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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

April 2016

The biggest Country music release of the year, to date, is “Full Circle”, the first new album from LORETTA LYNN in 12 years. Now, Loretta has one of the most distinct female Country music voices, but this album has really taken her back to her Kentucky roots, with beautiful renditions of original and classic tunes, equally delivered in her unique style. Daughter Patsy has teamed up with John Carter Cash on production, to deliver an exceptionally strong album.
It all kicks off with a new recording of “Whispering Sea”, the very first song that Loretta wrote. By contrast, she follows it with the classic “Secret Love”.  Then she shines through “Who’s Gonna Miss Me”, and “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven”, another couple of songs she wrote way back. She also refreshes her classic “Fist City”.
She covers “Always On My Mind” and also duets with Willie on “Lay Me Down” (you can just read the headlines if they were to win CMA Vocal Event Of The Year !). She also features Elvis Costello on “Everything It Takes, a song she wrote with Todd Snider. To be honest, there’s not much evidence of Costello on the recording. It’s stone Country, complete with some classy steel guitar, thanks to Robby Turner.
She also covers a couple of old traditional songs from her childhood with “In The Pines”, “I Will Never Marry” and “Black Jack David”. She sounds so “at home” with these songs, you have to ask why she hasn’t covered these type of song before.
The production is excellent. Musicians include Dennis Crouch, Randy Scruggs, Laura Weber Cash, Shawn Camp, Ronnie McCoury, Paul Franklin, and Sam Bush.
Not at all bad for a lady who will celebrate her 81st birthday this month.

VINCE GILL is well established as a bridge between traditional & modern Country music, having spent much of the past thirty odd years on the charts. “Down To My Last Bad Habit” (Humphead) is his first solo album since 2011, but it’s been worth the wait.
Of course he did release that wonderful “Bakersfield” album with Paul Franklin, as well as a Time Jumpers album since then.
Vince wrote, or co-wrote, all 12 tracks on the album, which he also co-produced with Justin Niebank.
The album has quite a variety of songs. He’s certainly not playing safe with an album of killer ballads.
It all kicks off with the rather upbeat number titled “Reasons For The Tears I Cry”.
The title track is one of these moody ballads that Vince really excels with. Other ballads include “Like My Daddy Did”, and “My Favourite Movie”, which he co-wrote with recent c2c visitor Ashley Monroe.
“Me & My Girl” is a jaunty little mid paced number that works really well, which has a real homespun feel to it.
He has three guest tracks. “One More Mistake I Made”, a rather bluesy ballad with some really effective trumpet from Chris Botti. Little Big Town join him on “Take Me Down”, one of two songs that he co-wrote with Richard Marx, and Cam harmonises on “I’ll Be Waiting For You”, a gorgeous ballad , co-written with Leslie Satcher.
But the best is left to last. “Sad One Comin’ On” is a knockout Country number, subtitled, “A Song For George Jones”.  It’s a great album, but that final song is really the cream on the cake. Paul Franklin’s wailing steel just says so much about the song.
Great to have a new album from Vince. The guy just never fails.

The ever Country GENE WATSON fans are well catered for this spring, with two new albums on the market. Both, in fact, were released on the same day.
His “new” album, “Real Country Music” (Fourteen Carat Music) features 13 superb Country songs from the past. But, instead of a bunch of songs that have been done to death, most of the songs included here are little gems, which never got the acclaim that they deserved.
The exception is “Rambling Rose”, which Gene turns in a stunning performance on.
Six of the songs are have been recorded by Gene before, including Nut Stuckey’s “All My Tomorrow’s”, which was apparently unfinished when it appeared on a TV album in 2009.  He also revisits “Couldn’t Love Have Picked A Better Place To Die”, a song that really stands out.
There’s a couple of songs written by Larry Gatlin, including “Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall”, previously recorded by Gene, as well as Elvis, Anne Murray and Amber Digby, amongst others.
The album kicks off with a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Enough For You”, with a rather lengthy orchestral intro, which leads into a typical Gene Watson traditional Country sound.
I really liked the strong “When A Man Cant Get a Woman Off His Mind”, and the softer “Old Loves Never Die”.
Other songs include David Ball’s “A Girl I Used To Know” and “A Bridge That Just Wont Burn”, originally recorded by Conway Twitty in 1980.
An interesting track to close the album is “I’ll Find It Where I Can”, previously recorded by Waylon & Jerry Lee Lewis. Don’t be alarmed by that. Gene does it true Country style.
It’s true Gene Watson. A real winner of an album.

Back in the 70’s & 80’s, it wasn’t too easy to get hold of Gene’s music. He was with Capitol Records, and just as they eventually released an album on him in the UK, he moved to MCA, and again it took a few albums before he got another release here.
If only Humphead Records were around back then! Gene is the subject of their latest catalogue collections. “Barrooms And Bedrooms : The Capitol And MCA Years”, is a 50 track , 2 CD, collection of classic Gene Watson hits from the 1975-1985 era. This was when he notched up 30 of his 48 Country chart hits, including his only Number One, “Fourteen Carat Mind”.
That track leads off this collection of great Country songs, which include “Paper Rosie”, “Nothing Sure Looks Good on You”, “Cowboys Don’t Get Lucky All The Time”, “Little By Little”, and of course, “Farewell Party”.
Country music at it’s very best.

Regular readers will be familiar with KINSEY ROSE. Ken MacLeod has been telling us a lot about her over the past few years in his page.  Now the Louisville, Kentucky native has released her first full album, “Fair Weather Love”.
The album, features 11 songs, which Kinsey wrote with the likes of Rick Tiger, Bobby James, Buddy Owens and Justin Schipper, who also produced the album.  It’s a modern sounding Country album, without getting lost in today’s Nashville pop country blandness.
The opening track, “Hole Where My Heart Should Be” is a catchy radio friendly song, which serves as a great appetizer for the rest of the album.  Other upbeat tracks include “Pickens Are Slim” which closes the album, and “Pennies From A Railroad Track” which is a catchy upbeat number, with a real downhome feel to it.
The title track is a beautifully sung ballad, with some nice harmonies from none other than Vince Gill. “Missin’ Kissin’ Me” is another superb Country ballad, and “Aren’t You Tired”, has quite a haunting feel to it.
But the stand out track for me is “Take My Picture Down”, a simple ballad, with a simple arrangements, that really show off Kinsey’s vocal talent.
I really enjoyed this album. Kinsey certainly has a modern sound, but, as I say, the arrangements are simple enough to keep it Country, which should help her stand out from the array of performers that Nashville pretend are Country.

Last month, we featured the new album from Evi Tausen, from The Faroe Islands. This time around, we have another Faroese artist, HALLUR JOENSEN.  Hallur has performed across Europe, and has made a couple of trips to Shetland to play. This is Hallur’s fifth album, and has released versions for both local and international markets.
The English language version, “Cosy Cowboy”, recorded in Nashville, features 12 songs, and a variety of styles from old school country to celtic influenced folk music and even ragtime.  As Hallur himself says, “I have tried to find a Celtic approach with no sound of steel, but with topographical details like rattling seashells to create the ambience of the North Atlantic currents”. Now that’s an interesting concept.
Many of the songs are locally written, many by producer Jakup Zachariassen , alongside Lena Anderssen , Christina Moretti  and Woody Wright, as well as Hallur himself, on a couple of tracks.
They range from the catchy opening track, “The Richest Man Alive” to stone country ballads like “Inevitable To Me”. In between, Sam Levine’s clarinet, really gives “Never Another You” a bit of a jazzy feel.
“Restless Heart” is the real folksy, Celtic influenced ballad, which features a children’s choir and the strings of the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra. It’s different to the rest of the album, but really fits in well. A song that really stands out.
I also enjoyed the catchy “Love After Life After All” and “Friday Ain’t The Same”.
There are a few covers, including Hank Snr’s “Why Should I Cry”, a duet with Deana Barry on Kris Kristofferson’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and Canadian Ray Griff’s “It Rains Just The Same In Missouri”.
The albums closes out on a rather different version of the Skeeter Davis classic’ “End Of The World”. The song is given quite a moody blues feel, and features Hallur’s daughter Jessica. What a great voice she has. I’m sure we’ll hear more from her in the future.
Hallur Joenson knows his Country music. He certainly knows how to catch the attention of Country fans. This album will surely increase his international reputation.
Real Country – the way they do in The Faroes!

The Osborne Brothers were one of the best known bluegrass duo’s who crossed over to mainstream Country music back in the 60’s & 70’s.  Now we have BROTHERS OSBORNE, but the familiar name is where the likeness ends.
Brothers Osborne are a duo from Maryland, composed of brothers T.J. and John Osborne. T.J. is the lead singer and John plays lead guitar. They’ve had just a couple of chart hits, and their debut album, “Pawn Shop” has just been given a UK release on Humphead.
It’s a rather strange album. T.J. has a good strong deep Country voice, but the presentation of the material really stretches Country music’s boundaries.
There are some really impressive tracks. “Greener Pastures” has a good Country upbeat feel to it, and “Loving Me Back”  is a strong ballad, which features some superb harmony from Lee Ann Womack. “Stay A Little Longer”, their first Top 10 single, starts off quite listenable, before losing itself in a rap beat. The title track is also pure rap music.
“21 Summer” is a mid tempo drum driven tracks, which just about works ok, but features some rather strange sounding backing.
“Down Home”, which the boys wrote with Jessi Alexander, had the potential to be a good song, but it’s delivered in a rather rocky over-produced style, which didn’t do anything for me at all.
The brothers co-wrote all eleven tracks, with established writers like Mac McAnally and Craig Wiseman.
It’s Country music, 2016 style, but it’s not Country as I know it.
This CD could just end up in the “Pawn Shop”.

Another legendary Country performer getting the Humphead “Definative Collection” treatment is HOYT AXTON, with “Joy To The World”.   Hoyt was a multi talented guy, a singer songwriter, record producer, label owner and actor. His acting credits included The Bionic Woman, McCloud, Gremlins & ET.
His music is really varied. He does good Country numbers, like “Evangelina” and “Flash Of Fire” to fun gulf coast, almost reggae, songs like “No No Song”, to covers of old hillbilly story songs like Carson Robinson’s “Left My Gal In The Mountains”. There’s Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” and Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay”. But Hoyt Axton is best known for his own songs. The album takes it’s name from a song that a group called Three Dog Night had a No.1 pop hit on.
He was never the flavour of the month in Nashville – despite a string of highly acclaimed albums, he only notched up 14 Country chart hits, half of them on his own label, which aren’t covered by this album. His most successful period was in the mid 70’s, when he was signed to Herp Albert’s  A&M Records, not a label renowned for Country music – they were the home to The Carpenters and The Captain & Tennille.
Despite that, one of his most notable hits, included here, is “Nashville”, with some great plugs for Music City’s most tuneful attractions.
Hoyt’s deep Country vocals were often blended with sweet female Country voices. Linda Ronstadt provided the harmonies on “When The Morning Comes” and “Lion In The Winter”. Meanwhile his biggest hit was “Boney Fingers”, featuring Renee Armand, a female singer songwriter who also backed John Denver and The Jacksons. This was probably her biggest 3 minutes of fame. Great song.
One of the stand out tracks on this 50 track collection is a duet with a young Tanya Tucker on “You Taught Me How To Cry”.
Many of the songs are quite rocky fun numbers, like “Roll Your Own” and “Lightning Bar Blues”
Others are story songs with some interesting tales, like “Speed Trap”, “Snowblind Friend”, “The Devil” and “Idol Of The Band”.
I didn’t have very much Hoyt Axton material in my collection, so I’m really pleased to add this to my library. My only regret, is that my favourite Hoyt Axton song, and his only UK hit, “Della & The Dealer” isn’t featured on this collection.
Can’t have it all.  

DONNA WYLDE, from down Preston way, is one of the most popular solo singers on the UK Country scene. She’s been singing since she was a teenager and has several CD’s to her credit. Her latest, “Hillbilly Girl” has a good mix of Country songs, all well sung and well produced.
The title track was written by Aussie Kasey Chambers and get the album off to a great start.  Other upbeat tracks include the catchy “Till I Was Loved By You”, previously a hit for Chely Wright, whilst
she slows down the tempo on Miranda Lambert’s “Holding On To You”, Brandy Clark’s “What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven” and Little Big Town’s “Sober” and “Girl Crush”.  I really liked her version of “Places”, originally a hit for Mark Wills back in 1997.
There’s a handful of classics too, like Bobby Bare’s “The Breeze”, Connie Smith’s “Just One Time”, Tom T’s “That’s How I Got To Memphis”, and “New Shade Of Blue”, which I remember from a group called Southern Pacific, way back in the late 80’s.
I love how she adapts Kasey Musgraves’ “The Trailer Song”. Whilst keeping Kasey quirkiness, Donna really delivers it in a real traditional Country way. The song certainly stands out for me.
Indeed, I really like the way Donna has taken some of the more modern covers, and made them more Country than the originals.
I really enjoyed this album. A British act to match the Americans, for sure.

Next up, we have a duo from Gloucestershire consisting of husband & wife Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes. As THE BLACKFEATHERS, they have just released their first full album, “Soaked To The Bone”. They have been playing and touring for the past couple of years, from The Bedford in Balham, to The Bluebird Café in Nashville and building up an army of fans along the way.
Their sound has been likened to Gillian Welch or The Civil Wars.
They certainly have that Americana, close harmony, and simple instrumentation approach to their music.
“Take Me Back” is a catchy opener, with quite a celtic feel to it. “All For You”, the current radio single, is also an upbeat number, which works well for them. “Down By The River” is another that keeps the feet tapping.
“Goodbye Tomorrow” has of more a Country sound. It’s a lovely ballad, with harmonies standing out. “Blue Clear Sky”, which closes the 11 track album, is quite a stunning ballad.
Some of the other tracks are quite slow and dark, but quite atmospheric. Best examples of this are on “Blind”, “Homesick” and “Winter Moves In”.
All, but one, of the 11 tracks was written by the duo. The exception is a cover of Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”.
The album was recorded in Oxford, and is available on CD and on 12” Vinyl.

Now for some homegrown music, and a new CD from newcomer HAZEL CUMMING.
The Coatbridge based singer went to Ireland to record “One Step at A Time”, and certainly has that happy Irish feel to her music.
The album kicks off with a couple of Dolly covers in “Coat Of Many Colours” and “Backwoods Barbie”. She then goes back to the old Ray Griff song, “Light In The Window”, and Isla Grant’s “Look Me Straight In The Eye”, both keeping up the beat.
After Billie Jo’s “Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song”, she slows it down a bit on the sentimental “Daddy’s Hands”, and the old Barbara Fairchild song, “Teddy Bear”. I really liked Hazel’s version of this song.
After “Let Me Be There”, she really lets rip with Loretta’s “You Aint Woman Enough”. She certainly delivers the message! Then she slows down, and goes way back to Kitty Wells days with “How Far Is Heaven”, before rounding off with “A Mothers Love’s a Blessing” and “Red Is The Rose”.
It’s an album of covers, but the song choice is varied, and will serve as a good introduction to Hazel. As the title says, “One Step at A Time”. She’s in fine voice, and the production is excellent.
Originally from Ayrshire, Hazel launched the album in Kilmarnock in late January, and has been getting some good reaction to it. I hope she gets the attention of the Irish fans with the album. They’ll love it. But I also hope she also gets the support of the fans here, and isn’t forced to follow the likes of Lisa McHugh, and move over there.

GEORGE L GOODFELLOW & THE GLG BAND have just released their sixth album. As before, “A Handful Of Diamonds” (Smallboy Records) is full of original songs, all penned by the Hawick based songwriter, and mainly recorded in Galashiels.
The songs are well crafted.
“My Time” is a catchy number which caught my attention.
“This Letter” also caught my attention. It’s a good upbeat number, with some neat fiddle and banjo, but some of the chords sound rather similar to a certain “Blowing In The Wind”. Hope Mr Dylan does read this.
He shares a little philosophy, on “In A Heartbeat”, with lines like “I’d Rather Die Now For Something (Then for Nothing Later On)”.
Slowing things down, “Make Every Moment Precious”, has some nice lyrics. Other ballads worth a listen include the title track and the opening track, “Sign On The Wall”.
 “Don’t Talk (No Conversation”) may seem a strange title for a song, but it works for George.
It’s an interesting album. All original, and one for the songwriter fans to check out.

Our next CD came to us via a promoter in Denmark. It’s a five track EP from ANGIE KING. All five of the tracks are originals, three from Angie’s own pen, and one written by dad John C.King.
“Hold Me” is a strong power ballad, whilst “I Believe In” is more of a mid-tempo Country number, which I really liked. “She Loves To Truck”, is an upbeat driving number whilst “That’s How Sure I Am” is more of a traditional ballad.
The final track, “First Dance”, another ballad, is a duet with Robert Mizzell. It was written by Justin Johnson and Hollie Barry, who also provide backing vocals.
Altogether, it’s a well produced sampler, which really shows off Angie’s versatile vocal talents.
Recorded in Liverpool, it’s a must for Angie’s legion of fans.

MAEVE FARRELL is another new name on the Irish scene. This Country Rose comes from County Down, and has just released her debut album, “Crossroads”.
It’s a bright & breezy mix of Country hits like “Down at The Twist & Shout”, “Truck Driving Woman” and “Mama He’s Crazy”, with some traditional Irish fayre in “Black Velvet Band” and “County Down”.
There’s also a pop oldie in “A Rose Has to Die”, and a gospel medley featuring “Amazing Grace”, “Swing Low,Sweet Chariot”, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, “I’ll Fly Away” and “I Saw The Light”.
The title track, “Crossroads” is a good paced number, which I really liked. But the stand out track for me, is the old Patty Loveless track, “Bramble And The Rose”. Maeve has given this one a really fresh upbeat Irish sound.
These songs should go down well with dance audiences in Ireland.  Maeve will fit in nicely, and another young star is born.

JOSH HARTY is a singer songwriter from North Dakota. He’s a third generation musician, son of a small town police chief and a preacher. He often muses that he’ll end up going to jail or going to hell!
Thankfully he’s keeping clean, and leading the life of a travelling musician. Buy the age of 12 he had recorded two cassettes which sold 10,000 copies.
In the last few years, he’s continued to record, either solo, or on duet projects, whilst his touring has taken him to 41 states and across Europe. He’s back this month with three Tayside dates, in Errol, Barry and Newport-on-Tay (April 15-17), and promoting his latest CD “Holding On”, which is certainly a good listen.
It all kicks off with the catchy title track. A nice flowing upbeat number, with some nice mandolin and harmony from Mississippi born Kelley McRae. It’s has a charming folksy feel to it.
“Wired” and “You And The Road” are good catchy upbeat numbers. Which I really liked, whilst “Shiver In The Dark” has a bit more of a rock beat to it.
“The Kind”, “English Rain” and “Learn To Fight” are well constructed ballads, which showed the contrast in the guy’s songs.
Josh wrote all, but one, of the ten songs on the album, which was recorded in Wisconsin.
A nice listen. He’s worth checking out if he’s playing in you’re part of the Country.  

Another Americana album worthy of a listen, comes in from Asheville, North Carolina. UNDERHILL ROSE, features Eleanor Underhill, Molly Rose and Salley Williamson. Their third album, “The Great Tomorrow” has already been in the Top 30 of the Americana Music Association Airplay Chart , and took hold at #1 on The Roots Music Report’s Progressive Bluegrass Album Chart for over nine weeks.
The album is certainly a good listen.
“Montana” stands out for me. It features some nice steel and fiddle (or violin, according to the credits) as well as superb vocals from Molly.  On other track’s Eleanor leads the vocals. I also liked the catchy “Rest Easy” and the harmony strong “Not Gonna Worry”.
Most of the tracks are quite upbeat, but they can slow things down nicely, as they demonstrate on “My Friend” and “Straight Up”. The title track is a particularly strong ballad,
“Love Looks Good On You” features some nice banjo and electric guitar. It’s quite an easy listening, slow paced number. Meanwhile, “Whispering Pines Motel” has a soft haunting feel to it.
It’s a really nice album. They are on tour in the UK this month. No dates in Scotland when writing this review, but check out their music.

Western swing music may sound dated to many, but to others, the sound of fiddle and double bass is just pure heaven. Ray Benson and Bobby Flores have kept Western swing alive over the years, and HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN are doing the same on their new album, “Midnight On The Trail”, which has just been released to coincide with a UK tour, which includes Glasgow this month.
The trio consists of Elana James, Whit Smith and Jake Erwin, and have been touring for the past two decades. This is their ninth studio album, which delivers an enchanting mix of Western swing and cowboy ballads. There’s old Bob Wills, Gene Autry, Cindy Walker and traditional tunes, which have been kept true to their original roots. How refreshing it is to hear “Cotton Eyed Joe”, the way it was intended !
Kicking off with “Take Me Back To Tulsa”, the tone is set, the feet are tapping and, every track is a joy to listen, right through to the closing chords of “Silver On The Sage”. In between, you’ll recognise “I’m An Old Cowhand”, “Right Or Wrong”, “Oh Mona” and “Blue Bonnett Lane”.
And I cant help pointing out the dancehall ballad, “I’ve Got The Wonder Where She’s Gone and When She’s Coming Back Again Blues”. A 14 word title and a 55 second intro. Or how about “There’s An Empty Cot In The Bunkhouse Tonight”. Great titles.
If you like modern Country music, this wont appeal to you. But, I have to say that, after listening to today’s hit Country music, this is such a breath of fresh air. I just loved it !

I remember seeing CORRINE WEST a few years back, and really enjoyed her bluegrass influenced acoustic music. Her latest album, “Starlight Highway” sees her aiming in her direction in more of a folksy direction. Corrine wrote all the tracks on the album, many with Kelly Joe Phelps, who also plays on the album, and lends some effecting harmonies to tracks like “Audrey Turn the Moon”.
The album’s opening track is a pleasant ballad, whilst “Cry Of The Echo Drifter” and “Night Falls Away Singing” both have quite a western feel to it, albeit Everly Brothers style. The title track is quite a quirky upbeat number which works well.
But it’s the haunting Clannad style folksy sound that is the hallmark of this album. It’s particularly evident on tracks like “Sweet Rains Of Amber” and “Find Me Here”.
She’s back in the UK this spring, but the only date in Scotland, is a house concert in Edinburgh on June 5th.

Finally, this time around, we’ll wrap up with another couple of Humphead compilations.
The first is “Bob Harris Country Sessions”, a 2CD , 34 track selections from live acoustic sessions from Bob’s Thursday night Radio 2 show.
The emphasis is certainly on the modern Nashville artists like Lady Antebellum, Maddie & Tae, Luke Bryan and Kip Moore.
Some suit the acoustic set up better than others. Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark really deliver well on “Merry Go Round” and “Stripes” respectively. You actually pick up more of the words’ meaning than you do when studio musicians haven’t distracted from the lyrics. Others sound rather lost without studio backing- Sugarland, Andrew Combs, Darius Rucker and Rascall Flatts amongst them.
Recent c2c visitor Sam Hunt came over a bit confused. He kept changing between spoken word and singing on his hit “Break Up In A Small Town”. Then again, the studio version sounds more  Rap than Country.
A few tracks, from big names, stand out. Dwight Yoakam on “Honky Tonk Man” and Emmylou’s “Pancho & Lefty” really showed their class. As did Rosanne Cash on “Etta’s Tune”.
Other tracks that stood out for me, were recent Celtic Connections visitors Jason Isbel on “Speed Trap Town”, and Gretchen Peters on “The Matador”. I also liked new Texan singer, Cale Tyson. Would love to hear the studio version of his song “Cant Feel Love”. And Ashley Monroe shined on “Dixie”.
Bob has never been great a great supporter of British Country music on his programme, but does include tracks by both The Shires and Ward Thomas on this collection.
I’m not sure how commercially successful these recordings will be, for the album, or indeed for the artists. Such compilations, like the one below, serve to introduce artists, with the intention that the listener will seek out more of an artists music. In this case, their studio recordings can be very different to what’s here.
It’s an interesting concept though, and a chance to hear just how good their voices are, without the photoshop effects of a recording studio.

Country2Country has come and gone. But “Country2Country- Volume 2” will keep the highlights fresh in the memory for months to come. This CD features 20 tracks, all but one, who appeared at this year’s c2c festivals, either on the main stages, or on the small venues at the London gig.
The exception is Dierks Bentley, who will be here this month, so has been included, as he’ll be keeping up the momentum kicked off by the events.
The album includes many recent US Country hits, like Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break”, Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic”, Luke Bryan’s “Kick The Dust Up”, Little Big Town’s “Pontoon”,   Frankie Ballard’s “Sunshine & Whiskey”, Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” and Sam Hunt’s rapper “Break Up In A Small Town”.
One I hadn’t heard before, was “My Church”, from Maren Morris, from Texas. It’s a superb track from her EP, which has really been selling well stateside in recent months.
There’s also a track from Lori McKenna, best known as a folk singer songwriter, from Massachusetts. But Lori has had quite a bit of success with her songs being covered by Country acts recently. She was one of the writers of “Girl Crush”, so merits her inclusion at c2c and on this album.
Some recent UK singles have also been included, such as Ashley Monroe’s “On To Something Good”, David Nail’s “Nights On Fire”, and the fantastic “High Time” from Kasey Musgraves. I just love that tune.
There are a couple of UK tracks, including The Shires and Callaghan, who delivers a rather catchy, but poppy “Best Year”.
It’s a superb collection of current Country music artists, who after c2c, should have some following over here.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Feb 2016

We’re kicking off this time with a new album from GEORDIE JACK. Geordie was very much the voice of British Country music in the 1980’s as front man of Colorado. Various attempts to move on from the Colorado days, through name changes to Caledonia & The Jacks, didn’t distract his legions of fans. Having retired The Jacks a couple of years ago, nobody believed that we had heard the last of Geordie Jack.
And, sure enough, he’s back. He’s still got that unmistakable Sutherland accent, and sounding better than ever, on a new album, “Choices” (Pan Records).  The arrangements are quite simple, just sons Kevin & Trevor, and some fiddle from Gordie Gunn.
The title track is the old George Jones anthem, which Geordie delivers well.
The album kicks off with the first of three self penned numbers. “No Can Do” is a catchy up tempo number, which was a little different to what I expected, but worked well.  The other two self penned numbers are “The Bride’s Song”, a lovely song for a wedding, and “Unconditional Friends”, a bit of a life story, the sort of song Geordie has put his trademark on throughout the years (think “Making Friends” and “We’ve Got Something To Say”). He really has a knack of writing life reflecting songs.
There’s a cover of Hugh Moffatt’s “Loving You”, which is suits Geordie’s style just so well.
There’s also covers of Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’ “ , Wendell Atkin’s “Falling For You” and John Anderson’s “Would You Catch A Falling Star”.
Merle Kilgore’s “The Folk Singer” is given an interesting arrangement, with some lovely harmonies from daughter Kim.  Kim also features on a haunting version of the rather tragic “The Butcher Boy”. This song is so atmospheric that you can feel Geordie & Kim sitting in your living room performing it.
Having missed our annual fix of Geordie Jack at the Caithness Festival over the last couple of years, it’s just so good to hear him in such fine voice, performing songs so suited to his vocal style.
It’s a lovely album. One to be proud of.

Regular readers will remember MARY K BURKE from her days in popular bands Nevada and Tanya & Sneaky Moon.  She has spent the past few years performing with more of a folk sound, but her new album, “Sweet is the Melody” (MKB Independent Records) sees her return to Country music, albeit with Irish influences.
The album kicks off with a pacey cover of Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish it Would Rain”, and she covers Tanya Tucker’s “Hanging In”, Tom T Hall’s “I Miss A Lot Of Trains”, Patsy’s “Stop The World” and “Here Today Gone Tomorrow”, made famous by Philomena Begley. Mary’s version of the latter is a shade slower and features Joe Davitt. It’s a really nice version of the song.
Being a bit fan of Iris Dement, two of her songs are featured here, the title track, and the wonderful “Mama Was Always Telling Her Truth”.  I just love the old timey, piano arrangement on this song. The song has special appeal for Mary, as it says so much about her own mother, who passed away recently.
The old Rita MacNeill number, “I’ll Accept The Rose” also has the old timey feel to it, which works really well.
One song that really stands out for me us “Broken Stones”, written by fellow Glasgow songwriter Charlie Sharkey. It’s a particularly strong Country number. It’s really catchy, and suits Mary’s Country style to a tee. It’s a stand out track for me.
“Bright Blue Rose”, written by Jimmy McCarthy has an interesting arrangement, featuring some impressive mandolin from Lar Kenny. “The Banks Of Mulroy Bay” has a strong Irish influence, a style that obviously suits Mary.
There are two songs, which Mary was involved in the writing. Both numbers reflect her life, being born and brought up in County Derry, and living over here.  “Ireland I Miss You” is a beautiful homage to her homeland, whilst “Glasgow” is a really catchy song about her adopted home city. It’s a song that the whole city can associate with.
Recorded in Arklow in Co.Wicklow, the sound throughout is superb. She’s sounding great, with a great mix of songs, well chosen & well produced. I thoroughly recommend you check her out, and hopefully we’ll see her back on the Country scene before long.

LEE MATTHEWS is one of Ireland’s young breed of entertainers, who have really built up a career in the past few years. Yet, Lee is something a veteran- at the age of 28. He was a child star, performing from the age of 8, had stints in boyband Streetwize, and electro-dance outfit Nxt-Gen with Pete Docherty, before embarking on a Country music career.
I do feel the dance influence hasn’t left him entirely. His latest album, It’s A Great Day To Be Alive”, is largely aimed at the Irish Country dance market, with covers of “Cotton Eye Joe” (more Rednex than Bob Wills!), as well as The Waterboys’ “Band On The Ear”.
He covers George Harrison’s “Got My Mind On You”, Darrell Scott’s “It’s a Great Day To Be Alive” and Diamond Rio’s “Norma Jean Riley”, and slows it down on Garth’s “If Tomorrow Never Comes”.
He does feature three of his own songs. “Your Sweet Love” is an upbeat danceable number. He also wrote the recent foot tapping single “Girl Next Door”.  Then he slows it down on the sentimental “The Irish Way”, which is a really nice song.
It’s a well produced album, one that supports Lee as a top draw across the Irish dancehalls.

EVI TAUSEN made many friends when she made the long trip from Pokeri in the Faroe Islands, to Halkirk a few years ago for her UK debut at the Caithness Festival. By her own admission she’s “Old School Country”, but her new album, “Make This Life a Dance”(TUTL)  surpasses all my expectations. This is pure Country, and I just love it !
The 9 track album kicks off with the title track, a home grown song, from the pens of Jacob Zachariassen and Lena Andersen. It’s a really catchy song, with a great message for life.   That’s followed by a beautiful ballad, “Teach Us To Forget”, written by former member of the Toto rock group (Africa), Bobby Hyatt, who is now a producer, musician and songwriter in Nashville. Hyatt produced most of the album in Nashville, with a couple of tracks recorded back in The Faroes.
Other ballads that really show off Evi’s beautiful vocals, include “When You Call Me Baby” (the single from the album) ,”In God’s Hands”, and a classy reworking of George Jones 1963 hit “You Comb Her Hair”.  Evi has a neat video on YouTube performing this song with her daughter Anna.
Other covers include Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” and Hank Williams’ “You Win Again”, both really worked well.
She can rock it up a bit as well, proved by the driving “Restless Heart”. Evi brings her music right up to date with this track, and it sounds just as strong as the old school ballads.
For me the stand out track, which I just cant stop playing, is the upbeat “One Heartbeat Away”. Evi’s style on this track in particular reminds me of early Loretta Lynn.
The production on the album, and I have to say the Faroese produced tracks are just as strong as the Nashville recordings, is really first class. Steel guitar from Scott Sanders, Brent Mason on guitar and fiddle from Molly Cherryholmes (from the wonderful bluegrass family band) really make this album something special.
In a genre of music dominated by Nashville pop, it’s really refreshing to hear real Country music like this. Evi Tausen is the real deal !

Camaron Ochs, a pretty 31 year old singer songwriter from San Francisco, is being hotly tipped, or perhaps I should say promoted, as the next big Country girl singer. Known as CAM, her debut major label CD (she did have a previous small label album five years back), “Untamed” (Arista) has just been given a UK release, amid a blast of publicity and social media frenzy.
Listening to this album does fill me with some despair.
Yes, she has a nice voice. She has co-written all 11 songs on the album, which always plus points from me, but the musical arrangements are just too pop for my Country ears.
There are some good songs. “Burning House”, her current US hit (her first) is a smouldering ballad, with a pleasant, simple arrangement.
But for me, her previous single, “My Mistake” (which only reached No.52 on the Airplay chart) is the stand out track. It’s a good upbeat number, which her vocals soar above the musical arrangement.
I did also quite like the catchy ”Half Broke Heart”. Then she digs into “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty”, which is about life down on the farm rather than our music. It really is quite a fun number.
Train songs and Country music have a long tradition together, but I’m afraid Cam’s “Runaway Train” has really ran as far away from Country as a train song can get.
I don’t know if Cam fits into Country music. It is an extremely broad church with little boundaries these days. But I suspect she’ll cross over into pop very quickly.  Let’s just say, she’s more Taylor Swift than Tanya Tucker!

Following on from her acclaimed “Old Postcards” album, the much travelled AMELIA WHITE returns with a new album, “Home Sweet Hotel” (White-Wolf Records) this month.  Amelia was born in Virginia, but travelled via Boston to East Nashville, where she currently calls home.
As a singer songwriter, Amelia spends a lot of time on the road, and the title track was born in a motel room in Pennsylvania.
Amelia’s sound is quite guitar driven, with powerful deliveries of moody, seductive and dark songs.
I quite liked the opening track, “Dangerous Angel”. It’s quite melodic, and with its’ quite simple backing, allows us to appreciate Amelia’s vocal prowess. Other tracks that stood out for me, included the upbeat “Leaving In My Blood”, and the haunting “Rainbow Over The East Side”.
Amelia wrote, or co-wrote, all 10 tracks on the album, Her collaborators include J Fred Knobloch, John Hadley and Reckless Johnny Wales.
More of an Americana album, but it’s a pleasant listen all the same.

ROBBIE PETRIE is one of the North East’s favourite Country singers, and his band, The Brothers, are one of Scotland’s biggest supported bands in recent years. The Aberdeen based lead singer recently headed over to Donegal to record an album of his favourite songs, now released on the album, “ What Have You Got Planned Tonight (Diana).
The production is first class, a great job done by Ryan Turner, and featuring some neat steel guitar from Paul Gallagher and fiddle from Tom Sheerin.
Being a huge Merle Haggard fan, it’s no surprise that the album is pure Country music. Indeed, there are no less than four of The Hag’s songs, including the title track, “Sing Me Back Home”, “Mama Tried” and “Running Kind”.
There’s also a superb version of the beautiful Rory Feek song, “Chain Of Love”, and a catchy version of Keith Whitley’s “Birmingham Turnaround”. You’ll find covers of Gene Watson’s “Carmen” and “Thank God For The Radio”.
Irish songwriter Shunie Crampsey provides “Morning Sun Memories”, a beautiful song which could easily have come from the Hag’s own songbook. Robbie really does the song justice.
Another interesting song is the oldie, “If Teardrops Were Pennies”, which is a really catchy duet.
If you’re a fan of Robbie, I’m sure you’ll already have the album. If it’s real traditional Country music you’re after, then be sure to check out this CD.

THE LOCUST HONEY STRING BAND are a wonderful old timey Appalachian bluegrass band, and they’re back with a really refreshing sound on their new self released album, “I Never Let Me Cross Your Mind”.
The band are led by Georgia born Chloe Edmonstone and Meredith Watson, with some ace banjo
picking from Ariel Dixon and Hilary Hawke, with Andy Edmonstone adding some bass for good
There are three original songs written by Chloe, including the bright & breezy opening track, “When
The Whiskey’s Gone” and the harmony rich “How You Must’ve Felt”.  There’s a couple of classic
Carter Family covers, including “Righten That Wrong” and “Lonesome Song”, and a superb bluegrass
version of Kitty Wells’ “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On”. I was also impressed with the
arrangement of the old Davis Sisters hit “I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know About Him”,
and they even lend some superb harmonies to George Jones’ “Just One More”.   Plus there’s an
array of traditional tunes like “Henry Lee” and “Four Cent Corn”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album. It sounds dated, without doubt. But it’s real music, and sounds so
They are on tour over here next month. It would be well worth catching them.

Regular readers will know about the monthly Hotdisc which is where independent artists can get
their music onto CD and distributed to hundreds of Country music DJ’s around Europe and beyond.
You can read about these CD’s in our regular Hotdisc column. Although these CD’s are not available
to the public, each year the most popular British & Irish acts are featured on an annual compilation.
The “Best Of British & Irish 2015” has been just released, and is available for £9.99 from
This year’s compilation features 22 tracks, and includes long established names like Frank Jennings
(two tracks), Dave Sheriff and Susan McCann, to newer names like Christina Kulukundis and
Stephanie Cheeks Teague. As well as Jennings, The Diablos, Rob Allen, Tony Clarke and Owen
Moore all merit two tracks each.
There are only two tracks from Scottish acts, which may say more about our acts belief in promoting themselves, rather than the actual talent we have on offer.
George Inglis is featured with “I Am The Train”, the song he wrote for the opening of the new Borders Railway back in September. Check our Diana’s linedance for this song in the December issue of CMDS.  The other Scottish act featured is Janey Kirk, with daughter Carla, dueting on the BeeGee’s “First Of May”. It’s a lovely ballad, well produced, and the family harmony really stands out.
For me, Blagards & Cowboys, with their self titled ballad is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Elsewhere, the Irish acts stand out. Susan McCann is on top form with “Old Man On The Porch”, Pete Kennedy delivers his own “Crazy Country Girl” and Aidan Quinn has a great version of “A Friend Of Mine”.
This CD series really captures the Country scene in the British Isles, proving that it’s not just an American format. These guys deserve our support as Country fans themselves.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dec 2015

In the run up to Christmas, there’s loads of new releases to tell you about this time around. We’ll start off with our own home grown talents.
JACQUI SHARKEY is a Glasgow girl making a name for herself across in Ireland. Her third album, “Shine” has just been released, and is a mix of self penned & original numbers, and a few chosen covers.
The West Donegal based singer songwriter has one of the most beautiful voices around, with more than a canny resemblance to that of Anne Murray. That’s quite evident on the opening track, a beautiful ballad called “You’re The Reason”, one of three self penned songs on the album.  But Jacqui’s much more than an Anne Murray soundalike, as a listen to this album demonstrates.
Long time songwriting buddy Ian Smith, from Kilmarnock, co-wrote another beautiful ballad called “I’ll Be Missing You” with the Scots born singer.
But she proves that she can rock it up too, with the catchy “Let The Sun Shine On Me”, from which the album title comes.  There’s a bit of blues thrown into the mix, but works really well. There’s also some neat fiddle from multi talented Rob Hajacos, who has appeared on everyone from Alan Jackson to Glen Campbell albums.
Ian Smith also teamed up with Irish songwriter Jody Gallagher to contribute the upbeat “Arabica Blues”. It’s quite a different sound for Jacqui, but works well.
Another Irish songwriter Shunie Crampsey wrote the gorgeous “Take Me To Paris”, a song that Jacqui had released as a single a while back.  He also contributed “In Chicago”, another really beautiful song that suits Jacqui’s romantic vocals to a tee.
There’s also an original song from the New England songwriting duo of Marla Rubenstein & Fran Beaudet, called “Still Hoping”.
The covers on the album cover a wide range of styles from the bluegrassy “Lonesome Standard Time”, previously recorded by Kathy Mattea, The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive” (written by Jim Capaldi , Paul Carrack and Peter Vale), Patty Loveless “Blame It On Your Heart”, Allison Moorer’s “A Soft Place To Fall” and she also does Shania’s “Dance With The One”. 
To round it all off, she does a stunning version of the traditional Irish song, “Carrickfergus”, which runs to over 6 minutes.
Recorded in Errigal Studios in Donegal, Jacqui co-produced the album with Seamus McGhee, and features notable musicians like Ray McLoughlin, Des Sheerin and Jonathan Owens.
Jacqui has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and has really crafted her music on this album. Just the right balance of old & new, fast and slow. An absolutely stunning album, one that will definitely put a “Shine” to your CD collection.

Another Glasgow girl, who now calls Ireland home, is LISA McHUGH. She has never looked back since moving to Enniskillen to pursue her Irish Country music career a few years back. With total respect to the legends of the scene from generations ahead of her, Lisa found her place, and is now firmly establishing her own mark on the Irish Country music scene.
Her latest album. “Wildfire” is certainly proof of that. When talking with Lisa prior to the album release, she promised, ”some modern, some classics, and some fun”. She sure has provided that.
Several tracks have already been pushed out as singles, including the catchy CD opener, “Mean”, and her cover of Aussie group The McClymonts’ “Favourite Boyfriend Of The Year”, which she debuted on the glitzy Irish TV Country Awards Show.  There’s also the duet with Nathan Carter on “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, as they recreate the old Kenny & Dolly hit.
The classics include “57 Chevrolet”, Shania’s early hit “Dance With The One” and Carlene Carter’s “Every Little Thing”.  She gives new life to “Livin’ in These Troubled Times”, which Crystal Gayle had a hit with, way back in the early 80’s before Lisa was born. (I suspect Lisa’s version will be more likely to have been inspired by Maura O’Connell’s later version). Then there’s Dylan’s “Banks Of The Ohio”, most famously a hit for Olivia Newton John. Lisa has stripped the arrangement right back and it comes out as a beautifully haunting folk ballad, a style which I really think Lisa excels in.
Another song that picks up on the same style is the Victoria Shaw song “Never Alone”, which I first heard The Rankin Family do a few years ago. I never thought anyone could deliver such a stunning version as they did, but Lisa certainly comes close.
The fun comes over in “Bring On The Good Times”, written by Donegal singer songwriters Jody Gallagher & Mickey Joe Harte, and also on “Wildfire” which is the title track to the album.
There is a “hidden” track, an acoustic cover of Ed Sheerin’s “Thinking Out Loud, which Lisa delivers well.
It’s another winner from Lisa McHugh. Her fame is certainly spreading like “Wildfire”.

THE MAIRS FAMILY BAND are Scotland’s premier bluegrass band. Previously known as New Redwing, the group consists Mum & Dad Louise & Alan, and daughter Hazel, with the addition of Danny Hart.
Over the years, their family harmonies and neat picking on traditional bluegrass instruments, including dobro, double bass, banjo & acoustic guitar have won them much admiration at both home and abroad.
Their new album, simply called “Live !”, gives the game away. Yes, recorded live, at both The Moniaive Bluegrass Festival, and at The Meeting Place, Rutherglen, where the group host monthly acoustic evenings.
The album features 9 tracks, a mix of classics like “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” and “Jimmy Brown The Newsboy”, and newer covers like Alecia Nugent’s “The First Mistake” and Peter Rowan’s “You Taught Me How To Lose”, alongside an instrumental and gospel numbers. There’s even one of their own songs, “No Words”.
And it all rounds off with Hazel’s rousing version of “Rocky Top”.
The Mairs Family Band are well worth catching live every month at The Meeting Place, or wherever they play. This album really catches the live feel of the band.
Superb stuff !

JOHNNY CORRIGAN is a Glasgow born singer songwriter, who certainly made impressions with his last album, “Inchfad Drive”. As the publicity sent out with his latest album, “Down The Line” points out, the previous release was essentially a rock album, yet it was nominated at the UK Country Music awards. Similarly, despite containing not one word of Gaelic, it was Album of the week on Radio Nan Gaidheal.
“Down The Line” is no more Country than his last offering, but there is obviously an appeal amongst Country fans for Johnny Corrigan’s music.
The title track is a slow, sensitive number, which I really quite enjoyed. Indeed most of the songs are quite slow, including “If I Had” and “One Way Train”.
The more uptempo songs, including “Hallie-Luiah” sound quite Country, with some nice steel in the mix. This was certainly my stand out track.
“Stay Young”, which closes the album, features some lovely harmony from Irish songstress Heidi Talbot.
The musicians include top notch players like Alan Thomson, John McCusker and Stuart Nesbit, and was recorded at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow (not to be confused with Castle Campbell in Dollar, also known as the Castle of Doom).
It’s a nice listenable album, although not one for the hardest core Country fan.

Moving on to a recent visitor to our shores next.
BARBARA NESBITT is originally from Georgia, but her pursuit of music took her on a trail from Virginia, to San Diego, and most recently to Austin Texas. Scotland also figures in her musical journey having returned here in October for several dates across the country, in support of her latest album, “Almost Home”.
This is her third album, and the follow up to “The Bees”, which introduced her to Scottish fans four years ago.  This album really delivers Barbara’s strong, but delicate vocals, dressed with some absolutely stunning arrangements, thanks to players like Kim Deschamps on pedal steel & dobro, and Dennis Caplinger on Fiddle and Banjo.
Indeed, the title track, is heavily steel laden. A beautiful song that really invites the listener in for more.
Most of the songs are self penned ballads, and I really enjoyed “Graceless”, which really shows off her voice against the most simple backing.
The one is a bit different, is the more upbeat “Never Been in Love”, with some really quirky lyrics, and some superb fiddle & banjo. Stand out track for me.
All the songs are written by Barbara, except her catchy cover of Kasey Chambers’ “Sweetest Waste Of Time”, which is a duet with drummer Bill Coombes. They do a really neat version of it here.
It’s a lovely album from a lovely lady. If you missed her on tour, get a copy of the album. You won’t want to miss her next time!

Around 15 years ago, I picked up an album by a Texan singer STEPHANIE URBINA JONES, and really enjoyed her music. Now her 5th album “Fiery Angel” has just been released.
In that time Stephanie has transformed herself into the Queen Of Tex Mex, with a mix of Latin and American Country  music.
To be fair, there were influences of this back on that first album, and this latest album shows that there is much more to her than the Latin sound.
The opening track, definitely, has more salsa that steel. It’s a really catchy number called “Vamanos”, and that style is also strong on “Revolution” and “I Wanna Dance With You”, which really had that Mavericks feel to it.
But there is more to this girl than the tex mex image.
The title track is much more of a ballad, with gospel overtones, complete with choir.
“Life’s Too Short” is a good upbeat contemporary song, which wouldn’t be out of place on a mainstream Nashville album. “Hold Me Until The Lonelies Are Gone” and Run Out Of Road” are also upbeat, whilst “Rose In The Wreckage” and “The Resurrection Of My Heart” are delicate ballads. There’s also a sensitive cover of Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night”.
“He Reminds Of Texas”, stands out for me, as the strongest Country song. This song is a re-recording of the same song I had on that first album. It’s obviously been a good song for her over the years.
Stephanie wrote 10 of the 12 tracks on the album, which was recorded in Franklin Tennessee with a mix of Nashville and Texan players.
It’s a really bright and breezy album. A breath of fresh air, and well worth checking out.
Stephanie, apparently was over here in the summer playing at an Americana music event in Perthshire. Hopefully she’ll come back before long, and not keep her visit a secret next time.

ASHLEY MONROE is one of the more Country artists in Nashville these days. The Knoxville born singer has released a couple of previous albums, which really won over those who heard them. She is also one of the Pistol Annies supergroup, which also features 6 times CMA Female Vocalist of The Year Miranda Lambert.
Ashley’s career stalled at first. Her first album, and tracks from it, escaped rather than being released with proper promotion. Her second album, “Like A Rose” was released in 2013 and included songs like “You Aint Dolly (And You Aint Porter), a duet with Blake Shelton, which did well on European Country charts, more so than in her homeland.
But the release of “The Blade”, her new album, shot right to No.1 in the US Country chart, and Ashley Monroe has finally taken her place on the American Country scene. It has now been released here, ahead of her Country2Country Festival appearance in Glasgow next March.
The album, produced by Vince Gill, features 13 songs, all co-written by Monroe, with heavyweights like Jessie Alexander, Matraca Berg, Gill and recent CMA Awards sensation Chris Stapelton (who is also coming to c2c).
Listening through the album, I found the “The Blade” a pleasant listen. The lead off track, and previous single, “On To Something Good” is quite a poppy number. The title track is a beautiful ballad, which Ashley delivered well. The Vince Gill co-write “Weight Of The Load” is, again a really nice song, but didn’t really set the album alight for me.
“The Winning Streak” is an uptempo, piano backed number, which livened up the album a bit. 
It was track number 9 before the album really caught my attention. “Has Anyone Ever Told You” is a really beautiful ballad. What a difference the steel guitar makes to a ballad like this.
That’s followed by “Dixie”, a catchy bluesy number which really suited her southern accent. Really loved this track.
Paul Franklin’s steel guitar is back to the fore on “If The Devil Don’t Want Me”. The album is now getting better by the track. A real Country song, co-written with Jessie Alexander and Chris Stapleton. A real Country ballad.
Then Allison Krauss (who can make any song sound great) and Dan Tyminski add their vocals to the lovely “Mayflowers”. Another lovely song, even if the melody has a distinctive likeness to Merle’s “If We Make It Thru December”.
And, so quickly, we’re up to the last track. And the album is still getting better with each track. “I’m Good At Leavin’” is a superb old time fiddle laced Country song.
It’s hard to believe that it’s the same singer which ends the album as we heard start it 45 minutes earlier. I guess she’s covering all bases. The first eight tracks for US Country radio, and her label, and the final five fantastic tracks for herself, her producer and real Country fans.
The early tracks on the album, are pleasant and listenable, but if it’s real Country music you like, go straight to track 9 without delay.

GEORGE STRAIT is one of Country music’s most consistent hitmakers. He may have hung up his traveling shoes, but he is still making records, and his latest CD, “Cold Beer Conversations” continues the trend that has sold over 100 million albums.
There’s not much to say about the man and his music that hasn’t been said in reviews for his 28 previous studio albums.  There’s good uptempo numbers like the Western Swing flavoured “It Takes All Kinds” and the kinda rocky “Rock Paper Scissors”, mid tempo tracks like “It Was Love”, and ballads like “Something Going Down”, “Take Me To Texas” and “Everything I See”. I really liked the closing ballad, “Even When I Cant Feel It”.
I’m sure that George has recorded a good few drinking and honky tonk songs over the years, but there does seem to be more than a few here, including the title track, “Goin’ Goin’Gone”, “Stop And Drink” and “Cheaper Than A Shrink”.
Strait co-wrote three of the tracks with other songs coming from the likes of Keith Gattis, Brandy Clark, Jamey Johnson, Dean Dillon and Bill Anderson.
Another top notch album from Country music’s biggest star.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m starting to really like TOBY KEITH’s music. His latest album, “35mph Town” has a great set of upbeat songs.
From the opening track, “Drunk Americans”, to slower numbers like “What She Left Behind”, this is a really enjoyable album.
“Drunk Americans”, written by Brandy Clark, Bob DiPiero and Shane McAnally, is an anthem for equality. Don’t think it may be treated as such down in the bible belt. It’s the only track Keith didn’t co-write.
The title track is one of these hometown songs, where big city issues spread into the rural areas.
There is a gulf coast feel to a couple of numbers, including “Rum Is The Reason”, which could’ve been a Jimmy Buffett song, and “Sailboat For Sale”, which features Buffett himself.
“Haggard, Hank & Her”, is a true tear in your beer honky tonk song. Toby really makes his mark with this song for me.
“Beautiful Stranger”, which closes the album, is a rare Toby Keith ballad. He really delivers it with emotion, and is a fitting finale to the album.
I really enjoyed this album. He eventually got to me !

One of the most successful Irish acts of all time are FOSTER & ALLEN, who are celebrating 40 years in the business, with the aptly titled “Celebration” CD.
Yes, it was back in 1975 when Mick Foster and Tony Allen got together, but it was a spell in the 1980’s when they had half a dozen UK Chart hits with songs like “A Bunch Of Thyme”, “After All These Years” (which gets an appropriate rerun here) and “Maggie”, which really set them up for a long and lengthy career. Indeed “Maggie” became a No.1 hit in New Zealand. Their regular album releases continue to sell, totalling over 22 million to date.
They set the standard for Irish acts, which remains today. Country songs included, but with Irish and old popular pop songs added for good measure.
This album features 20 tracks, ranging from Jim Reeves “Welcome To My World” and Isla Grant’s “Mothers Chair”, to The Beach Boys “Sloop John B” and Ralph McTell’s “Streets Of London”. For the Irish side, he covers Joe Dolan’s “Make Me An Island”, and comes up to date with Derek Ryan’s “God’s Plan”, as well as titles like “Eileen McManus”, “Boyle in The County Roscommon” and “Noreen Bawn”.
There’s also “We Owe It All To You”, the lads’ thank you to the fans.
After 40 years, we’ve all become accustomed to what to expect from a Foster & Allen CD. And they never disappoint!

Compared to Foster & Allen, DEREK RYAN is quite a newcomer to the scene, but has quickly established himself as a writer and performer on the Irish Country scene.
His latest album, “One Good Night” offers quite a mix of styles. “Bendigo”, one of his own songs was an early single from the album. It’s more of a fun number.
The old Simon & Garfunkel song, “Cecilia” has proved to be a popular linedance hit in recent times, so Derek covering this song, will be aimed at his dancefloor fans. In contrast, he also covers the old PP Arnold/Rod Stewart song, “First Cut Is The Deepest” (written by Cat Stevens).
“Firefly” is a song Derek has covered from a Dublin band called Tupelo, and made his own. It is a rather poppy sounding number. He’s also recorded the well covered “Someday You’ll Love Me”
There are quite a few real Country songs on the album too. Roly Daniels, no less, joins him on “Wrong Side Of Sober”, whilst “Diamond Rings & Old Bar Stools” really stands out for me. It’s a Tim McGraw song, and there’s some nice female harmonies which really give the song something.
 “Waltz With A Hero” and “Making Memories Of Us” are pleasant ballads that was a really nice listen.
Six of the 15 tracks were written by Derek himself, including the title track and “Break Your Heart”, a bouncy little number, with a distinctive Irish feel to it.
It’s another winner from one of Ireland’s new breed.

ALLY HARRON and MARIAN CURRY have been gaining a lot of attention in their native Ireland over the past few years, and their new album, “Perfect Harmony” is finally available.
The one thing that stands out for me is their love of old style traditional Country music, and a knack of making it sounding fresh for today’s market. The album contains a mix of duets and solo numbers.
Ally is obviously a Buck Owens fan, covering “Aint Gonna Kick Ole Buck” and “This Old Heart”. He also does a truly wonderful version of Vernon Oxford’s “This Woman Is Mine”, and a beautiful song called “Marian’s Rose”, not to mention “Thirty Days In Twenty Years”
Meanwhile, Marian takes control of “I Cry Every Time I Leave Ireland”, a song written by Leona Williams (ex Mrs Haggard) and Micheal Cummins.
The title track was written by Eugene Cunningham, on which they duet. They also duet on George & Tammy’s “Size Seven Round” and “Two Storey House”, as well as the opening track, “It’s An Old Love Thing”.
There’s a true traditional Country sound on Carl Jackson’s old “The Pieces Are Coming Together”.
A good solid Country album, with the emphasis on traditional Country. I really enjoyed my listen to it.

Humphead Records have released another trio of classic best of’s which would be great Christmas presents.
I was a shade puzzled at “The Essential Collection” by ALLISON MOORER, given that I still play the same label’s “Ultimate Collection” by her. But, on closer consideration, I found that this latest release is a 35 track collection 2 CD set, compared to the previous release, which was way back in 2008, was a single CD with just 18 tracks.
Now if you have that “Ultimate Collection”, then all the same tracks are covered here (Plus twice as many). The album covers her MCA label years from 1998-2005. She was just too Country for Nashville, and only charted 4 hits in that time. Wikipedia cites  Moorer as an “alternative Country singer”.
Alternative ??  
Let’s just say, she’s a million times more Country than some of the big names out there today. 
I had a great time listening to these songs again, like “Long Black Train”, “Alabama Song”, “The One That Got Away” , “I Found A Letter”, “The Hardest Part”, “A Soft Place To Fall” and “Send Down An Angel”.
As with many of Humphead’s releases, there’s some very detailed sleevenotes (8 pages of them) from Maverick’s Alan Cackett. I’m slightly disappointed that, after Alan tells us in some detail about a duet both Allison and Sheryl Crowe recorded with Kid Rock on a song called “Picture”, that the song isn’t included. Allisons’ version was much superior, but Crowe being the bigger name, got the more airplay.  However, “an Essential Collection” is just slightly mis-titled by it’s omission here.  Small gripe, which can always be rectified in her next compilation in another 8 years time.

PATTY LOVELESS is a rare breed. A true Country singer that Nashville did embrace. She is a cousin of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle and followed them down from Kentucky to Nashville to pursue her career. Her career actually began guesting on the Wilburn Brothers TV series, and touring with them, when she was just 14 years old. Her first hits appeared in 1985, with “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”, which kicks of Humphead’s “Honky Tonk Angel- The MCA Years”, a 50 track 2 CD collection, which covers her career up to 1992, when she switched to the Epic label.
Her MCA career contributed 19 of her total of 44 Country chart hits, and they’re all included here, including the two number one’s she had “Chains” and “Timber I’m Falling In Love With You”.
Other songs it was good to hear again included “If My Heart Had Windows”, Blue Side Of Town” and “God Will”. It’s great to have these titles on CD. I still have the original albums on vinyl.
Again, there’s lengthy sleevenotes from Alan Cacket, which make for an interesting read.
A great compilation.                        

The third Humphead compilation is from BOBBIE GENTRY. She was never one of the most successful artists. Apart from her 1967 smash, “Ode To Billie Joe”, she only had a handful of hits, mostly duets with Glen Campbell.
But Humphead have found 50 tracks worthy of inclusion on “Southern Gothic : The Definitive Collection”, which makes for interesting listening. There’s quite a few songs, you’ll recognise as hits for others, like “Fancy” (later done by Reba), “Here,There & Everywhere” (Beatles), “My Elusive Dreams” (George & Tammy). “Louisiana Man” (Doug Kershaw), “Son Of A Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield) and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” (BJ Thomas).
Bobbie’s vocal style suited some of these songs. Others, less so. She had a raunchy Southern drawl, which really comes over on the more soulful songs like “Mississippi Delta”, “Chickasaw Country Child” and “In The Ghetto”.
There are track’s where her vocals are more melodic, like on “Papa’s Medicine Show”, “Where’s The Playground Johnny” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, but then she sounds quite pop on these tracks.
Then there’s 8 duets with Glen Campbell, including “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Gentle On My Mind” and “Scarborough Fair”.
There’s a lot of unheard music here. It’s an interesting listen.

JANE KRAMER is an American singer, born in Pennsylvania in 1980.  “Carnival Of Hopes”, which will be released on January 8th, is the follow up to her acclaimed “Break & Bloom”.
After 4 years on the west coast, the songstress returned to North Carolina this past summer.
On this outing Jane sounds really refreshing. Country, with a bluegrass feel, and more than a dash of homestyle Appalachia.
Her vocals are particularly strong, from the opening “Half way Gone”, and the catchy title track, to the slower ballads like “Good Woman”, “Highways, Rivers & Scars” and “Truck Stop Stars”.
I really enjoyed the pacey “Your Ever-green Heart”, and the even more upbeat bluegrass track, “My Dusty Wings”.
All the songs are her own writing, except “Down South”, which was written by Tom Petty. Her arrangement really fits into the album nicely.
This is a really refreshing album. Great vocals, and superb arrangements. Already one of next year’s best albums, for sure.

Big cities and old timey bluegrass music isn’t the most obvious connection, but when the city is Toronto, one of the most diverse cultural metropolis on the planet, then anything is possible.  SLOCAN RAMBLERS are a quartet from the Canadian city’s West End, from where these guys take us on a superb bluegrass trip on their new album, “Coffee Creek”.
From the fast paced opening instrumentals like the title track, and “The Back 40”, and songs like “Groundhog” and “Steamline Cannonball” to the more laid back “Elk River” and “Lone Pine”, they keep the listener interested with feet tapping tunes and good melodies.
“Rambling Sailor” is a catchy folk story song, which stood out for me.
I really enjoyed this journey into the world of Slocan Ramblers. Good old bluegrass.             

My first listen to BROOKSIE WELLS had me hooked. She has a lovely bluegrass feel to her “North East Rising Sun” album, which impressed me throughout.
Although I was unfamiliar with the name, it would appear that Brooksie is no new newcomer to the music business. She was born in the South, to parents who fought for civil and equal rights. She moved to New York in the 70’s where the booming folk scene was a great influence on her. Bobby Darin discovered her, which led to a songwriting contract. She later worked with John Lennon’s band Elephant’s Memory and as a singer with Kid Creole & The Coconuts.
But, glad to say that Brooksie has returned to her southern roots with this new album.
The album kicks off with “North East Rising Sun”, which describes her musical journey between the south and north east. It’s a really catchy mid-tempo track which really worked. “Nothing Changes” and “Save The Day” are in the same category.
“You Cant Fix Crazy” is a bit more uptempo, and quite catchy, whilst “Holdin’ His Heart” and the slow fiddle infused “If Someday Ever Comes” are softer, but no less appealing. A couple of tracks, mainly “No Notion” and “Shame Houses” were a shade pop sounding to me.
There’s also a humorous “Who Needs A Man” fun number to close the album.
It’s a really nice album.  Really enjoyed it.

HAPPY TRAUM may be a legendary folk music singer, born in The Bronx, and famous for collaborations with Bob Dylan, but his latest album, “Just For The Love Of It”, his first new CD in a decade, is a lovely listen for acoustic Country listeners.
If you like simple guitar arrangements, and easy listening vocals, then, this is worth a listen.
You’ll recognise “High Muddy Water” (John Herald), the traditional “Water Is Wide”, Lead Belly’s “In The Pines”, PeeWee King’s “Tennessee Waltz” and the wonderful “Spanish Is A Loving Tongue”.
I really liked the more uptempo “Church Street Blues” and the traditional “Deep Blue”.
It’s an interesting listen. One I enjoyed very much. Nice easy listen.

The press info supporting BEN ROGERS new album, “The Bloodred Yonder”, claims he is a “classic story teller with a voice smoke-damaged velvet soaked in Tennessee whiskey”. That’s quite a vision, but, I can certainly hear where these words came from.
No, it’s not the smoothest voice I’ve heard, but he can certainly deliver a good story song.
The album kicks off with the catchy “Wild Roses”. A couple of tracks, mainly “No Notion” and “Shame Houses” were a shade pop sounding to me.  There’s a really good beat throughout the album, a  bit rocky at times, but it works, especially on tracks like “Wanted”, “Panhandler” and “Don’t Buy Me Roses”.
He did slow it down on tracks like “Goodbye Rosa Lee”, “Sinners” and “Darling Please”, but it was the more upbeat tracks which appealed most to me.
Although quite rocky in places, Ben made the songs, especially the uptempo ones, sound quite Country.   Ben was over here touring Scotland recently in support of the album.  Hope he makes it back soon.

There is something really refreshing about raw Country music. And THE WARDEN is really refreshing.
He is Ward Richmond, from Dallas, who has been playing local bars & clubs, including as part of a group called “Boys Named Sue”.
His music, certainly on his self titled album, is hi-energy and unrefined, but really works.
The 12 track CD, in which he wrote all the songs, kicks off with a lively “Deny,Deny,Deny”, with its’ racing guitar arrangement. He keeps the tempo up throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Salvation”, “Sun Goes Down” and “Interstate”
He does slow the tempo with “Little Darlin’”, which adds trumpet and trombone into the mix. “Dark Clouds” has a neat Country arrangement.
“Bullets” is an interesting number. The intro is quite strange, but leads into a beautiful steel laden Country song, with duet vocals from Madison King, who has been rated one of Dallas top female vocalists. I’d certainly like to hear more from her.
As for The Warden, this was certainly an interesting album.  Not mainstream, by any means, but interesting all the same.

Finally, New England raised ROD PICOT is coming to Celtic Connections, and will release his 7th album, “Fortune” before his Strathclyde Suite gig with Kimmie Rhodes.
Rod is now a regular visitor to these shores. He come a long way since giving up his job as a sheet rock hanger 15 years ago, to move to Nashville and pursue his career as a singer songwriter.
Having said that, he’s more Americana than modern Music City.
The album features 12 self penned numbers (3 co-writes), and vary from slow ballads like “Jeremiah” and “Drunken Barber’s Hand”, to early Steve Earle inspired mid tempo songs like “Elbow Grease”.
“Until I’m Satisfied” also has an interesting beat, almost industrial, you could say.
“I Was Not Worth Your Love” is quite upbeat, and stands out.
Rod has built up quite a following over the years. This album can only build on that fan base.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

October 2015

The new album from RAINTOWN seems to have taken forever. But the wait is over, and “Writing On The Wall” (BMB) has finally arrived.
And I have to say, it’s been worth the wait.
Paul & Claire have made some good music together for a number of years now. The have obviously matured in their writing and performing since their last album, “Hope In Troubled Times”. They have written, or co-written nine of the twelve tracks on the album. The thing that impressed me most, is the crisp clean arrangements on many of the tracks, which really match the American Country sound.
Each song is handled differently. In some, Paul takes the lead, in others, it’s Claire. On tracks like “If This Was A Love Song”, the single from the album, their harmonies come out in force.
On tracks like “Missing You”, Paul leads the first half of the song, before Claire takes over. This song was written in the aftermath of Glasgow’s Clutha tragedy.
Most of the tracks are quite upbeat, like “Beautiful Life”, and “Writing On The Wall”.
“Forever Isn’t Long Enough” and “Better Beautiful” are more of a medium paced ballad, with lead vocals by Claire, whilst “Shut The Front Door” is an upbeat attitude song, one of the more rockier tracks on the CD,
“Nineteen Again”, written by Brian Hughes, is a good upbeat number, which sounds like it came right out of Music City USA. It’s a really strong radio friendly number. By contrast, “See You Again” is a beautiful ballad, with a simple piano, bass and steel arrangement.
Recorded at Par Street Studio in Liverpool, producer Justin Johnson has really captured Paul & Claire’s talent down to a tee. Fellow rising stars Laura Oakes and Luke Thomas also feature on the album.
Altogether, it’s a good modern Country sound. This album is right up there with the cream of the Nashville releases.

RAB NOAKES is one of Scotland’s foremost singer songwriters. He crosses genres from folk and Country to blues and rock. Long time Country fans will recognise his name from the days when Gerry Ford presented Radio Scotland’s Country Corner. Rab was the producer of that show, and later The Brand New Opry. He was also behind one of Glasgow’s Country music radio projects, Neon Country Radio.
As I say, Rab’s musical style is extremely versatile, so his album, “I’m Walkin’ Here” (Neon)  is not all Country by any means, but there are enough tracks that interested me enough to give it a mention here in CMDS. There is an old time Country feel in places, In others, you’ll hear skiffle & rockabilly undertones.
It’s actually a double CD set, with 26 tracks, and 7 bonus tracks, available by going to the website after buying the album. The first CD is all Rab written songs, whilst CD2 is a mixture of influences that has been working on him over the years.
“I’m Walkin’ Here”, the title track, was apparently inspired by Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. It’s a good catchy number. One that should find itself onto radio.
“Slippin’ Away” is a driving guitar number, in a kinda Neil Young / Cougar Mellancamp style.
Both songs feature impressive harmonies from Jill Jackson.
Roddy Hart guests on “It Happenned All The Same”, a haunting Country ballad, with a big struuming guitar. Quite imposing.
I mentioned skiffle, and the sound comes up to date on “Out Of Your Sight”. I really quite liked the sound. Rockabilly and ragtime come together on a really catchy number called “Where Dead Voices Gather”. It’s good upbeat number, that really shines through.
CD2 kicks off with an old west inspired version of “Button & Bows”, with harmonies from Barbara Dickson. That ol’ west feel also comes over on “All In Down & Out Blues” and “That’s The Way The Whole Thing Ends”, which features a nice duet with fellow singer songwriter Emma Pollock.
He does an interesting version of the old Skiffle song, “Freight Train”. This song features harmonies and guitar from Jimmie Macgregor.
The download tracks include Roger Miller’s “When Two Worlds Collide”.
It’s actually quite an impressive album. So much ground covered in such a small space.

More homegrown material later, but now we’re off to the Nashville scene.
KIP MOORE was one of the new Nashville acts who came over here earlier this year.  At that time, he had only released one album, but did promise that his second album was on the way. And it has arrived.
“Wild Ones” (Humphead) is quite a rocky affair, with a vocal style that reminded me of Scottish born Canadian star Johnny Reid.
The 13 track CD kicks off with the title track. It’s a rather forgettable pop number. “Come And Get It”, which follows on, is quite an upbeat number, which I really quite liked. But it’s certainly more rock than Country. Quite a few of the tracks aren’t what I’d call Country, but, having said that, there were quite a few tracks I liked, and the album got better as we went through it.
“Girl Of The Summer” and “Heart’s Desire” are quite pleasant mid tempo tracks. “That Was Us”, is quite a soft rock, soul & Country song, which recalls a rather dubious past.
“I’m To Blame”, which was released as a single to radio prior to the full album release, is a good song, which probably is my stand out track. “The Comeback Kid”, is the most Country track.
Kip co-wrote all the tracks, and co-produced the album with Brett James.
It’s an interesting listen, and well worth seeking out if you were impressed with him on his shows earlier in the year.

In this reality TV world, where stars are made in a 3 month long series, it appears others take forever to get their music out there. CANAAN SMITH is a 33 year old singer songwriter from Williamsburg, Virginia, who has been in Nashville since 2001, when he enrolled at Belmont University at the top of Music Row. He co-wrote the Top 10  hit,“Runaway” for the band Love & Theft in 2009. In 2011, he signed to Mercury Records, got a couple of singles out, and only this summer, has released his debut album, “Bronco”, released here by Humphead.
It’s an interesting album. Modern, but certainly showing some real strong Country tendencies as well.
Smith co-wrote eight of the eleven tracks.
The title track closes the album, and is the stand out track. It has a very simple arrangement, and really shows Canaan’s voice to perfection.
“Hole In The Bottle”, his current US single, has a good upbeat driving beat, which really suited his Country vocal style. “Stuck”, “Two Lane Road” and “Mad Love” are slower ballads
“Love You Like That” and “American Muscle” didn’t appeal to me at all, but all things considered, it was quite a listenable album.
Thanks to Humphead for giving us a chance to hear him over here.

I recently saw a Facebook picture featuring The Highwaymen. The caption read, “If you don’t know who these guys are, you’re probably listening to Luke Bryan”.  The suggestion was that Bryan, the current CMA Entertainer Of The Year, had no connection to Country music of the past.  He certainly is Country music today. There’s no denying that, with 13 Number to date, he is the man!
LUKE BRYAN won over many UK fans when he visited these shores earlier this year for c2c events in Glasgow, Dublin & London. Now his latest album, “Kill The Lights” (Decca) has been released here.
“Kick The Dust Up”, which kicks off the album, is his latest single stateside.
“Home Alone Tonight” is a rather forgetful track, which features Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town). Other tracks, such as “Razor Blade”, I found equally bland. Most of the tracks are uptempo. “Move” is an uptempo, racey, rocky number, which does have some Country influence trying to break out.
But, I have to say, it’s the ballads that appealed to me most.
“Strip It Down” is an interesting track. The lyrics, and Luke’s vocals come over as very naturally Country, but, I’m afraid the backing just doesn’t fit the bill. It’s a nice track, but just lacked that Country X factor for me.
“To The Moon And Back” does work for me. It’s a lovely ballad, with some nice harmonies. The Country side of Luke Bryan also breaks through on  “Huntin’ Fishin’ And “Lovin’ Every Day”. It’s a bit more haunting, with a shade of vintage Hank Jr shining through.
And the final track, “Scarecrows” wasn’t bad either. Strange that, on a 13 track album, it’s the last three tracks that stood out for me.
The album was produced by Jeff Stevens, who released several really good albums back in the 80’s, as Jeff Stevens & The Bullets. He produced a very different sound back then.
Luke Bryan is Country music in 2015, whether The Highwaymen like it or not.

LOUISE MORRISSEY has always been one of my favourite Irish singers, and that is easily justified by the release of her new album, “Duets & Hits”.
For the album, Louise has teamed up with the likes of Patrick O’Sullivan, Dominic Kirwan, Paddy O’Brien, and even Billy Yates, on a variety of songs. The album kicks off with “September Sky”, a beautiful song, which Louise performed on the recent Irish TV Country Music Awards Show. “I Give You Music”, is also a lovely song, which took me back many years to when The McCarter Sisters performed it at the Morecambe Festival. “Timeless And True Love”, was featured on the same McCarters album, and whilst others have recorded the song since, Louise does a lovely job on it.
Her duet with Dominic is “Islands In The Stream”, whilst her brother Norman duets on “Don’t Let Me Crossover”. Her recent single, “Roses In My Garden”, features Martin Byrne.
She has more guests joining in on “Best of Friends”.
There are a few Irish songs, including “Come Back Paddy Reilly To Ballyjamesduff”, “Carrickfergus” and “Glen Of Aherlow”. And there’s even a bonus track, “Til The Season Comes Around”.
It would appear that this album has been a long time in the making. There are no less than eleven producers over the 17 tracks.
It’s been well worth the wait. A superb album, from one of Ireland’s favourite entertainers.

MICHAEL ENGLISH was one of the budding Irish Country acts back in the Ritz era. He went quiet for a few years, but has bounced back in the past couple of years, and is again a big draw on the Irish scene. Scottish fans will get a chance to catch up with him during his October tour (see gig list for dates & venues). He also has a new album, “Dance All Night”, which like quite a few recent Irish albums, is a mix of pop and Country, dance numbers and sentimental ballads.
That’s the mix that works here. There are six self penned numbers, which include the sentimental songs like “A Million Memories”, and “Mama’s Foootsteps”, and upbeat dance numbers like “Big Blue Tree” and the really catchy “Friday At The Dance”. “The Blacksmith And The Barman” is a good old Irish folk knees up. “Up All Night”, is a bit more pop to my ears.
He also covers a few classics like The Springfield’s “I’ll Never Find Another You”, Ned Miller’s “Do What You Do Do Well”, as well as a superb rendition of Johnny McEvoy’s “Long Long Before Your Time”. I really enjoyed his version of “The Roseville Fair” as well.
There’s a couple of Eurovision type songs, including “Ding Dong, Sing My Song” and the title trach, “Dance All Night”, which I’m sure will keep the dancers happy.
A good variety of music on this album. Welcome back Michael.

JOHN T DAVIS is highly rated as Ireland’s  foremost documentary filmmaker. His highlights have included “Shellshocked” about Belfast’s punk rock scene, and American influenced films like “Route 65”, “Hobo” and “Heart On The Line”. Indeed, America has become a second home for him, and he has expanded filmmaking into songwriting.
He has now released two albums of original material in “Indigo Snow” and “Last Western Cowboy”.
They are real singing cowboy songs. Simple arrangements and impressive lyrics.
On “Indigo Snow”, I particularly liked the uptempo “Hank’s Song”, and “Richards Electric”, his take on Alan Jacksons’ “Little Man”. He even manages some Hank style yodelling on “Heartache On The Highway”.
On “Last Western Cowboy”, as you would expect, it’s a western theme, with a catchy number “Honeymoonshine” standing out. It’s a duet with his daughter-in-law Meghan. There’s an old time feel to “Gas Station Roses”, whilst “Rim Rock Rendezvous” has echoes of “Wandering Star”,
Both feature Richard Nelson on steel, and Crawford Bell and Brendan Quinn on harmony vocals.
Both CD’s were a joy to listen to.

THE GRAHAMS are Doug & Alyssa, husband & wife, who have grown up together since childhood
And have just brought out their second album, “Glory Bound” (12 South Records), to coincide with
an English & Irish tour next month.
It’s a real good time fun record, with Alyssa leading the vocals on most of the tracks.  Their music
blends Country with folk and bluegrass, and more. Recorded in Oklahoma, the album has a lot of
Country spirit, and energy. There are traces of the folk era of the 70’s yet sounds bang up to date.
The album kicks off with the title track, which tells of regrets of growing up. It’s a good uptempo
opening to the album, which is followed by the fun “Gambling Girl”.
Some numbers like “Kansas City” are really fast, with some fast & furious fiddle courtesy of
Byron Berline, whilst others, like “The Wild One” has a bit of a slower soul feel to it.
“Biscuits”, is a simple sounding back porch number. Just so relaxing.
“Mama” has a strong gospel feel to it, whilst the accordion adds something to “Borderland”, as does
the steel guitar to “The Spinner”, a laid back mid tempo track.
The album closes with a wonderful rockabilly/folk/Country fusion trip to “Promised Land”.
I really loved this album. Every track had me hooked.
Certainly one of my albums of the year. It’s a pity they’re not coming north on their tour.

JUDY KLASS is quite a woman. She’s an accomplished playwright and author. Originally from New York, she graduated from Oxford and now lectures at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. And she’s also a singer songwriter. “The Brooklyn Cowgirl Rides Again” (Warp & Woof Music), her new album features 2 CD’s , with 32 songs in total.
There’s quite a variety of material here. From a songwriter viewpoint, there are some songs which are good songs, which other singers may just do a bit better. “Unbreakable” is the prime example.
There are songs, which Judy has made very much her own, however.
“Country Girl” is a really honest self confidential, with a good number of classic Country stars name-dropped. “I Will Remember This Feeling” and “While You Were Out” are more of piano led ballads, which I really liked.
On CD2, “The Good Times” was a really pleasant song, whilst “Drink It Over”, has a beer-drinking honky tonk feel to it. “Mariko” has a free’n’easy feel to it.
There’s some impressive steel on the first of her songs which tackle Music City. “My Pain Ain’t News” has appealing lines like “They tell me New Country don’t make room for no more crying heartache songs”. She may have something there, and has turned it into a superb, “real”  Country song. The next track is called “Been Through the Wars In Nashville”. It’s a song that takes no prisoners about the Music scene. The girl’s on a roll !
Despite the glossy CD package, there is a lack of information re. musicians and backing singers, but, to the average listener, that probably isn’t a priority.
To be honest, Judy doesn’t have the most Country vocals. There’s no southern drawl. It did take several listens to really appreciate this album. But I got there, and quite enjoyed it.

Singer songwriter MARK BROWN grew up in Maryland, and has travelled across the USA, doing different jobs and picking up experiences for his songs. He got his first Johnny Cash record when he was just 6 years old, and was taken to his first Tom Waits concert in 1975.  He’s been writing and playing music for 25 years and has eventually come to our attention with the self released album “Skin & Bone”.
All 14 songs are his own. They’re a mix of slow ballads like “Cried In Your Bed”, “When The Time Comes” and “Pony” (from which the CD title comes), and more upbeat tracks like “See You Next Time” and “Hatchet Man”.
“Granny” which closes the set, is a downhome simple song that works really well. Stand out track for me, however, was “Smashed”, a kind of anti-drinking song. It has a good beat, it works well as a song, but of course, the message kinda fails.
I quite enjoyed this album. I’m sure this wont be the last we hear of Mark Brown.

Next up, a second album from Bedfordshire’s DANNI NICHOLLS, recorded in Nashville. “Mockingbird Lane” features 11 tracks, all written by Danni herself.
Most of the songs are nicely performed ballads. “Back To Memphis” is one of the stronger ballads. She has a smouldering vocal which really comes out in this song.
“Leaving Tennessee” and “Between Forever and Goodbye” are a bit more uptempo. “Long Road Home” is a strong haunting song which opens the album in fine, inviting style. “Travellin’ Man”, is one of the most upbeat tracks, and stands out for me.
“Look Up At The Moon” has a rather bluesy feel to it.
An interesting album, if you like singer songwriters.

Another singer songwriter of note is RITA HOSKING, from California, whose sixth album, “Frankie And The No-Go Road”, will be released later this month, ahead of a tour in November.
It’s an interesting concept album, inspired by a couple of books, and each track is identified in the sleeve notes as being a particular part of a journey.
Most of the songs are simple, acoustic songwriter fayre, but there are exceptions.
“Our Land” is the track that stands out for me. There’s some lovely harmonica, that just inspires the whole song.
If you’ve seen Rita on one of her previous visits, be sure to catch up with her latest music.

Next up, a most interesting album. The Youngbloods were a mid 60’s band which grew out of the Greenwich Village, folk rock scene, which featured Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, and Lowell Levinger, amongst others. Levinger was a bluegrass player, who went under the name of Banana!
The Youngbloods achieved great acclaim, and were signed to both RCA & Mercury Records, but only had one substantial hit, “Get Together” which reached No.5 on the pop charts in 1967.
Now to mark The Youngbloods 50th Anniversary, LOWELL LEVINGER has released “Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics” (Grandpa Raccoon Records).
I wasn’t familiar with any Youngbloods music, but I really quite enjoyed listening to this collection of songs, which, Levinger’s roots being in bluegrass, are very much in that style.
He has some guests, including fellow Youngblood Jesse Colin Young on several tracks. Reviving their Top 5 hit, “Get Together” features Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Pete Rowan and David Grisman. Ry Cooder provides slide guitar, banjo & mandolin on a couple of tracks.
The tracks vary from the catchy & upbeat “Sugar Babe” and the humorous “Pool Hall Song” to the more subdued “Darkness Darkness”. There’s a rather different version of “Stagger Lee”, but the one that catches your attention is “Hippie From Olena”, a parody on Merle’s “Okie From Muskogee”. Two members from Italian Bluegrass band Red Wine also feature on this track.
Well worth a listen, even for those of us who bypassed the Youngblood years!

BETTY SOO is an Austin based Americana singer songwriter, with Asian roots. Her latest album, “When We’re Gone”, is her first for five years, but she has toured here several times in that time.
There’s quite a variety of styles on the album. Songs like “The Things She Left Town With” and “Lullaby” are soft Country ballads. Others are a little bit more upbeat, like “Wheels”.
Listen out for “100 Different Ways Of Being Alone”, quite a mid tempo number,
Some others, are a little less Country. But an interesting listen, nevertheless.

Finally, listen out for Glasgow’s Kevin McGuire. He’s a Glasgow based singer songwriter in the modern Country mould. He began his career at the age of 17, and already played most of Glasgow’s major music venues.  His acoustic EP released last year won many new fans, and was named as Café Nero’s Artist Of The Month. He is planning on expanding his fan base with a new EP, and is currently in talks with label chiefs in LA and Music City, about releasing it on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Alright, Tonight!” is a slow starter but picks up pace nicely. It is a modern country record, which should get a good reaction with Nashville labels. “Back Home” is a bit on the pop side, but it’s interesting how he picks up on the John Denver song of the same title. The third track, “I Belong”, again should find favour with the American fans.


The launching of the new Borders Railway line after 46 years created a lot of excitement in the area and on television too.  Local Country singer, George Inglis marked the event by writing and recording a song, and video, called “I Am The Train”, which mentioned every station on the new line.
The video was featured on both the BBC News and ITV Borders news programme.
George told the BBC, "I was really against the closing of the railway away back in '69 and I think it's great to have it back. I am right behind it, as we all are in this area. It's a very exciting time for us in Galashiels. We'll be linked up to the city - we've been cut off for years."
George, the voice behind the band “Rockin’Horse” is currently hosting his own radio show each Friday night @ 10pm on Galashiels based station TD1, which is heard locally on 106.5FM, and online at