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Monday, 31 March 2014

Apr 2014

This month, we’ll kick off with a lady who will be playing in Scotland this month. It’s 25 years since SUZY BOGGUSS launched her career with a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Somewhere Between”. Now she revisits The Hag’s musical library with “Lucky” (Proper), a 12 track collection of Merle’s hits.
According to Suzy, she and husband/co-producer Doug Crider didn’t set out to do an album of Haggard songs. They were working on doing an album blending Country and Blues, and these great Merle hits just kept coming into their thoughts. Eventually they realised that what they really had in mind was this album. It’s not a Merle tribute. Suzy has definitely not set out to cover the songs in The Hag’s style. She has stamped her own arrangements, her own mark on these songs, in much the same way as she did with “Somewhere Between”, quarter of a century ago.
There is certainly a bluesy guitar feel coming over on the songs, which range from the quick paced “Lets Chase Each Other Around The Room Tonight” and “The Running Kind”, through slower “Silver Wings” and “Sing Me Back Home”. “The Bottle Let Me Down” has a particularly bluesy feel to it, but it works well.
“If We Make It Through December”, has a more catchy feel to it, and really captures the positivity that the song has lost in other covers.
I was particularly impressed with her treatment of “Going Where the Lonely Go”. It’s a song that I was never that keen on from Merle, but Suzy really gives it some emotion. I also really enjoyed her version of “You Don’t Have Very Far To Go”, which is probably the least well known song on the album. Suzy cites Emmylou & Linda Ronstadt as inspirations on this one.
There’s quite an impressive array of backing vocalists like recent Celtic Connections visitors Gretchen Peters and Beth Nielsen Chapman, as well as Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall Stewart and Matraca Berg.
I love Suzy Bogguss voice. I always have. And I’m loving listening to her deliver such tasteful versions of some of the greatest Country songs out there. “Lucky” me.
Suzy is appearing at The Northern Nashville Caithness Country Festival at Easter and at St Andrews In The Square, in Glasgow on April 11th for The Fallen Angels Club.

I’m always amazed at the wealth of Country music talent which comes out of The Faroe Islands. HALLUR JOENSON has been one of the main players on the scene there for the past few years, and has built up many contacts internationally, and has brought some of them together for his new “Stars & Legends” album.
The 13 track collection kicks off with “Send Me A Letter Amanda”, featuring Hallur with The Bellamy Brothers. Very much in the Bellamy’s style, the song is a great introduction to the album.
There are two duets with the wonderful Dawn Sears, both written by producer Jakup Zachariassen. Dawn is a member of the highly acclaimed Nashville jam band The Time Jumpers. She has a stunning voice, which lends itself well to torch songs like “My Sweetest Hello”, and “Tonight I’m Coming Home”.
Fellow Time Jumper Vince Gill, and Sonya Isaacs provide some lovely harmony on the old styled “My Door Is Always Open”.
On one of his earlier albums, Hallur recorded a version of Charley Pryde’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” in his native Faroese. On this album, he does a duet with the man himself, on that song, and “Crystal Chandeliers”.
Bobby Bare met Hallur when he played in The Faroes in 2011. The pair duet here on “Somewhere To Go”.  There’s also duets with The Gaither’s  Woody Wright (who wrote four songs for the album), Tania Hancheroff, David Peterson, and even guitarist James Burton.
But the highlight for Hallur is dueting with Kris Kristofferson on “Nobody Wins”. He’s even kept in the little bit of chat at the end of the song.
But it’s not just Nashville legends that Hallur has recorded with. There’s a duet with Norwegian outlaw Gunner Thomas, and Icelandic songbird Yohanna. The latter joins Hallur on a beautiful ballad, “Separate Ways”, which is probably the most modern sounding track on the album, and should be getting radio play on pop as well Country stations.
Hallur has delivered a wide ranging package of duets, which cover the spectrum of Country music. All well sung, well produced, and well played on my CD system.
Another great album from The Faroe Islands !

DON WILLIAMS remains one of the most popular Country entertainers on this side of the Atlantic. Now approaching his 75th birthday, he’s embarking on his farewell UK tour next month (He’ll be at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on May 11th) and has released his latest album, “Reflections” (Sugar Hill) to coincide with the tour.
I have to say that Don is sounding as good as ever. His long time producer Garth Fundis is at the helm, but the arrangements just sound so fresh.
He has quite a wide array of material, from Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” (also released as a single), Jesse Winchester’s “If I Were Free” to Guy Clark’s “Talk Is Cheap” and Steve Wariner/Tony Arata’s “The Answer”.  He even does a superb version of Merle Haggatd’s “Sing Me Back Home”.
This is vintage Don. Just relaxing, listenable Country music. Such a pleasure.

 RONNIE MILSAP was one of the most influential singers of the 70’s & 80’s. He had mass crossover appeal between Country, pop and blues. Now, at the age of 71, Ronnie is back with a new album, “Summer Number 17” (Sony).
Although a very easy on the ear album, I have to admit that it’s not particularly “Country”. It includes covers some classic pop & soul numbers, like “Tears On My Pillow”, “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”, “Mack The Knife” and “Personality”.
There are two duets with Mandy Barnett, including The Stylistic’s old “You Make Me Feel Brand New”.
He also reworks one of his old classics, “Lost In The Fifties Tonight”, and the title track is a new song, but fits well into the nostalgic feel of the 12 track collection.
It’s a nice nostalgic album, for pop fans. I fear Country fans wont be as convinced.

It’s 20 years since we all discovered CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH through his amazing song “What Colour Is The Wind”. 27 albums later, the genial giant returns to his Merseyside roots, to the famous Cavern, and the music that put that venue, and put the city of Liverpool on the map. “Here,There And Everywhere” is an album of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison compositions.
There are a number of classic Beatles numbers like the title track,“Yesterday”, “Penny Lane”, “Long And Winding Road” and “Ticket To Ride”, alongside some lesser known songs.
It’s amazing just how well Charlie’s vocal style suits these songs , most notably on “And I Lover Her”, “Imagine” and “Crippled Inside”, which features some neat steel guitar.
There are a couple of interesting medleys, including a neat transition from a slow “For No One” into “Here Comes The Sun”.
Although known, and respected for his own writing, I guess after all this time, Charlie felt it was time to honour his hometown heroes. It’s something that he’s featured in his live concerts for a while now. On record, he does it with taste and thoughtfulness. It comes over as a Charlie album, rather than a Beatles tribute.
Nice work Charlie.

DEREK RYAN has really established himself as one of the new young stars of the Irish Country scene. His latest album, “Country Soul” (Sharpe Music) features 14 tracks and is a real mix of original songs, with a few recognisable Country and Irish covers.
The title track is quite a poppy number aimed at the dancers back in Ireland. The same could be said about “Dancing In The Moonlight”. “Welcome Home”, a homecoming song written for last year’s Gathering is really catchy, and I like it a lot.
I was really impressed with the slower, and more Country, “Leave A Light On For Me”, whilst “To Be A Man” is a slower ballad, which he delivers with quite a bit of emotion.
There are covers of Bob McDill’s “Turn Out The Light Love Me Tonight”, Vince Gill’s “Turn Me Loose” and Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind”.
Keeping the Irish end up, is the really catchy “Better Times a Coming”, “The Long Way Home”  and the traditional “Raggle Taggle Gypsy”.
He is getting a big push on the UK mainland this year, with the release of the catchy “100 Numbers” on St.Patricks Day.
Derek delivers a good mix of styles, and will certainly keep you entertained with this new album.

Way back in the late 1990’s a young Irishman called MICHAEL ENGLISH was being tipped as the new Daniel O’Donnell.  He kinda disappeared from the scene, but is now back with a good toe tappin album called “Country Roots”.
The album features a number of his own songs, including the lead single, “The Band Is Back In Town”, a superb showband styled number which does rather emphasise that Michael is back. His other songs include the gentle “Cheers To All”, the sentimental “Mama’s Footsteps”, and the rather poppy “High Five”
The album does lean quite heavily towards the Irish Country style, with lovely ballads like “Eileen” and “Until You’ve Walked In My Shoes”, and uptempo fun numbers like “Locklin’s Bar”.
He also features some interesting covers, including “Simple Things”, which comes from the pen of Paisley’s Paolo Nutini, although could’ve come from any writer in Ireland, such is the arrangement. He takes on a different sound for the classic Hank Thompson song “I Dreamed Of An Old Love Affair”. Just not a sound you’d expect to hear in 2014.  He also covers “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.
And just in case you don’t remember Michael, he gives an updated version of his popular song “Nearest To Perfect”.
A superb array of styles, but then, that’s what Irish artists thrive at. Michael is one of the best. Good to hear him back.

The music business can work in mysterious ways. Some artists are a flash in the pan. Others are slow burners. Texan born ERIC PASLEY looks like he’s a slow burner.
His first single, “Never Really Wanted” was released in 2011, but it’s taken him three years to get his self titled debut album out (Humphead). In the meantime, he’s been writing hits for others like Jake Owen, Love And Theft and Eli Young. He wrote all 11 songs on the album, some with others like Jessi Alexander, Walt Aldridge and Rob Crosby.
The album  has quite a modern sound, especially on the likes of “Less Than Whole” and the hits “Never Really Wanted” and “Friday Night”.
But there are some old fashioned Country high spots too. I really liked “Country Side Of Heaven”, with its homespun appeal. There was also some neat instrumentation on “Here Comes Love”, which caught my attention.
“She Don’t Love You” is a beautiful ballad, as is “Deep as It Is Wide”.
One of the best albums to come from a major Nashville label for some time. Watch the name.

Another new name out of Nashville is JON PARDI. He is a native Californian, but doesn’t have much Bakersfield influence, although he does mention it in the words of the title track of his album “Write You A Song” (Humphead).
Pardi is another songwriter who has written, or co-written all the tracks on the album.
Most of it is modern Country radio pop, but there are some nice songs that stand out.
“That Man” is quite a pleasant ballad, whilst there’s some neat fiddle intro on “Love You From Here”. I also liked “Trash A Hotel Room”, if not its’ sentiments.
Not a bad album, but just a shade to Nashville pop for me.

  Our third Humphead release this time around is from Missouri born DAVID NAIL. David is another who was around for a while before getting an album out. His first single was released in 2002, but his debut album “I’m About To Come Alive” wasn’t released until 2009. Now his third album, “I’m A Fire” has just been released both in the USA & Europe.
The album features a good mix of modern Country sounds, which I found quite listenable. Four of the songs were co-written by Nail, with Shane MacAnally, Bob Dipiero, Scooter Carusoe and Neil Thrasher amongst the others putting pen to paper.
“Kiss You Tonight” is a good radio song, and I also enjoyed the more sensitive “The Secret”. “Whatever She’s Got”, is a catchy number, ideal for radio.
But it’s the tracks that feature some good harmonies that stand out for me. Little Big Town join in on “When They’re Gone”, and Lee Ann Womack duets out a stunningly fresh version of “Galveston. But whose are the female harmonies on “Brand New Day”?. Unfortunately the sleevenotes don’t tell us, but they blend with David’s vocals beautifully.
I really enjoyed this album. It didn’t knock me out, but pleasant it was.

Arizona born DIERKS BENTLEY has been part of Capitol Nashville’s roster for the past decade, and his new album “Riser” is his eighth for the label, who have released it here, to coincide with his recent c2c Festival appearances in Dublin and London.
On previous albums, Dierks has given token appreciation to bluegrass music. That is sorely missing from this outing, with the rather unimpressive “Not Enough Bourbon In Kentucky” being the closest he gets this time around.
Much of the album did little for me. It was too pop for me. Many of the songs just sounded so repetitive.
The exception was “Damn These”, which closes the album. It, at least, paid homage to Nashville and Country music. Still didn’t sound very Country though.
“Say You Do” is one of the most enjoyable tracks. It’s laid back easy on the ear feel, appealed to me. The title track is an Ok ballad
“I Hold On”, an uptempo number, has also been released as a single in the UK, in the hope of getting some pop radio airplay.
He’s done more appealing albums, but I guess, if you’ve enjoyed his previous outings, then you should give this a listen too.

Rhett Akins was one of the most interesting artists to emerge from the Nashville Country scene in the 90’s with hits like “Don’t Get Me Started” and “That Aint My Truck”. Now his son, THOMAS RHETT has followed in his father’s footsteps with the release of his debut album, “It Goes Like This”(Decca).
In fact, Thomas isn’t that new to the scene. As a songwriter, he’s already had songs recorded by Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line.
Despite his father’s musical pedigree, young Thomas was raised on Rock & R&B as well as Country. And it shows in this album.
Kicking off with “Whatcha Got In That Cup”, with it’s driving rocky/r&b beat, didn’t fill me with any enthusiasm for the rest of the album.
Country music is a wide spectrum, and seems to get wider every day. This album really stretches the boundaries. Most of the tracks are not what I’d consider to be Country, but there are some flashes of Country inspiration.
“Something To Do With My Hands”, is still quite rocky, but with a lot more of a Country edge. “In A Minute”, is quite a pleasant ballad, as is “Take You Home”. “Sorry For Partying” is certainly a morning after Country song. It does get a little repetitive however
The stand out track would be “Beer With Jesus”- definitely Country! He can do it when he wants.
The track that killed the album off for me was “Front Porch Junkies”. I was hoping for something downhome front porch swing, but it couldn’t be farther away from that. It’s just pure R&B. This has no place in Country music. A miss for me.

SARA EVANS has been around Country music since 1997, and is best known for hits like “Suds In The Bucket”, “No Place That Far” and “Three Chords & The Truth”.  Her 7th album, “Slow Me Down” has just been released here (Sony), and I have to say I’m a shade disappointed by it.
Despite her pedigree in the business, this album just doesn’t stand out from all the other Nashville pop-country girls out there.
It’s a well produced pop Country album, but I listened well into the album, before anything really caught my attention.
She is joined by pop singer Gavin DeGraw on “Not Over You” and Isaac Slade from rock band The Frey, on “Cant Stop Loving You”.
“If I Run” is a good strong ballad, but still rather pop idol material.
“Good Love Is Hard To Find”, which is track 8, was the first song that caught my attention. It’s the sort of ballad that we’ve grown to love Sara for. For a more uptempo number, I really enjoyed “Revival”. To have started the album with this track, rather that close it, could have made such a difference.
But it’s “Better Off”, with its harmonies from Vince Gill that really stand out. It has quite a Celtic feel to it, and works really well.
A few real golden touches saved the album.

Our home grown offering this month comes from Perth based RED PINE TIMBER COMPANY, which emerged five years ago from the embers of the band Southpaw.
Now they have released their debut album, “Different Lonesome” on their own Red Pine Record label.
They have, at one stage featured 11 band members, but eight have settled into the current line up for this album, recorded in The Fair City’s Clearwater Studios.
With so many musicians, playing everything from banjo and harmonica to saxophone, it’s reasonable to expect quite an array of musical styles on offer.
All the songs were written by front man Gavin JD Munro.
The title track is a 6 ½ minute epic, featuring song great harmonica, and beautiful harmonies between Gavin and Katie Burgoyne.
Indeed the harmonies work well throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Dark Clouds” and ballads, like “Save My Soul” and the stand out track “Speaking Of Your Name”. Their voices certainly give an air of Gram & Emmylou.
Other tracks, like “Bad Taste”, “The Way I Was” and “Sermon On The Street” are more uptempo, whilst “No Direction” is a soft ballad that showcases Katie’s vocals.
Altogether, a very interesting album.
www.redpinetimberco.com

Some musical acts are hard to categorise, but you can just tell that when you receive an album in the post from a band called THE JIGANTICS, that they’re going provide an interesting listen. The album is called “Daisy Roots” (Rawtone)
This English outfit are described as “Nu-folk”, but take in Country, Blues, Jazz, Rock and several other influences. From the opening track, “Swimming Song”, I was writing them off as a fun folk group. But I’m glad I kept listening for the eclectic mix that was to develop.
“The Valley” is a soft ballad, as are their versions of “Lakes Of Pontchatrain” and “Black Mountain Lullaby”.
Then how can you resist as title like “Bad Liver And A Broken Heart”. Yes, it’s the most Country track on the album. A good beat, and a song that works really well. “Hold On”, is also quite Country, more of a ballad.
I was also quite impressed with “Keys To Your Door”, with it’s lovely accordion backing.
Not all Country, but enough to merit a listen if you get the chance.

Next up is a guy called PETER MULVEY, who hails from Milwaukee. Whilst studying theatre, he played in several bands there. But it wasn’t until he travelled to Dublin in 1989, that he got into music, as a street singer.
He went back to America, where he has recorded several albums. His latest, “Silver Ladder” (Signature Sound) was released here to coincide with a tour of Ireland and England last month.
According to the publicity, Peter has been through a rather turbulent stretch in his personal life of late, and decided to write his way out of it. The result is the twelve songs on this collection, which was produced by Americana legend Chuck Prophet.
The album has quite a variety of styles.
“You Don’t Have To Tell Me” is quite a foot tapper that stood out as the most Country track on the album.
“Where Did You Go” is quite a slow number, but the added vocals of Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins adds some magic. It certainly is one of the album’s highlights.
Some of the tracks, like “Back In The Wind” and “Sympathies” are quite poppy, but if you like singer songwriters, then Peter Mulvey is worth checking out.

AMELIA WHITE was raised on the Boston folk scene, and bought her first guitar when she was only 10 years old. Her first band played rock music, then twelve years ago found herself in Nashville, and found a growing fan base for her original songs.
Her new album, “Old Postcard” (White-Wolf Records) offers the listener an interesting insight into her life.
“Goodbye Today”, with it’s infectious steel chords really caught my attention, whilst the album’s title track recalls her rather less than memorable childhood. As you would expect from the title, “Get Your Cowboy On” is the strongest Country song on the album. Amelia hasn’t a particularly strong voice, but she uses her smokey vocals to best effect on this track.
There are still shades of her rock upbringing, especially on “Mary’s Getting Better” and “River Of My Dreams”.
I like her voice. She’s a bit different. Worth checking out.

ROBBY HECHT is a native Tennessean, but travelled to Wisconsin, San Francisco and Paris, before returning to Nashville to hone his craft. Known for his quiet vulnerable ballads, Hecht has been named as “one of American Songwriter’s favourite Nashville artists”.
His new self titled album has been released here (Old Man Henry Records) prior to a UK tour this summer, which will include at least one Scottish date (July 3rd at The Byre @ Inchyra, Glencarse,Perthshire).
Whilst many of the songs are naturally quite slow, “Papa’s Down The Road Dead”, despite it’s title, is quite a jolly little tune.
“Soon I Was Sleeping” is quite a pleasant ballad, and features the duet talents of Canadian Rose Cousins, who has a really pleasing voice.
“New York City” is a different tribute to the Big Apple. With its’ haunting melody, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album.
The other tracks are all soft ballads, “The Sea & The Shore” being the stand out track.

Making their third tour to Europe (but not Scotland) next month, are four guys from Portland, Maine, calling themselves TUMBLING BONES. They have quite an exciting mix of folk, country and bluegrass on offer, as featured on their album “Loving A Fool”, which will be available in time for their visit. (May 5th release date).
They play bluegrass at amazing speed on tracks like “Bound To Ride” and “Money Is For Spending”, then slow it down completely on the very Country title track. They come up with some old time harmony singing on “Shady Green Pastures”, and some authentic old time recording on “A Voice From On High”.
Most of the tracks are originals, but they do find space on the 13 track album, for a fresh new version of The Louvin’s classic, “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby”.
Great stuff. I really enjoyed this album’s energy.

And, finally, I’ve kept the best for last this time around.
RHONDA VINCENT has been around the bluegrass scene since she was a mere youngster in the 70’s. She’s grown to become the leading light for women in bluegrass music. Recently, especially through duets with Gene Watson, she’s proved herself to be a fine Country stylist too.
For her new album, “Only Me”, she’s bridging the gap, by featuring a bluegrass side and a Country side. The instrumentation is a bit different. It’s fiddles and banjo’s on the first five tracks, and some stunning steel guitar on the remaining tracks.
She does a great job on the Country covers like “Once A Day”, “Beneath Still Waters”  and “Bright Lights And Country Music”, but it’s the bluegrass versions of songs like “I Need Somebody Bad Tonight”, “I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Hear Nothing At All” and the old Melba Montgomery/George Jones hit “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds”,
(which she duets with Daryl Singletary) that really stand out.
She even gets old Willie Nelson in to duet on the title track.
It’s a stunning album- great arrangements, great vocals, great songs. I just loved it, and can’t take it off the CD player.
It’s so early in the year, but this is my album of the year!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Feb 2014

We’ll kick off this time with some new releases from the Heart Of Texas label. The label have brought several acts over for the Caithness Country Music Festival in recent years, and thanks to Tracey Pitcox for updating me on some of his label’s newer releases.
Ray Price was a huge influence on many of today’s stars, and CURTIS POTTER has a very timely tribute with his new album, “Songs Of The Cherokee Cowboy” on Heart of Texas Records.  Price charted over 100 hits on the Country charts, and Curtis has selected just 11 for this album.
He has avoided the most obvious numbers like “For The Good Times” and “City Lights”, but does cover “If She Could See Me Now”, “Sittin’ and Thinkin’”, and “Walk Me To The Door”.
There are a number of Willie Nelson songs (Ray Price gave Willie his start),including  “Nightlife” and “Healing Hands Of Time”. Willie also duets on the opening and title track “Songs Of The Cherokee Cowboy”, which is a song about the songs that made Ray Price such a star.
Curtis doesn’t have the greatest vocals in the world, but he handles these songs well. It’s a great wee tribute to Ray Price.

Our next new Heart Of Texas release is from NORMA JEAN. The Oklahoma born singer, known affectionately as Pretty Miss Norma Jean, first came to Country fans attention on The Porter Wagoner TV Show (before Dolly) back in the 60’s.
Now she’s back with a new album, “Aged To Perfection”, which applies to the songs on the 12 track collection, as well as the lady herself. Since the hit singles dried up, Norma Jean has been performing in Branson, but recently moved to Brady,Texas.
She includes reworkings of two of her old hits, “I Cried All The Way To The Bank”, and “A Game Of Triangles”, which teams her up with fellow Heart Of Texas labelmates Justin Trevino (who produced the album) and Amber Digby.
She also covers a number of classic Country songs like “My Baby’s Gone”, “Satin Sheets”, “Today I Started Lovin’ You Again” and “Rose Garden”.
But the most interesting track for fans on this side of the Atlantic, will no doubt be the old Dr Hook number “A Couple More Years”, on which she duets with a certain Daniel O’Donnell. Not a bad version either.
Norma Jean is pure Country. Great to hear such a Country voice, with such splendid arrangements that you’d only hear out of Texas.
Great stuff!

JOHNNY BUSH has forever been associated with Texas Country music, He had played with Ray Price and Willie Nelson back in the 60’s before launching a solo career which netted him 25 chart hits. Now, at the age of 78, he releases “Reflections”, a 14 track album of largely new material, and I have to say that he sounds much younger.
There are a few covers, like Jack Greene’s “Statue Of a Fool”, Dickey Lee’s “She Thinks I Still Care” and Willie Nelson’s “A Moment Isn’t Very Long”, and draws in Jim Lauderdale as co-writer on “All The Rage In Paris”, one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Producer Justin Trevino contributed “Neon Nightmare”, whilst Johnny wrote three of the songs.
I really enjoyed the traditional sound, and arrangements on this album.

BOBBY LEWIS is also on the Heart Of Texas label with a new album , “Here I Am Again”, but Bobby’s  musical career goes back to the 1960’s when he charted with hits like “How Long has it Been” and “From Heaven To Heartache”.
Now the Kentucky born singer has moved down Texas way to record his new collection. The album kicks off with his latest single, “Alice In Wonderland”, and weaves through the George Jones influenced “We Make a Great Country Song”, the Bill Anderson influenced “Shutters & Boards”, to a cover of Ernie Ashworth’s classic “Talk Back Trembling Lips”. All the way, its good Country music, perhaps more of a slightly dated Nashville sound than a full Texas swing sound, but a good listen nevertheless.
Bobby wrote four of the tracks, including “World Of Love”, which is a duet with Diane McCall, a real strong country partnership, that just sounds so natural.
First class Country music.

Our next Heart of Texas offering is from DARRELL McCALL, the father of the Texan McCalls dynasty. “Country From The Heart” is apparently his first album for 3 years, but of course, has been busy supporting his family’s musical careers, so has not been idle.
He wrote, or co wrote seven of the tracks, including the opening track “Cold Long Neck Beer”, with daughter Guyanne, who duets on the closing track “Just Ask Me”, which I really enjoyed. More  about Guyanne coming up.
In between, it’s good ol’ Texan music all the way. As well as the original tracks, there are covers of “Invitation To The Blues” (Roger Miller), and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Take Me as I Am”.
“Florence Jean” is given a magical Country treatment, and there’s a neat tribute to a songwriter friend called “Jug”, which works well.
If you like the “Tru-Country” Texan sound, this is another for you!

And, as promised, our final Heart of Texas artist is newbie GUYANNE McCALL, the daughter of the afore mentioned Darrel.  Guyanne has, up til now, been more of a songwriter, having written for her parents, Amber Digby, Dottsy, Tony Booth and Kimberley Murray.
Now Guyanne is in the spotlight with her first album, “In The Genes”. She certainly has that true Country Texas style, that wont disappoint.
She has written, or co-written all, but one track, on the album. The one she didn’t write, is “Just Ask Me”, written by dad, Darrell (and is also on his album). She also has a cracking duet with her brother Cody, on “One Tear At A Time”.
The opening track, “The Fall” is certainly a good number to open the album, and I’d also recommend “Yesterday’s News”
“I’m Leavin’ You Today” is a strong ballad, and I just love the steel guitar opening on “Will You Ever Know”. “Weak At The Knees” is a delicate ballad, which has borrowed more than a little influence from “I’m Not Lisa”. In contrast, she rocks it up a bit on “Meet Me In Memphis”, before closing with a nice ballad in “I’ve Never Been Loved So Much”.
With quite a detailed sleeve note testimony from none other than Heather Myles, Guyanne is making quite an impression on this album.
She’ll make an impression on you too!

Still in Texas. DAN SEALS was one of the biggest Country stars of the 80’s & 90’s. Sadly he passed away in 2009. Now Humphead have given him the “Definitive Collection” treatment, with a 40 track 2CD collection being released on 17th February.
Most of the big hits he had are on CD1, including “Bop”, “Wild Side Of Me”, “Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold”, “You Still Move Me”, “One Friend” and “My Old Yellow Car”. There’s also the fabulous duet he had with Marie Osmond on “Meet Me In Montana”.
Great to hear all these songs again, but I do feel that not including his huge hit, “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”, makes this a somewhat incomplete collection. Of course, he was known as England Dan (alongside John Ford Coley), when he had that hit, but he has released Dan Seals versions of the song in latter years.
Nevertheless, a good collection to remember Dan by.

DAVID LEASK is an accomplished singer songwriter from the Toronto area, but originally hails from Edinburgh. His first claim to fame was for taking top honours on the BBC National Rock School. That was 30 years ago. Since making the transatlantic trip, and basing himself in Canada, David has released three highly acclaimed albums, and won numerous accolades for his songs.
“Underneath” is his fourth album, and features a mix of celtic, country, folk and rock sounds that blend together nicely.
Leask co-wrote 11 of the album's 13 tracks. Songs such as the title track "Underneath", “Photosynthesis” and “One Second Look” shed refreshingly mature perspectives on personal relationships. Others like “Freedom by the Barrel”, “Ready to Buy” and “Breathing” go even deeper to tackle and examine social conditions such as war mongering, rampant consumerism and the struggle for peace amidst chaos.
Some of the tracks are a shade pop or rock (notably “Photosythesis” and “Ready To Buy”), but there is plenty to shout about this emigrant. “Stronger Back”, one of the songs that he didn’t write, caught my attention. It has a nice folksy, yet gutsy feel to it. “Highway Home”, another song with a soft celtic lilt to it, really stood out for me. It’s the sort of song fellow exScot Canadian, Johnny Reid would have a huge hit on.
There’s some nice fiddle in the opening of “Burdens & Blessings”, which also caught me attention.
I also liked to bouncy “One Second Look”, with its catchy instrumentation, and “All My Love”, which has quite a crossover appeal.
The album closes with a Darrell Scott & Beth Neilsen Chapman song, “This Time Round”, which has a simple piano cello and whistle arrangement, which really shows off David’s vocals and the songs simplistic beauty. It’s a lovely version.
David is another talent that has had to move from Scotland to pursue his career. But we can still enjoy his music. “Underneath” is available from the usual download sites or www.davidleask.com

JACE EVERETT should not be an unknown name to readers. He wrote and sang “Bad Things”, the theme to TV’s “True Blood”, and was here a couple of times for the CMA’s New From Nashville showcases at Celtic Connections.
He’s back for Celtic Connections on February 2nd at Oran Mor, and has a new album “Tera Rosa” released on Humphead, to tie in with the visit.
Jace has never been your typical Nashville act. He still isn’t.
This album really stretches Country music’s boundaries.
“Pennsylvania” has quite an acoustic arrangement that works well, and “Pretty Good Plan”, which closes the album, is the most Country track.
Otherwise, this album just didn’t appeal to my at all.

SUSAN CATTANEO is a singer songwriter in the mould of Gretchen Peters or Kim Richey. She’s a New Jersey girl, but based these days ion the Boston area, having got there via Arizona and Nashville, honing her craft along the way.
She has a nice voice, which she uses to full effect on her new album, “Haunted Heart” (Jersey Girl Music). She delivers a variety of styles, from Country to folk and rock.
Stand out tracks for me included the catchy “Lorelei” , they slower “Queen Of The Dancehall” and the old timey “How A Cowboy Says Goodbye”, where there’s also a wee yodel in there – something you don’t hear too often these days.
This is Susan’s 3rd album. It’s a pleasant album. A nice listen.


Glasgow can be quite an iconic city to play. Especially if you’re from Dallas, Texas, and are playing The Hydro one night, and The Arches the next!  But that’s exactly what The O’s did last month. Furthermore, their new album, “Thunderdog” has been released on Glasgow based, student run label, Electric Honey Records
The O’s are duo, Taylor Young and John Pedigo, who have been likened to The Louvin Brothers and Mumford & Son. They’ve been together since 2008, and this is their third album.
They have an interesting sound. On some tracks, the instrumentation has quite an acoustic, almost bluegrass feel, especially on “You Are The Light”, “Cicerone” and “Levee Breaks”.
“Running Games” has some nice harmony vocals, quite Eagles-ish, but with a more bluegrassy backing., Quite different. Whilst “Lighten The Load” has more of a mainstream sound, but works as well.
The O’s have quite a different sound. Not mainstream Country by any means, but worth a listen.

DAVE CLEMO is a sixty something British singer songwriter, who has been around the scene for a while. Born in Cornwall, but moved to London at an early age. He’s played in folk, rock and pop bands, before retiring to Somerset in the 1990’s, when he started to develop his songwriting.
His latest solo album, “Hard Times” features eleven original songs.
The songs are a bit hard to categorise. They are Dave Clemo songs!
I liked “I Aint Quittin” for it’s message, “Any Road” for it’s outlaw/Texan feel; and “I’m To Busy Drinking For Thinking” for it’s simple arrangement.
There’s a good strumming guitar on “I Fought The Battle (You Won The War), whilst “I Used To Be A Preacher” has quite a bluesy feel.
It’s a interesting album. www.daveclemo.co.uk

Finally this time around, a 5 track EP from a new young lady on the scene. KINSEY ROSE hails from Louisville, Kentucky, but is based in Nashville these days. She is a much in demand demo singer, sings the national anthem at the Nashville Predators Ice Hockey games, and has a regular Tuesday night gig at a Music City Honky Tonk called Rippy’s.
She caught the eye of Ken MacLeod when he was over in Tennessee last year, and Ken brought her to my attention.
She certainly has a good modern sound.
The first oif the tracks is a good radio friendly ballad called “Broken”, which we should have heard before now. “Typical Man” is a bit of a cheating song. Really Country- maybe just too Country for US radio playthese days .
“Street Of Maytown” is a strong, well produced ballad.
But it’s “Get Yer Redneck On” which stands out for me. The Gretchen Wilson influence lives on. It’s a real bright and breezy number, which Kinsey handles well.
I also enjoyed the lilting melody on “Morning Will Come”. Kinsey has been around Nashville for a few years now, honing her craft. Her day will come soon, I’m sure. The 5 track CD is available from all the usual download outlets, and check out her videos on You Tube.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

December 2013

Well, as Christmas approaches, there’s lots of new releases, and re-releases out there. We’ll start with the ladies this time around.
LAURA CANTRELL has been a regular visitor to our shores over the years. The Nashville born, New York based singer follows up her highly acclaimed “Kitty Wells Dresses” with a new album of original material, “No Way There From Here”, which was released here on Spit & Polish in time for her Glasgow Americana Festival appearance, three months ahead of a US release.
The album offers quite a variety of material, from the vintage pop sounding opening track, “All The Girls Are Complicated” to the very Country “Driving Down Your Street, which is probably my favourite track on the album.
The title track is quite a slow number, which Laura delivers with such emotion.  It’s followed by “Glass Armour”, a song that was composed across both sides of the Atlantic, with Tracey Ann Campbell from Scottish band Camera Obscura.
“Beg Or Borrow Days” is quite a catchy number, with some neat fiddle from another Scot, John McCusker. Another track that caught my attention, is one that she co-wrote with labelmate Amy Allison, “Cant Wait”. It had a familiar catchy feel, reminding me of Kirsty McColl’s “They Dont Know”.
Laura has built up a big fan base over here. Her sweet vocals lend themselves well to these songs.

HAYLEY OLIVER is one of the most talked about Country artists in the UK these days.
The London born singer, whose early breaks included Joe Pasqale’s “Curtain Call” in 2002, has released two solo albums, and this is her second album as The Hayley Oliver Band.
“Abinger Grove”(Aop), was recorded in Kent, and features 14 tracks, mainly original.
The album kicks off with a couple of quite poppy numbers, but Hayley then gets into her Country stride. “Right Person at The Right Time”, an early single from the album, is a catchy radio friendly song, that you can’t help but like. “Could I Be More”, another single, really shows off her voice. It’s a lovely ballad, and reminded me of Brenda Lee.
“Just Once More” is also a lovely slow ballad that really shows Hayley’s voice to full emotion.
“Good Ole Days” is a good uptempo number, with some lovely fiddle.  “Bright Side Of The Life”, is a superb positive song. “Labour Of Love”, a slower number, has a real Country feel to it.
“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, originally recorded by Canadian Rena Gaile, is a really nice song that Hayley delivers really well.
She also turns her hand to rock’n’roll, with a great foot tappin’ version of Charlie Rich’s “I’m Coming Home”.
As well as her band, John Permenter, Albert Lee and Gerry Hogan are also playing on the album.
A really good album. Certainly one to check out.
www.hayleyoliverband.co.uk

Another female that is sure to win the hearts of fans over here is JANICE MAYNARD.
She’s from Liberty Hill in Texas, and sounds like it too. She’s already appeared on TV shows like “Tru-Country”, and now has her album , “I’ll Take My Chances” on Yellow Rose Records.
She wrote, or co-wrote seven of the twelve tracks on the album, which was produced by Bobby Flores, who made a huge impression at this year’s Caithness Festival.
As would expect, Janice is true Texan, 100% Country music, with lots of Bobby Flores fiddle and traditional steel guitar.
She kicks off with a cover of Bill Anderson’s “Bright Lights And Country Music”, and covers another of Whispering Bill’s songs, “The Perfect Place”, as well as a Dallas Frazier number.
Leona Williams makes her mark. Janice’s version of Leona’s “Why Be A Dreamer” is one of the album’s strongest songs, then Leona duets on the catchy “Bad Girls”.
Her own songs include the swinging “Dont Settle For A Spark”, and “One Of A Kind Of Heart”, as well as the steel laden “You’re What Makes The World Go Around”,  which all stand up against other Texan singers like Heather Myles or Amber Digby.
She’s a name that certainly going to make its mark in the near future.
A superb introduction.

From the same Texan stable comes a refreshing bright and breezy from HANK SINGER, who was with Bobby Flores in Caithness. He was one of the triple fiddles that amazed dancers and listeners alike.
Hank has played on many hit records for folks like George Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson and Miranda Lambert, not to mention, our own Ian Grieg. As he says on the CD sleeve, he recorded his first 45rpm at the age of ten, but this is his first solo project.
Instrumental albums are quite rare these days. Gone are the days when Floyd Cramer topped the charts with “On The Rebound”, but Hank proves instrumentals can still work on “Play Fiddle Play”
There are uptempo numbers like “Flower Of The Flock” and “Orange Blossom Special”,  through the polka sounding “Rutlands Reel”, to the slower “Memory Waltz”, “Weeping Hearts”  and “Last Waltz”.
Sadly we seem to appreciate singers more than instrumetalists these days. With more albums like this, that would surely change.

How many 80 year old’s get to spend their time in the company of some of today’s greatest female singers?  Well, WILLIE NELSON shows no sign of slowing down. His latest collection, “To All The Girls” sees him team up with an array of female talent, for duets on some of his best known numbers, and a few Country classics that he perhaps hadn’t recorded before.
The guests range from Dolly Parton on her composition, “From Here To The Moon And Back” , to Loretta Lynn on The Hag’s “Somewhere Between”.  Then there’s Wynonna helping out on “Bloody Mary Morning”, and Carrie Underwood on “Always On My Mind”.
Add Miranda Lambert, Rosanne Cash, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Mavis Staples, Shelby Lynne and Emmylou, and you have quite a line up.
Some of the arrangements may be an acquired taste, but Willie’s fans will love it.
My favourite tracks, feature The Secret Sisters on “It Wont Be Very Long” and “After The Fire Is Gone”, which features Tina Rose (daughter of Leon Russell)

One of the newer names coming out of Nashville these days, who I do enjoy is CHRIS YOUNG.
He has come a long way since wining the “Nashville Star” TV talent show in 2006.
His 4th album, “AM” (Sony) has just been released here, and he will be one of the headliners at next year’s c2c event in London.
The title track is quite a rocky number but works quite well. “We’re Gonna Find It Tonight” is also a driving uptempo number, which sounded just a little bit crowded for me.
“Goodbye” is a particularly strong ballad, which Chris delivers with some strength. The same can be said for “Who I Am With You”. Another ballad which brings in modern technology is “Text Me Texas”, which I really liked.
The album’s closing track, “Lighters In The Air” was also really enjoyable.
In fact, I enjoyed the whole album. One of the few youngsters in Music City that have made an impression on me.

SCOTTY McCREERY is one of those TV talent show discoveries whose career was created by viewers voting for him. He won American Idol, and went on to release a debut album that was to become the best selling album by a solo Country artist in 2011.
Whether he is a genuine Country music artist, or just manufactured as one, remains to be seen.
His second album, “See You Tonight” gets a UK release through Humphead, and, I have to say it’s an Ok listen.
Most of the tracks are pop-country fodder, but quite listenable. “Get Gone With You” is one of the better songs in this category. But there are tracks like “Feel Good Summer Song” which just wasn’t Country to my ears.
“The Dash” was quite an enjoyable ballad, but it was “Carolina Moon”, with it’s lovely fiddle intro and Alison Krauss harmonies, which stood out, and indeed, saved the album for me. If only he had produced a few more tracks like this.
He has co-written 6 of the 16 tracks (on the deluxe edition).
It’s an Ok album if you like manufactured pop music, masquerading as Country.

It’s 10 years since BILLY CURRINGTON released his first album, and has had a fair bit of success since with hits like “People are Crazy”, “Must Be Doin’ Something Right” and “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer” .
Now Humphead have released his 5th album, “We Are Tonight”, in the UK, and, I have to say it’s a really good listen.
The album kicks off with his recent hit single, “Hey Girl”, which, I have to confess, didn’t sell the album for me. But that was followed by “The Wingman”, a bouncy number, which really caught my attention. I also enjoyed “One Way Ticket”, and the ballad “23 Degrees South”.
There’s also a great duet with Willie Nelson (he’s not only dueting with ladies these  days). “It’s Hard To Be A Hippie”, is a great singalong number, which really works well.
There are a couple of tracks that didn’t work for me, but in the main, I really enjoyed this album.
Great to see it getting a UK release.

TOBY KEITH has become quite a character in Country music these days.
“Drinks After Work” (Humphead) is his 17th album, and possibly one of his more eclectic offerings.
The title track has already been released as a single, but isn’t the most commercial track on the album.
“Little Miss Tear Stain” and “Before We Knew They Were Good” are both uptempo numbers which would work well at radio.
“The Other Side Of Him” is a good strong ballad, in a style that you wouldn’t associate with Toby, but he surprised me with this offering. Then, there’s the catchy uptempo “Last Living Cowboy”, which he wrote with Scotty Emerick.
I also enjoyed “I’ll Probably Be Out Fishing”, a hard luck story about lost love.
The deluxe edition, which is reported to be extremely limited, has three additional tracks. One is “Call A Marine”, a great track, which just has a couple of words which will prevent it from getting airplay. Another of the bonus tracks, is a duet with rocker Sammy Hagar on “Margaritaville”.
It’s an interesting album. It’ll be a hit with Toby’s fans, but there are a few tracks for everyone here, which makes it worth a listen!.

There’s no argument that ALABAMA were a major force in Country music back in the Eighties.  Until then the only groups to make their mark were The Statlers and The Oakridge Boys. These guys from Fort Payne certainly opened up Country music to the stream of boy bands that were to follow.
“Alabama & Friends” (Humphead) is a celebration of their music from some of today’s big names.  That can be done in different ways.
You can cover the original as closely as you can, or you can deliver your own stamp onto the song.
This collection has a bit of both.
Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan do nothing to “Tennessee River”, or “Love In The First Degree”, whilst Toby Keith kills “She And I”, and Florida Georgia Line’s cover of “I’m In A Hurry”, is painful for those who recall the original.
But I did quite enjoy Rascall Flatts version of “Old Flame”, and Trisha Yearwood made an obvious change to “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go”, and it’s the stand out cover for me.
The original group are heavily involved in the production, adding harmony vocals to the songs, which makes some of them sound so similar to the originals. They also have two new Alabama recordings, including “That’s How I was Raised”.
Thankfully, many of my favourite Alabama songs aren’t featured here, and remain sacred and intact on their original albums.

JOE ELY has been making music for as long as I can remember. His unique blend of Tex Mex, Rock’n’Roll and Country has been entertaining audiences since 1970, when he was a founding member of The Flatlanders. His first solo effort was in 1977, which is where Humphead Records went back to compile a 41 track 2CD “Definitive Collection” for UK release.
Ely was one of the most identifiable Texan figures in the 70’s & 80’s. His music was always a bit edgier than the Texan music of Heather Myles, Justin Trevino, Rance Norton etc that makes so much of an impression today.
Although a big name in his field, he was never part of the Nashville sound, so many readers may not have a lot of his music in their collection.
Therefore, this collection could prove to be one of the most popular released by Humphead.
There are some superb TexMex tracks like “Mardi Gras Waltz”, “Time For Travellin’”, “The Road Goes On Forever” and “Letter To Laredo”, some hi energy R&R, and there’s some pure Country, like “ Tennessee Is Not The State I’m In” , “Honky Tonk Masquerade”, “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown” and “Dallas”.
Probably the two most recognisable songs are “Gallo Del Cielo”, and “She Never Spoke Spanish To Me”, both of which are included here.
As ever with Humphead’s collections, Alan Cackett has written some very informative sleeve notes to accompany the collection.

Another Humphead collection worthy of note is a new “Two On One” collection, featuring the first two albums from CMA Entertainer Of The Year , GEORGE STRAIT. They have packaged “Strait Country” and “Strait From The Heart”, onto one 20 track CD.
It brought back some wonderful memories for me, as I remember meeting up with the promotions girl at MCA at the time (who now has her own music publishing company). She was raving about their brand new artist, and I must’ve gave her a rather sceptical look, as I remember her saying, “Yeah, I know, PR hype, but he is good, believe me”. And, boy was she right! George Strait was to go on to become the biggest Country star of my generation, and is still going strong.
These albums featured such well known Strait classics as “Fool Hearted Memory”, “Marina Del Ray” and “Amarillo By Morning” , but there’s also some great music like ”Unwound”, “Honky Tonk Downstairs” and “Friday Night Fever”, that certainly deserves to be heard again.
I had these two albums on vinyl, Great to have them on CD.



There’s no disputing that GLEN CAMPBELL remains one of the best known crossover Country artists of all time. Now Humphead release “The Definitive Collection”, a 48 track, 2 CD, celebration of his music.
My first instinct was to question the need for another Glen Campbell release, but it is15 years since his “Capitol Years” was released, so, probably a collection like this, released in time for Christmas,  will find a market.
Campbell has been playing music since the 1950’s, and first signed to Capitol Records in 1962.  He’s released over 70 albums, and sold 45 million records.
Complimented by a booklet with a comprehensive biography by Alan Cackett, this collection features the big hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Gentle On My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman”, but also a lot of lesser known material too.
There’s “Kentucky Means Paradise” from his early stint with The Green River Boys, and duets with Tanya Tucker, Rita Coolidge, Anne Murray, and, of course, Bobbie Gentry.
A great tribute to one of easy listening’s true legends, who is not in the best of health these days.

THE NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND are one of Country music’s most interesting group’s. They are best known for their trilogy of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” albums, but have laid down a wealth of material out with these projects. They were formed in 1966, and still playing today. There have been many changes to the line up in that time, which perhaps explains the vast array of styles that the group have played over the years.
I love the way that Jeff Hanna’s vocals blend beautifully with their simple instrumentation. They can seamlessly move from traditional numbers like “Sixteen Tons” or ”I SawThe Light”, to Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr Bojangles” through to the Caribbean flavoured “American Dream”.
They have been on many record labels over the years, and Humphead have managed to collate 42 tracks for a new collection, “Jamalaya : The Definitive Collection”, for release in the UK.
There are many tracks from the Circle albums, featuring collaborations with the likes of Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson, Rosanne Cash, John Hiatt, Alison Krauss (although she doesn’t get a credit) and Johnny Cash.
Other duets feature Linda Ronstadt and John Denver.
Some of their biggest hits were on Warner Brothers in the 1980’s, which haven’t been captured for this collection, however, some of these songs, including “Pardners,Brothers & Friends”  and “Fishin’ In The Dark” were later recorded live, and are featured here.
That last one took me back to a Peterborough Festival in the 80’s when all the lights went out in the marquee, but they kept playing “Fishin’ in The Dark” – in the dark.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were, or should I say, are, the real deal. A real Country band. I can hear me playing this double album a lot.

Closer to home, London born CHARLIE BOSTON is quite unique in British Country music. “White Creek Pike” (Lara) is his sixth album of original self penned material. Quite a feat.
The 17 track album was produced by Mark Moseley in Nashville.
Charlie has quite a variety of styles on the album, from the uptempo opening track, “You Really Are An Angel”, to the folky “Carry My Heartaches Away” and “Please Dont Turn Me Away”, and the bluegrassy tinged “I Wish I Could Fly” to the more big band “Micheal Sneaky Pete Burton”, a tribute to the late Somerset musician.
“Trade With The Devil” is a catchy uptempo number, whilst he slows it down on tracks like “Your Love Will Hold Me”. “Why Cant You Love Me” has quite a soft gospel feel to it, whilst “Train Bound For Nowhere” has an old time Country feel to it.
“What’s Good For You” is a duet with Texan Carolyn Martin.
I really enjoyed the album. A lot of different styles. Charlie’s vocals aren’t the strongest, but he knows how to deliver his songs.
Well worth a listen.

Not much on the Irish side this month, but we have a new 4 track EP from BRENDAN QUINN & THE KICKIN’ MULE, which made for interesting listening. You can trust Brendan to come up with something different, and the sound he has delivered here is certainly different to what we’re used to.
The Kickin’ Mule goes back to the 1990’s when Brendan got together with Arty McGlynn.  Through different line up’s, the band is still around today. This CD features “Let Her Be Me”, written by Donegal singer songwriter Jody Gallagher, who also wrote Brendan’s hit “Days Gonna Come”. Other songs on this EP include the Rodney Crowell/Vince Gill composition, “Let Her Roll”, and the traditional “Sweet Carnlough Bay”.

Over to Canadian next, and a totally refreshing album from THE HIGH BAR BAND.
The seven piece band from Vancouver features three female vocalists on “Lost And Undone” (True North), and it makes for a wonderful listen.
Tracks are mainly well established bluegrass gospel tunes, like “Over In Gloryland”, “Walking In Jerusalem”, “Angel Band”, ”Daniel Prayed”, “Sinners You Better Get Ready”, “The Fields Have Turned Brown” and “I Saw The Light”. There’s obviously a big Ralph Stanley/Bill Monroe influence in the band. To my ears, they have kept the old time authenticity, whilst providing some lovely modern vocals.
There are some, not so old timey.
“All My Tears”, is a Julie Miller song, which I really liked the version here. It featured some beautiful lead vocals and harmonies, and matching instrumentation.
And “Heaven’s Light Is Shining On Me”, has a good modern bluegrass sound.
I really enjoyed this album.
Bright and breezy. Real music. Superb vocals.
www.HighBarGang.com

TIM GRIMM is a new name to me, but he has been amassing awards and credits since the turn of the century. As well as performing with the likes of Rambling Jack Elliot, and Carrie Newcomer, he has been involved on both sides of the film camera’s acting alongside Harrison Ford in “Clear And Present Danger”, as well as being the inspiration behind the Emmy nominated PBS series “Wilderness Plots”.
His new album, “The Turning Point” (Cavalier) was released here in time for a short tour down south.
His music is a careful blend of folk and Country, and you certainly hear the Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Paxton influences in his music.
You get the feel for the album, just by checking the songlist: “Canyon”, “Indiana”, “The Lake”.
All but one of the songs were self penned, and you can feel his own honest interpretations coming to the fore.
The closing track, “Blame It The Dog”, stands out, just for being different. With lots of fiddle, it’s a fun number which catches your attention.
I really liked the laid back “I Dont Mind”, but it’s “King Of The Folksingers”, which name checks Cash,Guthrie,Dylan, Jerry Jeff and more, that will probably get more attention.

Finally, Another new singer-songwriter to catch up with is Kentucky born, Oregon based, ASHLEIGH FLYNN, who has an interesting album, “A Million Stars” released here on her own Home Perm label.
The uptempo numbers really work for me, especially the banjo influenced “Dirty Hands And Dirty Feet” or “See That Light”. Of the slower numbers, “New Angel In Heaven” really stood out. It’s probably the most Country track on the album.  “Prohibition Rose” has quite an old time Vaudeville feel to it. Certainly wont fit into any of today’s musical categories.
The title track is a nice lament to two cowgirls who rode the outlaw trails in the late 1800’s, which is followed by a rather poppy “How The West Was Won”.
Ashleigh has great vocals, and she can turn to many different styles, from jazz right through to Bluegrass.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Oct 2013

The hottest new American release this time around, has to be the collaboration of VINCE GILL and PAUL FRANKLIN on “Bakersfield” (Universal). Vince is well known as a superb singer and songwriter, whilst Paul is one of Country music’s most honoured steel guitarists. Both are regulars in Music City’s best loved jam band The Time Jumpers, but here, the pair turn their attention to the Californian hotbed of music – Bakersfield.  The city was put on the map when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens developed a sound there which stood out against the strings laden Nashville sound that was being developed in Nashville in the 60’s.
This wonderful new album really creates The Bakersfield Sound in 2013, with a selection of Buck & Merle covers.  But, although, you will hear “Together Again” and “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”, it’s more than a covers project for Vince & Paul. They really dig into the old LP’s  to find the right songs for the album.  Best example is “He Dont Deserve You Anymore”, from a 1966 Buck Owens album, that only the most devoted fan will know. “Holding Things Together”, written by The Hag, was an album cut on “His 30th Album”, in 1974.
The album kicks off with Buck’s blazing “Foolin’ Around” and closes with Merle’s “Fighting Side Of Me”. In between, another 8 tracks of pure bliss. Vince’s vocals sound as if they were made for these songs. I’ve never heard him sounding as good. Franklin’s steel just adds to the magic.
This is Country music the way I like it.  Brilliant stuff !

AUDREY AULD is an Australian singer songwriter, who has impressed me with a couple of previous albums that I’ve had the pleasure to hear. Now, the Tasmanian born, but now Nashville based, star has released her 10th album, “Tonk” , on her own Reckless label.
I’m glad the move to Nashville hasn’t turned Audrey into another pop singer. Far from it, here is one of the most traditional sounding albums to come out of Music City since Loretta Lynn hit town.
With musicians like Kenny Vaughn, Paul Franklin and Harry Stinson (from Marty Stuart’s band) and Chris Scruggs amongst others, she has created an authentic golden era sound.
The album kicks off with a superb gospel offering on “Bound For Glory”, followed with some good uptempo honky tonk numbers like “Broken Hearted Woman” and “Drinking Problem”. Later in the album, there’s more like that, especially “Your Wife” and the eye catching “Bury Me At Walmart”.
The moody “Kiss Me” slows the tempo, as does the bluesy “Crying The Blues”, and “Sweet Alcohol”, one of just two of the 14 songs, that aren’t self penned.
She then has two songs for her adopted hometown, a “Nashville # 1” and “#2”, one uptempo , and one delicately crafted to capture Music City’s tougher side.
“Siren Song” is a good paced number, which Audrey really gets into. It has quite a homegrown Aussie feel to it, although not as obvious as the infectious “Rack Off”, which she certainly lets fly with.
What really adds to the album is the old timey authenticity. Many of the tracks are quite short (Six tracks are under 2 ½ minutes long), and its all recorded live with some backchat and laughs kept in the recordings.
I really enjoyed this album. For sure, it’s like nothing else you’ll hear coming out of Nashville this year. She’s coming to the UK next May. At time of writing, she hadn’t been offered any Scottish dates. Hopefully that’ll be fixed.

Changing the tempo completely, and the new album from JOEY & RORY is such a joy to listen to.
“Inspired” is a well apt title, as the album, part of The Gaither Gospel Series, is just that, a beautifully constructed album of songs of Faith & Family.
No big arrangements. The album kicks off with an accapella introduction from Joey to the gospel classic “In The Garden”, Other classic covers including “Amazing Grace” and the joyous “Are You Washed in The Blood”,  which features The Isaacs.
As with previous Joey & Rory albums, they share lead vocals. Those mentioned so far feature Joey, but Rory leads the vocals on the Paul Oversteet/Thom Schuyler number “Long Line Of Love” and Richard Leigh’s “My Life Is Based On A True Story”, as well as the catchy “It’ll Get You Where You’re Going”.
“The Preacher And The The Stranger” featuring Rory, was recorded live, and is quite a show stopper. You can really hear the silence in the listening audience.
Of  course, Rory is known as a songwriter, and he has contributed three songs, including “Hammerin’ Nails” and “We Gotta Go Back”, a beautiful number which cries out for a simple life. The couple did perform this song on the Songwriters tour of Scotland back in the spring. On the album, the deep rich vocals of Josh Turner feature too.
 Joey & Rory make beautiful music together. On this new album they are totally “Inspired”.
 A beautiful album.

MICHELLE WRIGHT has been one of Canada’s biggest Country stars since she first appeared on the charts way back in 1990.  With her latest album, “Strong”, she proves that she’s still the one, where others have come & gone.
“Strong” is a good well titled mix of commercial radio friendly songs, most of which were co-written by Michelle herself.
Most of the songs are uptempo with a good beat. I especially enjoyed the catchy “Whats Better Than This” and “Another Good Day”. But she does slow the tempo, with a really emotional “She’s a Keeper”, a song about women who leave it later in life to find a soulmate, and how they’re worth keeping. “I’ll Cry Too”, is another emotional ballad that closes the album.
Throughout, Michelle delivers an album of  “strong”  arrangements, which maintains her place at the top of  Canadian Country music.

Next up, a very interesting album from the Netherlands, which is no stranger to producing good Country music acts. But, KAYLEIGH LEITH is different. She was born in Pennsylvania, but her parents took her all over the USA, before moving to Holland.
Kayleigh has built up quite a following on the continent, with dates all over Germany , Italy and Switzerland this autumn, to coincide with the release of her album, “This Woman”.
The album was recorded in Nashville, and wont be out of place on American Country radio. Rob Crosby, who had several hits on Artista Nashville in the 1990’s produced the album, and wrote a number of the songs with Kayleigh for the album.
The album kicks off with what could be a career song “Born Ready”, a punchy beat that sets the tone for the album. The title track is quite a poppy track, but certainly one that will gain radio exposure.
There are some nice ballads, like “Be Here All Night”, and the rather soulful “Feel Like Letting Go”.
But, for me the strongest track is “Ace Of Diamonds”, an catchy uptempo number.
Despite the Dutch connection, this is very much a Nashville sounding album. Indeed, probably that bit better than any girl singer that I’ve heard out of Music City this year.

Liverpool born NATHAN CARTER has firmly established himself as one of Ireland’s younger stars.  His latest album, “Where I Wanna Be” (Sharpe Music) certainly shows just why the fans love him so much. Like many of the Irish based artists, he’s not 100% Country, but definitely features a lot of Country music in his repertoire.
Several  of his recent singles are included on this, his 4th studio album, including the title track, which is a great homesick song.
The bouncy opening track “Welcome To The Weekend”, is self penned, and it’s Nathan’s own arrangement on “South Australia”, is certainly different. It’s quite a sea shanty style number, but quite infectious.
There’s also a song, “The Road Back”, written by his manager John Farry.
He does a fair job on a really wide choice of covers, from Van Morrison’s “Precious Time” , to Kathy Mattea’s “Eighteen Wheels” and Steve Wariners’ “Where Did I Go Wrong”. There’s also quite a stunning version of “The Twelfth Of Never”, and I enjoyed his version of “On The Other Side”.
Nathan offers a wide selection of material, and this album justifies why he is such a popular entertainer. Nathan is back in Scotland in November.

LISA STANLEY has won many admirers through her co-hoisting duties on The Phil Mack TV Show, and will be back in Scotland, at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry, and Thurso’s Northern Nashville club at the end of  October.
Her album “Love Me A Little Bit Longer”  is a well produced album with some really nice material.
I really enjoyed listening  to the variety of old songs like “Blackboard Of My Heart”, “Silver Threads & Golden Needles” and “Room Full Of Roses”, and newer numbers like “Who Cares”, written by Mary O’Brien, and “Lets Make It A Good Time” , another song written by John Farry.
There are a couple of duets, “We’ve Got Tonight” with Glenn Rogers, and “When You Walk In The Room” with Eddie Carey.
But the two tracks that stand out for me are “Home To Louisiana”, written by Scooter Lee, and “Walking In My Mothers Footsteps”, which naturally suits Lisa perfectly, as her mother was singer Maisie McDaniel. The song is another written by Mary O’Brien.
I really enjoyed this album. A nice mix of nostalgia and newer numbers.

AIDAN QUINN is not only one of the best newcomers on the Irish Country scene, he has pedigree, being the son of Philomena Begley. But on his latest outing, “Overworked And Underpaid” (H&H label), Aidan is out to prove he’s out on his own.
He shows just how Country he is, on tracks like “Sing Me Back Home”, “The Fugitive”  and “Six Days On The Road”. He is also joined by Georgette Jones on “Golden Ring”.
As with many Irish artists, there are a few Irish numbers, and Aidan excels on “Mother Ireland (Come Home Paddy)” and Lough Sheelin Side”.
But he’s not forgotten mum. Philomena joins Aidan on the excellent “Hit The Road Running”, and is acknowledged on “In My Mothers Footsteps”.
Aiden has a really strong Country voice, and will surely be part of the Irish Country scene for many years.

Still in Ireland, TREVOR LOUGHREY has a new album, “Donegal To Tennessee” (All Country label), featuring 14 Jivin’ songs.  Although billed as “a new voice in Country music”, Trevor has been on the road for more than ten years, building up a healthy fan base. Trevor has a good voice, and a style that will go down well on the dancehalls across Ireland.
There are a few songs from Irish writers, which is good to see. There are songs like “Erin Tennessee”, which stood out for me. Also the opening track, co-written by Trevor is worth a listen.
I did feel, however that there were just too many current favourites on the album. Do we really need another “Wagon Wheel”, “Say You Love Me” or “Galway Girl”?
There are a few covers from the other side of the Atlantic, with a Buck Owens medley, and Vince Gill’s “Old Time Fiddle”.
It’s a good catchy album, well produced, and no doubt will be a hit wherever he plays, but I just wish it had a bit more originality.
From the same label (All Country), comes JASON McALLISTER, and I cannot knock this young man for his music choice. Of the 20 tracks on the album, no less than 14 off the songs were self penned.
A few of his own songs are uptempo numbers like “Fallen Angel”, “Drive The Blues Away” , “Dont Fall In Love” and “Dreaming With Tears In My Eyes”, but it’s the slower numbers that stand out.
 “Take My Hand”, with it’s lovely steel licks, wouldn’t be out of place on a Gene Watson album. “Right Beside Your Heart” is quite traditional, and “You Cant Break A Broken Heart” and “Pour Me Wine” are  delivered with such emotion. I really liked “Teardrops On My Pillow”.
The remaining tracks include Buck, Waylon & Merle covers, a duet with Kim Dickenson on “If You See Him/If You See Her”, and with Kerry Ann Ferguson on Heather Myles’ “No One Is Gonna Love You Better”.
A really strong album, and with 20 tracks, it’s great value.

The Irish have never had a problem in mixing comedy with Country music.
Currently, Barry Doyle, who is known as FARMER DAN, has quite a following in that category.
His new album, “Putting The Craic Into Country” has a mix of standard Country songs like “The Games People Play”, “Wagon Wheel”  and “Come On Dance”, and Irish numbers like “Nancy Spain”, Tipperary Far Away” and “Our House Is Is A Home”.
But there’s also a string of farm related titles like “Me & My Dungspreader”, “The Cow Kicked Nellie In The Belly In The Barn”  and “New Holland Tractor”.
Barry has a fair voice when doing the serious numbers, but obviously has a lot of fun on the comedy numbers.
Perhaps not everyone’s taste, but I quite enjoyed my first listen to Farmer Dan.

Our homegrown album this time around, comes from Aberdonian COLIN MACKAY, whose album “Do What You Love” was recorded in Nashville.
Colin achieved a 3rd place in a national TSB Rock School competition at the age of 16, by performing his own songs. A chance meeting with two Nashville musicians at a SpeyFest Music Festival led him to making the trip to music city, and the rest as they say is history.
Of the 10 tracks on the album, Colin wrote six of them. Other writers include respected writers like Mike Reid, Karen Staley and Harley Allen.
The music does have a contemporary edge to it, but the songwriting talent that Colin has honed certainly leans towards Country.
I have to say that it’s Colin’s originals that impressed me most.
The album kicked off with “Do What You Love”, quite a poppy number, but fits nicely with what Nashville calls Country these days. “Whiskey Morning” is another uptempo number, with a bit more of a natural Country feel to it. “Let You Go” is a bit more laid back, whilst “Your Love” is a bit more pop than the other self penned tracks.
“Handle With Care” is a particularly nice ballad that Colin delivers really well. The closing track is also a pleasant ballad,
The album cover shows Colin on stage at the legendary Tootsies Lounge.
From a listen to the album, I can see Colin back in Nashville for more recording work before too long.
www.birnamcdshop.com

New Jersey born GREG TROOPER  got his musical grounding in  the folk clubs of Greenwich Village.  In 1976, he moved to Austin, Texas but ended up back in New York for much of the 80’s & 90’s , when he launched his recording career. At the same time he was honing his writing skills, which included “Little Sister” for Steve Earle.
Now, Trooper’s 11th album has just been released to coincide with a short tour here this month (see gig list). “Incident On Willow Street” has quite an eye catching cover, and the music inside proved to be ear catching too.
He has a good folk-rock sound, with more than a touch of Country.
Most of the tracks are quite uptempo, in a Tom Russell kind of way.
I really enjoyed the jaunty “Good Luck Heart”, and “One Honest Man”, and “Steel Deck Bridge” whilst he does slow the tempo on tracks like “Amelia”.
“The Girl In The Blue” is probably the closest to conventional Country, with even a slight gulf coast sound detected too.
There is a bit of celtic influence on “Mary Of The Scots In Queens”. It’s more of a folk song than Country, but quite an interesting listen nevertheless.
My first Greg Trooper album. I really enjoyed it.

JASON DANIELS is a new name on me. He’s from Nashville, but is one of these guys who headed out of Music City to pursue his musical career, and ended up in Jackson, Mississippi, known as the “City With Soul”.
He has Country music credentials. His uncles were George & Paul Richey (George was married to Tammy Wynette), but the Jackson soul influence really shines through too.
“On The Highway”, a good uptempo road song, and “Wide Open Spaces” is a strong ballad that I really enjoyed.
But, whilst I enjoyed tracks like “Going Back To Memphis”, many of the tracks were more soul than Country for my ears.

New Englander ROD PICOTT made it to Nashville via Colorado, and has certainly paid his dues in the business. When he arrived in Nashville In 1998 he signed a deal with the management company who also managed Alison Krauss. He initially worked as the driver of Krauss's merchandise truck, but was called upon to fill in when an opening act was needed, which led to a series of support slots with Krauss. Picott finally released his own debut album in 2001.
His latest album, “Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail”, features 11 tracks, all self penned (a couple alongside people like Slaid Cleaves).
As with many singer songwriters, the music is carefully crafted, with little consideration to commercial success. However, I really enjoyed “Mobile Home”, and the more uptempo “Dreams”.

Texas based KIMMIE RHODES is one of the most popular singer songwriters on the Americana scene, and is certainly no stranger to UK audiences. But for her latest release “Covers”, she has put her pen down, and chosen to record 15 of other people’s songs.
She has chosen some iconic writers, like Lennon & McCartney, Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Rodney Crowell & Bono.
Ok, so, it’s not all Country, but she certainly does the songs in her own way.
I was particularly interested in what she’d do with Mark Knopfler’s “Cannibals”, in which she’s joined by Marcia Ball.  Well, It’s not for the linedancers, but quite a catchy arrangement all the same.
She also has guest appearances from Rodney Crowell & Delbert McClinton.
Some of the songs, notably Leon Russell’s “Bluebird”, The Beatles’ ”Yesterday”  and Bono’s “Stuck In A Moment” really work, but sadly not all songs work. She does a fair job on “Little Help From My Friends”, but, to be honest, her “friends” didn’t help much.
Interesting album. I prefer to hear Kimmie doing her own stuff though.

DREW HOLCOMB, as well as being a notable figure on the Americana scene, has a Scottish connection. His bio proudly describes him as a Tennessee born, French speaking, bourbon drinker ... with a Masters degree in divinity from the University of St Andrews.  Even whilst in Fife, he showed musical interest, by writing his dissertation on “Springsteen and American Redemptive Imagination”.
These days he tours widely with his band, The Neighbors.
They released their first album in 2005. Now, their sixth album, “Good Light” has just been released.
There’a a good mix of singer songwriter type numbers, and some more commercial tracks.
The title track does stand out, with some really neat harmonica in the intro. Good song too.
I especially enjoyed his homesick song, “Tennessee ”, and the rather light, bouncy “I Love You I Do”.
Some of the more acoustic numbers are quite appealing too, notably, “What Would I Do Without You” .
Quite an enjoyable album.  

Our final album this time around, comes from Cincinatti, but THE TILLERS will have a date at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry next month, so thought it worthwhile having a listen .
“Hand On The Plow”  is a blend of Appalachian folk music and bluegrass.
The whole album has a real live feel to it, as it was recorded live to tape. No editing, or technically enhancements. Just real music. Some of the tracks are real old timey, like “Treehouse”, whilst others are a bit more commercial sounding.
The opening track, “Old Westside” has a catchy beat, as does “Tescumseh On The Battlefield”, whilst “Cant Be True” is quite a slow number. I liked the racey, but still old timey “500 Miles”.
They’ll certainly bring a different sound to the Opry.

Monday, 5 August 2013

August 2013

When George Jones passed away a few months back, everyone was asking “Whose Gonna Fill His Shoes?.”  Well his namesake GEORGE STRAIT has to be one of those you have to consider.  With over 30 years of hits, the quiet Texan has just released his 40th studio album , “Love Is Everything”. The has been with the same label (MCA) all that time, but it’s Humphead that have released the 13 track album in the UK.
I guess after 40 album’s , it can be a bit of challenge to keep things fresh and interesting. He’s done a fair job over the years, but don’t think this is one of his best.
The album kicks off with the rather unimpressive “I Got a Car”, and continues with the slow “Give It All We Got”, his latest single stateside.
Other slow songs, like “Blue Melodies”  and  “I Just Can Go On Dying Like This” ,  did nothing to keep me interested.  Likewise, uptempo numbers like “The Night Is Young” seemed to be missing his usual magic.
The album does feature his new single, “I Believe”, which he wrote  with his son, Bubba Strait, and legendary songwriter Dean Dillon after watching the news coverage of the tragic school massacre in Newtown, Conn. last December. Having lost his daughter at a young age, Strait felt as if it was a song he needed to write.
“I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing”, is a jaunty little number, but is really lightweight.
 “That’s What Breaking Hearts Do” , also written by George & son Bubba is about the best track on the album. I also quite enjoyed the closing track, “When The Credits Roll”, more of a story song.   They’re  certainly the most traditional Strait songs in here.
Not a bad album, but certainly not the best George Strait album out there.

As George prepares to hang up his touring boots  after over 30 years at the top, Humphead are also looking back at his career, with a 3CD collection called “The Cowboy Rides Away – The Definitive Collection”.
This set features 50 of his big hit songs, like “Easy Come Easy Go”, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”, “Ocean Front Property”, “The Fireman”,  “The Chair” and “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”.  I’m pleased to see a few of his early hits, like “Unwound” and “Amarillo By Morning” (which weren’t No.1’s for him) are included.
As with many of the Humphead collections, Maverick’s Alan Cackett has written some complimentary sleeve notes about George.
There have been many George Strait collections over the years. This is probably one of the most complete collections, but I’d fear that everyone that would want a George Strait collection already has the majority of these songs.
Hopefully there’s a few more unconverted fans out there that’ll make this album a must.

DARIUS RUCKER, one time frontman of southern rock band, Hootie & The Blowfish, turned to Country music five years ago, after his attempt at being a solo R&B singer didn’t break the charts.  He later played a singing cowboy in a Burger King TV commercial, which is maybe why he headed for a Country music career.  He certainly has created quite a successful career from his first two albums.
Now Humphead have released his third “Country” album, “True Believers” in the UK, following his visit for the c2c Festival in London.
I have to say that I’m still finding it hard to accept Darius as a Country singer.  Most of the songs just don’t sound Country to me.
The exception is Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel”, which has been recorded to death in recent years. The version here is good, but there are equally as strong versions been recorded by Scottish groups in recent years.
Darius has co-written ten of the twelve songs on the album, including  “Radio” , and the catchy “Heartbreak Road”, the closest to Country of his own songs.
Sheryl Crowe joins him on “Love Without You”, just to add that bit more pop appeal.

It could be argued that TRACE ADKINS is something of a late developer in the modern Country music world. The Louisiana Man was in his thirties when he came to the attention of Capitol Records in Nashville. That was 18 years ago, and whilst many other “new names” that were emerging around that time have been long forgotten Trace continues to build a fan base which encompasses both traditional and modern Country music.
“Love Will,,, “ is his 11th studio album, released here on Humphead.
If you’ve heard Trace before, you’ll know his rich deep voice lends itself beautifully to his Country style. This is best heard on tracks like “Say No To A Woman”, “Alter  Of Your Love” and “When I Stop Loving You”.
He has several guests popping up throughout the album. “Watch The World End”  features some lovely harmony from pop singer-songwriter Colbie Caillett, whilst the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir provide some magic on the album’s big production title track.
But did he really have to dig up Exile for an updated version of the pop group’s 1978 hit “Kiss You All Over” ? The group tried a Country career in the 80’s , and here they are , thirty years on still trying to get recognition in Country music, with their pop hit.  To be fair, Exile members Sonny LeMaire and JP Pennington wrote another of the album’s tracks “Come See Me”, which is a fair ballad.
An interesting listen .

LEE ANN WOMACK burst onto the Country music scene in 1997, with a beautiful song called “Never Again, Again” .  But it was three years later that she really got noticed with the huge hit “I Hope You Dance”.  Whilst she continued to release albums until 2008, she didn’t produce anything to challenge that song.
Humphead have just released “The Definitive Collection” , a 2CD set, featuring 34 tracks from her 6 albums recorded throughout her career. The collection kicks off with “I Hope You Dance”, and includes more of her hits, including “I’ll Think Of A Reason Later”, “The Fool”, “Lord I Hope This Day Is Good”, “A Little Past Little Rock”, “Ashes By Now”, “Last Call”  and “Twenty Years And Two Husbands Ago”. There’s also her version of “She’s Got You”, from a Patsy Cline tribute album. But her debut single is hidden away as the second last track on CD2. It does deserve a better place than that, I think.
Accompanied by a CD booklet, which includes sleeve notes from Alan Cackett, this package is a good way of remembering most of Lee Ann’s most memorable recordings. Hopefully we’ve not heard the last of her. She has apparently another album in the can, but no label to release it yet.
Hope we hear it soon.
RUSTY RIERSON is a native of Leon, Kansas. Growing up on the family farm he fell in love with agriculture and completed a masters degree in Animal Science from K-State in summer 2011. Rusty got into music when he was 14 years old. He learned guitar when his father, Roger, suggested that they take lessons together. In 2005, Rierson won the state wide "YF&R talent find contest" hosted by farm bureau and performed at the Kansas State fair where he is annually invited back. In 2007 Rusty won the "Colgate Country Showdown" at the state level and placed in the top 15 nationally. He has played all over the USA and has toured abroad in Mexico, Central America, and in the U.K.  To date, Rusty has produced 5 albums and a DVD.  His latest release is “Souvenirs”, a project recorded in Nashville with producer Richie Owens. As well as Owens, you’ll find Kenny Vaughn (Marty Stuart’s band) and Al Perkins amongst the players, and Jennifer O’Brien and Vicki Hampton on the harmonies. It’s a delightful album to listen to. From the opening “Real People”, through his cover of Dolly’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”, to the catchy “We’re Not All There”, Rusty delivers a good traditional sound. The album has a certain cowboy charm, without being a western album. He wrote (or co-wrote) three of the album’s twelve tracks.  Of these, “I Just Miss You” has a certain Don Williams charm, whilst the other two tracks are a bit more honky tonk. The title track, and US single, “Souvenirs” deals with the loss of a father, and discovering the memories that he left. I also really enjoyed “Spurs Over Stetson”, which is probably my favourite track, but I really enjoyed the whole album. Worth checking out www.rustyrierson.com

SLAID CLEAVES is no stranger to the songwriter scene on this side of the Atlantic, and, indeed is back for Glasgow’s Americana Festival in October.  His latest album, “Still Fighting The War”, (Music Road label)  has a good selection of self penned songs, few written with friends like Rod Picott and Ron Coy.
There are few guests on the album, including Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave and Terri Hendrix.
The title track kicks off the album, and is one of the strongest tracks on the album, although “Hometown USA” also stands out. Both are quite uptempo numbers.
Softer tracks include “Gone”, “I Bet She Does” and “Voice Of Midnight” .
My favourite tracks include the catchy “Texas Love Song”, and the steel infused “God’s Own Yodeler” .
Slaid has been in the business for20 years now, and his experience shows on this latest release.

MADISON VIOLET are made up of two lovely Canadian singer songwriters, Brenley MacEachern  and Lisa MacIsaac. The duo have been building up a fan base on both sides of the Atlantic for the past few years, with their  close harmonies.
Their latest album (and DVD) is a Live album called “Come As You Are Live”, and was recorded in Colonge, Germany in late 2011, and released here on True North Records in time for their Autumn tour.
I have, in the past, in this magazine, been less than enthusiastic about live albums. I stick by my philosophy that live albums should offer something different, and whilst there is a minimal amount of audience participation, mainly handclapping on “Never Saw The Ending”  and “Cindy Cindy” , or       crowd singing on “Fallen By The Wayside” , there’s not really much to justify the live album here.
Eleven of the seventeen tracks have been previously released on the duo’s last two albums. Any chat between songs has been edited out, and, if we’re lucky, we get one of the girls giving out the title before a song.
Having said that, I really enjoyed just sitting listening to the album. Their harmonies, and the simple, bluegrass style arrangements is extremely easy on the ear. My favourite Mad Violet song is “Small of My Heart” and their version here is quite atmospheric.  I also enjoyed the catchy “Never Saw The Ending”, which includes references to some very personal activities, (which may preclude it from radio play), but features some fabulous fiddle.
They are back in Glasgow in October, for the Glasgow Americana Festival. They’re at their own show at the CCA on the 5th , and at The Cottier Theatre the following night, as part of the Gram Parsons  Tribute concert.
 
 Next  up an English Midlands based singer called CARMEL SILVER.
Carmel was born in Dublin in the 1930’s , but emigrated to Coventry as a teenager. She’s been part of the Irish community in the Midlands for many years, as well as regularly performing  at a St Patricks Day concert in Spain for 3000 people each year.
For her latest album, “ He’ll Be There”, she headed for France to record with fellow Midlands based songwriter, performer & producer Terry Bradford, who has worked with the likes of Dominic Kirwan and Charlie Landsborough.
Although the album is a nice mix of gospel standards like “Old Rugged Cross”, “It Is No Secret” and “Abide With Me”, Terry has written the title track to the album, which is a bouncy number complete with a small children’s choir.
It’s a nice album of mainly well known gospel songs, well performed.

SCOTT COOK is an Alberta based singer songwriter, who has spend the past six years, touring not only Canada, but all over Europe and Asia, His new album, “One More Time Around”  features ten hand crafted songs, with simple instrumentation, which includes dobro, fiddle , bass and clawhammer banjo.
The album kicks off with “Pass It Along”, a very personal account of life from a guitar to patriotic love of his country, It’s one of the stand out tracks on the album.  I also quite enjoyed “Mama Always Said” and the quite melodic “New Ghrist” .
He’s back in Scotland in October. If you like singer songwriters, he’s worth checking out.
 


Country music is such a broad church. The styles range from bluegrass to pop, from the sentimental to Americana.
Our next new release is from a well established, and highly acclaimed quartet from Edinburgh called THE WYNNTOWN MARSHALLS.   The band features Keith Benzie, Iain Sloane, Murdoch MacLeod and Kenny McCabe.  I’m willing to bet that many readers haven’t heard of them, and others may only recall them opening for Marty Stuart at Celtic Connections a few years back.  But that sums up the diversity of Country music in Scotland.
Their new album, “The Long Haul” was recorded in Edinburgh, and is the follow up to “Westerner”, which, apparently, was regarded as one of the best European Americana releases ever.
If you enjoy the likes of The Eagles then these guys are worth giving a listen to.  There’s a clear Eagles sound, but they’re much more than that too.
The album kicks off with a couple of driving country rock numbers in “Driveaway” and “Canada!”, before one of my favourite tracks “Low Country Comedown”. It features some great harmonies, and is inspired by their regular visits to the continent.
I also enjoyed “The Submariner”, a neat story song about a modern day Captain Nemo. The number includes some really neat steel featured on this track. It’s probably the most Country track on the album.
There’s also some nice steel guitar evident in “North Atlantic Soul”, a strong song vocally, which may just be the track that will attract radio play.
“Crashing” (Like The Reds)” has a very strong Eagles sound, with lush harmonies and instrumentation.
“Whatever It Takes” and “Curtain Call” are quite slow numbers, as is the album’s closing number “Change Of Heart” , which features some nice harmonies from Diane  Christiansen from Chicago based group Dolly Varden.
It rounds off a very interesting and pleasant album.
Check them out at www.thewynntownmarshalls.com

INNES CAMPBELL is flying the Scottish flag down under. Originally from Stirling, Innes moved to Brisbane to work as a doctor, but a few years ago surprised himself at winning an award as top bluegrass guitarist in Tamworth.
He came home on a visit a couple of years ago with his band Present Company, and played the Guildtown Bluegrass Festival, and other venues from Edinburgh to Dunnet Head.
Now Innes is back with an album that is all him.
“Click To Like” features ten tracks, all composed and performed by Innes, recorded in his home studio, Although, he is particularly focussed on bluegrass, it’s very much an alternative sound that he has developed here.
Indeed there are a couple of tracks, where he has even enabled some electronic sounds and voice effects to give the songs a completely different feel.
The album kicks off with a short little bluegrass guitar instrumental, and is followed by a wide variety of styles, from the easy listening “Two’s Company”,   the catchy “Brown” and the fast paced pickin’ on “Pig Dog Man”.
It’s an  interesting album. Alternative Bluegrass.
www.innescampbell.com

STEVE EARLE’s career has been quite extraordinary, since he first come to the attention of fans through his MCA albums in the second half of the 1980’s. Some of his best stuff was in these early days, and Humphead has just released a 2CD “Definative Collection”, covering his recordings between 1986-92.
Included are such classics as “Copperhead Road”, “Guitar Town”, “My Old Friend The Blues”, “The Devil’s Right Hand”  and “I Aint Ever Satisfied”.
39 tracks in all, and a good way of picking up some early Earle recordings.

And finally, now here’s something real Country !
MICHAEL & THE LONESOME PLAYBOYS won great acclaim, and a No.1 on the Country Music People chart with his previous “Last Of The Honky Tonks” album, and let to gigs with Dwight Yoakam  and David Allen Coe. Michael Abaldini is billed as the Rock’n’Roll poet, and, yes his music is rock’n’roll, but from an era where r&r was closely emerged into Country.
He is based in California, and it’s that Bakersfield influenced sound that dominates his new album, “Bottle Sky Cap”.
All songs are written by Michael, from the opening baptism in “Walk Thru Fire”, through the really catchy “Moondog Man”.  The old time Country continues through tracks like “Sweet Ol’ Riddle” , “Rosewood Night” , “Another Side With Every Story” and “JM Pride, The Texas Oil Man” , to the slower “Lonesome When You’re Gone” .
“The Outlaw King” is perhaps a bit more modern, but doesn’t lose that twang!  And there’s a train song- “Steel Train” too !
“Two Wrongs Like Us Dont Make A Right”, is different again. With some nice steel licks, it conjours up some Crosby Stills, Nash & Young images.
Then , if it’s a slow Country ballad you want, listen out for  “Soulfoul; Love Rest”,“Heart Full Of Tears”  and “Three Cheers For Heartache”.
There are a couple of more bluesy tracks on the album,  but, in the main, a really enjoyable Country album.  I loved it. There’s a raw live musical feel to the album, which just adds to the mix.
www.rocknrollpoet.com

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

June 2013

The postman has been kept busy delivering a vast array of musical packages in the past few weeks.
BRAD PAISLEY’s new album .”Wheelhouse” (Sony) is quite a strange album. There’s some really good stuff on it, and some really weird stuff too.  The track listing has 22 tracks, but there’s really only 17 !. There’s quite a few little soundbites, like track 7, which has some great guitar picking, but mixed with asian sounds and chants, a quaint “Yankee  Doodle Dixie”, and there’s even Eric Idle doing a little dittie called “Death Of A Married Man”. How did he get in there ?
The inside sleeve says that the record is “the sound  of an old farmhouse, the sound of seven band members  creating, collaborating, & High fiving!”. There is certainly a sound on some of the tracks, that to me, comes over as just noise.
But there are some really good tracks too.
“Southern Comfort Zone” , the first full track, has some southern soundbites during its 36 second intro,  like southern fried chicken, apple pie, rednecks, and even the grand ole opry. I preferred the more acoustic version that closed the album, without the soundbites.
Quite a few of the tracks have a humorous side. Tracks like “Karate” about a wife taking lessons on how to get back on her wife beating husband , or “Harvey Bodine”, a long suffering hubby, who’s heart stops, and gives him the best five minutes of his life before the defib machine kicks in , and brings him back to life.
Then there’s “Facebook Friends”, with perhaps a warning about how that website can ruin lives.
He has caused a bit of controversy with the track  “Accidental Racist”, which teams him up with rapper LL Cool J. I think it does a good job at highlighting how a simple Lynyrd Skynyrd t shirt can cause offence and misunderstanding. I didn’t think the song was offensive. I was just concerned that a rapper was heard on a Country record. Then, am I falling into the trap that the song is all about ?
It was a strange, but interesting album.  And it’s growing on me.

RON DAVIES may not be the best known songwriter in the world. He did, however, write over 600 songs, in his lifetime, providing hits for David Bowie, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Joan Baez and Helen Reddy.  His best known song, “It Aint Easy” was on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album, and also recorded by Three Dog Night and Long John Baldry.
Ron Davies, who died in 2003, is the big sister of Gail Davies, and it’s Gail who is the force behind this album, bringing together an amazing list of mainly Country singers, to perform 22 of her brothers songs on “Unsung Hero” (Little Chickadee).
When I say Country singers, I meet ‘A list’ Country singers. There’s Dolly, John Anderson, Crystal Gayle, Vince Gill and Alison Krauss amongst others.
Gail has carefully matched the songs to the singers, and come up with one beautiful tribute to her brother.
The album kicks off with Gail performing “One More Night With You”, and she later features a duet with her late brother on “ Steal Across The Border”.  Jeff Hanna,(Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) revisits “Dark Eyed Girl”, with his wife Matraca Berg, whilst that Bowie hit is handled in quite bluesy fashion by  Southern Fried visitor, Shelby Lynne.  Unsung Music City backing singer, Jonell Mosser, also turns on the blues on “Saving It Up For You”.
Mandy Barnett delivers “Long Hard Climb” in a soulful lounge style, whilst Crystal Gayle, has a very laid back approach to “True Lovers And Friends”.  Vince Gill , with harmonies from Kelly Hogan , deliver a beautiful romantic atmosphere on “More Today Than Yesterday”.
There’s also Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Robbie Fulks, and a beautifully emotional closing track by Bonnie Bramlett.
There’s plentry of stand out tracks for me.
John Anderson does a good version of “What Good Is A Secret” , and Dolly sounds as good as ever on the ballad “It’s Too Late”.
BR-549, who I never really understood when they were at their peak, really turned on the hillbilly Country sound on the rip roaring “Hey Honey I’m Home”. I just love this track.
Jim Lauderdale takes an incredible Country story song approach to “Have To Come Down”,  and I enjoyed John Prine’s take on the jolly “We Stayed Away Too Long”.
But my favourite track has to be Suzy Bogguss on “Back To The South”. This is reminiscent of Suzy’s early recordings, with a very simple, almost western, but not quite, approach  to the song.
Although not over familiar with Ron Davies’ music, this is a beautiful album which shows just how much we should have known his work.
Congratulations to Gail Davies for keeping his music alive with this project, for which proceeds will go to the W.O.Smith Music School, providing instruments and music lessons for under privileged  children. The album has been in the works for nearly a decade, and worth the wait.

There seems to be an endless trail of girl singers in Nashville these days. Occasionally we hear one who is just that bit different than the rest, and stands out from the crowd. Probably Gretchen Wilson was the last one that stood out, but now, along comes a 24 year old Texan beauty called KACEY MUSGRAVES, who is certainly making waves in Music City these days.
Furthermore, her debut album, “Same Trailer, Different Park” got a UK release (Decca) following a list of accolades from the likes on NPR who named her “best new artist of 2012” , and the Washington Post who called her “country music’s new real deal”.
She certainly stands out from the pop laden Country female vocalist style that we’ve gotten used to.
As a vocalist, she sounds sweet, homespun and downhome , but as an artist, she’s the full package. She co-wrote all twelve tracks, plays acoustic guitar and harmonica on the album, which features her debut hit record “Merry Go Round” , which Rolling Stone listed in it’s Top 50 songs, off genres, of 2012.
Most of the songs are pleasant ballads that Kacey smothers with her sweet vocals, like cream on apple pie!  The opening track, “Silver Lining” stands out, as does “Dandelion” and “I Miss You”.
I really enjoyed the bouncy “My House”, which features some catchy harmonica, and clever lyrics, not to mention, her southern twang. It’s a song that really works for me, and is my favourite track on the album.
“Step Off” and “Follow Your Arrow” are both quite catchy little numbers , whilst “Stupid” shows a girl with a bit of attitude. “Blowin’ Smoke” is a bit heavy for me , but, overall, a really enjoyable album. Kasey Musgraves is one of this year’s biggest discoveries.

Any Country trio of ladies are instantly going to be likened to The Dixie Chicks, but I’m pleased to say that PISTOL ANNIES are different, and we all get a chance to find out why with the release of their second album, “Annie Up” (Sony) over here.
The Pistol Annies are a supergroup of female singer songwriters, at varying stages in their solo careers. Miranda Lambert has been an established artist for several years now, with several hit singles and CMA Awards under her belt. Ashley Monroe has been getting rave reviews for her recently released debut album, and the third member is Kentucky born Angaleena Presley.
They collaborated together on the writing on all of the songs, sharing the lead vocals, and harmonising together beautifully throughout the album.  Their southern accents add to the charm.
They cover a whole range of emotions, from being “Loved By A Working Man” through to “Being Pretty Aint Pretty” to “Unhappilly Married” , “Trading One Heartbreak For Another”  and  the bluesy accapella opening track “I Feel A Sin Coming On”.
The lead single from the album is the catchy “Hush Hush”, probably the most pop track on the album.
I liked the friendly advice song “Dont Talk About Him Tina”, whilst “Damn Thing” is a quirky uptempo fun number, with some nice banjo and bass. It’s different to anything else you’ll hear out of Nashville this year.
Other softer ballads include “Dear Sobriety”, “Girls Like Us” and the gorgeous closing track “I Hope You’re The End Of My Story”.
It’s a superb album. The sort of album you didn’t think Nashville produced anymore.
Girl power !

KENNY CHESNEY continues to be one of America’s biggest Country sellers, but still hasn’t cracked the international market, despite his albums regularly getting released here.
Columbia have just released his latest , “Life On A Rock” over here.
His music has a definite summer sound, and this continues on this album.
There are lazy summer days songs like “That Time Of Day” , “Lindy”, and “Happy On The Hey Now”.
And there’s the beach ballads like the album’s title track (and he’s not singing about being stuck on Rockall!) , and “When I See This Bar”.
“Spread The World” sees Kenny take up Bob Marley’s mantle, by teaming up with The Wailers, on a song that has a bit of the Marley magic, without taking Kenny too far out of his zone. Shows just how close the genres are.
But to even up the score, it’s Willie Nelson who joins Kenny on the equally tropical  “Coconut Tree” .
It’s quite a pleasant album to listen.

KAREN LYNNE is one of Australia’s best known singers, having visited our shores a good few years ago now. She has a number of albums under her belt. Despite her last album being straight country, in recent times her music has been more influenced by bluegrass, and her latest offering, “Shine Your Light”, I’d label as “bluegrass gospel”.
For this, her 10th album , she went to America to record . She had previously resisted that temptation, in support of the Australian recording industry. But getting to record an album like this in Tom T Hall & Miss Dixie’s studio in Franklin, Tennessee was too much of a temptation, and, how it has paid off for her.
The album kicks off straight into a honest downhome  jolly number called “Little Mountain Church House” , which really sets the tempo for a good time album. “Will There Be Any Stars”  is a catchy song, which has everything, good vocals, lovely harmonies, dobro, fiddle, mandoilin , bass  and banjo. A great track.
“He Loves To Hear You Shout” , “Lord Lift Me Up” and “Walk Slow” are also good numbers for radio play.
There are some more serious numbers, such as “Your Presence  is My Favourite Gift” and  “Where Jesus Is” (featuring Daryl Mosely)  . I also enjoyed “A Living Prayer”.
Karen also covers the classic “In The Garden”, and Dolly’s “Coat Of Many Colours”. Miss Dixie pulled out the stops, to arrange for, not Dolly, but sister Stella to join with Karen in the studio on this one. Karen’s vocals are so suited to the song, and Stella’s harmonies are beautiful.
I just love Karen’s voice . This is a beautiful album.
www.karenlynne.com

Whilst I cannot deny that TIM McGRAW is one of Country music’s superstar’s, I personally have never considered him to stand out from the many other male singers in Nashville these days.
However, his latest album, “Two Lanes Of Freedom”  (Big Machine/Decca) did catch my attention.
There’s certainly some good stuff on the album, which was released here to coincide with his appearance at the c2c festival in London.
The title, and opening track, is a good commercial, radio friendly number, which caught my attention.
In a similar vein are “Southern Girl”, and “Mexicoma”, which  has a strange sound to it. But It’s quite catchy, and works for him.
There are several power ballads, like “One Of These Nights”  and “Highways Dont Care”  which suits Tim’s style well, but just don’t stand out for me. The latter sees Tim team up with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, which probably just triples the blandness. But no doubt will get three times the US radio play!
Softer ballads, like “Friend Of A Friend”, “Book Of John” , “Annie I Owe You A Dance”  and “Number 37405” really work much better for him.
I really enjoyed “Let Me Love It Out Of You”, a nice ballad which closes the album.
And “Nashville Without You” , another of the softer ballads, stands out as the best track on the album, and I’ve heard it on radio here, so I’m not alone in that opinion. As his homage to Music City, it’s probably the most Country number Tim has done to date.
The sticker on the CD case states “15 New Songs”, but one of them, “Truck Yeah” is on twice, one with a live version, so it’s just 14 tracks. The duplicate song, itself, is more of a rap number, certainly not Country, so once was too much, let alone two versions.
But all things considered, one of Tim’s best albums to date.

WILLIE NELSON recently turned 80, and celebrated with the release of “Lets Face The Music And Dance” (Legacy) .  It has to be said that this album leans more towards the lounge jazz sound than Country, but Willie is no stranger to that. It reminds me of his “Stardust” album, which he made in 1978, and remains to this day, one of his biggest sellers.
Song’s included here include Irving Berlin’s title track, and “Marie, The Dawn Is Breaking”, as well as the classics, “You’ll Never Know”, “Walking My Baby Back Home”  and  “Twilight Time” .       He does lift the tempo with a bit of rockabilly on Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” , whilst Country fans will recognise “South Of The Border” and “Shame On You”.
He has one self penned number on the album. “Is The Better Part Over”.
Willie’s long time fans will enjoy this album. It didn’t do much to hold my  attention though.

There’s no doubt that BILL ANDERSON is still one of Nashville’s true legends. He has charted over 80 hits on the Country charts, including 7 Number One’s, in a chart career stretching from 1958 to 1991.  But he is also an amazingly successful songwriter , having written for artists as diverse as Ken Dodd, Aretha Franklkin and  Dean Martin , and is still writing hits today for the likes of Kenny Chesney, George Strait and Brad Paisley.
Over 30 of his biggest hits were self penned, and many of his hits are included in a new Humphead double CD release in the UK, “The Definitive Collection”.   You’ll recognise titles like “Tips Of My Fingers”, “Happiness”, “Mama Sang A Song”, “Golden Guitar” and “Still”, but this 50 track collection, also features a few duets with Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner. There’s also his version of “Three Times A Lady”, which really doesn’t fit into this collection, but 49 out of 50 aint bad.
To be honest, many of the recordings do sound dated by today’s standards, but, for me, that adds to the nostalgic influence of this collection from a performer, who is still influential in Music City today.
There’s also an 8 page booklet, features sleeve notes by Maverick magazine’s Alan Cackett,

Back in 2006, ALAN JACKSON recorded an album of hymns, which, if we were to believe the hype, he just recorded for his mom, and was never intended for general release. The album went on to top the Country charts, and gave fans a new insight into the quiet man’s life.
Now Humphead have released “Precious Memories Volume II”, a delicate album of old time church favourites, accompanied by the most basic of musical arrangements.
Included are such standards as “Amazing Grace”, “Love Lifted Me”, “There’s Power In The Blood”, and “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder”.
It’s a beautifully recorded work of art, but is just so laid back. There’s no energy in the production whatsoever, which may be deliberate.
If this wasn’t Alan Jackson, I doubt if this album would create any reaction at all. But it is Alan Jackson, and it’ll be another big seller, I’m sure.

ERIC CHURCH is one of the newer names in Nashville over the past few years. His album “Chief” won last years CMA Album Award, and he did get quite a bit of airplay over here for his “Springsteen” single a few months back.
His sound is more rock than Country, but has come over several times, on tracks like “Country Music Jesus”, “Hag” and “Jack Daniels”.  However, his latest album (released here on Humphead) is called “Caught In The Act”- a live album.
As I’ve said before in these pages, you have to do something different with a Live album.
Eric has captured his live show on the album alright – pretty much a rock show, and a screaming audience that just  kills off any appreciation you may have for the music.
If you want to listen to Eric’s music, this is not the album to do it with.
It’s just Noise- nothing else.

JOANNA MOSCA was born in Connecticut, and raised in New York , where she studied acting, which isn’t the normal upbringing into a career in Country music. As she moved into music, she  had a Top 30 on the Adult Contemporary charts, but she’s now found her way to the attention of Country music. She was, indeed, listed in the CMA’s “New to watch” list for 2012. Well it’s maybe taken a little longer, but Joanna has arrived with a 6 track mini album, “Let It All Begin”, produced by singer Bryan White, and featuring a duet with  Lonestar’s Ritchie McDonald.
The EP features the catchy single “Dream  On Savannah”, which is really radio friendly and should get her some good airplay.  “Where Does Good Love Go?”, the duet with Ritchie McDonald, is probably the strongest track on the CD. Again, it should get her noticed.
Whilst most of the tracks are quite uptempo, she does a mean ballad on “I Guess That Says It All” .
Certainly a name to look out for.

RANCE NORTON was one of the Texan names at the Caithness Festival this year, and had just released his second album, “Here We Go Again” (Heart Of Texas) just before his visit.
The young traditionalist’s first album contained mainly well known covers. This album , whilst still containing covers, has some lesser known songs. Writers include Dallas Frazier, Ray Pennington, Justin Tubb, Mel Tillis & Moe Bandy.
With players like Justin Trevino, Bobby Flores and Jake Hooker, you know you’re in for a treat.
Stand out tracks’s for me include the opening twin fiddles on “This Time I Wont Cheat On Her Again”, “Texas Dance Hall Girl” (which sounds like “Cool Water” in the intro, and “Loves Comes From The Other Side Of Town”. His cover of Moe’s “I Never Miss A Day Missing You” is also worth a listen , as is the duet with Frankie Miller (the Texan one) on “Nashville Drunkard”.
I enjoyed his live set in Halkirk, and really enjoyed this album.

I’m always impressed with the music that comes out of The Faroe Islands. With a population of just 48,000, they have a very healthy music scene.  Of course, Evi Tausen  was one of the big hits at this year’s Caithness Festival. But one of the members of her band, was also promoting his own album.
JENS MARNI came over in Halkirk as a bit of a rocker, but his album, “Anywhere You Wanna Go” proved to be a really good listen. He has a sound that would be hard to put in a box. Certainly not pure Country, but there are Southern rock and West Coast influences. I can certainly hear a bit of Doobie Brothers, for example.
There are some quite rocky/pop numbers, most notably, the catchy “You’re The Greatest” and the opener, “Heart Talking”.
But Jens really excels in his ballads.“It Was You” is particularly impressive, as is “Never Let My Angel Down”. I also enjoyed the rather different “Every Bluebird Needs To Fly” , which has a much simpler backing, and lets Jens vocals come to the fore.
For it not being an all out Country album, I found it a really enjoyable listen.
And another from that musical mecca in the north- The Faroes!

Nobody can deny that PHILOMENA BEGLEY is an icon of Irish Country music. Last year she celebrated her 50 years in the business, with a number of concerts and a TV special on BBC Alba.
Her latest album, “How I Love Them Old Country Songs” (H & H label), does have a nostalgic feel to it.
As well as the title track,  Philomena has a nice mix of new songs , including “I Aint Over The Hill” , written by Isla Grant, to her versions of classics like “Sentimental Journey”  and “Dont Tell Me How The Story Ends”.  There’s also her versions of “Raglan Road”, “The Story I Tell You Is True” and “It Only Hurts For A Little While”, which has a rather different arrangement to the other tracks.
Stand out tracks for me are the lively “Burning Old Memories” and “Taste Of Life”, but there are a couple of collaborations worthy of note.
“All The Road Running”, is a duet with her son Aiden Quinn, who is keeping her legacy alive. It’s a nice Irish favoured number , which was featured on the BBC Alba special.
There’a also a bonus track, “Country Girls Never Grow Old”, which features last year’s Caithness Festival visitors Moore & Moore. It’s a catchy fun number, which I think owes more to Debbie & Carrie, than Philomena, but fits nicely into the theme of the album.
Great to hear Philomena still going strong, and sounding as good as ever.

One of the acts that I was particularly impressed with, at the Caithness Festival was  JASON McGILLIGAN, and I’m  pleased to say that his album, “Looking Out My Backdoor” is just as entertaining as he was on stage.
The young Irishman had appeared at ease as he won over the Halkirk crowd, and this album finds him running through a varied set of songs with similar style.
There are classic songs like Slim Whitman’s“ When My Blue Moon Turns Turn To Gold”  and Marty Robbins’ “My Woman, My Woman , My Wife” through to lesser known songs like Del Reeves “Landmark Tavern” and Vince Gill’s “Love Never Broke Anyone’s Heart” .
There’s a rocking “Danny Boy” to close the album, which works really well.
A good album, and well worth looking out for this young man. He’s one of the best performers to come out of Ireland for a while.

If Jason is new, then PAUL KELLY is even fresher. He’s been performing around the North West of Ireland for quite a few years now, but “ So In Love” is his debut album, and a really good album it is.
He features a good mix of Country numbers like Gene Watson’s  “Fourteen Carat Mind”  and  Hoyt Axton’s “Della & The Dealer” alongside  Irish numbers like The Saw Doctors’ “ Clare Island” and Sean McCarty’s “Shanagolden”.
There’s a couple of duets, with Bernie Kelly joining him on the Dave Edmunds/Carlene Carter classic “Baby Ride Easy” and Georgette Jones on “Lost Love”.
There a fair number of original tracks  that Paul co-wrote, including the albums title track, the Georgette Jones duet, and a cracking opening track, “The Hooley”.
A superb debut.

BEN REEL  is an Irish singer songwriter, who has just released his 6th studio album, “Darkness & Light”. The album, of all self penned material, was recorded at his home studio in Armagh.
It’s not all Country- it’s not meant to be. There are rocky tracks, folk and pop too, but there are a few tracks that we Country fans will enjoy.
“River Of Time” is quite a melodic number, as is “Watershed”.  There’s a Roy O influence on “You’re Not Alone”.
“Heart Just Wont Heal” has quite a strong Americana / Dylan feel to it, as does “What is Done”.
“Before Your Time” is the stand out track, with it’s opening “Whiskey is a dear dear friend of mine”
I did enjoy the album. Quite a good listen.
Benreel.com

I don’t know much about CAMPBELL SCOTT, but his self penned album, “Scottish Working Man” tells quite a story.
With the strongest Scottish accent I’ve heard on record, he lives in France, and recorded this album in Prague. But his homeland is in the forefront of his mind, with the songs of the album.
His voice is not the most tuneful, and the instrumentation is fairly basic, but that all adds up to give the album quite a homesome charm.
He’d probably be more at home in a folk club, but there are some Country influences, especially on the lilting “Tennessee To Loch Maree”, and the closing track “Going Home To Scotland”. Both have some nice steel licks.
There’s also some Rock’n’roll on “Boy Who Cant Say No”, but it’s the more folksy numbers like “Beautiful” and “Fair Farfochan” , which  Campbell sounds most comfortable with.
www.campbellscottmusic.com

MICHAEL J RAMPLIN is a traditional Country and gospel singer songwriter from Lancashire, who will reach his 70th birthday this year. In his life, he has lived a lot of what you would hear in Country songs, but Michael has lived to tell the tale, found god, and Country music, which he has always loved since hearing Webb Pierce back in his Merchant Navy days.
This is unashamed old time Country music, which you don’t get too many British artists trying to keep alive. But here, the singer songwriter has an all self penned album  of traditional Country music.
There’s a lot of his influences showing through, notably on “Hank Singing On The Radio”, “Johnny Cash Led Me To Jesus”, and even a duet, “There’s Only One Name”, with George Hamilton IV.
Michael doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but what you hear is 70 years of life in a dozen Country songs.
Michael.ramplin@hotmail.co.uk

MIKE AIKEN is something of a travelling troubadour. The Virginian has just released his 6th album, “Captains & Cowboys”  (Northwind), which has apparently been two years in the making. But I think   it’s probably been a lot longer. The versatile singer songwriter captures his own life as a ocean crossing sailing captain (he’s lived on a sailboat for the past 20 years) , but has also raised horses and made his living as a farrier.
The song subject here is as varied as his life, from “Virginia” and “Coal Train” to “Take The Boy Fishin’”, and “Put A Sail On It” to “Night Riders Lament”.
It’s an enjoyable album, with quite a variety , from the honky tonk-ish “Bring Out The Bourbon”  and “Your Memory Wins” to the lilting “Dance With The Wind”.
One of the stand out tracks isn’t his own, but Country Joe McDonald’s folk anthem “Save The Whale”. Mike does a refreshing take on the song, giving it renewed life.
Quite an interesting album. One you’ll certainly hear on the radio.

It’s amazing how much the banjo is featured on CD’s these days. DUBI HANDI are a Brooklyn based duo, featuring Hilary Hawke and Brian Geltner. Their album, “Up Like The Clouds” is essentially a banjo album. There are a number of instrumentals, and songs featuring both members as vocalists.
Apparently Appalachian music like this is big in Brooklyn, and I have to say, it’s a nice listen.
Three of the tracks are written by Hillary, including the catchy instrumental “Pickin’ Chicken Breakdown”, which a certain Caithness band may be interested in.
Most are covers of traditional’s including “New River Train” , “Cluck Old Hen” and “Poor Ellen Smith”.  As a stand out track, I particularly enjoyed the slower “Undone By Sorrow”, which features some nice vocals by guest Zara Bode.
A nice listen.

WOODY PINES has built up quite a following over here, through his regular visits of late. The banner on his website says “Viper Jazz, Ragtime & Country Blues”, which does quite a good job at explaining the mix that you’ll find on his new album, “Rabbits Motel”.
It’s a good fun sounding mix of resonator guitar, with a bit of banjo and harmonica. There’s a couple of traditional numbers, a couple written with banjo player Felix Hatfield, and the rest is all Woody.
Slower numbers like the bassy “Heartbreaker”  mix nicely with the more uptempo numbers, like the old timey “Keep Youre Hand  Off”, and the more modern sounding “Like I Do”.
There’s even a couple of train songs in “Railroad Vine” and “Train That Carried My Gal To Town”.
Nine of the ten tracks were recorded in Ohio, but “Hobo And His Bride” was recorded in a makeshift studio in a lock-up garage in Lanarkshire.  It fits in nicely to the rest of the album.

RUTH MOODY is a singer songwriter, born in Australia, but resident in Canada, where she has firmly established herself as one of The Wailing Jenny’s. But she has also been pursuing a solo career, and her latest album, “These Wilder Things” (True North) is released to coincide with a UK tour, which featured a date in Glasgow last month, and 6 nights at London’s Albert Hall, opening for Mark Knopfler.  Knopfler plays on the album, as does folks like John McCusker and Jerry Douglas .
All but one of the songs on the 10 track album is self penned. The exception is a cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”.
Many of the songs are slow ballads, including the title track , a beautifully constructed 5 minute masterpiece.
But there are a few more uptempo moments, like “One And Only”, which really shows off her vocals.
Recorded primarily in Toronto, although additional recordings came in from as diverse locations as London, Nashville, Winnipeg and Oregon.
www.ruthmoody.com

DYLAN SNEED is certainly a new name to me, but he has toured Europe, even before this debut album appeared. “Texodus” is quite an apt title for the Austin, Texas native, who left the Lone Star State, and now calls Hartsville, South Carolina home. But you cant take the Texas out of the boy!
The album, which was funded through an internet site called Kickstarter.com, is a personal journey from the title tracks story of leaving home, through friendship (All Around Me) and relationships (Love You Like I Do, Keep You Still, Under The Sheets).
He even sneaks in a rather different cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. It’s really stripped back instrumentally, and fits nicely into the album.
My favourite track would be the uptempo “Climb The Wall”.
www.dylansneed.com

From Canada, JENNY RITTER is a singer songwriter with a fresh distinctive voice.  She first got herself noticed playing in a band called The Gruff for ten years, but is now firmly a solo artist in her own right, with her latest album “Bright Mainland” just released.
As well as writing all eleven songs on the album, this talented lady also plays guitar and banjo, alongside some impressive studio musicians.
The banjo injected tracks certainly caught my attention, including “We Must Sing” , which has quite a folky feel to it. “You Missed The Boat” also appealed to me. It’s probably a bit more radio friendly than the rest of the album.
But “Resolute” was, for my money, the strongest track on the album. It’s really melodic, and suits her vocals best.
An interesting voice, which I’m sure we’ll hear more of in the future.