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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Oct 2016

This time around, we’ll kick off with some recent releases from our homegrown artists.

JACKIE STORRAR’s legacy CD, “Behind Her Eyes”, is an absolutely stunning album.  Her voice sounds wonderful throughout, despite being recorded in the final months of her life. The musical arrangements really suit the style of the songs, and is a real credit to her husband Steve Thiebault and Bones Parker.
When listening to the songs throughout the album, knowing Jackie’s health situation when she was recording it, it’s easy to appreciate how a songs words can be adapted to match the occasion. Take the opening track, for example. “One Night at A Time” has a completely different meaning from Jackie, than it ever was with George Strait. Similarly, “But I Will” was on Faith Hill’s first album, but with lines like “The next time would be the last time, and that time came this morning”, you cant help feel how poignant the song was for Jackie.
The album includes four tracks written by Jackie & Steve, including “The Future’s Ours”, a lovely ballad which was the first song they wrote together.
They also wrote the title track, which Jackie writes on the sleevenotes is about people not being what they seem. Again, with Jackie’s positive outlook during her illness, it fits her legacy so well.
The album does include a few songs that Jackie had released as singles over the years, but had not made it onto an album. Included is “My Angel”, which the pair wrote in 2004 after TV presenter Caron Keating lost her battle with breast cancer. How sad that Jackie would face the same battle.
Jackie’s musical tastes were quite varied, and that is demonstrated on the album, by the inclusion of Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”, and there’s quite a celtic feel to her version of The Killers’ “Human”, and “Wild Mountainside”, written by John Douglas from The Trashcan Sinatras.  She also gives another airing to Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”, and, in contrast also covers Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”.
Steve Black wrote “I Stand Gere Tonight”, and she also covers Shania Twain’s “No One Needs To Know” and The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive”.
It’s a beautiful album. It’s one that I’d appreciate whatever the situation.
Thanks for the music Jackie. It’s a wonderful legacy for us all to share in. And remember, the main beneficiaries are Maggie’s Fife.

Glasgow born LISA McHUGH continues to be one of the biggest names on the Irish Country scene. And her latest album, “# Country” (Sharpe Music) will further establish her popularity.
She has established herself on the dance circuit in Ireland with a number of upbeat fun numbers, and whilst there are a number of these included here, including covers of Crystal Gayle’s “Why Have You Left The one You Left Me For”, Alan Jackson’s “Lets Get Back To Me And You”, and her latest single “Satisfy You” (the old Sweethearts Of The Rodeo number), this album does show Lisa’s versatility in mixing in some really traditional Country and folk sounds into her sound. Indeed Lisa says that “the music is slightly more subtle and leans more towards a bluegrass country style than the “comin’ at cha’ songs we’ve done previously”.
There’s certainly some signs of that. Her versions of “Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels” and “I Hope You’re The End Of My Story” are both laced with some lovely mandolin, and “Who’s Gonna Be Your Next Love”, has a good bluegrass drivin’ beat.  
The album kicks off with “He’s A Good Ole Boy”, the old Chely Wright number, which Lisa recalls from her younger days growing up on Glasgow’s South Side. And she goes back to Joni Harms for “That’s Faith” to close the album. Joni, of course, wrote Lisa’s early career song “Old Fashioned Girl”.
She turns in some lovely ballads, including “26 Cents”, and “To Say Goodbye”, which serves as a beautiful tribute to Joey Feek. The song, co-written by Rory, was originally recorded by Joey & Rory.
There’s a duet with Malachi Cush on the old Canadian folk song, “Peggy Gordon”, but for me, stand out track is the old Loretta Lynn song, “Success”. Pure Country.  And not one of the most obvious Loretta numbers to choose.
Lisa’s come up with another winning package of songs, than can only further enhance her career.

DEAN OWENS has been one of Scotland’s main Country singer songwriters for over 20 years, firstly with The Felsons, and later with a number of solo albums.
Although very much a songwriter, Dean did acknowledge one of his hero’s Johnny Cash with an album called “CashBack” in 2012. Now, to coincide with a select few gigs, including Southern Fried and the Edinburgh Fringe, he has honoured Hank Williams on “Setting The Woods On Fire (Songs I Learned From Hank)”.
With a neat trio, comprising Stuart Nisbet and Kevin McGuire, (The Celtabilly Allstars), they have come up with an effective sound, which recaptures the original styles of the songs, whilst at the same time, sounding perfect for today’s audience.
There are some of Hank’s biggest songs in the 12 track collection, including “There’s A Tear In My Beer”, “I Saw The Light”, “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, alongside a few, perhaps, less obvious numbers like “Alone And Forsaken” and “I Wont Be Home No More”.
As he did on the Cash album, Dean has written one song for the album. This time, it’s “Celebrate The Life”, which could quickly become an anthem for Hank.
Hank Williams music is timeless. Over seventy years on from his death, his songs are still some of the most recognised across all musical styles. Dean does justice to those included here.
A Deluxe version of Dean’s previous album, “Into The Sea” has also just been released.

Another Glasgow girl going places is MARTHA L HEALY.  She’s currently in Nashville working on her second album. But for fans who can wait for the follow up to her acclaimed “Better Days” album, she has released a four track EP, “To Be Free”.
It’s a four track collection, recorded at Glasgow’s La Chunky Studios earlier in the year, featuring two original songs and two classic covers.
What really works for me, is the simple acoustic set up. Martha plays acoustic guitar, alongside Rebecca Brown on fiddle, Sean Thomson on banjo and David O’Neill on Upright Bass. Together, they produce a stunning beautiful sound, which really let you hear Martha’s superb vocals.
The lead track is Martha’s own “To Be Free”, a song which really won me over from first listen. It’s a really strong song, and Martha’s voice really delivers. First Class.
The second song, “Too Much Time” was co-written with her brother Paul, who also provided background vocals on the CD.  The two classic covers are Patsy’s “Walking After Midnight” and Hank’s “I Saw The Light”. The arrangements make interesting listening.
Altogether a very nice EP. I don’t know if it will keep her fans satisfied for now though. It’ll whet the appetite for more. Don’t be too long with that second full CD Martha!

Now let’s move across the Atlantic.
THE TIME JUMPERS are an amazing band of individuals who have been charming Nashville audiences with weekly jam sessions at 3rd & Lindsey, for the past 20 years. Their music has a distinct Western Swing influence, which is so refreshing to hear in Music City these days.
The main players in The Time Jumpers are Vince Gill, Paul Franklin, Ranger Doug, Larry Franklin, Joe Spivey and Kenny Sears. Kenny’s wife Dawn was also a main player in the band, before her brave battle with cancer was lost in December 2014.
No surprise that their new album, “Kid Sister” (Rounder) is dedicated to her memory. The album was in the works prior to her passing, so Dawn is, indeed, featured on the opening track, “My San Antone Rose”. It’s the last song she sung.
She also sings harmony on the rather personal “I Miss You”, co-written by Vince & Ashley Monroe. The song first saw life as a song that Gill co-wrote and recorded for his most recent album but didn’t use.  On it, Dawn sang harmony.  To give it a proper place in this group album, Gill stripped off the original instrumentation and rewrote some of the lyrics to reflect Kenny’s perspective on missing Dawn and had The Time Jumpers replay all the music.
Kenny, in turn, delivers a heartfelt “This Heartache”.
But it’s Vince who delivers the stunning title track. Just listen to Paul Franklin’s weeping steel guitar. And there’s a lengthy instrumental close to the song, with three fiddles and Jeff Taylor’s accordion. It’s so beautiful. So fitting.
But the album is much more than just a tribute to Dawn Sears.
With the release of “Kid Sister”, the band now has its own official theme song, a scorched-earth romp called “We’re The Time Jumpers.”  Gill, who wrote the tune, name-checks every member of the band in the lyrics, as well as giving a nod to Dawn.
Paul Franklin’s steel guitar-driven “All Aboard” roars with the excitement and inevitably of a runaway freight train as each member takes a turn at pouring on the instrumental coal.
“Honky Tonk”, an upbeat swing number written by Gill & Troy Seals, is given a real authentic delivery thanks to Larry Franklin.
There’s a few long lost gems from the past getting a new airing here.
“I Hear You Talkin’” is a Cindy Walker gem from the 1940s that both she and Bob Wills recorded before Faron Young ran it up the country charts in 1959. Joe Spivey delivers the vocals here.
Another Time Jumpers resurrection is “Bloodshot Eyes,” a slice of comic despair that became a Top 5 hit in 1950 for its co-writer, Hank Penny, and later an Asleep At The Wheel staple.  Gill brings back “Table For Two,” the achingly forlorn lament he and Max D. Barnes first contributed to Loretta Lynn’s 2002 album, “Still Country”. “The True Love You Meant For Me” is a another Vince Gill trademark ballad. His vocals and Franklin’s steel just blend together so beautifully.
Rounding out the list are “Empty Rooms,” sung by Ranger Doug, and Billy Thomas’ veritable trail of tears, “Blue Highway Blues”.
It’s great stuff. The best album to come out of Nashville this year !

It’s not many albums that are so iconic, that they deserve high profile reissues thirty years down the road. But when the albums feature Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, then you can understand what the fuss is all about.
All three were, (and still are) huge stars when the idea of “TRIO” was first muted. They had performed “Light of The Stable” for Emmylou’s Christmas album in 1979, but their busy schedules prevented them recording together again until 1987 when the first “Trio” album was released. That was followed up with “Trio II” in 1999.
Now Rhino Records have released a series of collections to commemorate the iconic recordings of three Country superstars who have sold over 200 million albums between them.
The main release is “The Trio Collection”, a 3CD collection, featuring the two individual albums, together with a 20 track third CD, featuring seven alternate takes from the previous releases, and another thirteen recordings that were unreleased from the original recordings.
An alternative release is “My Dear Companion”, which features 14 tracks from the main package, ten from the original albums, two alternate takes and two previously unreleased tracks.
“Trio II” has been released on LP for the first time, as has “Farther Along”, a double LP of the Unreleased and Alternate takes.
It’s all very confusing, but the music on these collections is such an iconic part of Country music, that every Country fan should have, at least part of it, in their collection.

Now for some new Nashville music. JAKE OWEN is one of the biggest stars of the past ten years since he signed with RCA in 2006. The Florida native has notched up 5 Number One’s to date, including “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone with You”.
His 5th album, “American Love” has been given a UK release (Sony) and features the single “American Country Love Song”.
The eleven tracks have been written by some impressive Nashville writers, including Jared Johnson, Shane McAnally, Hillary Lindsey, Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley. Owen, himself has only one co-writing credit, for “LAX”, the most Country track on the album, with some nice steel and female harmonies.
“When You Love Someone” is a soft, piano led ballad, that stands out.
One of the quirkiest numbers that catches the attention is “VW Van”, a tribute to the iconic touring home. Other makes are available of course, so radio may not want to give free advertising to one, however famous. Of course, VW may adopt it.
Most of the other tracks are modern sounding Nashville tracks, the most appealing being “After Midnight” and “Everybody Dies Young”.
It’s a modern Country album, and Jake has found his place with this latest album.

DRAKE WHITE is one of the newest hitmakers from Music City. He did have a self released album before getting a record deal in 2013. That deal only netted one single, but now Drake has emerged on Dot Records (part of Big Machine Records) with “Spark” and it’s already getting him some attention.
He co-wrote 11 of the songs, with established writers like Jason Sellers, Mark Irwin, Shane MacAnally and Shane Minor. In true record label style, the only track he didn’t write, “Livin’ the Dream” is the single release from the album.
The first track, “Heartbeat” was quite a rocky number, but the fiddle intro into the second track, “Story” got me really interested in the album. It’s a good catchy little number, which is certainly radio friendly. I also really liked “Live Some”, it’s another that will stick in your head.  Any song called “Elvis” needs a listen. This one is a bit rocky, and nothing to do with The King. “Waitin’For The Whiskey To Work” is a slower number which is growing on me.
“Make Me Look Good Again” is an interesting ballad that had an almost gospel feel to it. There was a touch of blues on “Equator”, but it was catchy enough to maintain my attention.
It’s an interesting album, with some signs I liked. There’s also quite a few tracks that didn’t appeal to me. Check it out though.

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE are a duo consisting of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly. One comes from Georgia, the other from Florida, which explains the name. They met whilst studying at Nashville’s Belmont University, at the top of Music Row.
Their huge hit “Cruise” established their name across all musical genres in America, and they later visited the UK as part of the c2c Festival.
They are one of the main players in today’s Nashville music, which get plays on Country radio in the USA, but, in reality, have very little country music on offer.
Their latest album, “Dig Your Roots” (Big Machine) isn’t all that bad an album, but it’s just pop music, They include some guests you wouldn’t expect to find on a Country album, namely Bob Marley’s son Ziggy, and 90’s boy band The Backstreet Boys.
They do include Tim McGraw on one track, “May We All”, to try to give the album some Country credibility, but it fails.
The single from the album, “HOLY” isn’t too bad a song, and I really quite enjoyed “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old”, which come along quite late in this 15 track album.
But it’s not what I’d call Country !

JACK TEMPCHIN is one of these multi genre songwriters and musicians that just seem to have been around forever. He is best known for writing several of The Eagles biggest hits, including “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “The Girl From Yesterday” and “Already Gone”, He also wrote an array of hits for the likes of Glen Campbell, George Jones, Olivia Newton John, Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker and Sammy Kershaw.
He’s no stranger to recording either. His new album, “One More Song” (Blue Elan Records) is his tenth release, and is a really pleasant listen. He says that the album honours his coffee house roots, “a guy, an audience and a song”.
It’s a very acoustic album, with the minimal of instrumentation, just guitar, some harmonica, and a sprinkling of other instruments.
The album features some songs from Jack’s past. A few have been recorded 40 years ago by his early band, The Funky Kings. The title track was previously recorded by Randy Meisner, and apparently performed live by Jackson Browne. The 12 track collection kicks off with “Slow Dancing”, a hit for Johnny Rivers. Jack’s own version is extremely slow.
“Circle Ties That Bind”, one of the first songs that he ever wrote, is a really nice ballad. One of the more recent songs is another ballad, “Still Looking For A Way To Say Goodbye”, which he co-wrote with Lisa Angelle for a film score. The song never made the movie, but it makes it on here.
But it’s not all slow numbers. There’s quite a catchy feel, complete with Dylan style moothie  on “Singing In The Street” and “So Long My Friend”.
There are a couple of songs co-written with Bobby Whitlock (from Derek & The Dominoes). “Old River” is a beautiful song, which I really liked, whilst “I Got Her Right Where She Wants Me” is a real tongue in cheek Country number.
Great to hear one of the great writers doing some of the songs we’ve not heard before. A really nice listen.

Another great singer songwriter, producer and musician is MAC McANALLY. He’s a real Nashville legend, He’s written such hits as “Old Flame” for Alabama, “She Put The Sad In All His Songs” (Ronnie Dunn) and “Thank God For You”, one of several for Sawyer Brown.
He’s been the CMA’s Musician Of The Year for the past eight years, and has twelve previous albums, before his latest “Aka Nobody” gets a UK release on Wrasse Records.
There’s a real mix of material on the 15 track self produced CD. He has worked with a number of big name writers, like Al Anderson, Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett and Chris Stapleton.
The one song not written by McAnally is Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi On My Mind”.
Many of the songs have a soft easy listening gulf coast sound to them, an influence he’s picked up by touring with Jimmy Buffett.
I really liked “Coast Of Carolina”, co-written with Buffett. “Proud To Be Alive”, was more upbeat, but still had that gulf feel to it. “Everything” was a bit different. It’s probably the most Nashville track on the album, with just a hint of gospel.
One refreshingly different number is “Zanzibar”. It’s not Country, but really catchy, with its’ 40’s type feel, and instead of The Andrews Sisters, Mac got his McAnally Sisters to do the backing vocals.
A couple of other upbeat numbers, included “Loser Gumbo” and the bluesy “Better Get The Story Straight”, which had quite a gospel feel to it.
I really enjoyed this album. I have a CD he released in the early 90’s, and still play it today. Good to add some more Mac McAnally to my collection.

JASON ALDEAN is one of the biggest Country hitmakers over the past 10 years or so. The Macon, Georgia, native is one of the artists who has blown away Country music’s boundaries, by giving fans a much more rocky sound.
His 7th studio album, “They Don’t Know” (Sony) has just been released here, which will appeal to the fans who saw him at the c2c Festival.
The album kicks off with a typical rocky number, “Lights Come On” and finishes with one called “”When The Lights Go Out”. The album also includes the recent UK radio single release, “A Little More Summertime”. This single is growing on me. It’s a bit more mellow than some of his previous hits.
Indeed there are some interesting songs amongst the 15 tracks on the CD.
“In Case You Don’t Remember” is one of the more pleasant ballads on the album, whilst “All Out Of Beer” and “Any Ol’Barstool” should appeal to the honky tonkers- or maybe not.
But most of the songs are rather samey pop sounding numbers. Amongst them is a duet with newcomer Kelsea Ballerini on “First Time Again”.
Amongst the songwriters credited are Neil Thrasher, Tom Shapiro, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Rhett Akins.
I cannot argue with 17 Number One records stateside, but the guy just ain’t Country enough for me !

Back to the UK now.
ORFILA are a family trio from Kent, with a catchy modern sound that is quite similar to the Ward Thomas/Shires sound, which is getting a lot of airplay these days. “Never Slowin’ Down” (Black Dog Records) is their second album, and features ten self penned original songs. The trio are made up of Abi & Louise on vocals, and Matt on guitars. Abi also adds piano, and they have brought in a number of musicians for the recordings, in both London & Nashville, including BJ Cole on pedal steel, and ex Steeleye Span drummer Liam Glenockey.
The album kicks off with the catchy “Floor It”, but it was the steel intro to track 2, “Just Somethin’” which really caught my attention. “It Would Be You” is a big more upbeat, with some catchy banjo, thanks to Travis Troy. Other upbeat tracks included “Second Wind” and “Raise A Glass”.
They slowed things down on “All Along” and the harmonies between the girls really shone through. Other ballads, where the harmonies really impressed, included “Carry On” and “When You Look at Me”.
A few of the tracks, like “Fine Tooth Comb” and “Hit The Ground Running” were just a little too pop for me.
I liked the album. They have a good modern sound. I’m sure we’ll hear more from Orfila.

THE COAL PORTERS are now an established part of the British Americana scene, although their music does defy boundaries. Listed on wikipedia as “bluegrass”, they can also claim folk, celtic, alternative and indie influences. The band, led by ex Long Ryder Sid Griffin, was founded by Sid when he decided to turn away from the electric music.  They haven’t looked back.
Their latest album “No.6” (Prima Records) is a fine mixture of styles.
The album kicks off with a lament to the era of punk rock. “The Day The Last Ramone Died” is an upbeat bluegrass banjo, fiddle and harmony lead number, which crosses musical boundaries in itself.
That’s followed by Neil Robert Herd’s celtic influenced “Save Me From The Storm”. There’s more Scottish influence on “Unhappy Anywhere”, with mentions of Aberdeen in the same line as California”.
“The Blind Bartender” is an epic 7 minute latin fused story song, which is immediately followed by “Cropping The Garlic”, a wild fiddle instrumental. Now, there’s a contrast in styles !
“The Old Style Music Break” is a really catchy upbeat bluegrass number that really stands out, whilst “Another Girl-Another Planet” is much more of a ballad, with some nice banjo and fiddle.  “Salad Days” is quite a story of the music business. Although starting off accapella, it bursts into a superb banjo led bluegrass number.
There’s also a track written and performed by trained vocalist and fiddler Kerenza Peacock, who has two hit classical CD’s to her credit and currently touring with Adele.

CHRIS WHILE and JULIE MATHEWS are both stalwarts of the English folk scene, but as Wikipedia points out, both girls draw from Country and Americana for their music. Both have worked with various bands and projects over the years, including The Albion Band.
As a duo, “Shoulder To Shoulder” (Fat Cat Records) is their 10th album together.
It’s an extremely pleasant listen, with 11 original songs, written by the pair, with three co-written with Charlie Dore.
“Leap Of Faith” is a lovely song about the ties between mother and daughter, regardless of time or distance.
Other tracks that stood out were the opening track, “The Skin That I’m In”, “Are We Human” and the softer “Pinjarra Dreams”. Some excellent musicians including Danny Hart, who plays with The Mairs Family Band, playing fiddle on several tracks.
A lovely listen. Nice & relaxing.

THE JIGANTICS are an English based five piece outfit, who, I’ve got to say, don’t, to me, sell themselves from their name.  Their name suggests something more of a heavy metal band, than the beautiful music that they actually produce.
“Seconds Out” is their second album, and it really packs a punch, without going over the top.
From the opening beats of “Take Me For Longing”, led vocally by Marion Fleetwood. It’s a bit more gutsy than the Alison Krauss version, but with Marion’s folksy vocal style, it comes over with a completely original feel to it.
More transformation to follow, as they cover Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. You would never guess it was the same song from the laid back easy listening version here.  Another cover of note is the haunting “Blue Side Of The Mountain”, written by Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson, and most notably a hit for The Steeldrivers. There’s also an interesting version of Jackson Browne’s “The Crow On The Cradle”.
I really enjoyed their cover of The Claytones’ “Out On The Road Tonight”. Again with Marion on lead vocals, this time, with a very Country feel to it.
But this isn’t an album of covers. There are four tracks written by the band’s Martin Fitzgibbon, two with fellow group member Mark Cole. Stand Out track for me is “Radio” with it’s driving beat. A real good radio song, I have to say.
I really enjoyed this album which fuses many different styles. There’s Country in there, with a rather folksy feel to it.

Now for some Southern Country Rock, (Southern Britain, that is) courtesy of JERICHO SUMMER, a duo comprising Jay Zeffin and Vanessa Joy. They met twenty years ago, but this is their first album together. Both had been involved in music prior to their meeting. Vanessa had even starred as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Their album “Night Train” (Devil’s Blade Records) features Izzy Stradlin, the original rhythm guitarist for Guns’n’Roses, and bass player Marco Mendoza from Thin Lizzy.
But, to maintain a little Country influence, it also features Albert Lee and Stuart Duncan, who has a long list of Nashville music credits.
It is a very rocky album, in a southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd/ ZZ Top) style. But there are some tracks a bit closer to Country than others, notably the softer ballads “Live For The Moment” and “Lonely Town” and the livelier “Does It Matter” and “Good One Coming On”.
It’s a bit different. One for the rockers !

There are a lot of diverse musical acts on the Irish scene, but none have the stand out gimmick of THE INDIANS. For 45 years they have been entertaining in their full Indian dress. It may detract from the music, but once you sit down and listen to a CD like their latest, “Hello World”, you get to appreciate just how good musicians and singers they are.
Whilst many of today’s new Irish breed do try to maintain some Country music credentials, when you’ve been around as long as The Indians, you know you’re audience and what’ll appeal to them.
The title track, “Hello World” is a catchy upbeat fun number, as are many of the tracks here, including a cover of Tracy Byrd hit, “I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel”, which is given a catchy TexMex feel to it.
They slow it down with Dan Hill’s classic song, “Sometimes When We Touch” and Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love”.
There’s also “Save The Last Dance For Me”, the old Fureys number “Red Rose Café”, Peter & Gordon’s “A World Without Love”, and even “It’s Alright, It’s OK”, the theme to the New Tricks TV series.
David Sheriff also gets in on the act, by contributing “My Baby’s Never Wrong”
Of course there are several theme songs, including “Indian Lake”, “Indian Love Call” and “Qualalinta”, written by Roger Miller.
It’s a good mix of songs that’ll keep any showband party swinging.

Next up, we have a CD from singer songwriter MIKE CULLISON. Mike came to music quite late in life. Although it was always part of his life, the release party for his first CD, was also his retirement party after 32 years with The Bell Telephone Company. That was in 2004.
As far as I can gather “Front Porch Philosophy” is his 4th full album, which was recorded live at the Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville.
The 11 track album of self penned songs, kicks off with “West Texas State Of Mind”, and that really sets the tone for the whole album. He certainly does have a Texas feel running through the album.
There’s a honky tonk influence on upbeat numbers like “Aint Enough Whiskey” and “The Devil Sitting Next To Me”. Other uptempo songs include “Just That Little Thing”.
Some songs, like “This Disguise” are softer “hangover” numbers.
Other ballads include “Family Man” and “I Cant Throw Stones”, whilst there’s a touch of blues on “Little Bit Country” and “Dorothy’s Shoes”.
It’s an interesting album. Some real Honky Tonk Country on offer. Thanks to Ken MacLeod for passing the CD onto me for review.  

We don’t get too many real Country & Western albums, but when one comes along, titled “Western & Country”, it’s worth a listen. It comes from DENNIS JAY (Linkhorn Music) and produced by Texan legend Lloyd Maines.
Dennis got his musical education whilst in Germany as an Army child, by listening to the legendary AFN Radio. When he returned to the USA, his family settled in Maryland, where he bought an old Martin guitar and started writing songs. He released his first album in 2003. He eventually made it to Texas, and is now based in San Antonio.
This latest album is a lovely mix of old timey cowboy songs, and Mexican ballads. They’re all original, except for the classic “Streets Of Laredo”.
It all kicks off with a jaunty 2 minute instrumental intro to “Texas Skies Shining In A Cowgirls Eyes”.Many of the songs deal with love in the Ol’ West, from the bouncy Mexican beat of “Primcia” to the honky tonk influenced “A Picture In My Wallet”. There’s also vintage Country on “My Baby’s Arms” and the slower “A Cowboy Tune”.
There’s also the stories of personal battles in “The Lights Of Deadwood”, “Right Up On The Edge” and “The Gamble”.
Dennis hasn’t the most convincing voice, but that gives this whole album a real authentic sound. There are duet vocals from Lisa Gamache on a couple of tracks, which blend with Dennis beautifully.
In a world of modern over produced music, this was a breath of clear western skies.

THE HONEYCUTTERS are a 5 piece band from Asheville, North Carolina, led vocally by Amanda Anne Platt, who also wrote most of the songs. Their fourth album, “On The Ropes” (Organic Records) has just been released here in the UK, and it’s a real winner.
With a fresh, in the main, upbeat set of songs, Amanda has a great voice. It’s Country, maybe too Country for Nashville, but really appealed to me.
The one song that Amanda didn’t right is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which is given a fresh upbeat treatment.
It all kicks off with the punchy title tracks, and it really got me interested in listening further.
“The Handbook” is a quirky fun sounding number, which features a trio of ladies from, a group which Amanda also plays with.
Stand out tracks for me include “Lets Get Drunk”, which features some great honky tonk piano and hip harmonica, and the softer “The Only Eyes”.  Several songs, like “500 Pieces” and “Useless Memories” have some lovely steel guitar licks.
The album concludes with a five minute anthem to bar staff everywhere. “Barmaid’s Blues” has a slow a start, but builds up nicely to a superb Country number.
I really loved this album. The Honeycutters play the type of music that puts Nashville to shame. This is the kind of Country they should be producing in Music City.

THE BELLE HOLLOWS are a new bluegrass influenced trio featuring siblings Rachel and Jeremy Johnson and Robert Phaneuf, who first played together in the Nashville based band, The Barrell Jumpers.
Now, together, they release their first album, “Millers Creek” (Elm Hill), which takes us on a musical trip from “The Ocean Song” to the moonshine mountains of “Rebel On The Run”.
Jeremy wrote most of the songs, the exception being “Careful How You Break My Heart”, which was written by Canadian writer Jory Nash.
There is a bit of a Commonwealth thread running through the album. “San Remo”, which closes the album, is a nicely paced banjo infused number, which is inspired by an Australian seaside village. Another of the tracks, “Jonah” was a finalist in a UK songwriter contest. On this track, a haunting “Enya-ish” type number, the trio are joined by the ladies of Harpeth Rising.

FELLOW PYNINS are Dani Aubert and Ian Van Ornum, from Ashland, Oregon, in America’s great Northwest. They previously played in a six piece band called Patchy Sanders, but are now on their own, and have just released an album, “Hunter & The Hunted”, which is released here, ahead of a possible tour here next year.
All the tracks are self penned, and cover stories of childhood memories, shepherding and growing up. It’s all very acoustic, old timey music, relying on banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Many of the songs are quite slow and lengthy (they’re all over 4 minutes long, and two run over 6 minutes).
There’s a quirky bluegrass instrumental, with an even quirkier title, “Henry’s Got Freckles In The Summertime”. It’s really catchy.
One for the aficionados of old timey bluegrass music.

ROGER ROGER are a Canadian sibling duo from Winnipeg, The brother-sister haven’t always played music together. Lucas had played in a local rock’n’roll band, whilst Madeleine was more involved in theatre.
Their debut album, “Fairweather” (MFM) features 9 songs written by the pair, and lead vocals are shared between them.
The title track is a nice pleasant ballad sung by Lucas, whilst rocks it up a bit on “You Came Around”, “Mad Trapper” and “Dead Horse Creek”. The latter is probably the strongest and most Country on the CD.
Madeleine leads the vocals on the opening track, a nice melodic number “13 Crows”. She also leads on “Another Girl’s Shoes”, which is a strong upbeat number, but slows it down on “O Rainy Day” and “Scott Free”. I quite liked the bouncy “Think Of Me”.
A nice sound. Quite a good listen.

THE O’s are a Dallas based roots duo, comprising John Pedigo and Taylor Young. We have reviewed their music before. Indeed, “Honeycomb” (Punch Five Records) is their fourth to date.
I’d describe their music as progressive bluegrass. The banjo is the main instrument throughout the album, but there’s certainly a rocky edge to their sound. Indeed, in pointing out the difference on this album, prom their previous outings, Pegido says, “We used more delay on the banjo, and tried to sing together more”.
Their songs are quite upbeat in the main.
The 12, all self-written, songs kick off with the catchy “Fourteen Days”, and the Country flavoured “Medicine”.
“Halfway Sideways” and “Retribution” are really bouncy banjo and vocal led numbers, which I really liked a lot.
But there’s also some slower numbers, like “Reaper”, and “Wanted”.
Some of the tracks do come over a bit more pop/rock, like “Shooting Star” and “Go Slow”.
There’s a Scottish connection, in that Justin Currie, from Del Amitri, guests on “Woken Up”. The song does have a Del Amitri sound, it has to be said.
Altogether, I really liked the sound of The O’s. Worth a listen.

Finally, CHRIS MURPHY is a talented violin player from New York City, whose latest album, “Red Mountain Blues” (Teahouse Records) is quite a treasure if you like old timey fiddle and bluegrass tunes.
Born into an Irish-Italian family, he grew up immersed in music. He grew up to be a dabbler in various instruments, from mandolin to percussion, but the violin became his forte.
The 14 track collection is all self penned, and features a number of instrumentals from the foot stomping opening title track to the old time waltz of “Wilt Whitman”, and the slow air of “Johnson County”, which is actually labelled here as Western Saloon Music. There’s even some progressive Newgrass on “High Country”, whilst the fast paced “Cast Iron” is a real bluegrass breakdown number.
There are a number of vocal arrangements too, ranging from the traditional “Black Roller” and the fast paced “Dry County” to “Kitchen Girl” and “Meet Me Tonight”, both of which are more straight Country.
He even has Herb Pederson and Tim O’Brien guesting on the album.
Really refreshing. Really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Aug 2016

The NASHVILLE TV series has proved to be popular with readers, and you can look forward to Season 4 in the coming months on Sky. I must admit I haven’t seen the programme, and I’m reviewing two CD’s “The Music Of Nashville” Season 4 Volumes 1 and 2, (Big Machine) purely on their musical content.
The series has produced stars in Sam Paladino, Charles Esten, Hayden Panettiere and Clare Bowen. A number of songs have hit the Country charts in recent years, but they haven’t hit the high positions that you’d expect from TV exposure.
I was pleasantly surprised that the music, whilst, in the main part, was original, and modern, it wasn’t as Nashville pop as I expected. One thing I did note was that I didn’t recognise too many of the writers credited, and there were lots of different writers involved. That can only be good in encouraging new writers to Country music. There are a few credits to the more established Al Anderson, Stephanie Lambring, Gordie Sampson, Maren Morris and Matraca Berg.
Some of the tracks that caught my attention included “Plenty Far To Fall” and “The Rubble” (Clare & Sam), “Only Tennessee” (Clare), “Like New” (Charles), “Sleep Tonight” (Chris Carmack & Jonathan Jackson), “Caged Bird” (Aubrey Peebles)  and “I Want To Do Everything For You” (Connie Britton & Riley Smith).
Mark Collie, who had some sizable hits around 1990 plays Frankie Gray in the series, and contributes “Holding On To What I Cant Have”. That gives the series some credibility, if it needed it.   It would’ve been so easy to have filled the series with established Country music, but they’ve avoided that. There is a version of “Crazy”, and I have to say, it’s not a bad version at all. But the inclusion of Steven Tyler singing it, does raise an eyebrow or two.
If you’re a fan of the TV show, or just want to check out some original Country music, then these CD’s with 17 tracks on each volume, are worth checking out.
There’s also UK only digital package “The Nashville Cast : UK Tour Edition”,

MARTINA McBRIDE has a lot to celebrate this year. It’s 25 years since she got her RCA label contract, which netted her a string of half a dozen number one hits. She has also just a celebrated a “big” birthday.
To celebrate, she has just released her latest album, “Reckless” (Big Machine), produced by Nathan Chapman and Dan Huff.
On my first listen, I thought it was a big on the pop side, but the more I listen, the more I’m really warming to it.
The album kicks off with a couple of poppy upbeat numbers including the title track.
But by the time I got to track 5, I was warming to the album. “The Real Thing” features some nice harmony from Buddy Miller. It dips into today’s manufactured world, and appreciates the past. Then Keith Urban joins in on the smouldering “Diamond”, a mid tempo number which reminded me a little of “Independence Day”.
“What’s The Thing About Love”, is a nicely paced uptempo number, which was really catchy.
There are some nice ballads, like the polished “You And You Alone”, which closes the album. It has a very simple piano accompaniment. “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off” is another very impressive ballad, with some nice harmonies.
“Low All Afternoon” is probably my favourite track on the album. It’s quite a soft, melodic ballad, which really suited Martina’s style.
After 25 years, we’ve got used to Martina’s sound. However “Reckless” she gets, she doesn’t let you down.

Next up, Missouri native DAVID NAIL, who has quietly been building up a Country music career over the past 15 years. He has had a No. 1 (Let It Rain) in 2011, but hasn’t quite managed to become the big name that he deserves to be. Hopefully, his 4th album, “Fighter” (Humphead) may change that.
This album has been described as his most personal ever, and certainly features no less than seven tracks written or co-written by him.
I do have a bit of a mixed view on David’s music. The first couple of tracks are quite Nashville pop. He just doesn’t stand out from the pack on tracks like “Good At Tonight” and “Night’s On Fire”, which was released here as a single back in the spring when he was over for the c2c festivals.
But there are some nice ballads that I’m really impressed with. “I Wont Let You Go” features some lovely harmony from Vince Gill, and the closing track. “Old Man’s Symphony, which is my personal favourite on the album, features Bear and Bo Rineheart from Christian rock band NEEDTO BREATHE.  There’s also a strong full minute piano intro into “Home”, which features Lori McKenna, who co wrote the song.
The title track, “Fighter”, is also a nice ballad, as is “Babies”.
“Champagne Promise”, which features rising star Logan Brill (who is in the UK later this month at the London meets Nashville Festival) is, to my ears, the most commercial radio friendly track on the album, and must be a future single.
I really enjoyed this album, especially the ballads, and hope this album gets him the attention his music merits.

MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER has just performed at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival, and to tie in with the visit, the New Jersey native released her latest album, “The Things That We Are Made Of” (Lambent Light /Thirty Tigers), here in the UK.
I still love her debut “Hometown Girl” album, and some of the tracks on this new album are quite reminiscent of those early days.
I’m particularly thinking of the opening track, “Something Tamed, Something Wild”, and  “The Middle Ages”, both which I’d rate as the highlights of the album.
“Map Of My Heart” is also quite an upbeat number, but came over just a shade on the pop side.
The title track, which closes the collection is a slow emotional ballad.
“What Does it Mean To Travel”, “The Blue Distance” and “Oh Rosetta” are soft melodic ballads, which I quite liked.
Other ballads, like “Livingston”, “Deep Down My Heart” and “Hand On My Back” are soft smouldering ballads, which have become something of an MCC trademark.
I quite enjoyed the album. Some of the old Mary Chapin, and some of the stuff we’ve grown to love her for.
She doesn’t disappoint.

Georgian native JENNIFER NETTLES came to Country music’s attention as part of  Sugarland in 2004. Since 2012, Jennifer and Sugarland partner Kristian Bush have  worked on separate careers. Her album 2013 album “That Girl” sold 165,000 copies, and topped the US Country charts.
Her follow up, released here a couple of months back, is “Playing With Fire” (Big Machine), a modern album, featuring 12 tracks, ten of which were written or co-written by the singer, alongside the likes of Brandy Clark, Lori McKenna and Shane McAnally.
The title track, which kicks off the album is an upbeat poppy number which didn’t really impress me much. But, listening on, there are some more Country numbers, which really showed just how good a voice Jennifer has.
“Unlove You”, one of the eight tracks co-written with Brandy Clark, is a good strong ballad, as are “Starting Over” and “Salvation Works”.  She really handles these ballads well.
Another Clark co-write is “Drunk In Heels”, a catchy upbeat fun number, which did have a little bit of similarity to Brandy’s “Stripes”. This track really stood out for me.
“Three Days In Bed”, a smouldering ballad, written by Holly Williams was a bit different to the rest of the album. Her solo composition, “Way Back Home” is a bit more of a pop ballad.
The album rounds off with the bouncy “My House” which features another Jennifer – Lopez.
Some of the tracks are a bit too pop for me, but the ballads, especially, are well worth a listen. I did quite enjoy the album.

DIERKS BENTLEY burst onto the scene back in 2003. He has been a constant hitmaker ever since, with 14 Country Number One’s to his credit. Now the singer songwriter from Pheonix, Arizona has released his 8th album, “Black” (Capitol) , which is already proving to be a big winner.
According to the album publicity, “Black” is a 13 track album of break ups, hookups, and mess, from a personal perspective. A lot of the songs, apparently, mirror his relationship with wife Cassidy, whose maiden name is Black.
The album features the hit US Single, “Somewhere On A Beach”, which he bravely released in America in the middle of winter, reaching No.1 in April.
The follow up single is “Different For Girls”, which features Elle King. There’s also a catchy little ballad, featuring rising Country singer Maren Morris.
I do feel much of Dierks music is quite samey. Very little stands out from the pack. In his earlier albums, he used to include a traditional or bluegrass track, but he seems to have moved away from that.
He has built up a huge following, including selling out big venues like The Clyde Auditorium, so he must be doing something right.

Humphead Records continue to release superb CD collections on artists that perhaps aren’t heard as often as they should be these days. They have just issued another two brilliant double CD sets of classics from two of the most admired female singers still singing today.
Firstly, JEAN SHEPARD, whose “Country Music : Pure And Simple” is a superb tribute to Jean, who, at 82, is known as The Grand Lady Of The Grand Ole Opry”.  She was a regular visitor to Scotland in the 1970 & 80’s, and introduced the likes of Gerry Ford, Ruby Rendall and Colorado onto The Opry, and, indeed recorded several duets with Gerry.
The Oklahoma based singer notched up 45 Country chart hits between 1953 and 1978, but is still a regular on The Opry nearly 40 years later.
Amongst the tracks on this 50 track collection, you’ll find hits like “Seven Lonely Days”, “A Tear Dropped By”, “Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar”, “Mercy” and “Slippin’ Away”.
There’s also lesser known classics like “Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law”, “Many Happy Hangovers To You” and “If Teardrops Were Silver”.
One surprising omission is her first hit, and only Number 1, “A Dear John Letter”.
But, that apart, this is a wonderful collection. I’ve many of the tracks on Vinyl LP’s but it’s great to get them on CD.
OK, they may sound a bit dated. That’s called nostalgia !
It’s also, as the title says “Country Music : Pure & Simple” !

Also from Humphead comes BRENDA LEE “Sings Country – Ultimate Country Collection”.  Unlike Jean, Brenda was an early crossover star, having started in pop and rockabilly, but Country music was never far from Brenda’s lips.
Indeed, her first Country hit was back in 1957, age 12, when “One Step At a Time” reached No.15. That was two years before her “Sweet Nuthin’s” was a million seller, and got her worldwide recognition as a child star.
She went on to have 35 Country hits, many of them included on this new 50 track collection. They do tend to be from the later part of her career in the 70’s & 80’s.
You’ll find “Nobody Wins” (written by Kristofferson), “Sunday Sunrise”, “Wrong Ideas”, “Big Four Poster Bed”, “Rock On Baby” and “He’s My Rock”, which were all Top 10 Country hits. There’s also a couple of tracks featuring The Oakridge Boys, including the memorable “Broken Trust”.
Brenda is one of Music City’s respected elders, and was called on to announce Randy Travis & Charlie Daniels Hall Of Fame inductions a few months back.
This collection is the ideal way to appreciate her Country music side. She’s perhaps more Country than you may have realised. She did the crossover thing and remained Country throughout.

Our home grown CD this time around comes from Borders based KATHY STEWART
Although a native New Yorker, singer songwriter Kathy has lived over here for over 30 years. In that time she has been seen performing with the likes of John Hinshelwood, The City Sinners and Another Country (I still have a couple of Another Country’s cassettes in the library!), and she has opened for the likes of Tom Russell and George Hamilton IV, and even had a song recorded by Vince Gill. Her first solo release earned her HMV’s Best Country Newcomer title back in 2009.
Her third album, “Almost Home”(Treehouse Records) has just been released. It’s a really lovely listen, although probably leans more towards folk and celtic than Country music.
Recorded in Penicuik, with Dave Gray, the album features Kathy’s band The Frequent Flyers.
Stand out tracks for me, included “Old Campaigners”, with it’s simple piano backing and the opening track “The Shine On You”, which had echoes of Mary Chapin running through it.
I have to say that I also enjoyed “Leaving (A Ghost’s Lament)”, a beautiful song, with some lovely violin and pipes. But Kathy’s vocal delivery really makes it for me.
Kathy wrote all but one of the 10 tracks on the album. The exception is “First Robin Of Springtime”, written by Canadian Bruce Murdoch. Another track, the rather bluesy “Go To Bed Happy” was co-written with fellow Borders writer Bob Lawson”.
In the main, not a Country album, but, nevertheless, it’s a beautiful listen.

Off to Ireland now, JIM DEVINE is another of the rising stars on the scene there. He’s very much concentrating on the upbeat dance scene, if the music on his second CD, “We’re Here To Stay” (De-Vine) is anything to go by.
The album features a variety of Country covers, from “Sold (Grundy County Auction)” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance” to Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”, and “Bob Wills’ “All Night Long”, as well as a couple of Vince Gill songs, “Riding The Rodeo” and “Pocket Full Of Gold”.
He even manages a cover of Bryan Adams “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”.
From the Irish side, he does a good upbeat “Crooked Jack” from the pen of Pat Gallagher, and a superb version of the ballad, “Destination Donegal”, written by John McCauley. I have to say that these two songs stood out for me.
The production is first class, and Jim can certainly deliver the songs. The Country covers just didn’t make Jim stand out from the pack.
But if you’re appetite is for more new Irish talent, then Jim Devine is one for you.

NATHAN CARTER is the most successful artist on the Irish scene these days. “Stayin’ Up All Night” is his second release for the major Decca label, and has already topped the charts with it.
He proves himself on stage to be a great entertainer, but this album lets him show off his songwriting talents too. He has written eight of the songs featured here. His staple diet is upbeat fun numbers that will keep dancers happy. They include singles “Wanna Dance”, “Temple Bar” and “Skinny Dippin”. Some are collaborations with others like Joe McShane, Don Mescall, his manager John Farry and Canadian Ralph Murray.
He does slow it down on emotional numbers like “Liverpool” (his hometown) “Don’t Know Lonely”, “Island Town”, and “Thank You”, which closes the album.
Nathan has included a few covers, such as Dolly’s “Two Doors Down” and the Kenny Rogers hit “Buy Me a Rose”. He also does quite an original version of the folk classic, “Banks Of The Roses”, which Stephen & Lesley McKenna have composed a line dance for (see the last issue).
Having the freedom to perform his own material, and have the support of a major label is not only good for Nathan, but for the whole UK Country music scene.

For some reason, Jersey has never been a place that you would readily associate with Country Music, but JOHN WORT HANNAM was born on the Channel Island, although is now based in Fort Macleod in Alberta, Canada.
After earning a degree in Native American studies, and teaching on a reserve for three years, he pursued his passion for music. He has a string of Canadian Folk Music Awards, after being influenced by the likes of Louden Wainwright III and Tom Russell.
“Love Lives On” is his 5th album, and was released here to co-incide with a visit here this summer, including The Maverick Festival in Suffolk.
I really enjoyed this album. It has a folksy feel, with a definitive celtic edge to it.
It all starts with the upbeat “Roll Roll Roll”, and the really catchy “Over The Moon”, although he slowed the tempo on tracks like “Chasing The Song” and “Man Of God”.
Although based in Western Canada, his attention was directed eastwards on tracks like “Labrador” and “Good Nite Nova Scotia”.
Stand out tracks for me included the quirky feeling upbeat “Heart For Sale” and the slower “Molly & Me”.
It’s a little different, but I liked it.

TIA McGRAFF is a Canadian singer that has been making waves over the past few years. In fact she introduces herself as a Canadian born of Transylvanian/Scots decent, and married to an American.
She’s been in Nashville since the late 90’s, and it shows on her new album, “Crazy Beautiful” (Bandana Records). It’s a very polished production, recorded in Nashville, Austin and her native Ontario.
Despite her last album, “Break The Chains” getting her recognition on the Roots Music Chart, and various Americana magazines, this album has a much fuller production, and is the sort of sound that Nashville should be putting out.
Edgy, modern Country.
The opening “What A Heart Must Do” is a good uptempo number, as is the catchy “Forever”, but the one that really catches the attention is the rip roaring “Baby’s Got a Banjo”. It is a really commercial radio friendly number.
But there are ballads too, including the title track, “Crazy Beautiful”, the lovely “The One I’ve Waited For”, “Mesa Gold” and the haunting “Wing Walker”.  “Long Ride Home”, which she co-wrote with David Starr and Cynthia Smith Starr, is a really nice track.
And the closing track, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” deserves a special mention too. It has a gospel feel to it, but with just a simple banjo accompaniment, it really stands out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The modern Country sound I do like.

Another Canadian album, this time a bluegrass CD, comes from THE HIGH BAR GANG, which features the vocal talents of Shari Ulrich, Wendy Bird and Kirby Barber alongside musicians Dave Barber and Barney Bentall, with support from Rob Becker and Colin Nairne.
They formed in 2010, and quickly found a legion of fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and nods from both the Juno Awards and Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Their second album , “Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind” (True North) is given a UK release this month. It’s pure, beautiful, bluegrass, rich in harmonies and simple musicianship.
The material is carefully chosen, ranging from Dolly Parton’s “Silver Dagger” and Steve Earle’s “Long Lonesome Highway Blues”, right back to Flatt & Scruggs’ “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky” and Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”. There’s a couple of Pete Rowan numbers too.
There’s even an interesting arrangement of “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” credited to Hank Williams and Norah Jones. I wonder how they managed to collaborate on that one.
I love the sound they’ve created on this album. Certainly one for bluegrass fans.

EVE SELIS is something of a veteran in singer songwriter circles. “See Me With Your Heart” (Hippie Chick Records) is her 9th album, and she has a string of San Diego Music Awards, stretching back to 1999.
The album was released to coincide with her latest European tour, which sadly didn’t include any Scottish dates.
The album offers quite a variety in styles.
It opens with quite an upbeat number, “Fearless Heart”, which sounds so mainstream, and should be ideal radio material.
The title track is a nice slow number, whilst “Cant See Past Myself” is quite a pleasant ballad, as is “The Man He Never Was”.
“While The Night Is Young” is a really strong Country ballad that really impressed me.
The closing track, “Love Has The Final say” is quite a strong power ballad.
She can rock it up a big too. “Little Wars” has a good driving beat to it, and works really well. However, “Still Have A Long Way To Go” is an all out rock number . Too heavy for me, I’m afraid.  “Slow Down” is another that’s just a shade rocky for me.
Recorded in Nashville, she co-wrote all the songs, proving that she is quite a talented lady indeed. Quite an enjoyable listen.

IVAS JOHN is certainly a new name to me. He’s the son of Lithuanian immigrants, born and raised in Chicago. His father was a popular fixture on The Windy City’s vibrant folk and blues scene back in the 60’s.
Ivas carries on that tradition on his album “Good Day’s a Comin” (Right Side Up Records). His music is a pleasant mix of Appalachian old timey music, Merle Travis/Chet Atkins influenced guitar picking, and a touch of southern blues.
The album features 4 self penned numbers, another four co-written with his father, and four interesting covers.
His own songs include the opening “Goin’ Back To Arkansas”, and immediately I was transfixed by the neat Atkins style guitar. It’s a style also evident on his other penned numbers, “Roll Mississippi”, “Payday Boogie” and the slower guitar solo instrumental, “Sunday Morning Blues”, which closes the album.
Of the songs, co-written with Dad, “All Along” has quite a Country feel to it, whilst “Things Aint Been The Same” and “Keep Your Train Movin” are certainly more bluesy.
Onto the covers, and two were songs I was familiar with by female singers, so it was interesting to hear the different style here. Firstly Tom Paxton’s “Cant Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”, I recognised from Nanci Griffiths’ “Other Voices” CD, and Allen Reynolds’ “ Wrong Road Again” was an early hit for Crystal Gayle. It’s a much slower version here though.
His cover of Merle Travis’ “Dark As A Dungeon” is deliberately slowed down, to good effect.  The other track, “Greenville Trestle High” is a catchy bluegrass style train song. I really liked it.
The production has little instrumentation. Just guitars, fiddle, upright bass, mandolin and dobro, with a little light drum. It’s all you need to make beautiful music.
I really liked the whole album. I’m not usually impressed by guitar playing, but Ivas certainly produced a relaxing listenable sound here.

If you’ve any knowledge of American folk music, you’ll be familiar with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. They wrote some of the most iconic songs ever written.
You may not have heard of SPOOK HANDY. And with a name like that, why not, eh!
Spook worked many of the same places as Pete Seeger.  Their paths crossed once Pete began singing one of Spook’s songs, as recently as 2003. Spook’s knowledge of Pete didn’t come through his songs, but more through personal conversations and performing with him for the last ten years of his life. (Pete Seeger passed away in 2014).
This album isn’t intended as a tribute album. According to Spook, it’s about the world we live in today, and the values and concerns embedded in these great songs.
There is, in fact, only one Woody Guthrie song (So Long I’s Been Good To Know You) and four from Pete Seeger’s pen (including “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”). Spook has written four of the songs, including the catchy “Vote”, the song that Pete Seeger picked up on.
There are also updated versions on “My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away”, which both Woody & Pete used to perform.
Most of the songs are upbeat and fun, but the track which really caught my attention was “Hobo’s Lullaby”, written by Goebel Reeves in 1929. “A song Woody taught Pete, and Pete taught me”, according to Spook.
I really liked this album. It’s well produced, well performed, and well put together.

ANNIE KEATING is no stranger to Americana fans. She has played over here several times, including the Glasgow Americana Festival. And the New York based singer songwriter has just released her seventh album, “Trick Star”.
Over the 13 tracks, she covers quite a bit of ground.
The album kicks off with a mid tempo number, “You Bring The Sun”, which is a good start. “Time Come Help Me Forget” and “Creatures” are a bit more upbeat, whilst the title track has a good rock beat to it.
Much of the album is devoted ballads, like “In The Valley” “Trapeze”, “Orchard” and “Growing Season”, but I felt that “Slow Waltz” had a particularly Country feel to it, especially with Chris Tarrow’s infectious steel guitar.
Apparently, the album was born at London’s Barbican Theatre, in a concert featuring The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The inspiration from that experience found Annie writing “Pheonix”, which closes the album, and features the same Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
It’s a totally different sound to the rest of the album.
Hopefully it wont be long before Annie’s back on tour over here.

MICHAEL McDERMOTT has been performing for over 25 years. Initially he was fusing Irish and American folk music in Chicago coffee houses, later releasing material on big labels like EMI, and hitting the Top 40 on the US Rock music charts.
His latest album, “Willow Springs” (Pauper Sky Records) is released prior to a UK visit scheduled for the end of the year.
It’s an interesting album. Michael has a haunting vocal style, and it suits the eclectic mix of material here.
“These Last Few Days” is an upbeat little number which is quite infectious.
 “Getaway Car” has a really strong Country rock feel to it, whilst the catchy “Half Empty Kinda Guy” has more than a little Irish influence in it.
Other songs, like “Butterfly”, “Shadow In The Window” and “One Minus One” are quite mellow.
“Folk Singer” is another ballad which really worked well. One of the stand out tracks.
“Let A Little Light In” was a bit more upbeat and poppy, but, all things considered, I really enjoyed “Willow Springs”. Something a bit different.

Finally this time, some down home music, courtesy of THE LOWEST PAIR, a duo comprising Kendl Winter and Palmer T Lee. Their album “Fern Girl & Ice Man” (Team Love Records) is just one of two albums they have released lately (the other is titled “Uncertain As It Is”).
The duo were formed three years ago after Kendl, who had already released three solo album on a Washington indie label, and Palmer began playing in string bands around Minneapolis, met on the banks of the Mississippi.
They wrote all the tracks on this release between them (individually). They have quite an interesting sound, very much with a vintage old timey feel to it.  Stand out tracks for me include the opening track “The River Will”, “Sweet Breath” and “Stranger”.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

June 2016

We’ll kick off this time with an interesting concept album recorded in Glasgow by THE CLINCARTS. The main man behind the group, is Davy Clincart, who has a wealth of musical experience, having played with The Dixon Street Soul Band, The Crowdaddies and Brian Hughes’ Loansharks amongst others. The Clincarts did release an EP of original Country & Bluegrass a few years back, but now embark on a totally fresh approach to Country music in Scotland.
Not only is this a new CD, titled “A Taste Of Salt”, but also an audiobook called “The Coffee Grinder And The Green Ray”. The package also includes a printed booklet, if you want to read it for yourself, rather than listen to Shawn Hastings narration.
Musicians on the album include Eddie Brown, Cal McKinlay and Roy Fruede, with Siobhan Glendinning and Brett Hamlyn providing backing vocals.
The story centers around a Glasgow chap who catches his wife cheating, and reacts by heading to London, before landing on his feet in France.
The music, all of it original, fits into the storyline along the way.
The music, itself covers quite a variety. Much of it is Country rock.
It all kicks off with “A Taste Of Salt”, a catchy upbeat number, which set the toes tapping.
Some of the tracks are more pop, notably “Trait 2” and “My Own Terms”. Although quite rocky, I did enjoy “Pandora’s Pain”. It had a good catchy beat to it.
The tempo does slow down on tracks like “The Venom In Me”.
“Just A Smile” and “Flowers By The Roadside” are much more mellow numbers, as the story sees the main character settle into a new life. The main Country interest is with “The Old Cliché”, as he heads out to a Country Linedance festival. The line dance for this song, choreographed by Cathie McAllister, was featured in the last magazine. It’s a really catchy number, and stands out from the rest of the album.
The CD rounds off on quite a rocky beat, with “The Green Bay”.
It’s an interesting concept project, and covers such a variety of genres from Country & line dance to literature.

The endless stream of Irish artists continues with a new album by County Sligo’s PATRICK FEENEY, who was in Glasgow a few weeks back. I reckon that “I Believe” is his 9th album, and features a few recent singles which fans should recognise.
Patrick followed in his father’s footsteps into music, and formed his own band when just 19 years old. He is also one of “The Three Amigo’s”, with Robert Mizzell and Jimmy Buckley.
This album features a nice mix of upbeat dance numbers and slower concert numbers.
It all kicks off with the catchy “Cant Judge A Book” and “Place In The Choir”, before slowing it down with Guy Clark’s “Emigrant Eyes”.
His ballads do stand out. ”I Believe”, written by Statler Brother, Jimmy Fortune, was a recent single for Patrick, and he delivers a stunning version of the song. “Someone To Love Me”, is another lovely song, whilst “When We Were Young” suits his style.
“I’m Your Biggest Fan” is a tribute to the fans who support him. The song was originally sung by Neal McCoy for a “Patriotic Country” album in 2004. Neal’s version was aimed at the military, but Patrick really delivers it to the audience in front of him.
That said, his upbeat numbers are just as good. He covers “Catfish John”
“Red Haired Mary”, another of his recent singles, and the catchy “Streets Of Promise” has a good Irish feel to it.
A good album, which should appeal to both his concert and dance audiences.

Another new name coming out of Ireland is KATHY CRINION from Co. Meath. She had already made quite an impact before the release of her debut album, “Lovin’ What I Do” (ISG).
It includes her early single, “I’m Just Not That Lonely Anymore”, which had quite a nice Karen Carpenter sound. “Venus & Mars”, “We Need More Time”, and a few other songs also have quite a Carpenters feel to them.
But Kathy quickly proves that she’s much more.
“Rock’n’Roll Banjo”, is a good feeling uptempo number, which, yes it does feature banjo, but with quite a modern presentation. A really refreshing approach.
There’s also banjo featured on “Tennessee Rain”.
“Millie”, is another that will be familiar, as there is a video which has been screened on the various Keep It Country TV programmes. It kinda reminded me of Kathy Mattea’s “Eighteen Wheels”.
“Wasted” was quite a catchy number, which I really liked.
She does cover a couple of well known numbers, namely “Talking In Your Sleep” (Crystal Gayle) and “Queen Of Hearts” (Juice Newton). She also delivers an old Conway Twitty hit, “Everytime I Think It’s Over”. It’s a really nice version.
Kathy’s lovely vocals stand out on a very busy Irish Country music scene. She’s touring with Mary Duff & Jordan Mogey next month. She’ll be well worth catchy.

JOE BOYLE is a young man from Donegal who has a real traditional approach to his Country music. He is making his mark on Scottish audiences already, with appearances last month at both Spring Into Country and Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry.
His 7 track CD features a good selection of classic country numbers like “Mansion On The Hill”, “Crazy” and “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”, with more up to date numbers like “Knee Deep” and “Ol’Red”.
Joe has good Country voice. I’m sure he’s popularity will continue to rise, and I look forward to hearing more from him in future.

BILLY CRASH CRADDOCK is one of the latest to get the Hump Head label’s Definitive Collection treatment. Craddock, was a huge star in the 70’s Nashville scene, some years after he had become a star down under in Australia, touring there with The Everly’s. In his early days, he had a rockabilly sound, which led to him gaining the nickname of “Mr Country Rock”, which is the title of this new 2CD, 50 track compilation of his hits.
His form of Country rock predated what we later referred the likes of Poco, Joe Walsh and the Eagles as. Personally, I always considered him as a Nashville pop song singer, as his career was built on covers of cheesy pop songs like “Knock three Times”, “Dream Lover” and “Sea Cruise”.
Throughout his career, Craddock had 41 Country chart hits, nearly all covered here, including his 3 Number One’s, “Rub It In”, “Ruby Baby” and “Broken Down In Tiny Pieces”. In fact the CD running order mirrors his recording career quite closely. There are a few songs included here, which weren’t hits for him, including covers of Johnny Duncan’s “Come A Little Closer” and Tom Jones’ “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow”.
Other songs featured include “I Cheated On a Good Woman’s Love”, which featured on the Convoy movie soundtrack, and the real Country sounding, “You Say You’re a Real Cowboy”.
As ever, with these Humphead collections, there’s a very informative booklet from Alan Cackett.

The other new HumpHead Definitive Collection Is “Truck Drivin’ Son Of a Gun”, from DAVE DUDLEY. Dudley was certainly King of the Road as far as Truck Drivin’ songs were concerned. The sub genre of Country music was especially popular in the 60’s & 70’s, when he notched up 41 Country hits, including “The Pool Shark”, his only No.1, which, of course, is featured here.
Not all of the 50 songs featured on this 2 CD set are Truck Driving songs, but most are. Exceptions include “I Keep Come Backing For More”, “Lonelyville”. “What We’re Fighting For”, “Where Did All The Cowboys Go” and “Sentimental Journey”.
There are a couple of duets, with Tom T Hall on “Day Drinkin’” and “We Know It’s Over”, with a Karen O’Donnal (why haven’t we heard of her before- or since!).
It’s an interesting and pleasant listen. I wasn’t overly familiar with a lot of the material.

Canada has produced some wonderful singer songwriters through the years. Gordon Lightfoot (who played in Glasgow last month), Ian Tyson, Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen and Stan Rogers are just a few that come to mind. Nova Scotia’s DAVE GUNNING is in the same category.  Dave is billed as a folk singer, but I think this album will be of interest to Country fans, who enjoy well crafted songs, in the style of Ian Tyson or Gordon Lightfoot.
“Lift” (Wee House Of Music) is his 11th album, and features 13 diverse songs, all written, or co written by Gunning himself.
The album kicks off with “They Don’t Do That No More”, a song about changes in the way we live over the years. It’s a nice song that gets you interested in the rest of the album.
Many of the songs are based on bygone years, such as “A Tractor”, which tells of a tractor dealer who took horses as down payments. Dave’s delivery on this track is really effective.
“Breakers Yard” tells of a boy whose life long attachment to his boat, which is past it’s working life. Only writers from fishing communities could come up with a song like this.
“I Robbed The Company Store” is apparently a true story of Highland Scottish settlers who arrived in Dave’s hometown, Pictou County in 1773. They found that it wasn’t the life of land and honey, and this is a father’s story of doing whatever it took to feed his children.
“Sing It Louder”, is a tribute to Pete Seeger, and features some nice choir accompaniment.
The stand out track for me is “Alberta Gold”, an upbeat story of chasing the goldrush. It’s a real catchy number.
There are nice ballads in “Love Fell In”, “To Be With You” and “Pasadena”, co-written by Catherine McLelland (daughter of Gene, who wrote “Snowwbird”)
The album also features some neat banjo and fiddle by JP Cormier.
I really quite enjoyed this album. One that I think I’ll be playing a lot of.

Another Canadian singer songwriter that is already making his mark over here is Scott Cook. He has released five albums in the past eight years, whilst he travels the world playing festivals and touring everywhere from his native Canada to Europe, Asia & Australia.
This time his band get in on the credits, as they are billed as SCOTT COOK and the LONG WEEKENDS, with the new album, “Go Long” (Groove Revival). The band take their name from the endless festivals (at least 10 a year) that they play.
The atmosphere from such events shine through on this album. It’s a really refreshing set of upbeat songs that really give off some fun vibes, especially “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, “The Day That You Were Born” and their own “Long Weekends Theme”.
“Live Down Here” is a fun song, with a bit of a reggae feel to it. The song brings up several situations of being down below some other happening, whether it be upstairs, North Dakota or Seagulls and Oysters. It’s a bit of a nonsense song, but really catchy.
“Sweet Maddie Spawton” is a rip roaring uptempo number about a real badass woman, Scott says.
“Talkin’ Anthropocalype Blues”, must be one of music’s strangest ever titles. It’s essentially a talky record, but delivered at such speed. It reminded me of Jerry Reed, but with a raw edge to it.
There’s a bit of politics on “Tax Free Money” and the slower “Drink Poverty History”, which namechecks Bob Geldoff, Bono and Russell Brand. “While The Party’s Still Going” is another slower number that rounds off the 13 track album.
The accompanied booklet is quite impressive. Running to 48 pages, it not only has the lyrics, but chords, stories about the songs, a game called Beersbie, and even an explanation to the Nashville Numbers System.
It’s a fun album, that no long weekend should be without !

Still with the Canadians, BEN KUNDER is a new name to me. He’s a part time carpenter, actor and aspiring songwriting. He’s lived on the west coast, the east coast, and is back in his hometown of Toronto. Seven years work has went into his debut album, “Golden”.
He wrote all nine tracks on the CD, and is supported by a stellar cast of musicians, including Anna Ruddick and Jasmine Bleile from Ladies Of The Canyon, and Cowboy Junkies’ Aaron Goldstien.
The title track is a listenable ballad, but I was more taken with the more uptempo “Half Moon”. “Travelling”, which opens the album, is a pleasant mid tempo number, whilst  “Bags And Barrels”, “Against All Odds” and “Love And Motion” are slower, haunting ballads. “Don’t Dance” is another soft ballad, which probably just edged the others.
An interesting album which will appeal to those into singer songwriters.

Another alternative offering from Canada next. MURDER MURDER describe themselves as a “Bloodgrass” band, mixing bluegrass with Outlaw Country and murder ballads. They are a six piece outfit, featuring a full bluegrass string band. But they are much more than that.
Formed in 2013, “From The Stillhouse” is their second full CD release, which will be released here following a recent UK tour, which did include Glasgow & Edinburgh dates.
Their music is, in the main, fast paced driving bluegrass, most notable on tracks like “Evil Wind”, “Movin’ On” and “Alberta Oil” (which sounds very much like The Good Brothers’ “Alberta Bound”).
“When The Lord Calls Your Name” is an epic classic country story song running over 5 minutes in length.  It’s a very different track to the rest of the album.
There’s also a cover of Guy Clark’s “The Last Gunfighter Ballad”.
This album was a complete blast. So much energy, so much originality, and just a great CD to listen to.

MEG BRAUN is a singer songwriter from Ohio, but it was whilst living in New York that she got the songwriting bug. She has just released her third album, “Restless Moon”, which features a really nice set of mainly original material.
There is a theme running through the album. She has written about seemingly ordinary women who have had to make extraordinary choices in their lives.
The album opens with the bluesy “Gypsy Moon”, a song about a woman who plots her way out of a loveless relationship.  Then, “June 16th 1935” tells of a mother in her old age, wondering about the daughter she gave up for adoption. There’s the story of the woman promised in marriage to the wealthiest man in town against her will. That’s the old timey bluegrass song, ”Holland Town”, which is one of the stand out tracks on the album.
I also liked the simple down home feel of “The Leaving Kind”.
During the past few years, Meg has teamed up to write with fellow singer songwriter Diana Jones. Their work is represented in “Drunkard’s Daughter”, a bluegrass tinged song, featuring some lovely mandolin and dobro. It also lets Meg’s vocals come to the fore.
There is one cover on the album, a beautiful duet with Pat Victor (Brother Sun) on the old Carter Family number “The Storms are On The Ocean”.
Altogether, I found this to be a very pleasant listen. Lovely arrangements, and a really nice voice from Meg Braun.

THE DEEP HOLLOW are a trio from Illinois, consisting of Elizabeth Eckert, Dave Littrell and Micah Walk. From listening to their self titled debut album, I can certainly detect that their harmonies are their strong point. They claim that their influences range from Brandi Carlile, The Avett Brothers and Celtic Connections visitor Jason Isbel. That’s quite a variety!
All three were previously involved in the music scene, but it wasn’t until they started writing together, that they all found the missing links they had each been looking for. On the way to recording this album, they won American Songwriter magazine’s 30th Anniversary songwriting competition for “Devil”, just one of the 12 songs featured on this CD. That song is a strong vocal harmony folk rock number.
I would say that many of the tracks lean more to a folk sound, but there are a few tracks that appeal to Country listeners.
“Beginning And The End” has a simple acoustic bluegrass feel to it, whilst “They All Say” has a morning after honky tonk feel to it.
“Clipped Wings” is a gentle, melodic number which closed the album.
But the track to listen out for is “The Chance Worth Taking”. It starts off quite folky, but develops into a good acoustic Country number. Elizabeth’s vocals, when breaking out of the harmonies, add quite a Nashville sound to the song.
A pleasant listen, though not all Country by any means.

REBECCA PRONSKY is a Brooklyn, New York, born singer songwriter, who has just released her sixth album, “Known Objects” (ACME Hall Studios). She is no stranger to Scottish audiences, having toured here several times in the past few years.
I have to be honest that her previous material didn’t leave an impression on me, but this new collection certainly does.
She kicks off with “Bag Of Bones”, a catchy opener that really got me interested.
“Nothing Yet” has a bit of a rocky intro, but settles down to quite a catchy number that I really liked.
“Did You Know” is a slower paced number, starting off with simple piano. It really let her vocals come to the fore. As the song developed into a catchy Carpenters styled song that you just felt you had heard before. “Blue Skies” is another ballad. I have to say that, on these ballads, her vocals are more akin to bluesy jazz style. There are other ballads, like “No Matter”, which her vocals are more natural and appealing.
Rebecca is one of these singer songwriters you cannot categorise.
She’s a singer- songwriter. She writes and sounds good. Check her out.

Continuing with the singer songwriters and to BEN BEDFORD, a chap from Springfield, Illinois.  “The Pilot And The Flying Machine” (Waterbug Records) is his fourth album. Interestingly, Ben decided to move out of the studio setting, and recorded this collection of songs at Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in his hometown in early January. Ben and his guitar, were joined by Diederik van Wassenaer on Violin & Viola, and Ethan Jodziewicz on double bass, and his wife Kari on harmonies.  Despite the small ensemble, they produced a full sound.
All the songs were written by Ben.
He captures a number of journeys through the songs here, whether it be following in Mark Twain’s footsteps across Nebraska & Iowa on “Letters From The Earth”, or “Prairy Erth”, a bird’s eye flight across Chase County, Kansas. There’s even a song about a 3D model of the solar system covered in “Orrery”.
“The Voyage Of John and Emma” had quite an interesting sound. It’s a tale of transatlantic voyage from Northern England to New Orleans, and up the Mississippi to Illinois. Capturing the British end, it does have quite a folksy feel to it.
It’s quite a pleasant listen. Another that will appeal to fans of acoustic singer songwriters.

WILD PONIES are a duo Telisha & Doug Williams, who release their second album, “Radiant”(No Evil Records) this month to tie in with a tour down south.
All 11 tracks were written by the pair, with Telisha taking the main vocal role on most of the tracks. I have to honest and say that the two tracks that stood out for me were the two that Doug vocals are featured on.
“Mom & Pop” is the most Country track, dealing with growing up in a different way to that of our parents.
“Love Is Not A Sin” features both vocalists harmonising together. This song was adopted by the LGBT Equality groups. It is a nice song, and possibly the stand out track.
The other tracks tend to be just too rocky, or just didn’t catch my imagination.

And finally…another mini-album comes from Southern Louisiana’s ROD MELANCON. His 5 track CD “LA14” (Blue Elan Records) shows several very different sides to him.
The opening track, “Perry” is quite rocky, and “Lights Of Carencro” even heavier.
But then on “Dwayne & Me”, and “A Man Like Me Shouldn’t Own a Gun”, he sounds so Country. The former is a bit of a heavy storytelling ballad, whilst the second title is a quick paced fun number. Very contrasting styles.
Then, “By Her Side”, which closes the CD, is much more of a ballad, laced with some nice steel.
Quite an interesting offering. I’m not sure what direction Rid is going. Hopefully, he’ll take one of his Country roads.

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.