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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Feb 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dec 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

October 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Aug 2014

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m usually less than enthusiastic about compilation CD’s, but our next offering is something quite outstanding. “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats : A New Music City” (Sony Legacy)  is a 36 track double CD collection, released to coincide with an exhibit at Nashville’s Country Music Hall Of Fame.
It takes us back to a time when Dylan arrived in Music City to record “Blonde On Blonde”, and Cash was recruiting folk & rock musicians for his ground breaking network TV show.  It’s a time when Country music, and Nashville, came out of the box, and gained much wider appreciation.
Bob Dylan may not be the most melodic vocalist in the world, but he certainly is one of the planet’s most prolific songwriters, having his material recorded in all genres of music.
This collection features three Dylan self-compositions, including an unreleased version of “If Not For You”. There’s also “Girl From The North Country”, which he wrote and recorded with Cash.
Johnny Cash, for his part, is featured performing Dylan’s “It Aint Me Babe”.
There’s a fair sprinkling of classic folk rock tracks from the likes of The Byrds, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristofferson, Country Joe McDonald, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joan Baez, Steve Goodman, Neil Young and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
But there’s quite a few surprises too. There are individual tracks from George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, signifying The Beatles influence on American music generally. All three tracks are very different, and all fit nicely into this collection.
Would you believe, Derek & The Dominos are in there too. Of course, Eric Clapton was in the band, and he later extended his Nashville connection by working with Don Williams. The track here is from the Johnny Cash TV show, where they jam on “Matchbox” with Cash & Carl Perkins.
Then, up pop The Monkees, or perhaps more correctly Mike Nesmith, on his own “Some Of Shelley’s Blues”. What a great song, later recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Finally, such a joy to hear Linda Ronstadt team up with Earl Scruggs on The Hag’s “Silver Wings”, and there’s a great version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road”.
It’s some collection. It’s certainly not a random set of songs from a label catalogue. A lot of thought has went into its’ compilation. It features some real gems, and comes with a 32 page booklet with sleevenotes from Tracy Nelson, Pete Finney and Michael Gray, and information about all the songs.
As a piece of Country music history, this CD should be in every fans collection.

For the past 25 years, ALAN JACKSON has proved himself to be one of Country music’s most popular international entertainers, without really touring a whole lot outside of North America.
His latest album, his 15th mainstream studio album, is “Angels & Alcohol” (Humphead), which continues the Alan Jackson sound that we’ve been accustomed to.
He starts off with a slow intro into “You Can Always Come Home”, but a minute in, he lifts the tempo to that trademark AJ sound.
The title track is a beautiful ballad, which Alan does his own way. “The One You’re Waiting On”, is another lovely ballad, this time from the pen of Adam & Shannon Wright, the duo Alan has nurtured over the years (Adam is his nephew). No favouritism here though. The song wins its’ place on the album on merit.
“Gone Before You Met” featured some really nice instrumentation, that it could’ve been a throwback from his recent bluegrass album.
“When God Paints”, another ballad is a very simple ballad, which wouldn’t have been out of place on his gospel albums.
He has a couple of upbeat tracks including “Jim and Jack and Hank” and “You Never Know”. Rounding off the album, “Mexico, Tequila and Me” has a familiar feel to it. I really expected Jimmy Buffett to pop up on it.
There’s loads of Country guys appeared on the scene since Jackson was the new boy on the block. But 26 years on, he’s still making great records, and one of the few true Country Boys in Nashville!.

Texan singer songwriter KACEY MUSGRAVES has really took Country music by storm since release of her album “Same Trailer Different Park”, and hits “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go Round”.  It proved that TV talent shows aren’t the only way to break into the music business. (She only came 7th in the 2007 season of “Nashville Star”)
Now, she’s back with her second major label album, “Pageant Material” (Mercury). The title track sums up Kacey nicely. Don’t tell her what to do. She’s her own person, and wont follow protocol, just because that’s what you should do.
That’s even evident in her international career. I can’t remember the last time that a Nashville artist got their album released here, on the same day as it’s American release, and promoted it with a different radio single!  I’m glad she did. “High Time”, which opens the album, but hasn’t been a single back in the states, is an absolutely gorgeous song, which has had a lot of radio play here, especially on Radio 2.  It’s a brilliant song, a shade nostalgic, a simple arrangement, with such an easy, irresistible whistle along chord.
Elsewhere, there are shades of Loretta Lynn or Bobbie Gentry, as she uses her deep Texan drawl to deliver songs like “This Town” and “Dime Store Cowgirl”.
“Biscuits”, the US single, has quite a catchy chorus line, and even Willie Nelson gets in on the act here. “Late To The Party” is a lovely romantic ballad, which she hasn’t really delivered before, but proves quite capable.
Apart from “High Time”, I really like the self centred “Somebody To Love”, laced with some beautiful steel guitar courtesy of Paul Franklin. Paul also helps out on the business bashing “Good Ol’ Boys Club”. The bouncy “Family Is Family” really hits hometown life on the nail.
As I say, Kacey ain’t like anyone else in Country music today, or in the past. She’s breathing new life
Into the music.
A real winner !

THE BELLAMY BROTHERS are something of a Country music institution. This year, Howard & David are celebrating their 40 years of hits, and to mark the occasion, the aptly titled “40 Years” (Proper Distribution) has been released. It’s a 2 CD set. CD1 features 20 of the Brothers’ big hits, like “Let Your Love Flow”, “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body”, “Old Hippie” and “Kids Of The Baby Boom”. The other CD features 20 newer songs, all but one original. The exception is “The Rock”, written by Scotland’s own Frankie Miller.
I do like The Bellamy Brothers sound. I always have. Hailing from Florida, they perhaps have never been fully accepted in Nashville, as they don’t sound like everyone else. They’ve been nominated for Country duo more than any others at the CMA’s, yet have never won. That’s a crime!
Although I enjoyed their new songs here, I was to say that I was a shade disappointed. They sounded just like ….. themselves!. Some of the songs were very similar to previous hits, but then, why change a winning formula.
I did especially like “Heaven And Hell”, a lovely ballad, which didn’t sound too familiar. “Together We Have It All”, is a simple old fashioned love ballad. They acknowledged their international following on “Jet Lag Journey”, which was a bit more upbeat.
They could court some controversy with “We Don’t Call 911”, suggesting that if you arm yourself with a gun, you can take the law into your own hands. There’s also one called “Boobs”, a tongue in cheek number which you’ll have to check out for yourself.
I’ve several Bellamy hits collections, but I guess another to mark their 40th Anniversary, is a good deal especially when marketed with newer material.

Country music has its’ legends, but there is no doubt that WILLIE NELSON and MERLE HAGGARD are the two greatest living legends in our music. They’ve teamed up for “Django & Jimmie” (Sony Legacy), a new 14 track collection, which features new material, as well as reworking of song old classics.
The album, and titled track, was inspired by Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. Both, influential in each of their careers, apparently.  Another inspiration was obviously Johnny Cash, and, together with Bobby Bare, they pay homage to him on “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”. They do the song in Cash’s own style, and cover some aspects of his life, which aren’t all favourable.
The lead single, “It’s All Going To Pot”, covers the cannabis culture, which is legal in some US states these days. “Live This Long”, was written by Shawn Camp and Marv Green, but is such a great song for this pair, it could’ve been written by themselves.
Willie, and long time producer Buddy Cannon wrote the uptempo “It’s Only Money”, the catchy “Driving The Herd” and the rather sad “Where Dreams Come To Die”, whilst Merle wrote “The Only Man Wilder Than Me”.
Of the classics, Willie’s “Family Bible”, and Merle’s “Swinging Doors” and “Somewhere Between”
are given the 2015 treatment, as is Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.
Great to hear these two legends still delivering such great music. Just the way you’d expect them to.
A superb album!

JOHN & JACOB are a Country act which hails from Birmingham, Alabama, but are intent on making a name for themselves in the UK. They’ve played several gigs here, and had a couple of songs playlisted on Radio 2. Their self titled debut album has just been released here, and is already getting some good reviews.
The first thing that strikes you about “John & Jacob”, the CD, is the cover picture, which has five guys on it. John Davidson and Jacob Bryant have known each other since childhood, and spent over a decade playing clubs, bars and festivals around America’s Southern states, before the act evolved into a full band. So whilst John & Jacob are the act, Jake Thrasher, Trevor Davis and Austin Taylor Smith completer the band. Hopefully that clears up the confusion.
Their influences are as diverse as The Beatles, Blitzen Trapper, Southern Soul & Gospel, and Classic Country. And, indeed, it’s a sort of sixties pop sound that came over for me throughout the album.  The vocals are clear, the guitars’ twang, and it’s quite a listenable album, but wasn’t very Country in my opinion.
The lads are writers for Nashville publishers, which will naturally find them mixing in Country circles. All eleven tracks are self penned, and they deliver them well.
My choice cuts would be the rockin’ “Breaking The Law”, and the bouncy “Be My Girl”.

BILLY CURRINGTON is one of Country music’s most established male singers.  The Savannah, Georgia native singer has just released his sixth album, “Summer Forever” (Humphead) since first hitting the charts twelve years ago. In that time, he’s notched up nine Country Number One’s including “People are Crazy”, and “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer”.
This latest album continues the style that Currington has become recognised for. It features a dozen songs from a stellar list of Nashville writers including Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Hillary Lindsey, and was produced by Dann Huff.
There are some good songs here, most notably, “Drinking Town With a Football Problem”, which I’m sure could be adopted here, even if the football is a different game.
“Don’t It”, which opens the album, is a modern upbeat number. In contrast, “Give It To Me Straight” is more of a ballad. “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used”, the one track which Currington was involved in the writing, is an OK song. It’s a little repetitive, but quite enjoyable.
“Do I Make You Wanna” and “Nowhere Town” also had some appeal.
Other tracks, I’m afraid were lost on me. “Soundtrack”, and the title track should have no problem getting airplay on pop radio stations. Just didn’t sound Country to me.
It’s modern Nashville male Country. If that’s your thing, then check it out !

EASTON CORBIN is one of the newer Nashville guys, whose sound I’d actually call Country!
He burst onto the scene in 2009 with “A Little More Country Than That” (co-written by Rory Feek).
Now Humphead have just released “About To Get Real”, his third album.
I’ve always thought Corbin had a natural George Strait sound, and that is still evident on the title track, and the closing ballad, “Like A Song”, amongst other tracks.
“Wild Women And Whiskey”, written by Ronnie Dunn & Terry McBride, is the stand out track for me. It’s pure Country, and worth the price of the CD alone.
“Baby Be My Love Song”, is quite a catchy number. It’s his latest stateside single, and doing real good for him. “Just Add Water” is another uptempo song, which I really enjoyed.
“Are You With Me” is much slower a number, again reminiscent of Mr Strait.
It’s another superb album from Easton Corbin, who may not quite have had the recognition he deserves (especially over here). Hopefully this album will win him many more fans.
Highly recommended.

MIKE DEVINE is one of Scotland’s longest established Country entertainers. He’s played support with many Irish and American acts, and even played the Wembley Festival, and that wasn’t yesterday.  He plays mainly in the North, but fans everywhere can enjoy his music with the latest of many CD’s he has released through the years.  (another six currently available on his website)
“Love You Every Second” was produced by Ronnie Ross at Kirhill Recording in Inverness, and features a nice easy listening Country.
The album kicks off with a cover of Isla Grant’s haunting “Ghosts Of Culloden”, and closes with Dave Sheriff’s “Best Of Friends”. In between, you’ll hear everything from “Galway Girl” and the popular line dance tune, “Closer” , to two Charlie Landsborough numbers. He does a really nice version of Katy Moffatt’s “Walking On The Moon” and “I’ll Leave This World Loving You”  really stands out. There’s also Alan Jackson’s “Livin’ On Love” and Mark Chesnut’s “Ol’ Country”.
A really nice listen.

Now, as they say, for something completely different.
Some readers may be familiar with THE HELLFIRE CLUB. They have played around West of Scotland’s Country venues in recent years. But their roots were in the indie scene, and they’ve went back to that side of the live scene, although they’ve certainly kept some of the Country influence for this album, titled “Songs For Fallen Stars”, recorded in Glasgow at La Chunky studios.
The band is a seven piece outfit featuring Bob Anderson, Rab Armour, Nick Ronan, Mark Ferrari, Helen Brown , Willie Brown and Kenny Irvine.
Some of the tracks are quite rocky, but listen out for the Country tracks.
“Cal” has some superb west coast influences, somewhere between Gram Parsons & The Eagles.
“Hint Of A Wink”, reminded me of that other Glasgow band from years gone by – The Humpff Family. A real good time sound, with some great fiddle in the mix.
“Absent Friends” is a bit slower. The instrumentation is quite retro Country. Certainly not a modern Nashville sound.
“Deli’s Clock” is a real uptempo foot tapper, with a really infectious fiddle, and chorus line.
Like some concept albums, there are a few short interludes between some of the tracks. They hardly got going, before fading out. I’m afraid I missed the point of them.
But, I have to say this album was a pleasant surprise. Not what I was expecting. But I liked it.  

DARK GREEN TREE are an Alt-Country trio, whose roots can be traced back to a meeting during the Edinburgh Festival, 5 years ago, between Jay Brown and Ross Cockburn. They discussed  
writing songs together, but it was a few years later before that idea became a reality.
Last summer the pair get down to recording at the Home at Heriot Toun Studio, when they realised that their songs could incorporate close female harmonies. Enter Cera Impala, and Dark Green Tree was complete.
The album, “Secret Lives” (Haven Records) with 10 self penned tracks, is full of haunting vocal harmonies. Their music has been likened to Buffalo Springfield, and certainly the opening track, “Yearn For Love”, has that guitar driven west coast soft Country rock feel to it. “Rolling Wind” and  “Secret Life” are in the same mould.
There’s some nice fiddle from John McCusker on the folksy feeling “Sarah”.
“Skin And Bone”, “Heart Of Winter” have more a haunting celtic feel to them.
It’s an interesting album. Dark Green Tree have an interesting sound.

For the past nine years, Gram Parsons music lived on across the Scottish music scene, thanks to THE CITY SINNERS. But things move on, and the band recently called it a day.
But, as a souvenir, the band made one final recording, “The City Sinners 2015”, a seven track mini-CD, which, maybe surprisingly doesn’t include any Gram Parsons songs !
There are four tracks from the pen of band leader John Hinshelwood, including “What’s Left (Is What’s Right” and “Tell Me Something”, which have also appeared on his own albums.
There’s an original song, “Newborn Man” written and sung by Kathy Stewart. Kathy also takes lead vocals on Ian Tyson’s classic “Someday Soon” and “Not Yet”.
There’s a lovely blending of vocals on Jesse Winchester’s “A Showman’s Life”. The track also features some wonderful steel guitar courtesy of Malcolm McMaster.
Although the line up changed through the years, this farewell CD , recorded at Carlton Studio in Glasgow, features John, Kathy & Malcolm, alongside David McKee, Iain Barbour and Frank McHugh, with additional vocals from Paula McKee on the harmony laded original “Not Yet”.
This CD is meant as a souvenir for City Sinners fans, and isn’t on general release. But do check the website I’m sure you’ll can secure a copy there.

NATHAN CARTER is currently the hottest property on the Irish scene. Of course, hailing originally from Liverpool, and the great musical heritage they have there, he picked up the best of both worlds.
After building up his Irish career for the past few years, he has now been picked up by Decca Records.
Being with a big label, means promotion like national TV exposure. The label appreciate what he’s achieved to date, and want to bring the songs that have worked for him to the new audiences. The down side, is that his debut big label album, “ Beautiful Life”, features mostly material that his long time fans will already have in their collections.
But Radio 2, and TV show’s like “Lorraine” can win many new fans for his versions of “Wagon Wheel”, “Where I Wanna Be”, “Saw You Running” and “Drift Away”. The album does include three of Nathan’s own compositions, including “Boat To Liverpool”, “Welcome To The Weekend”  and “Call You Home”, a brand new song, co-written with John Farry and Nashville based Canadian songwriter Ralph Murphy. It’s a beautiful ballad which I really enjoyed.
The other track that really stood out for me was “On The Other Side”, another beautiful ballad, written by ex Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, Tom Botkin and Kevin Denney.
Nathan is a superb entertainer, and deserves his break. Hopefully, the success of this album will encourage the label, and others, to seek out other home grown acts for their labels.

NICKY JAMES has been building up a solid Country music career across the UK. Originally from Ireland, he’s spent time in Switzerland, and these days, is based in the North west of England, and visits Scotland regularly.   Back in the 1980’s he played in a band with his brother Joe McShane. As a solo act he won the BCM Award for Male vocalist.
This album, “About Time” is well titled. Nicky has been working on it since 2008. But it’s well worth the wait. There are 15 tracks, ranging from Country classics like “Make The World Go Away”, and “The Running Kind”, to the evergreen folk classic, “Hard Times”, and recent US Country hits like “Is It Friday Yet”.
Nathan Carter joins Nicky on a cover of Buck Owens’ “Come On In”, and there’s some lovely harmonies from The Haleys. I enjoyed the whole album, but especially want to mention the catchy “You’re In Love With The Wrong Man”, Harlan Howard’s “You Heart Turned Left”, which is a real toe tapper, and the superb ballads “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” , “Once More” and “My Time With You”.
Nicky James is a superb entertainer, and this album really was worth the wait.

DAVE SHERIFF is certainly one of the UK’s major Country music entertainers, with years of experience. He’s covered the UK scene from every angle, and still keeps his act fresh. He’s been playing music since the 70’s, and been releasing his own CD’s since 1991.
His latest album, “Undecided” (Stomp) features 22 original self written songs. And the impressive thing for me is that, they are all different styles. Dave covers an amazing amount of variety on this album, from “Highway Trucker” and “Highway Bandido” to the romantic “Kristina’s Smile”, or “All Alone In Limburg”
In between there’s up tempo foot tappers like “Take Me For What I Am” and “Mama Said”, and   classic Country sounds on “You Cant Do Better Than That” and “One Way Or Another”.
There’a a bit of rock’n’roll on “Money Lovin’ Valentine” and 50’s style ballad on “I Know One”.
“Live Until You Die” has a distinct Irish feel to it, whilst he appeals to the Scottish ceilidh fans on “West Highland Home”.
The backing is superb, and it all makes this album a very entertaining listen.

Next up, we have a Welsh rock musician, whose album certainly appealed to a Country boy
 like me. STEVE LOGAN is very much influenced by Neil Young, and it’s that acoustic folk rock sound that gives his latest album, “Deliverance” quite a Country feel in places.
The album, recorded in Cambridge, features 11 self penned songs. Some of the songs will be too rocky for Country fans, but several are certainly aimed at the Country fan, especially ballads like “Where Eagles Fly”, “Just The Way Your Heart Beats” and “Way Out”.
“Spanish Steps”, has a nice relaxed feel to it, with some nice harmonica, during it’s 60 second intro.
“Long Way From Home” is a more uptempo number, with a driving beat, which I really enjoyed.
“Real Thing”, which closes the album is another track which draws heavily from the harmonica sound.
Steve has a fair voice. Not traditional, or modern Country. I guess it’s an Acoustic, alt-Country album, which I must say, I quite enjoyed.

JACE EVERETT was one of the artists who came over a few years ago to Celtic Connections, as part of the CMA’ “New From Nashville” campaign. In fact, Jace was part of the promotion two years running.
He is a singer songwriter from Indiana, but travelled via Texas before completing his education, and starting his musical career in Nashville. His claim’s to fame include writing Josh Turners No.1 hit, “Your Man”, and performing “Bad Things”, the theme to the HBO TV series “True Blood”. That song actually made the UK pop charts, back in 2009.
He’s had considerable success in Norway, where “Bad Things” reached No.2 in the pop charts, and one of his albums reached No.12.
But his US Country success was limited to one song, “That’s The Kind Of Love I’m In”, which only reached No.52 on the Country charts.
But Humphead Records, here in the UK, have shown their support for Jace, with several single releases throughout the years, and have just released a “Good Things …The Best Of”, which features 18 tracks, including four live tracks. The afore mentioned US hit, is not one of the tracks!
Jace has quite a unique sound. It’s certainly not the sound that you’d expect to hear coming out of Nashville. He has more of a haunting rock edge to his music, but, having said that, several of the songs on here, have a real Country feel to them.
Listen out for “Pretty Good Life”, which has quite a radio friendly sound. Then “No Place To Hide”, which is labelled “Mountain Mix” sounds like something out of a western movie.
It’s an interesting album, but didn’t really appeal to me that much.

JONATHAN EDWARDS is one of music’s unsung heroes. He’s been around the music scene since the mid sixties, and is a highly respected singer songwriter and musician, without getting the popular recognition he deserves. He was born in Minnesota, found his musical roots whilst at University in Ohio, before moving to Boston to play in the thriving scene there. A certain Joe Dolce was in an early band with him.  He later played on Emmylou Harris iconic “Elite Hotel” album.
To date, Edwards has released 17 albums, the latest, “Tomorrow’s Child” (Rising Records) is an easy listening Country folk outing, which is a real joy to listen to. Edwards wrote 5 of the tracks himself, and another with Jon Vezner (Mr Kathy Mattea). Other contributions come from Marcus Hummon, Joe Walsh , Malcolm Holcobe and Stephen Foster.
It’s quite an acoustic album, which you hear every note on every instrument and every octave in Jonathan’s vocal range.
The album kicks off with the lilting “Down In The Woods”, which is a really bright start to the album. That’s followed by the rather haunting track, which features some effective harmony from Allison Krauss, whose tones can make any record.  Vince Gill harmonises on a couple of tracks, including the gorgeous “The Girl From The Canyon”
“Mole In The Ground”, has a bit more of bluegrass sound, thanks to the banjo, and “This Old Guitar”, sounds more old timey. Then, the emotional “Johnny’s Come Home”, which closes the album is really folksy.
His version of the often recorded “Hard Times” is sung in a stunning accapella gospel style with Sarah Dugas and Odessa Settles. It’s so different to other versions of the song,  that it really stands out.
It’s great to hear Jonathan Edwards back on the CD player again. An acquired taste, but someone that deserves much more recognition than he gets. A worthy listen.

Next up, THE MIKE + RUTHY BAND, principally Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar, who spent seven years in Pete Seeger’s grandsons’ band The Mammals, before forming their own outfit.  Now comes the album, “Bright As You Can Be” (Humble Abode Music / Thirty Tigers).
To say that the album portrays an eclectic musical mix would be something of an understatement. They draw from folk, bluegrass and Country, to rock and even Motown throughout the album.
The opening and title track has quite a modern bluegrass approach, and certainly got me interested from the off. “Word On The Street” is more of a straight Country song, with lots of fiddle and steel in the mix. Then we get into a couple of more soul sounding tracks before “Freckled Ocean”, a rather pleasant song, with quite a folksy feel to it.
“The Ghost Of Richard Manuel”, the only song on the CD not written by Mike & Ruthy, displays some neat harmonies, with some nice Country instrumentation. Got me thinking what Lady Antebelum could sound like with a Country backing. “Simple & Sober” is another really nice, simple bluegrassy number, which Ruthy’s vocals really suit. “The Farmer” appealed as well.
It’s an interesting album.  If you like bluegrass with a twist of pop and soul, check it out!

ED DUPAS is a singer songwriter from Michigan, although he was born in Texas, and lived for a while in Canada. For the past ten years, he’s performed self penned acoustic material in Detroit bars. Now he has released his debut album, “A Good American Life” (Mackinaw Harvest).
It’s an enjoyable set of strong songs, taking in patriotic angles on the title track, and “Flag”, whilst homelife is covered in the simple arrangements of  “This Old Town” and “Home In Time”.
“With Love You’ll Never Know” is an exceptionally nice ballad, with Tata Cleveland on harmony vocals. I also really liked “Whiskey Bones”.
It’s a pleasant listen. Worth checking out.

SAM LEWIS is a new name to me, but has being making a lot of pleasing noises in Nashville lately. “Waiting On You” (Brash Music) is the follow up to his acclaimed self titled debut three years ago.
Personally, although appealing to Country fans, I’d say he has more of a bluesy sound, than Country. He reminded me of T Graham Brown, and his bluesy sound didn’t stop him having a successful Country career, so I feel Sam could follow suit.
Lewis wrote all the songs, except “Little Time”, which he co-wrote with Taylor Bates. Musicians include Kenny Vaughn (from Marty Stuart’s band), Darrell Scott and Will Kimbrough. There’s also harmonies from The McCrary Sisters.
“Never Again” is probably the most Country track on the 12 track CD. It’s a slow ballad with very little backing, although the weeping steel guitar sounder wonderful on it. Mickey Raphael’s wonderful harmonica really makes “Texas” stand out. I also really liked the nostalgic “Virginia Avenue”, a real front porch song, and “I’m Coming Home”, where it was keyboards that really stood out.
This album really grew on me. I don’t know if it’s because the more Country songs were later in the album, but, even the bluesy numbers were quite listenable.

 Finally, THE RAILSPLITTERS are a Colorado based band whose music is described as “Rockygrass”. There’s certainly a bluegrass feel to their second album, “The Faster It Goes”, which was released here to coincide with a recent tour here.
The five piece band features neat vocals from Lauren Stovall, banjo from Dusty Rider, fiddle from Christine King, Peter Sharpe on mandolin and Leslie Ziegler on bass.
They have come up with an enjoyable album of original material. Only one track, the closing, “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” wasn’t composed by members of the band. This track also stands out as it’s the only track with a male lead vocal.
I loved the opening track, “Tilt-A-Whirl”, a really catchy number to get us in the mood.
“Tell Me” has a bit of a nostalgic feel to it, whilst “It’s A Little Late” has quite a bluesy angle to it.
“The Estuary” is a lovely instrumental half way through the album. It has a nice folksy feel, and you can just imagine it playing as you sit by a river somewhere. There’s another instrumental, “Goosetown”, which is altogether a bit more upbeat.
It’s an interesting album, from a very talented bunch.