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Monday, 4 August 2014

August 2014

It’s turning out to be a busy summer for CD releases, especially from the ladies.
You have to hand it to MIRANDA LAMBERT. She is, by far, Country music’s leading lady these days, having just been named the ACM Female Vocalist for the 5th straight year.
Her latest album, “Platinum” has been released here in the UK, and certainly makes for an interesting, and for me, a rather disturbing listen.
She has a superb Country voice, when she wants.
The album kicks off with the superb “Girls”. “Pricilla” is an uptempo homage to Elvis’s other half, and works well. “Automatic” is a likeable piece of nostalgia (from a 30 year old !), which has also been released as a radio single here.
Sometimes it’s amazing just what inspires a songwriter. Here, Miranda gets her inspiration for one of the songs from the “Bathroom Sink”. Not a bad song either.  
“Babies Making Babies” is another really strong song, which I really enjoyed.
“Another Sunday In The South” which closes the album is a clever little tribute to 80’s Country band Shenandoah. She was only a kid when they were around. They must’ve made an impression. I wonder how many of her fans remember them today.    
“Hard Staying Sober” is a strong Country hurtin’ and drinkin’ song, which I really liked.
She has several guests on the album. Little Big Town join in on the very listenable ballad, “Smokin’ And Drinkin”. There’s also a rather average pop duet with Carrie Underwood.
Then there’s a track with the wonderful Time Jumpers. “All That’s Left” is fabulous. Great music, and a style that Miranda sounds so suited to. It’s an old Tom T Hall song, and she does it real justice here.
“Little Red Wagon” is quite catchy and different. Unfortunately she uses a word that I didn’t appreciate hearing on a Country album.  Indeed there a couple of tracks with swear words in the title, which at least gives the listener warning. Both are great little numbers – the most Country tracks on the album. Just why she had to reduce herself, and Country music, to this level, I’m afraid I cant get my head around.
There are 16 tracks on the album, which is great value. The CD booklet also has some great photos of Miranda. It’s a superb album, if only she’d watch her language.

There’s no question about GENE WATSON’s Country credentials. But, if there’s any doubt, his latest album, “My Heroes Have Always Been Country”, features some of the greatest Country songs ever written.
He honours the likes of Dottie West, Eddy Arnold, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and George Jones.  Yet, all of these songs sound so natural for Gene Watson.
He kicks off with “Here Comes My Baby Back Again”, and quite a few standards follow, like “Long Black Veil”, “Make The World Go Away” and “Walk Through This World With Me”.
But not all the songs are as well known, or obvious choices.
“Slide Off Your Satin Sheets” was a Johnny Paycheck hit, whilst “I Forget You Every Day” isn’t one of Merle Haggard’s most obvious hits to cover.
But, whatever songs Gene records, he just oozes Country.
This album proves that Gene Watson is one of Country Music’s Heroes !

WILLIE NELSON appears to be on a mission to record as much material as he can, now that he’s in his 80’s. “Band Of Brothers” (Sony/Legacy) is his third new release in the 14 months since he became an octogenarian. He certainly ain’t slowing down, that’s for sure.
Having said that this is his first album of predominately new material in nearly two decades. He co-wrote, with producer Buddy Cannon, nine of the album’s 14 tracks.
Many of the songs are classic Willie : slow and emotional. It’s the sound that Willie has made his fortune on.
The title track , “Band Of Brothers” is a superb, which although self penned, just has that Ed Bruce written “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies” feel all over it.
I really liked “Guitar In The Corner”, with it’s simple backing. Really straightforward Willie.
“The Wall” the advance single in the States, is the sort of song that Willie’s been doing for years. It works for him, so why change.
He raises a chuckle or two on “Wives & Girlfriends”, where he rates them, up to No.11, with the cheeky line “I love my wives, I love my girlfriend, may they never meet”. Only Willie could get away with that.
Quite ironic, that the next track, is a ballad called “I Thought I Left You”!
Then there’s “Used To Her”, an uptempo ditty with some nice Texas fiddle. The sentiments are quite negative about an ex, but, like “Wives” is quite humourous”.
The remainder of the tracks include a cover of Vince Gill’s “When You Come Around”, which is so different to Vince’s version- Willie has made it his own. There’s also a tribute to “The Songwriters”, written by Canadian Gordie Sampson, and legendary songwriter Bill Anderson, and Billy Joe Shaver’s “Hard To Be An Outlaw”.  Shaver also contributed “The Git Go”, a duet with Jamey Johnson.
Willie can be an acquired taste. But he wouldn’t be here today, if there weren’t enough fans for this type of Country music. It’s another winner from the hard working Willie Nelson.

When the line up for this year’s Southern Fried Festival was published, and there were two performances from a Dale Watson inspired Englishman, AGS CONNOLLY, I just had to check him out.
And boy, I’m really glad I did.
150% Pure Country.
Ags is from West Oxfordshire, and has attempted song writing for years, but only started taking it seriously after attending a workshop with Nashville based Darrell Scott. Now, his debut album, “How About Now” (Drumfire) has been released to great reviews.
Produced by Dean Owens, the album features musicians like Stuart Nisbet and Jim McDermott, who have played on records by the likes of Justin Currie, The Proclaimers & Deacon Blue.
All the material is written by Ags, and is totally Country.
Kicking off with the traditional “When Country was Proud”, a song that really marks the spot.
It just gets more Country, track by track, with “That’s The Last Time”, “I’m Not Someone You Want To Know” and “A Good Memory For Pain” standing out for me.
He livens it up on “The Dim & Distant Past”, which has a rockabilly beat, but with a sound that pre dates rock’n’roll. Real vintage.
He definitely has a Dale Watson influence, but I hear a few other influences, a bit of David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck, and even Johnny Cash and Hank Snow.
On a couple of the slower songs, especially “She Doesn’t Need Anyone Anymore” and “How About Now”, dare I say, I hear a bit of Raymond Froggatt too.
He does a tribute to Texan singer James Hand, which, as he points out, “If you’ve never seen James Hand, I don’t expect you to understand”, but no doubt you’ll seek out his music, after hearing this.
This is vintage Country. It sounds nothing like today’s Nashville sound.
It’s the real deal.

Every so often the record label’s release a big promotion Country compilation, which turns out to be a big seller. For Country fans, they find that they already have many of the tracks, but these albums are aimed at the general public, who may have heard of a few tracks, but discover a number of other artists they hadn’t heard before.
LEGENDS OF COUNTRY, is a 3CD set released by Sony, which features 60 tracks, including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Kenny Rogers “Ruby” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” amongst others. But there’s also Brooks & Dunn (Cowgirls Don’t Cry), Alabama’s “Song Of The South”, Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett’s “Five O Clock Somewhere” and David Allan Coe (She Used To Love Me a Lot).
A good collection for someone who doesn’t have a lot of Country music in their collection,. But if you’re reading this, you’ll probably have most of the tracks already.

Now onto our homegrown artist of the month. HEATHER DICKSON from Fife, caught the ear of Texan songwriter Terri Sharp, who asked her to record some of her songs. The result is “Eventually”, an 11 track album, recorded in Nashville with producer Rick Durrett.
The album has a nice mix to it. It kick’s off with “Right Where I Wanna Be”, an uptempo number, which should earn her some good radio airplay. It’s followed by “Perfect Common Stone”, a nice ballad, which, personally, stood out for me.
The title track, “Eventually” is a soft ballad, which really suits Heather’s vocals.
There’s a nice Celtic feel to “Right Out Of The Blue” and “Look Out My Window” thanks to the pipes of David Goodman.
“If You Only Knew” has a good modern Country sound, Heather’s vocals are quite raunchy on this one.
“You Cant Blame The Train” is a good catchy number, originally a Country hit for Don McLean. It’s one of the stand out tracks.
“That’s Love” has a different feel to it again. It’s an uptempo number, with quite a catchy summer feel to it. And the album ends with “Smokin’ Gun” another uptempo number.
A really good, well produced album.

Next up, a new from Nashville name, CASSADEE POPE. The young 23 year old was the winner of the US version of “The Voice”, where she was mentored by Blake Shelton.
Now her debut album, “Frame By Frame” (Decca) has been released here following a whistle stop showcase in London recently.
As I expected, it is fairly Nashville pop, but the girl has a really good voice, and I really enjoyed the songs she’s chosen. She has also co-written five of the 11 tracks. The lead single here in the UK, “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart” was too pop for me, but the album does feature some great tracks.
Track 1 is “Good Times”, a superb opener, which really hits the spot.
“You Hear a Song”, one of her own songs, which she wrote with Nathan Chapman, is a superb ballad that impressed me a lot. A slightly more gentle ballad is “One Song Away”, which I also liked.
Another track which I enjoyed was “Easier To Lie”, but the track that really stood out for me is “11” (which is confusing, as it’s actually track 10). Again, co-written, Cassadee recalls her painful childhood in an emotional delivery, with a simple musical arrangement.
She’s a pretty girl, and has lots of pictures throughout the CD booklet. I don’t like to comparisons, but she’s not unlike a certainly Shania Twain, and, her music, like Shania, perhaps leans more to the pop side, whilst still appealing to Country fans.
Well worth a listen.

JIMMY BUFFETT is quite a cult figure in music. He’s been around since the 70’s, had less than a handful of Top 40 Country chart hits, but his music is still enjoyed wherever it’s played.  I remember there were specialist magazines devoted to his gulf coast sound, long before Kenny Chesney made it mainstream.
Of course, being featured on an Alan Jackson hit did his career no harm at all.
Humphead have just released “The Jimmy Buffett Collection : Sun ,Sea And Margaritas”. It’s a double CD featuring 40 tracks. I suspect that only the most hardened Buffett fan will be familiar with all the tracks.
It does include the recognisable one’s like “Margaritaville”, “Changes In Latitude, Changes In Attitude”, “Livingston Saturday Night”, “Boat Drinks” and “Come Monday”.  There’s also few that were hits for others like “Stars On The Water”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Stars Fell On Alabama”.  One of Buffett’s great talents was writing songs that just twisted words from famous sayings. There are a few here, like “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”, “I Heard I Was In Town” and my favourite “If The Phone Doesn’t Ring It’s Me”.
Great to hear all these great songs, and a lot of Jimmy Buffett stuff I hadn’t heard before.
A superb collection.

ZOE MUTH is one of the most Country voices around these days. She first made her name up in America’s northwest, where she was labelled “Seattle’s Emmylou”. She played bars and cafes, as a young pre-school teacher on minimum wage, to pay for her 2009 debut album, which earned rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now her third album, “World Of Strangers” has just been released here (Signature Sounds), ahead of a tour in the autumn.
This album marks a slight change of direction for Zoe. For, on New Years Day 2013, she uprooted herself from Seattle to Austin, Texas, the home of pure Texan honky tonk music.
She certainly sounds as if she’s settled in quite easily.
All but one of the ten songs are self penned. The exception is a cover of Ronnie Laine’s “April Fool”, which is given a really neat Texan arrangement, including tex mex accordion.
The variety of the songs vary from the steel guitar laden “Mama Needs A Margarita” to the uptempo rockin’ “Too Shiny” , “Make Me Change My Mind”, and the soft slow “Annabelle”, which features some rather un-honky-tonk  arrangements with cello, piano and violin (courtesy of Dixie Chick Martie McGuire, no less).
Bruce Robison is featured on the slow & beautiful “Somebody I Know”, one of the two five minute plus masterpieces on the album. I was also smitten by “Waltz Of  The Wayward Wind”, with its old west feel.
The beauty of Zoe Muth, however, is her heavily accented, sweet vocals. Pure Country!

KATIE McGARRY is a new name to me, but I certainly enjoyed her album “Waiting On”. I believe this is the second album from the singer songwriter from Prince Edward Island.
The press release with the album suggests that Katie is Country/Americana with a dash of folk & pop to wash it down. Her influences range from Patsy Cline to Sheryl Crowe, and The Dixie Chicks to Fleetwood Mac.
The eight track album, all written by Katie kicks off with the catchy mid tempo “Lover For The Night”, which sounds really radio friendly. “Til I’m Already Gone”, “Go Easy” and “Why I Keep Hanging Around” are a bit slower, but really shows Katie’s vocal range.
The closing “It Shall Be Done” is again, quite catchy and radio friendly.
But the one that really knocked me out was “One Of Those Things”, a really catchy Country song that easy gets into your head.
As I say, Katie McGarry is new to me, but I’m really enjoying her music, and hope to hear more, Certainly one worth checking out.

Florida based TOM SHED is a Grammy nominated singer songwriter, who injects humour and social beliefs into his music. His latest album, “Mama’s Going Out” (Curly Maple Music) certainly covers a lot of ground.
Tom, maybe doesn’t have the best voice around, and the production is a bit basic, but that just adds to his authentic style.
The opening track is an uptempo homage to single mums, whilst he sings of the Native Indian in “Congratulations Standing Bear”. He tells of the murder of a game warden in “Plumes”, and about relationships in “Scream & Shout”.
The banjo influenced “Tomorrow” has quite a neat look at the future, in a rather optimistic way. He also lets rip on “Banjo goes NASCAR”, which is a superb little instrumental.
But the stand out track has to be “It Don’t Mean Your Country”. He wont get mainstream US “country radio” plays with this song which pokes at today’s country stars, with lines like they’re “all hat and no horse” and “You’ve got to be Country music, not just duet”.
But he certainly gets my vote.

KRIS DELMHORST grew up in Brooklyn NY, but her musical home is in Boston MA where she cut her teeth on open mics, bar gigs, and subway busking before embarking on her life as an internationally touring songwriter.
Delmhorst now lives in the hills of western Massachusetts with her husband, songwriter Jeffrey Foucault, with whom she occasionally performs as part of the collective Redbird. She has released six albums on respected indie label Signature Sounds.
Her latest album, “Blood Test” has just been released, her first of original music since 2008′s critically acclaimed album “Shotgun Singer”. A prolific writer and constant collaborator, Delmhorst continues to share her unique perspective in this new work. The album describes a moment of reckoning and centering in the songwriter’s life, and in society as a whole.
The title track to the album is one of the more uptempo offerings on the 12 track album. “We Deliver” also has quite an infectious beat to it.  “Temporary Sun” has quite a full sound, whilst “Bright Green World” is a much more commercial sounding uptempo number.
“Homeless” is a much slower song, but Kris delivers it well, as she does on “92nd Street”, for which she has a video available for checking out online.
I liked “Little Frame”, quite a simple song, with some nice piano and steel guitar mixed together. But more impressively, showed her vocals at her best. “My Ohio” also stood out.
An interesting listen. Certainly one if you enjoy female singer songwriters.

RED MOLLY are a New York based folk/Americana trio consisting of Molly Venter, Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner. They formed ten years ago, and boast some beautiful harmonies.
Their latest CD, “The Red Album” is released at the end of August, in advance of an October tour which includes a date at Glasgow’s CCA on 23rd.
Whilst several of the tracks are quite folksy, there are quite a few songs which are well suited to Country Radio.
“You Don’t Have The Heart For It”, written and sung by Abbey, is a beautiful Country song, laced with some really wonderful steel guitar of Adam Ollendorff.
“My Baby Loves Me”, written by Molly, wouldn’t be out of place on Country radio either. It’s quite an uptempo catchy number.
There are a couple of covers, the most notable being Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound”, which really suits their harmonies.
A really nice listen.

Next up, a new CD from MICHAEL-ANN, a young lady from Kansas, who certainly packs a full sound into her first full album called “Heavy Load”.
She has written all but one of the tracks, and certainly impressed me with the range of material. It’s a real feel good mix in the main. Definitely Country, with bluegrass, folk, blues and rock overtones throughout.
The album kicks off with the downhome fiddle foot tapper, “Any Day”, which certainly lures you into the rest of the album. Later on, “Bumble Bee” keep the feet tapping.
Tracks like “Never Mind” and “Trail Of My Tears” continue to keep me interested, with their  open road drivin’ beats.
The title track, “Heavy Load”, has a more serious tone, with lines like “Seems to me I’m in need of healing… Well You Got to Help A Troubled Soul”. The song is very much in the style of Linda Ronstadt.
“Mama’s Sleepin”, starts off bluesy, and turns into a rip roarin’ modern bluegrass number.
“Hard To Breathe”, “Bring It On Home” and “I Would” are slower Country ballads, and she sounds at home with this style of song, as she is with the more uptempo numbers.
Altogether, this was a delightful album to listen to, and will enjoy listening it to more in the near future.

Our final review this time around, is from JANE KRAMER, an Oregon based, but North Carolina raised, singer-songwriter. Her album, “Break & Bloom” is not due for release until September, but I’m delighted to be able to review this for you this month.
Jane has an amazing voice, one that blends the Appalachian bluegrass style of Carolina, to the Americana hotbed in the north west.
The Appalachian style is best evident on tracks like “Nobody’s Woman Tonight”, “Hold My Whiskey” and ”Mourning Dove”.
She sounds more like a singer songwriter on “Georgia”, “That Muddy Waters” and “One Precious Life”.  Then she goes all gypsy style on “Any Way You Like, Child”.
An interesting voice. Not mainstream, by any means, but if you like your music a little different, Jane is worth checking out.

Monday, 2 June 2014

June 2014

It’s now over a decade since JOHNNY CASH passed away, but his influence on Country music is as strong as ever. With the record labels releasing a number of current Nashville artists product in the UK, with heavy promotion, and little results, along comes Cash with an album he recorded thirty years ago, and enters the UK album chart at No.4 (& No.1 in the US).
Cash talks, for sure.
Now whether this “lost” album was deemed not good enough for release back in the 80’s, or whether it was down simply to the Nashville labels at the time aggressively looking for more Garth Brooks clones, I guess we’ll never know. But I’m sure glad that “Out Among The Stars” (Sony) was found, polished up, and released thirty years late.
Cash covered many era’s in music, from rockabilly through to the rather morbid album’s late in his career. It may depend on when you first heard him, which determines which era you associate Cash with.  For me, I often recall his “The Baron” album, which was from the early 80’s, so was quite excited to hear about this new album, being from the same timespan.
I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the album.
The title track opens the album. It’s a great story song, in a style that only Cash can deliver. “I Used To Love Her A Lot”, is quite a haunting story about lost love. There’s also a rather boring Elvis Costello mix of this song.
I didn’t rate every track, but there are more high points than low’s.
“Call Your Mother”, is a lovely song about a couple splitting up, but trying to keep the in-laws on side. In the opposite direction, “Tennessee”, opens with the line, “Mamma guess you heard, I got married in Tennessee”, but both do try to emphasise the importance of family values.
I really loved “If I Told You Who It Was”, about helping out his favourite Country singer fix a flat tire. I do appreciate that the humour may be lost on today’s Country generation, who wont know who Minnie Pearl is, but it appealed to my sense of humour.
There are two duet’s with June Carter, including a racey version of “Baby Ride Easy”, which doesn’t quite match the evergreen Carlene Carter/Dave Edmunds version of the song. Waylon Jenning’s also joins in on a superb version of “I’m Movin’ On”.
I’m not sure about the message in “I Drove Her Out Of My Mind”. It’s about a guy’s wife leaving him, but agrees to one last date in his new Cadillac, like she always wanted. But the plan is to drive her over the cliff. It’s supposed to be humourous, especially when the Cadillac dealer is going to lose out too, but perhaps too many people have lost lives that way, so I’m thinking that it’s rather insensitive.
Plenty to talk about this new Cash album. Plenty good stuff to listen too as well.
I really enjoyed it. Cash at his best ? Probably not, but I love this era of his career.
And to still be able to dominate the charts ten years after his death (when today’s names can’t come close) is some achievement.
Cash is King, so they say. Johnny proves it!

Keeping with the Cash clan, and daughter ROSANNE, who is back in Scotland for Perth’s Southern Fried Festival next month, has released “The River & The Thread” (Decca/Blue Note).
Some of Rosanne’s previous album’s have been quite dark and slow, but, I really think this album is worthy of the accolades it has been receiving.
She wrote all eleven songs with her husband Jon Leventhal, who produced and arranged the project.
The production is superb, and is a tapestry of America’s South in music.
“Modern Blue” is a good uptempo number, which sounds like an early Mary Chapin Carpenter type of song. In contrast “The Long Way Home” is quite slow and haunting.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of “World Of Strange Design”, whilst “When The Master Calls The Roll” is probably my favourite track.
“50,000 Watts”, with its’ wonderful harmonies from Cory Chisel, is an anthem for WSM Radio, the Grand Ole Opry station, which was once the voice of the south, and refers to the train whistle, which the radio station used as a time signal in the bygone days.
This album really shows off Rosanne’s vocals to perfection.
I loved this album. Catch her at Southern Fried.

Rosanne’s childhood was spent with step sister CARLENE CARTER, who like Rosanne, was a bit of a rebel musically.  Carlene involved herself in the rock and pop scene, then come out with a string of punchy, catchy, pop country numbers. But, I guess, she never lost the heritage of her upbringing.
Her new album, “Carter Girl” (Rounder), is her most stunning album to date. It’s not just a Carter Family album, but a three generation Carter Family album honouring the original Carter Family (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle); June's (Tall Lover Man) and Aunt Helen's 'Poor Old Heartsick Me'; then two of her own: 'Me and the Wildwood Rose' and a new song about Johnny & June’s passing called 'Lonesome Valley 2003.”
Carlene shares writing credit on "Lonesome" with her great uncle A.P. Carter, and the track features vocals by Vince Gill. It’s an absolutely stunning song that stands out on an altogether stunning album.  
Other guest artists on the CD are Willie Nelson on the beautiful "Troublesome Waters," Kris Kristofferson on "Blackjack David," and Elizabeth Cook steps in as an honorary Carter Girl singing harmonies on six of the twelve songs.
Family is represented by cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett (daughter of Anita Carter), and Carlene's husband Joe Breen, each heard on two songs.
The late Cowboy Jack Clement played acoustic guitar on 'Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow,' a track which features archive recordings from Helen, Anita, June and Johnny, singing background on the chorus.
Other tracks include “Give Me The Roses (While I Live)”, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” and “Gold Watch & Chain”.
Carlene has covered a lot of ground in her musical career, but has come home and come up with the most exceptional album of her life.
No Country collection is complete without this one.

Our home grown album this month is from JOHN HINSHELWOOD, who has been part of the scene for many years, through bands like Honest Sam & The Dealers and The City Sinners, as well as a solo act.
Like his previous albums, most of the songs on his latest album “Lowering The Tone”, are self penned, and the musicians on the albums are the same team that you’ll see joining John on stage at a live gig. They include steelie Malcolm McMaster, guitarist Tim Black, Ed McGlone on bass, Frank McHugh on drums, and harmony vocalist Kathy Stewart.
Gram Parsons still has a major influence on John’s music, most evident on this album on “A Few Shallow Moments”.
“American Lifestyle” is a fun sounding number, with strong harmony (I’d actually say duet) vocals from, Kathy Stewart. It also features some neat banjo. Kathy is also quite evident on the album’s opening track, “Radio Angel”.
“What’s Left Is What’s Right”, is also an uptempo catchy number.
In contrast, a few tracks like the 71/2 minute epic “A Poet’s Life” is quite a strong ballad. The same can be said for “Look Back In Anger”, one of John’s older songs which fits nicely into this collection.
A few of the tracks have quite basic arrangements, such as “Little Rowdy”, which only features John on acoustic guitar and Iain Barbour on lap steel.
Two of the songs are not from John’s pen. They include an interesting version of “Crying In The Rain”, and a cover of a Pure Prairie League song, “The Cost Of Doing Business”. Great to see hear it recreated here.
A good album from one of Scotland’s leading singer songwriters.
Well worth checking out.
John will be talking about the album on Celtic Music Radio and Dunoon Community Radio on Sunday 8th June between 12-2pm.
www.littleroots.com

Irish acts are a plenty these days, but there’s nobody as Country as JOE MOORE.  A popular visitor across here many years ago (I remember him at the Dumfries Festival), he has more recently been a contestant on TG4’s Glor Tire, and I’m really pleased to see this new album, “The Scania Man”.
Sounding as Country as ever, Joe is one of the few acts that still puts the effective talkie line into his songs.
The title track suggests that the album is targeted at the Truckers, and, yes there are a couple of truckers songs, but there’s a lot more than that.
Merle Haggard’s “Diana” is a stand out track. There are also covers of Clint Black’s “Better Man” and Vince Gill’s “Billy Paul”; two duets with Chris Logue (Logue &McCool) , and a stunning version of “The Old Rugged Cross”.
Probably the track that will get the most airplay for Joe is “Randy Travis in My Heart”, a superb tribute to the American singer, who hasn’t been in the best of health lately.
Joe has such a warm vocal style. As Country as they come, and so laid back and effortless.  A real delight to listen to.

American Country groups are plentiful these days. But THE ELI YOUNG BAND do stand out from the pack.
They are four musicians who met at university in North Texas, and are still playing together 11 years later. The band takes name from two of the band members, Mike Eli and James Young, whilst supported by Jon Jones and Chris Thompson.
They had released three critically acclaimed albums prior to their debut Republic label release, which produced two number one’s including “Crazy Girl”, which Billboard named as No.1 Song of the year back in 2011.
Now, their new album, “10,000 Towns” gets a UK release.
The album features 11 songs, in which the quartet were involved in the writing of over half of them.
“Got A Little Drunk Last Night”, already a hit in the USA, kicks off the album in a good uptempo style, but, for me it’s the ballads that they really excel at.
“Angel Like You” stands out, with it’s strong melody and superb harmonies. “Your Last Broken Heart”, “Prayer For The Road” and “What Does” are also strong ballads that really impressed me.
“A Lot Like Love” is a more uptempo number, but works well. There’s some good harmonies, which I liked.
“Dust” another of the uptempo tracks was released as a radio single here in the UK.
The Eli Young have a pleasant easy listening sound, which should appeal to crossover listeners over here.

JENNIFER NETTLES was one half of the successful Sugarland duo, and has now launched her debut album, “That Girl” (Decca), released back in April in the UK.
The album is already a huge hit in America, although, I have to say, the album does nothing for me.
From the opening track “Falling”, through the title track, through to “Thank You”,  I had to force myself not to switch off. Her vocals, once a delight to listen to on Sugarland hits like “Baby Girl” is just too harsh for my old ears.
A few of the tracks were a little less painful to listen to. Particularly, the ballad “This Angel”. She did a not too bad job on this track, but rather unimpressive nonetheless.  On “Jealousy”, the voice wasn’t too bad, but the song is pure pop. Not Country at all.
“Know You Wanna Know” is a fast paced fun number, but again, little to do with Country music.
Stand out track for me has to be “This One’s For You”, a ballad which she delivered the big voice, without straining too much.
Sorry, I’ll give “That Girl” a miss.

JERROD NIEMAN isn’t the most recognisable Country star in the UK – yet.  But that may change with the release of “High Noon”, his third US album, and his first for the UK market.
From Kansas, Jerrod cut his teeth on a signed autographed Tracy Lawrence guitar, which his mum won in a competition. He has written songs for Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy and Jamey Johnson.
He’s one of these guys who must have thought a career in Country music would never happen. He was originally signed to the Mercury label in 2001, before moving to a small label which only released one single before closing its doors.
Now with the Sony stable, he has built up quite a career in the past four years, with Number one’s on both the albums and singles chart.
This album finds Jerrod in a modern Country style, with songs like “We Know How To Rock”, “Day Drinkin” and the haunting “Lucky #7” really appealing to Country fans.   Other tracks, like the hit single “Drink To That All Night”, “Donkey” and “Come On”, are more pop than Country.
There are some nice ballads, especially “I Cant Give In Anymore” and “Refill”.
It’s quite a listenable album. Some of the tracks leave me lukewarm, but there are songs which I really did enjoy.

The latest “Definitive Collection” from the Humphead label is from BILLY RAY CYRUS.
Now many folks may think that Billy Ray had “Achy Breaky Heart” and that was that. Others may remember a few of the follow up’s like “Could’ve Been Me”, “She’s Not Crying Anymore” and “Wher’m I Gonna Live”, which quite a few of our local bands covered.
But Billy Ray had quite a few other notable recordings, such as “Some Gave All”, “Busy Man”, “In The Heart Of A Woman”, “Storm In The Heartland”, “Trail Of Tears” and “Tenntucky”.  He also covered a few classics in his time, like “Harper Valley PTA”, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and “Sing Me Back Home”
Here’s a great chance to get all them together in one package. Two CD’s with no less that 40 tracks.
Great value. And a chance to heart the real Billy Ray !

GAIL DAVIES is one of the biggest pioneers in Nashville. She was one of the first women to produce her own music. She’s a prolific songwriter and performer in her own right.
Her recording projects have shown a wide scope, from a live bluegrass album from Nashville’s Station Inn, a tribute to the legendary Webb Pierce, and last year, a mainstream collaboration with Nashville’s finest on her late brothers’ songs.
Now Gail is back, with a completely new direction again. “Since I Don’t Have You” teams her up with renowned jazz legend Benny Golson.
I’m not a jazz fan, by any means, but Gail has found a niche that works well for her. The album sounds really refreshing and vibrant.
She has written three of the songs, including the catchy opener “Love Aint Easy”, and the moody ballad “You’re Movin’ On”.
Her late brother Ron also wrote three of the songs, including the catchy “Cry On My Shoulder” and the emotive ballads “The Way It Used To Be”, “Since I Don’t Have You”.
It’s different. And proves the versatility that is Gail Davies. She’s quite a performer.

Our next album comes from an American 4 piece Bar band who call themselves MASSY FERGUSON. They’re from Washington state, which has an ever growing impressive live music scene. The group are led by Ethan Anderson, and the band wrote the whole album.
“Victory & Ruins” is, I believe, their third full album, and is released here to coincide with a tour down south this summer.
Despite their location, the album is hard driving Southern Rock, in the main.
Stand out tracks include the catchy “Flexed Arm Hang” and “Compromised Intentions”.
They do show there mellow side on several tracks, notably “Everything’s Done” “Bring Something Back” and “Apartment Downtown”.
Highlight of the album has to be “The Hard Way”, in which the band are joined by fellow Seattle singer Zoe Muth, who has one of the most interesting vocal styles in today’s music.
I found this was a surprisingly good listen. Worth checking out.


Next up, the sixth album from singer songwriter BRIGITTE DEMEYER, who has certainly found herself deep rooted in America’s south since moving from the West Coast to Nashville in 2010.
“Savannah Road” is a quaint acoustic trip into the southern states.
Brigitte has quite a gravelly, jazzy voice, which works well on the songs on the album.
Many of the numbers are quiet acoustic ballads, notably “Please Believe Me” , “Big Man’s Shoes” and “Honey Hush”.
“Say You Will Be Mine” is a catchy little number which stands out on the album.
Not everyone’s taste, but, if you enjoy old timey, jazzy, acoustic sets, give her a listen.

Finally, I don’t usually review singles here, but “Lay Down Beside Me” from Keith & Shannon is well worth a mention.
Keith Macleod started his musical career after leaving school, by playing for Maggie & Tennessee Express. Now some 23 years later, Keith, best known for playing these days with Manson Grant & The Dynamos and Slange Ava, has teamed up with Maggie’s 17 year old daughter, Shannon Petrie for a cover of the Don Williams classic.
The pairing goes back to last year’s Caithness Festival when Shannon did a guest spot with Slange Ava. Now, we hear Shannon on CD for the first time. Keith, of course, is an old hand in the studio, having recorded a solo album of his dad’s songs on “In My Father’s Words”, as well as recording with Manson & Slange Ava.
Their voices blend nicely together, and they’ve chosen a good song for this duet release. Available on ITunes.

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.