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Sunday, 7 June 2015

June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s an interesting listen. I enjoyed it.   

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Feb 2015

It’s great to be able to feature so many homegrown artists amongst our reviews this time around. But we’re starting off the new year, with a look back at some of the best British Country tracks of the past year. Each month, DJ’s around Europe are serviced with The Hotdisc, which Jackie Blair tells you about in each edition of CMDS. At the end of each year Silver Heart Records make the “Best Of British & Irish Country” available for sale to Country fans at a great price.
The 2014 collection features 18 tracks, from well established names like Charlie Boston, Gary Curtis and Mexican Joe Walker.
There are plenty Scottish Connections, with Megan Adams, a talented youngster from Stirling, who got a lot of attention for her version of The Dixie Chick’s “Travelling Soldier”. Such an appropriate song, given Megan’s role in The Poppy Girls group, who performed on the Festival Of Remembrance in 2013. You may recall Megan stealing the show by running off to meet her Dad, who had come back from military service to surprise her! Young Megan does a great version of the song, and I love the pipes on it too.
Another Stirling connection is Kathryn Anderson, who, although lives in the South Of England now, is originally from the city. Her original song, “The Road Less Travelled” is featured on this compilation, and you’ll read more about Kathryn farther down the page.
From The Borders, George Inglis brings us “A Horse Called Bob”, which is a really catchy number.
Then we have Dave Sherriff and his road anthem, “Highway Number Nine”, about the road to The Highlands.  There’s also Sam Hollyman’s “Where I Wanna Be”, which is not a bad song, and we’re glad that Sam wants to be in Scotland, but his notion that “there’s only two weeks of summer up in Scotland”, didn’t win him any favours from me!
There are two tracks each from Tony Clarke and Mim Grey, plus a slow ballad from The Diablos, a western influenced instrumental, “Trail Of Tears”, from Rob Allen, and tracks from Atlanta, and The Hicksville Band.
My own highlights would include the really well titled “Bright Side of Life” from Hayley Oliver, and the Texas influenced Ian Highland/Frank Jennings collaboration on “Pride”.
But altogether, a great package of homegrown Country music, which shows just how good we can do it over here.
Buying this CD would be a great way of supporting our own British Country music artists.
You’ll can buy the whole album, or individual tracks from ITunes, or if you want a physical CD, check out

In the last issue we introduced you to Glasgow singer songwriter MARTHA L HEALY, with her Acoustic EP. Well, she launched her full Nashville recorded CD “Better Days” at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on St. Andrews Night, and what a superb album it is.
The title track kicks it all off with some lovely Cajun accordion. It’s a good time uptempo fun song to get things started with.
“The Lovin’ Kind”, which follows, is a very interesting track. The intro has quite an “eastern” feel to it, but once into the song, Martha delivers a great vocal performance like one of the 60’s pop divas.
“Enough”, “13 Hours”, “House Of Love” and “Shame,Shame,Shame” are sensitive ballads which Martha proves she can handle as well as the fun infused “Too Much Vodka”, which comes from the pen of Wendy Newcomer.
“Burtonport” stands out for being different. The song digs into Martha’s Irish heritage, but also comes over with an old southern Texas feel to it. It’s about the village where Martha’s Nana grew up in Co. Donegal in Ireland. It's the story of how she passed on a strong sense of identity and roots down through the generations. A real personal song that really works.
Martha has a lot of soul in her voice, which she uses to best effect across the album. With simple musical arrangements, and boosted by Rory Hoffman’s  accordion, this is an exceptionally strong debut album.
You must give her a listen.

From Scotland’s Far North, comes one of our longest surviving bands. THE DYNAMOS who go back to the early 1960’s, and their latest outing is a look back at their history in the aptly titled “50 Years And More” (Pan Records). The band have seen more than a few changes in line up over the years, with only drummer Robert Cameron lasting the course.  Robert’s shares some great memories in the extremely fascinating CD booklet.
There were many vocalists throughout the past 50+ years, and this album features eight singers from the past to the present- Anne Duff, Geordie Jack, Brian Henderson, Heather Mackay, David Shearer, Manson Grant, and the newer breed of Keith Macleod and Brandon McPhee.
The Dynamos are known for their versatility, and the ability to change styles from Country to Pop to Scottish with ease. Where else would you find “Loch Lomond” and “Beer Barrel Polka” alongside “I Knew The Bride” , “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “Farewell Party”. It’s a format that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do for many years to come.
I really enjoyed reading about the Dynamo’s half century, and the songs that have meant so much to them, and their fans. There’s also a DVD which shares even more memories.

Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of the death of Jim Reeves, who, to this day, remains one of Country music’s favourite singers. Elgin’s IAN GREIG has marked the event by sharing some of his memories of Gentleman Jim, on “Jim Reeves Remembered” (Pan Records).
The album kicks off with a “Tribute To Jim Reeves”, the old Larry Cunningham hit, and closes with Ian’s own self penned tribute, and in between ten of Jim’s songs that struck a chord with Ian.
Many tribute albums to Jim have concentrated on his vast array of hits, but Ian has avoided the most obvious covers, although he does cover “I Love You Because”, the first Jim Reeves song he heard on the jukebox. That was certainly sixpence well spent!
Elsewhere, there’s “I’m Gonna Change Everything”, “Across The Bridge”, “This World Is Not My Home” and “You Kept Me Awake Last Night”.
As Ian says on the CD sleeve notes, he has tried to pay tribute to his hero, not by mocking his voice, but by singing his songs. Having said that, Ian’s voice certainly suits these songs to a tee.
The album was recorded in Wick, with additional recording in Nashville by Phil Anderson, including Hank Singer on fiddle, and vocal harmonies by Marcia Ramirez, a Nashville singer songwriter, who has also appeared on dozens of CD’s from Nashville stars like Rodney Crowell, Hank Williams Jr and Billy Dean,
Ian has come up with a wonderful tribute to his hero. Jim would’ve been proud, I’m sure.

KATHRYN ANDERSON, although based in the south of England, was born in Stirling. She is a singer songwriter and has just recently spent a month in Nashville working on new songs, and picking up some local gigs like Tootsie’s. In the meantime, we can listen to “The Road Less Travelled” a six track CD recorded on a previous visit to Music City.
The EP features a couple of tracks that have already been sent to radio, including “Write a Letter” and “Just Another Country Song”. Both are catchy numbers, which have won her many fans. “Wrong Side Of The Radio” is also one that I think would work at radio.
The title track is a good upbeat number to kick off the CD, but the one that really impressed me was “Guitar For Sale”. Don’t know if it’s based on a personal experience, but it’s about having to leave her beloved guitar behind, because the airline won’t let her carry it on board. Only a songwriter could come up with such a traumatic problem, and then sing about it. Great song.
Really enjoyed this CD, and look forward to hear more before long.

Another Scottish release is from the GLG BAND, from The Borders. George L Goodfellow has been playing music since the late sixties, originally in a folk band, but most recently collaborating on writing songs with American based musicians. “Distractions” is his 5th album, and features 14 tracks all written, or co-written by George.
The album features a nice selection of songs, most notably the opening track, “I Miss You Already”, “When I Walk” and “Tell Me”.
“Ava’s Song”, “What Is It I’ve Done Wrong” and “Ah’m Thinkin” are a bit more uptempo, and “These Four Walls” stands out for being really traditional Country. 
“Old Home Movies” is quite a catchy number, which is possibly the one most likely to pick up airplay.
There are also two songs, which feature Hawick songstress Lois Niblo, “No Dignity”, which is a duet, and “Are You Sure”, which she leads.
It’s a really pleasant listen, and worth checking out.

TRISHA YEARWOOD is one of my favourite singers. It’s incredible to think that it’s 24 years since caught our attention with “She’s In Love With The Boy”, after which she notched up an impressive list of hits and sales of 15 million albums worldwide.
She has been a bit quiet on the charts in recent years, concentrating on her Cookery TV show in America, publishing cook books, getting a few acting roles, and, of course, fulfilling her role as Mrs Garth Brooks!.
But Ms Yearwood is back, with a new album, or perhaps we should say half a new album, in “Prizefighter” (RCA). For some reason, the label have released 6 new songs, and packaged them with 10 previously released numbers.  Now, on one hand, familiarity sells, but for Trisha’s long time fans, six new songs after a seven year hiatus, is not great value, especially if you have most of the previously released hits.
Having said that, it was good to hear songs like “Walkaway Joe”, “How Do I Live” (much better than Leann’s version), and “The Song Remembers When” again. But I’ve got several hits albums already  with these hits.
Of the new songs, the album kicks off with a duet with Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first American Idol TV show. The song, whilst having the Yearwood stamp on it, is a bit more poppy than we’re used to from Trisha. It’s a good solid radio friendly hit, which should get her back on radio.
The other new songs are mainly ballads, including the soft “I Remember You”, and “The End Of The World”, (not the Skeeter Davis hit).
“Your Husband’s Cheatin’ On Us”, is a haunting bluesy number, in “Ode To Billy Joe” style, which came from Matraca Berg’s pen. It’s an interesting track, but, didn’t really appeal to me.
She really rocks it up on “You Cant Trust The Weatherman”. It’s not her usual style, but she does a good job with this track.
However, the one that’s getting a lot of attention is “Met Him In A Motel Room”, co-written by Rory Feek (Joey & Rory). It’s a beautifully crafted song, and Trisha delivers it with style. Great job.
It’s a really good album. Great if you don’t have a lot of Trish’s music, but if you’re a fan, you might just feel a little short changed.

Since WILLIE NELSON turned 80, he has showed no sign of slowing down with his CD releases.
“December Day” (Sony) is Vol.1 of Willie’s Stash, a planned series of archive recordings, that may never have been released before.
This particular 18 track CD features his sister, Bobbie, on keyboards, and indeed, shares the credits.
Willie has covered a whole spectrum of musical styles, and quite a few of his albums, like the legendary “Stardust” album, was more jazz, than Country. This album, falls into the same category.
The simple arrangements, the laid back styles, not to mention songs like Irving Berlin’s “Alexanders Ragtime Band” , “What’ll I Do” and “Always” ; Al Johnson’s “Anniversary Song” , and even “Mona Lisa”, emphasis that. But there are also a number of Willie’s own compositions, including “Who’ll Buy The Memories” and “My Own Peculiar Way”.
Willie’s voice is unique, and, if you’re a fan of the man, it’s a must for your collection, but it’s not the most Country sounding album he has released.

Staying over to Texas, we have a really refreshing new sound from KIMMIE RHODES. Her latest album, released here in March, to coincide with a tour of Ireland & England is called “Cowgirl Boudoir” (Sunbird Records).
An accomplished singer-songwriter, Kimmie has 14 previous albums to her credit, and has had her songs recorded by Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd and Trisha Yearwood, to name just three.
This album features a variety of styles, including some mainstream Country tracks.
There’s some outstanding steel licks on “Lover Killing Time”, which Kimmie delivers vocally in a traditional honky tonk styling.
“Trouble Is” and “Yes” also sound traditional Country. Other tracks, like “None Of Us Are Innocent” and “The Sky Fell Down” owe more to a sixties pop influence.
“Me Again”, is a soft bouncy number, whilst “Don’t Leave Me Like This” is a very pretty arrangements, which really sparkles.
It’s an interesting album. One I really enjoyed listening too.

So many of today’s Country musicians, especially those down in Texas cite RAY PRICE as their biggest influence. Ray was a huge Country star from as back as the 1940’s right through until his death in 2013.
His music ranged from Western Swing right across to polished ballads. He worked until late in his career, and had been working on a new album before he died.
That album, “Beauty Is … The Final Sessions” has now been released (AmeriMonte label), as a fitting tribute, It features two songs featuring Vince Gill, and one duet with Martina McBride.
The album is mostly stringed ballads. Ray was certainly still in fine voice right until the end. The songs are not exactly my cup of tea, but I can appreciate a golden voice when I hear it.
You’ll recognise a few of the standards, like “Beautiful Dreamer”, “I Wish I was Eighteen Again”, “Among My Souvenirs”, and “I Believe”.
How sadly appropriate is “No More Songs To Sing”.
A legend… sadly missed.

Humphead Records keep coming up with classic reissues, and their latest is an absolute beauty. FARON YOUNG was one of Country music’s leading figures back in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. He notched up 89 Country chart hits over a 36 year period, with Number One’s like “Live Fast Love Hard Die Young”, “Hello Walls” and “Four In The Morning”.
“Wine Me Up : The Best Of The Mercury Years” covers Young’s career from the mid sixties (he was with Capitol previously) . Included are three duets with Margie Singleton. It’s a double CD, with 50 tracks.
There hasn’t been a lot of Faron Young music on the market in recent times. This is a great reminder of his music.

To Canada next, and a self released CD from CHRIS CULGIN, who hails from the Peterborough, Ontario area. His album, “It’s Only Time”, is a real feel good album, with, largely upbeat songs about various aspects of rural life.
He doesn’t have a Nashville sound. But it’s a real Country sound, with a bit of rural rock thrown in. Not too unlike John Cougar Mellencamp or Neil Young. As well as playing clubs around Ontario, he’s one of the impressive band of musicians you hear playing around Toronto’s subway stations.
It all kicks off with “You Were Always Dancing”, which has some nice memories about “playing a 78”. The song kind of sums up what music is all about.
“Hell’s A Box House” is really fast paced, whilst “Clutter” has a much softer beat.
“Car Crash” has a nice catchy feel to it, which I quite liked.
“Ex” is a cracker. It tells about how TV soaps do reflect small village life, as he talks about romantic problems, with lines like, “You Ex is the mother of your best friend’s kid”, “she used to be yours, then she was mine, and I hear our friend Mike is waiting in line”. It’s got a good beat, and some nice steel & fiddle too.  I really liked “Never Learned To Read” too- a good upbeat radio friendly number.   
There’s an interesting instrumental in “Cowgirl Song”. It’s not too many instrumentals you hear today, that entertain you, rather than just a musician playing around to fill a spot on an album.
Then there’s the hidden track. The final track, “Caught Myself in A Wind”, is a rather slow atmospheric number, which runs to over 5 minutes. If you let the CD run, after over 2 ½ minutes of dead air, Chris is back with a belter of a Country song, “The Less I Know”. There’s lots of fiddle & steel, a great Country beat, and my favourite track on the album. But why hide it, Chris ?   
Loved the album, nevertheless.

ANNIE KEATING is one of these American singer songwriters who find themselves popular with European audiences. She has toured Scotland several times, and played the Glasgow Americana Festival.
Her new album, “Make Believing” is completely self written, and co produced with Jason Mercer, who also plays bass, double bass, banjo, and guitar on the album.
“Coney Island” kicks off the album, and is a nice introduction to the 11 track collection. The addition of Trina Hamlin’s harmonica really adds something to one of the stand out tracks on the album.
“Sink Or Swim” is a little more upbeat, and features a bit more instrumentation, but still works well. “Know How To Fall” is another quick paced track, whilst “Sunny Dirt Road” is an easy listening trip off the beaten track, and “Still Broken” is a very fragile song.
But the song that stands out for me is “One Good Morning”, with it’s catchy banjo and fiddle. It’s really bright & breezy.
It’s a nice album. Worth checking her out.    

THE MULLIGAN BROTHERS got great reviews for their first album , released in 2013. Now the Mobile, Alabama, based quartet are back with a new album, “Via Portland”. They have quite a laid back soft southern sound, not unlike the likes of Jackson Browne, or even, it has been suggested our own Sutherland Brothers & Quiver!
The vocals from Ross Newell are certainly radio friendly, and he also wrote most of the songs on the 11 track collection.
The collection kicks off with a rather haunting, and sensitive “Wait For Me”, which is followed by the slightly more mainstream, “City Full Of Streets”, which isn’t unlike some of the more recent Tim McGraw tracks. “I Don’t Want To Know”, is a bit more uptempo, as is “So Are You”.
“The Road That Leads Me Home” is quite a nice melodic track, but the track that really worked for me, was the more uptempo “Louise”.
An interesting album, and the fact that it’s released here, would suggest that their working on playing over here. Look out for them.

Finally, Memphis born, Nashville based singer songwriter, DREW HOLCOMB was over here for the recent Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, and to tie in with the visit, his latest album, “Medicine” was given a UK release (Magnolia Music).
The album, all written by Drew, was recorded over an eight day period, in East Nashville. The songs cover topics as diverse as loyalty, hardship, marriage, alienation and faith.
From the gentle opener “American Beauty”, the album rises to an almost rowdy atmosphere on “Shine Like Lightning” (courtesy of his band, The Neighbors).
Elsewhere, “You’ll Always Be My Girl” with its’ minimal keyboard arrangement was just beautiful.
The outstanding track, though, was “I’ve Got You”, which features some nice harmonies from “Neighbor”, wife Ellie. There’s some nice whistles on it too.

In the main, it’s an album of ballads, which are quite listenable. The exception would be the rather rocky “The Last Thing We Do”, which, in my opinion, didn’t fit in with the rest of the album. But then, you can’t satisfy everyone.