) and Waylon (Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys).
The title song is a killer Country ballad from one of the most under rated Country singers ever- Scott McQuaig, who was around for a while back in the late 80’s. A great untapped singer, and great to hear his music being brought back to the fore.
There’s also Bryan White’s “Eugene You Genius”, Dolly’s “Gypsy Joe And Me” and Vince Gill’s “We Wont Dance”.
The 13 track album kicks off with “Billy The Kid”, a hit for Billy Dean, back in the 90’s.
Some of the songs are not so well known - “Maybe He Could Miss Her More” is a killer George Jones/ Gene Watson type song, “Lovin’ On Back Streets”, goes back to Mel Street, and there’s Lefty Frizzell’s “She Found The Key”.
The stand out tracks for me, is JD Crowe’s “Tennessee Blues”, but, the song choice throughout the really impressed me. This isn’t just an album of songs, people will know- it’s an album of forgotten treasures, which Chris has rediscovered. He has a great voice, which thrives on the traditional Country songs.
He produced the album in his own studio, played most of the instruments, (his dad helped out on steel, and some college friends provided fiddle).
If you appreciate real Country music, this is one album that you must get your hands on.

An Irishman who needs no introduction is DANIEL O’DONNELL, who, once again, releases a new CD package just in time for the Christmas market. This will enhance his amazing run of being the only artist to chart a new album on the UK album chart every year for the past 33 years, amassing more than 4 million sales, And whatever you think of Daniel, there’s no denying that he gives real value for money. His new release “Halfway To Paradise” (Demon) is a 3CD package, with no less than 60 tracks. If you prefer, there’s an LP Vinyl version with 16 tracks.
Daniel’s music has never been restricted to any particular genre. He has, of course, been most recognised in the Irish Country field, but has also done, Gospel, Irish folk, and rock’n’roll.
This is album features music from his rock’n’roll trilogy of albums released in the 2000’s, which already sold 650,000 units.
I personally wouldn’t consider many of the songs to be rock’n’roll, but certainly nostalgic 50’s & 60’s hits, ranging from Elvis, Buddy, The Everly’s, Ricky Nelson and Cliff Richard covers to “Beautiful Sunday”, “I’m A Believer” , “Secret Love” and “All My Loving”.
There’s also a previously unreleased 9 track live section, featuring medleys of Beatles, Cliff and Elvis songs, as well as three tracks from his long time touring partner Mary Duff.
This collection isn’t his most Country, but that wont matter to Daniel’s army of fans. They’re all songs that everybody knows. Daniel knows his audience, and he knows this will be another huge seller.  On it’s first week on release, it charted at No.2 in the Scottish Album charts. 

ROBERT MIZZELL is another of Ireland’s most popular acts over the past 20 years, having arrived on the Emerald Isle from his native Louisiana. He has the unique talent of performing traditional Country music on the Irish dance scene, as well the concert circuit.
His latest album, “Postcard From Paris” (Sharpe Music) features a dozen songs, quite a few of which have been played on radio as singles over the past year.
“Mama Knows”, “The Farmer” and “Livin The Life” are all good upbeat radio friendly numbers that fans will have been waiting on getting hold of, on an album. “Hey Ho” and “She’s My Baby” are also catchy upbeat numbers.
His soft, sensitive side comes through on “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”, a song to help loved ones through the most personal challenges.
There’s Classic American Country, with a “Gambler Medley” featuring 3 Kenny Rogers hits in one, and “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”, and The Possum’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
The title track, a ballad, which closes the album, is a real international affair. Written by Jay Lee Webb (brother of Loretta & Crystal), “Postcard From Paris” is one of three tracks which feature the 30 piece Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, recorded in Sofia.
Robert has build up a strong fan base over the years. This album can only enhance his standing on the Irish Country scene.

DAVE SHERIFF has been part of the British Country scene since the 70’s, when he paid his dues as a session player for Pete Sayers and Kelvin Henderson. He has seen fads come and go, and has developed his style accordingly, maintaining his place at the top of the scene.
For his latest album, Dave has picked 30 of his most popular songs over the years, and put them together on “Drive Time”, available on a USB stick, so you can take him with you wherever you are, whether on the computer or in the car. It’ll even fit into many of the most modern TV systems.
Included are some of Dave’s best loved numbers like “Best Of Friends”, “Couldn’t Find The Words To Say Goodbye”, “Waltz Of A Lifetime”, “We’ve Got Memories” and “Don’t Be A Stranger”.
There are line dance favourites, like “Red Hot Salsa”, “Oasis”   and party numbers like “We’re Off On A Holiday”, “It’s Time For A Party” and “Will Ya Dance”.
You’ll find a few Irish numbers like “Down To Killarney” and “A Song For All Ireland”, and even his Scottish road song, “Highway Number Nine” gets a reprise.
With music available in so many formats these days, it’ll be interesting to see if releasing it on USB appeals to the music buying public. Dave certainly knows how to adapt his music to suit the trends of the day, so this could be the first of many!

KELLY STEWARD is a Midwestern American singer songwriter from Rockford, Illinois. Her bio states that she is “reminiscent of mid 70's female singer-songwriters like Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez and Linda Ronstadt with a Laurel Canyon via Midwest Americana feel”.
After a couple of EP’s, Kelly now releases her first full album, “Tales And Tributes Of The Deserving And Not So” (Glass Wing Records).
The opening track, “Golden Sun”, was inspired by her return to Illinios, from a time in LA, travelling back east to a better tomorrow. “Mississippi Risin’” touches on the divide in America today, whilst “Outlaw” is quite a bluesy story about a Honky Tonk scuffle, an accidental shooting and a fugitive on the run.
“Generation” is the track which really got me hooked. Probably Dan Pitney’s steel intro helped, but I really liked Kelly’s vocals on this track, as she personally views her own battles in the music industry, as she cries for the days when the song and the message mattered more than the monetary take.
“Heartbreak Heart” kept me interested. With a bit of a driving beat, she really recreated a bit of a retro Ronstadt sound on this one.
“Restless Kind” started off quite bluesy, but evolved into a bright & breezy Country sound. She really has quite a different sound of this one, and I have to say, sounding more of a southerner than from Chicago. The album closes with the upbeat “No Time For Loving You”.
This album has really grown on me. Give it a listen.

Singer songwriter KEVIN BROWN makes his home in rural Northeastern Washington state, not too far from the farms where his two sets of great-grandparents settled a century ago. The rich natural surroundings serve as a metaphor for exploring the landscapes of the heart and soul -- faith, family, love, the passage of time, and the interwoven fabric of earth and humanity.
In addition to his songwriting, Kevin is well-known in the Inland Northwest as the host of the popular radio program Front Porch Bluegrass heard weekly since 2002 on Spokane Public Radio, and as mandolin player in the popular and long-running Rhythm & Bluegrass band Big Red Barn.
His latest album, his fourth to date, is titled “Heroes And Sparrows” (Turkey King Music) and was recorded over a weekend in Idaho. It would be hard to pigeon-hole Kevin’s music, but there is certainly the influence of his rural surroundings running through the album.
The album kicks off with the pleasant, easy listening number, “The Distant Lights Of Nowhere”, which sets the tone for the album.
“Chattaroy” is quite a catchy number, which tells of a farmers dreams of live on the ocean.
 “Owls” is a beautiful ballad which features the harmonies of Natalie Padilla, who also plays fiddle and clawhammer banjo throughout the album. Other softer ballads include “The Stone Walls Of Ireland”, inspired, as you’d expect, by a walk on the Emerald Isle, and “The Moon Might Make A Mess Of Me Tonight”.
Kevin’s fingerpicking style comes to fore on tracks like “Paper Flowers” and the closing track, “For Goodness Sake”.
“When I Go Out At Night”, is a catchy bluegrassy song, which stood out for me on the album.
There’s also a slow waltz instrumental on “The Lillies And The Sparrows”.
It’s a nice, gentle listen, with some really nice bluegrass instrumentation, and good songs, which deserve a listen.

SI KAHN is something of an American musical institution. He came along at the back end of the folk revival era, and has been an activist on civil rights and environmental issues, whilst recording a string of albums over the past 45 years. He has also toured and recorded music on the European continent.
This year also mark’s Si’s 75th birthday, and to mark the occasion, Strictly Country Records in Holland have released a 5CD Box set called “Si Kahn at 75 : The Europe Sessions”.  They’ve also released “Best Of The Rest”, a 20 track collection of Si’s personal picks from the box set.
Although his music is widely acclaimed in American folk music circles, his style stretches across into Country and Bluegrass too. Indeed, Kathy Mattea and Rosanne Cash contribute to the album’s sleevenotes.
All styles are covered in this album.
It kicks off in bluegrass style with “Down On The Merrimack River”, a catchy number which tells of immigrants and slaves chasing work across the country, a theme also covered in “Sailing To Alaska”.
“Rock Me, Roll Me” is one of the straightest Country songs on the album, aided by German bluegrass band The Looping Brothers. The band also help out on a few other tracks, including “To Hear Doc Watson Play”. He also enrols a Dutch duo, Ygdrassil, on the sensitive “I Have Seen Freedom”, which reviews 50 years working in the Civil Rights Movement, and Liz Meyer on “The Gap”. 
British influence comes in the form of “Wigan Pier”, inspired by George Orwell’s book on British Coal Mines.
There are soft mainstream ballads, like “My Old Times”, and “When The Morning Breaks”
There’s even some humour in a monologue called “The Senator”, where he poses the question, what if a male politician had gotten pregnant? Quite amusing!
Si Kahn is one of these guys who has contributed so much to music on both sides of the Atlantic, yet, perhaps hasn’t achieved the mainstream recognition he deserves. It’s never too late.

THE GOSSAMER STRINGS are an old timey bluegrass flavoured folk duo from Eugene, Oregon, who neatly mix their homage to the past whilst bringing a crisp, and modern sound, making the material, very much their own.
Kyle McGonegle and Liat Lis blend their harmonies beautifully on their second album, “Due To The Darkness”, with Liat playing banjo and Kyle on guitar & mandolin. The result is a pleasant easy listening old timey bluegrass back porch sound, which I really quite liked.
The album features 8 self penned originals, and three traditionals, “Going To The West”, “Sandy Boys” and “Train On The Island”, which closes off the album. Like the other tracks, it features superb harmonies and some fabulous banjo picking.
Before all that, it’s a gentle, slow start to the album, with Liat leading the vocals on the lovely “She Cant Hear Her Heart”. The title track is a bit more uptempo, written about the Badlands of South Dakota. “Following Through” is a bit of a waltz, whilst “No Fire” is, again , more upbeat.
“Try Your Hand” starts off a bit slower, with a long intro before picking up the tempo, which ties in neatly with the song about the reluctance to try new relationships. Harmonies are definitely to the fore in “Everything Breaks”, especially starting off a cappella.
There’s also the instrumental, “Big Sky”, which shows off their musicianship skills once again.
A really nice listen.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Oct 2019

It’s VINCE GILL month, with two albums to review in this edition.
The legendary singer, songwriter and guitar player is one of Country music’s most esteemed entertainers :  respected for his modesty, admired for his talent. One night he can be heard jamming with The Time Jumpers at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsay Bar on a weeknight. Next stop, he’s touring around the world’s biggest stages with The Eagles.
“Okie” is his new release. It’s an album which is really close to home for Vince, an “Okie”, himself, having been born in Norman, some 20 miles from Oklahoma City.
Some of Vince’s best music has come from ballads, and this album is full of them.
He starts with “I Don’t Wanna Ride The Rails No More”, a lovely ballad about changing perspectives on life. Change features on several tracks, including “The Price Of Regret” and “What Choice Will You Make”.
"Forever Changed." Is about abuse, and he nearly didn't record it. But many years ago when he performed it live, a band member who heard it ran off the stage in tears, and told him that it was her story. She asked, "How did you know?" And he didn't, but he knows people aren't always kind or fair-minded, or right or true.
“That Old Man Of Mine” is a bit different from the rest of the album. The subject matter diverts Vince from his down home modest real life, to the story of an abusive father, and doing time for serving due justice.
Vince’s modesty comes to the fore on “An Honest Man”, with its line “Let Them Cowboys Be The Heroes, I’ll Just Be an Honest Man”. With some lovely steel guitar from Paul Franklin, it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.
“The Red Words” is something of a spiritual religious number, which really strikes a chord.
Vince holds family close. He's sung about his father in "The Key To Life." He's sung about his brother in "Go Rest High On That Mountain". He’s sung about daughter Jenny (“Jenny Dreamed Of Trains”), and on this album, has “When My Amy Prays”, and “A Letter To My Mama”, the later co-written with Dean Dillon.
But the stand out tracks are Vince’s tributes to a couple of musical heroes. “Nothin’ Like a Guy Clark Song” speaks for itself, whilst the guy who put “Okie’s” on the map, is honoured on the instantly appealing “A World Without Haggard”. “Black & White” also honours Guy & Merle.
Some of Vince’s biggest hits have been killer ballads. This album really takes up where they left off. There’s some great songs on here, that I wont stop listening to for a long long time.
A stunning album.

From brand new Vince, Humphead take us back to the start of his Nashville career in 1984, with the release of “Oklahoma Borderline”, a 2 CD set, featuring 35 tracks.
At that time, his label RCA, were trying to make him a pop star. I recall him popping “secretly” into the press room at the Wembley Festival. The label flew him in to get him on Radio 1, they didn’t want him doing the Country Festival.
Some of the songs during that time, all featured here, included the upbeat “Victim Of Life’s Circumstances”, “Turn Me Loose”, “Lucy Dee” and “Everybody’s Sweetheart” which were more rockabilly than Country.
But Vince showed just how he could deliver a killer ballad, even back then. I fondly remember “Half A Chance”, which I still play regularly, “The Radio”, “I’ve Been Hearing Things About You” and “If It Weren’t For Him”, which was a duet with Rosanne Cash. How beautifully their voices blended together- why haven’t they done more together over the years?
I had forgotten about “Til The Best Comes Along” – superb Country, with some great steel guitar from Jaydee Maness, and “Oh Carolina”, with lovely harmonies from Emmylou Harris.
Vince’s career never really took off until he moved over to MCA in 1989, but as this collection shows, he did some wonderful stuff in his early career, which shouldn’t be forgotten.
He recorded 3 albums for RCA, and for this collection, there’s a bonus of several tracks, where Vince has added harmonies, on other people’s records.  Included is Pam Tillis’ “It Isn’t Just Raining”, Tammy Wynette’s “I Wasn’t Meant To Live My Life Along” and Sara Evans “No Place That Far”. Interestingly, when this song, which was nominated for CMA Vocal Event of The Year, was originally released in the UK, they stripped Vince’s vocals from the record. There’s also a guest spot on Brad Paisley “Bigger Fish To Fry”. I’m sure there’s a few more “guest” tracks they could’ve unearthed- Baillie & The Boys comes to mind.
As with all of Humphead’s classic collections, there’s an excellent CD booklet written by Alan Cackett.
Two great albums from one of the greatest guys in Country music, from both ends of his career. Both are superb, and both are must haves for any Country music collection!

Someone else whose career is in a reflective mood is CRYSTAL GAYLE. It’s over 40 years since she became a household name with hits like “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and “When I Dream”.
She has just released her first new album in 16 years, “You Don’t Know Me” (Southpaw), which includes 15 tracks, mostly covers of Country classics.  Now, I’m often critical of artists who fill their albums with such tried and tested songs, but Crystal has such a beautiful, and unique vocal style, that she has plenty to offer, even the most over recorded numbers.
The album kicks off with the bouncy Gordon Lightfoot song “Ribbon Of Darkness”, which really gets the tempo going.  But it’s the next track- Hank’s “You Win Again”, which really made its mark. I wasn’t expecting Crystal to make a song that’s been around for so long, so much her own. Then she did the same on “Please Help Me I’m Falling”.  And “There Goes My Everything”, “Crying Time” and “Walking After Midnight”.  Not to mention, the title track, an old Eddy Arnold hit.
Imagine her taking on Lefty Frizzell & Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
One of her early albums was “We Must Believe In Magic”, and Crystal proves here that she has the magic touch on any songs she may touch.
A few of the songs aren’t as well known, but Crystal still makes her mark on George Jones’ “Just One More” and George Strait’s “I’ve Seen That Look On Me A Thousand Times”.
There’s also family connections, as she records brother, Jay Lee Webb’s “You Were Never Mind”, which is one of my favourite tracks.  She also teams up with her sisters, Loretta Lynn and Peggy Sue Wright on Dolly’s “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”. This is the first record the three sisters have ever made together. It probably has more of a Loretta sound, than a Crystal one, but it’s a real event which should’ve happened long ago.
There’s a bonus track of Crystal’s first single from way back in 1970, “I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out Of My Eyes”, a song written by sister Loretta, who wrote a lot of Crystal’s early songs. The track does sound quite dated, but interesting to compare her voice and the productions.
Overall, a wonderful album. Classic Country from one of Country’s Classiest ladies.

TOBY KEITH has been at the top in Country music since he first set the charts alight back in 1993. He has sold over 40 million albums in the US alone. He has amassed a list of 32 No.1 songs, and indeed has topped the charts every year for 20 straight years. What is more surprising is that he has had his own record label, Show Dog Nashville, since 2005.
Now his “Greatest Hits- The Show Dog Years” gets a UK release later this month, featuring a string of smash hits that are instantly recognisable, like the fun, party numbers, “Red Solo Cup”, “Beers Ago”, and “Trailerhood”. I particularly liked the latter.  It’s the type of songs, Toby has made very much his own, over the years.
There are patriotic numbers like “Made In America” and “American Ride”, and other upbeat numbers like “God Love Her” and “High Maintenance Woman”.
There are ballads too, like “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)”, “Hope On The Rocks”, “She Never Cried In Front Of Me” and “Love Me If You Can”.
The album features four new(er) songs, including the hit single from earlier this year, “That’s Country Bro”, an anthem paying tribute to the legends of Country music. The cynical side of me considers it just a list of names from a Country’s Who’s Who, but he delivers the directory well.
“Don’t Let The Old Man In”, is a softer ballad, which is featured in the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Mule”. There’s also quite a funky feel to “Back in the 405”, and an alternative remix of “American Ride”.
Toby is an individual, with an individual sound. It’s well captured on this hits collection. There’s not another performer like him.

The child of an American military family, MICHAELA ANNE was raised on the road, living in places as widespread as Washington, California & Italy. She puts her lack of roots, and the questions that raised in her mind, as the driver behind her songwriting.
She first came to the notice of Country music critics in 2014, when The Village Voice hailed her debut offering, “Ease My Mind” as “one of the year’s best Country Albums”. Now her third album, “Desert Dove” (Yep Roc) has just been released in the UK.
She was a new name to me, but one that I was really impressed with, on the strength of this album.
In the main, it is an upbeat, well produced, and a really good listen.
The album kicks off slowly, with “By Own Design”, which is quite a ballad, compared to the rest of the album. 
 “I’m Not The Fire” is a good, uptempo radio friendly number, which I really liked. Other upbeat numbers include “Run Away With Me”, and the catchy “I Wanted Your Opinion”.
“Two Fools” has a real old time Country feel to it, with some honky tonk piano mixed with steel, giving it a really classic feel to it.  “Tattered,Torn And Blue (And Crazy)” also has quite a retro feel to it.
“Child Of The Wind” is one of these “driving” songs, one that’s great to listen to, whilst tearing down a wide open road. One of the stand out tracks for me.
The title track is one of the softer ballads on the album, having quite an atmospheric feeling to it.
“One Heart” is a powerful song, delivered with a strong, soaring vocal, and driving guitar.
The closing track, “Be Easy” is the most simplistic solo ballad- very much Michaela on her own.
Recorded “on location” in San Clemente, California, the album was produced by recent UK visitor Sam Outlaw, and Delta Spirit’s Kelly Winrich.
I really enjoyed this album. A lady to listen out for.

Anyone who comes from a place called Monkey’s Eyebrow (a real place, near Paducah, Kentucky) must be interesting. And KELSEY WALDON fits the bill. After moving to Nashville, she earned a college degree, spent three years bartending at The Nashville Palace, took up touring with her music, and her persistence led her to the Grand Ole Opry stage. She’s toured with the likes of Jamey Johnson and Tyler Childers, as well as her new boss.
She is the first new artist signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records label, in 15 years. “White Noise, White Lines” gets it’s UK release this month.
It kick’s off with “Anyhow”, which really demonstrates her deep southern accent, mixed with a driving beat. It certainly captures the listener’s attention.
The title track is a smouldering personal number which was inspired by a pivotal weekend in August 2017, noting that she had just turned 30, fallen in love, there was a stunning solar eclipse, and she befriended members of a Chickasaw tribe (whose chants were recorded on her phone, and featured here).
“Kentucky 1988” recaptures her early childhood. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s preceded by a voicemail from her father, just to add a personal touch.
Still in Kentucky, “Black Patch” is a real old time Country number, which recalls a historic battle there.
“Lived And Let Go” is Kelsey’s protest song, inspired by Dylan & Guthrie.
“Very Old Barton” is a rip roaring old style outlaw /hillbilly number, with a strong Waylon feeling to the arrangement. Not that her voice is anything like Waylon’s.
“Run Away” is a slower number, a traditional Country weeper, laced with steel guitar, which really worked well.
“Sunday’s Children” is quite a bluesy, which didn’t appeal to me much, whilst the closing ballad” My Epitaph” was originally written by Ola Belle Reed, but obviously very personal to Kelsey.
But overall, this is a really impressive album. Her southern drawl may not find universal appeal, but her vocal styling really suits the songs on this collection.
Well worth a listen !

DAVE GUNNING is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has amassed a ton of awards including ECMA’s & Juno’s, in a 23 year musical career, which has seen him record a dozen album’s.
His 13th album, “Up Against The Sky” (Wee House Of Music), like his previous outings, rides the line between East Coast Folk, Country and Celtic music.
I’ve enjoyed several of his earlier albums, so was pleased to get hold of this latest release.
“All That’s Yet To Come”, a co-write with Ray Stewart, one of the most positive songs on the album. It’s quite a catchy anthem of hope.
Although his main influences were Stan Rogers and John Allen Cameron, I identified a distinct Ian Tyson influence on the farming anthems, “Celebrate The Crop”, and “Horse For Sale”.
Away from the farms, he hits the seas, with the “The Loyal Fisherman”, an interesting story song, which he describes as a mini-movie in 4 ½ minutes.
“Ferris Wheel” is a song that took Dave back in time, and asked what happened to his favourite fair attraction, and other memories that raised.
“In The Time I Was Away”, is an upbeat, bouncy little number, about being away from home, and missing out. “Circle Of Boots” takes Dave back a few years, when he toured Canada with George Canyon. Apparently they had a ritual each night where the band and crew would all link arms for a prayer, and he remembers staring at the ground, seeing the circle of boots. An interesting tale from the road.
Dave’s protest song comes along in the form of “Wish I Was Wrong”. Dave is active in a group opposed to the release of treated effluent from a pulp mill, which threatens a local fishery. He certainly raised the profile for the cause on this mournful, but defiant number.
The album winds up with “Beyond The Day”, a song written with Glasgow singer songwriter Paul McKenna. It’s a really nice number.
The whole album is a really nice listen. Country, with folk and celtic influences.

CHARLEY CROCKETT is something of a legend down in Texas. Born in San Benito, he moved to Dallas, and more recently Austin, via New Orleans, California and Paris, France along the way.  He was raised in a trailer park in Los Fresnos, taught himself guitar, got in trouble with the law, and more recently health issues, which lead to him having open heart surgery earlier this year. He’s certainly done a lot of living in his 35 years.
His music style was originally the blues, but veering through American Roots music, has brought him to his sixth album, “The Valley” (Thirty Tigers), which has certainly a lot of Country music on offer. Not, today’s Country music, but real, authentic, traditional Country music, of the Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Webb Pierce style, following on from his 2017 release “Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee”.
The album opens up with the handclapping, foot tappin’ “Borrowed Time”. It’s a really catchy skiffle type number, which has the listener instantly realising that this album is going to so different to anything else out there.
The title track is the story of his life. There’s a bit of Kristofferson in there, but with a bit more of a Country arrangement, including steel, that you’d get from Kris.
Also boasting some impressive steel guitar is “10,000 Acres (of lonesome)”. From the title alone, you know this is just got to be a killer Country song, and it is!
Slowing things down, “Change Yo’ Mind”, is a traditional Country song, whilst “Motel Time Again” was written by Crockett, alongside Bobby Bare and others. It’s real Country music.
“Big Gold Mine”, “The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa)”and  “River Of Sorrow” are all good upbeat numbers, which I really enjoyed. 
“If Not The Fool”, is a classic Country crooner number, influenced by bluesy overtones.
There are a few tracks that didn’t work for me, including the bluesy skiffle song “7 Come 11”, one of the few songs not written by Crockett himself.
Another cover is the Buck Owens/Harlan Howard hit, “Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)”. I’ve got to say, that, for a song that’s had so many covers, including The Mavericks, this is a totally different version of the song. Crockett has made it his own.
Crockett doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but that just adds to the authenticity of the songs here. His music is steeped in Country & Blues, when it was much closer linked than it is today. A real fifties feel to the album, which is quite an achievement for a 35 year old.
He was over here on tour last month, and included a Glasgow gig. If you missed him, make sure you grab this album, which is released here on November 22nd.

DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS have been a regular fixture on the Americana side of the Country scene for some years now. The Memphis native has released a dozen albums, which have charted in various musical charts.
This month, his 13th album, “Dragons” (Thirty Tigers) gets a UK release, and is a really catchy collection of songs, which should get airplay on a number of different radio outlets.
The album kicks off with the very commercial sounding “Family”, complete with fashionable Nashville styled chants. It certainly caught my attention.
“End Of The World”, also has quite a mainstream beat, which should fit nicely into modern Country radio formats.
The title track features Sean McConnell and Zach Williams of The Lone Bellow. I has a real Country story song feel to it, complete with spoken lines. I really liked it.
There are a couple of songs, which feature Drew’s good lady Ellie. They include the smouldering, yet infectious “But I’ll Never Forget The Way You Make Me Feel” and “See The World”, which namechecks the legendary Shel Silverstein, which got my attention. This one is quite a poppy easy listening number, but it really works.
“You Want What You Cant Have”, one of two songs co-written with the award winning Lori McKenna, also features vocals from his co-writer. It has a slight reggae beat, but is also one of the most Country feeling songs on the album.
“Maybe”, which features Highwomen singer songwriter Natalie Hemby, is a touch more rocky.
If you like the west coast Eagles sound, check out “Make It Look So Easy”. It’s another written with Lori McKenna.
On a slower note, “You Never Leave My Heart” is more of a ballad, whilst “Bittersweet” is also on the slow side.
I’ve always enjoyed Drew’s previous albums, but this one really stands out for me. Definitely worth a listen !

SILVER LAKE 66 is a duo featuring Maria Francis & Jeff Overbo. Their musical paths came together many years back in Minneapolis, before heading to Southern California, and latterly in the North Western state of Oregon.
They recorded an album in 2016 called “Let Go Or Be Dragged”, and now release the follow up “Ragged Heart” in the UK this month.
They offer a unique sound, which blends old time Country, folk & blues, together with really neat vocals which harmonise together beautifully.
The album, which was recorded in Portland, kicks off with Jeff’s “Blue Earth County”, which is a really strong Country anthem, which had me hooked in the first few seconds.
That was followed by the catchy, upbeat title track, this time lead by Maria.
“Broken” has a bit more of a bluesy feel to it, but really suits the duet vocal styling.
“Faded Tattoos”, led vocally by Maria, is a bit more contemporary in its sound.
“Tender”, as you would expect, is more of a ballad. Maria’s vocals sound much more vulnerable this time, and really Country, at the same time.  I could probably say the same about “Broken Dreams & Cigarettes”.
“Hard Thing To Do” has a stunning steel guitar intro, thanks to Brian Daste. On this one, Maria’s vocals are more aligned to the blues. But it works well.
“Check Out To Cash” and “Such A Mess” are Jeff’s turn to slow down the tempo.
He’s more uptempo again on “Like A River”.
I wasn’t familiar with Silver Lake 66”, but was really impressed with this album. Real down home Country, with some blues and a folksy feel at the same time.
It was really quite a refreshing listen!

 RYAN BROOKS is offering a bright fresh sound from the English Midlands. The 24 year old Nottingham based singer songwriter has just released his debut album, “VICE (is where the devil finds his darlings)”.
Citing The Dead South and Johnny Cash amongst his influences, he was certainly going to have an interesting sound. Ryan wrote all the songs, and produced the album in his home studio, playing all the instruments, with the exception of Dan Booth’s violin on a number of tracks.
The title track, hidden deep in the album (track 8) is a mid tempo number, which defies all genre labels.
It all kicks off with the lively foot-tappin’ “Own Sweet Way”, which is almost a HoeDown. It’s really catchy. “Arlene”, is a bouncy little number, which you can’t help liking.
“Dear Departed” is a really upbeat number which stand out for me, as does “City Lights”.
“Find A Way”, another of the album’s upbeat numbers, features Ken Bonsall & Dan Booth (from a band called Ferocious Dog).
“She” is a softer ballad, with almost a continental feel to it, whilst “Red Light Alley” has a mystical mid tempo, haunting feel to it, until it comes to the catchy chorus.
And it all closes down with “Come Over”, which allows Ryan to wear his heart on his sleeve.
It’s an interesting- not like anything else you’ll hear on the UK Country scene today!

Growing up, ED DUPAS was a well travelled child. Born in Houston, he was raised in Manitoba, before his family moved to Detroit, whilst Ed was a teenager. There’s a lot of musical influences made an impression of Dupas over the years.
His third album, “The Lonesome Side Of Town” (Road Trip Songs) get released here in late October, and is certainly worth listening out for.  I have enjoyed his previous outings, but this album really caught my attention from track 1.
The album opens with the title track. It’s a strong, upbeat, stone Country song, given a bit of a personality by Ed’s “Sean Connery” style vocals, especially when he sings about “the lone-shum side of town”. I really liked that. The album was off to a real winner!
By contrast, “Lonely” is a bit more of a ballad, as is “The Things I Miss” and “On MY Way”. “It Tears The Heart Right Out Of Me” is a real Country heartbreaker, whilst “Just For Two” is, perhaps, just a little more lighter. Both are equally pleasing on the ear.
“It All Sounds Like Leaving” is a mid tempo song, which really emphasises just how Country this record is. I’ve got to say, Justin Schipper’s steel licks really helps there.
But it’s the more upbeat tracks which really impressed me most, including “Both Hands On The Wheel”
“State Of The Nation” is a real rocker, with a bit of American patriotism included.
Whilst Ed Dupas music is directed more towards Americana fans, I consider this to be one of the strongest traditional Country music albums of the year. Highly recommended.

Our Irish album this time around comes from singer songwriter TONY McLOUGHLIN, who recently performed at the Millport Country Festival.  Tony’s career stretches back to the days of Donovan, back in the 70’s, and has also involved sharing stages with The Everly Brothers, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Janis Ian and Lee Roy Parnell, to name just a few.
For his latest album, “True Native”, (Fuego label), which is released later this month, Tony went back to Nashville (where he recorded his 2006 album, “Tall Black Horse”), and took with him, fellow Irishman Phillip Donnelly, as producer.
As you’ll guess from seeing who he’s worked with in the past, Tony isn’t a mainstream Irish, or even Country artist. He does have much more of a rugged Country rock / Americana influence running through the album.
Having said that, there are some really nice Country numbers standing out on the album.
“The Colour Of Spring” and “Treeline” both have a really nice bounce to them, and is quite different to anything else on the album.  “If You Were A Bluebird”, written by Butch Hancock, is another of the album’s highlights for me.
On these three tracks especially, lovely harmonies from Californian singer songwriter Jean Anne Chapman Tarleton, really adds to the sound.
“Here Come The Wind” has quite a Bobby Bare sound to it, keeping it sounding Country, but blending in with the rockier feel through the rest of the album.
The opening track is a hard drivin’ “Blood On Blood”, which was originally going to be the title track.  “True Native” is a song which takes the listener to the old west. It’s quite a haunting, atmospheric number.
“Mercury”, which closes the album is quite a slow number, but enhanced greatly by the Dylan-esque harmonica.
An interesting album. Worth a listen.

Golspie based COLORADO were, without doubt, the most successful Country music band that Scotland has ever produced, having won the BCMA Group Of The Year award right through the 1980’s. They appeared regularly at the Wembley Festival, as well as huge events across Europe and beyond.  Geordie is still going strong, despite several attempts to retire, and the fan base just keeps going, thru the generations.
For some time now, younger fans, many who weren’t around in the 80’s, have been asking for the old Colorado albums, and now several of the old vinyl albums have been digitised and made available through the usual download and streaming services.
They include, “Tennessee Inspiration”, which includes their original version of “The Green Fields Of France”, which featured legendary Nashville steelie Lloyd Green, as well as such favourites as “Tennessee Whiskey & Texas Women” (which featured Davy Duff on lead vocals), “Boogie Grass Saturday Night” and the Stewart Ross song “A Part Of Me Will Stay With You”.
Their first album, “Colorado Sing Country Music”, which featured the Cajun classic “Thibodeaux And His Cajun Band” is also available, as is the self titled album, “Colorado”, with “All My Cloudy Days Are Gone”.
“Exclusive”, which the original album cover was a mock up of a newspaper called “The Colorado Times”, featured the catchy “Crazy Celtic Music”, which featured Tommy Collins, “Makin’ Friends” with George Hamilton IV, and their stunning version of “The Dark Island”.
And “Still Rollin”, an early retrospective look back at their career at that point, with songs like “We’ve Got Something To Say”, “Stories We Could Tell” and “Saving The Best For Last” completes the list.
I’ve still got all these albums on their original vinyl, but its pure nostalgia to hear them in today’s digital glory.

These days BRANDON McPHEE is flying the musical flag for the Far North. Like Colorado, he has successfully blended his local roots with Country music. His new EP teams him up with Foster & Allen, no less, as they perform a really impressive version of the Skipinnish number, “Walking On The Waves”. The song has been covered a fair bit recently, but I have to say that Brandon, Mick & Tony have a real winner on their hands with this version. The second track is Brandon’s own version of “Old Town Road”, the recent No.1 UK Pop hit for Billy Ray Cyrus & rapper Lil Nas X. No rapping on Brandon’s version thankfully!
The EP is completed with the powerful “Take These Wings”, and the accordion tune “The Bluebird”, written by Will Starr. A good mix of Country and Scottish on one CD.