One Kiss – Open Road Recordings
Prairie Oyster are one of the most original sounding groups ever to appear on the Country scene. They hail from Ontario, and were making quite a name for themselves in the early nineties. Hugely popular in Canada, they even found themselves getting a lot of attention south of the border. They were so different, that their label, RCA Nashville didn’t know how to promote them, so they passed them to the New York division, who had even less of a clue.
They went quiet for a time, but are back with a bang, and a superb new album, that is just so refreshing to listen to.
Nobody has a voice like Russell deCarle. Nobody quite plays steel guitar like Dennis Delorme, or fiddle like John P Allen. Then there’s Keith Glass on guitars, and the wonderful Joan Besen on keyboards. Individually they won so many musician awards at the CCMA Awards , that they were eventually excluded from the nominations.
The secret of Prairie Oyster is that their sound can sound almost folksy one minute, and Cajun the next. There’s a touch of blues, and an old timey down home feel at the same time. And the harmonies just add to the magic!.
The album kicks off with the kinda bluesy “That’s My Home”, which suits deCarle’s unique vocal styling. Then we lighten up the tempo with the bouncy “Too Bad For Me”. Two very different styles which really work well.
The title track is next, written by the band’s Keith Glass, which has a haunting Latin flavour, rekindling similarities between Russell & Raul Malo. The similarities disappear on the deCarle/Glass joint composition, “Open Up Your Heart”, which is vintage country, with Besen’s fingers recreating a neat Floyd Cramer style piano, and such perfect harmonies.
If you’re not on board yet, you will be with “Long & Lonesome Old Freight Train”, a superb train song, the likes of only comes along once in a while.
“I Threw It All Away” is different again. Their version of the Dylan song has the band in serious mood for a change, but it all changes again with Don Gibson’s “Sweet, Sweet Girl To Me”, bright & breezy. Even better is “Drown Your Sorrows”. This is vintage Prairie Oyster. Written by Besen, the harmonies really shine through on this one, and is very reminiscent of the tracks I remember in my introduction to the group.
They do a neat uptempo “Mona Lisa”, which I had Carl Mann doing on an old Pickwick double album thirty years ago. Shaking Stevens did it too, but the instrumentation, and Russell’s voice here really do the song proud.
Keyboard queen Joan Besen takes up the vocals on “I Wish I’d Never Known Love”, which has a raw Cajun sound, thanks to the addition of accordion into the line up. It works well.
We’re back to classic Country and Russell’s great vocal style on “Long Time Gone”, before the album ends with “Heaven On Baton Rouge”, which has a smoky Country blues feel to it, with some cool guitar solos.
Prairie Oyster have a knack of rekindling old musical styles, but sounding fresh at the same time.
Check out “One Kiss”. I guarantee that you wont hear another CD like it this year!
Doc Walker – Open Road Recordings
Doc Walker are a five piece modern Country band from Canada, consisting of Chris Thorsteinson, Dave Wasyliv, Murray Pulver, Paul Yee and Chris Sutherland.
This is their second album, which they recorded in Franklin and Nashville.
Between the band members, they have written seven of the twelve tracks.
“What Did You See” is the first of them, a fast moving fun number really worked for me.
“I’m Just Gone” “Keri”, “This Is My Life” is a bit poppy for me, but probably fits in well with Country radio. “Your Momma Don’t Know”, on the other hand is hi energy rock’n’roll.
“That Train” and “She’s My Remedy” are much slower, and extremely pleasant listening.
Amongst the tracks that the band didn’t write, I really enjoyed Justin Currie’s Eagles sounding “Driving With The Brakes On”. The harmonies worked well, and this track was certainly one of my favourites.
They also cover Neil Young’s “Comes A Time”, which they lift the tempo, and give a really strong delivery on.
If you like the Lonestar/Rascall Flatts style of Country group, be sure to check out Doc Walker. Personally, for me, with a few notable sparks of inspiration, there’s not much here, for Doc Walker to stand out from the crowd.
Wish I Could Go – Two Rivers Music
Art is a young man making a lot of noise on the British Columbia Country scene, having already been nominated for the BCCMA’s Horizon Award.
He’s actually a native of Northern Ontario, and began touring in bands across the country, before settling out west.
He has quite a pleasant easy listening sound. The album kicks off with a beautifully folksy ballad, “Take Me Back To Yesterday”, which I really enjoyed. “Wish I Could Go” is another with such a simple fresh melody. This one describes the longing to just get on that train, and see where it ends up. “Blue Moon” has similar arrangements.
“I Don’t Mind If I Do” is quite a bit rockier, but still works well.
“Leave Me The Way You Left Me”, which he wrote with wife Lori, is the strongest Country song, with superb guitar, fiddle & steel backing him up. “Dancin’ Out The Rhythm” is another co-written with Lori, and they sure make music together. This one’s a bit bouncier, but conjures up visions of the pair picking and singing on the back porch.
“Let’s Shine” was Art’s debut single. It’s catchy, and fits into radio programmes nicely. His next single is “I Aint Superstitious”, which has a thumping modern beat, which doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album.
He adds a little Country Gospel with “Give Me Your Wisdom”, again with quite a simple arrangement.
Another ballad, “Believe” closes the 11 track album.
Produced by Tom McKillop, one of Canada’s most regular producers, and featuring 5 self penned numbers, Art has demonstrated a good vocal style that works well with the chosen songs.
I really enjoyed this album. One to really relax to
Very Best of Dolly Parton – Sony/BMG
This 20 track collection was released to tie in with Country music’s biggest personality visiting our shores a few weeks ago.
All the songs have been released time & time again, and the chance of making big sales must be quite slim. Nevertheless, if you’ve been on another planet for the past three decades, and don’t have any Dolly in your collection, then this will be for you.
In no particular order, we really do have 20 big ones here on one CD. From “9 to 5” , “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” to duets with Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Tammy & Loretta, Emmylou & Linda Ronstadt, and Billy Ray, all the most recognisable hits are here. Her early hits like “Dumb Blonde”, “Love Is Like A Butterfly” and “Coat Of Many Colours” are here alongside the down home flavoured “Applejack” and “Tennessee Mountain Home”.
I was pleased to see the inclusion of “Baby I’m Burning”. It’s different, and was instrumental in taking Dolly, and Country music to new levels (whether we liked it or not).
I cant say anything bad about the music- you wont buy an album with less hits on it than this one. I do feel, however, that anyone that would buy this CD, already has all the tracks already.
Put The O Back In Country – Humphead Records
Shooter is Waylon’s son, and he is continuing dad’s reputation as an outlaw whose feel are firmly in Country music. You’ll get the chance to see him live at Glasgow’s Arches on April 23rd, and to coincide with his visit, this album will be released here on the same day.
The album kicks off in pure Country style, and even has an introduction by George Jones, before he launches into the title track, and Jones returns at the end of the second track, “4th July” with a verse of “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.
“Lonesome Blues” and “Solid Country Gold” continue in a simpler Country style, before he really starts to rock it up with “Busted In Baylor County”, and “Steady At The Wheel”, separated by the slower “Sweet Savannah”. “Daddy’s Farm” is also pure rock.
“Manifesto No.1” is a racy, rocky number, but is pure Country in an outlaw kind of way. “The Letter” is an interesting track. Pure country lyrics, but with a Hammond Organ backing. It works though.
The album also includes 4 bonus live tracks recorded at the Irving Plaza last April, of which only “It Aint Easy” will be the only track that will interest Country fans, being a tribute to dad Waylon, and the influence he had on him.
Shooter is hard to categorise. This album starts off with Anthems to real Country music, then sounds more like ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I guess we call him a Southern Rocker.
Greatest Hits – Humphead Records
Humphead Records’s second release is a greatest hits collection from Californian native, Gary Allan, who has had considerable success in America in the last ten years, without really getting much attention on this side of the Atlantic.
With a dedicated label like Humphead, that’s all about to change.
The most notable thing about this “greatest hits” collection is the different styles that have proved to be successful for him.
I personally enjoyed the softer sentimental ones best, like “Her Man”(his first Top 10 single), and “Tough Little Boys”, a song about fatherhood.
“Songs About Rain” is one of his biggest hits to date. The voice comes over quite Dylan-ish, but adapts well to the song. Much more commercial was the smash “Nothing On But The Radio”, which did get a fair bit of airplay, following it’s original release back in 2003.
“Smoke Rings In The Dark” has a Roy Orbison feel about it, and works quite nicely.
There’s a couple of new songs, “A Feelin’ Like That”, a good modern radio friendly number, and “As The Crow Flies”, a rocker written by Keith Gattis.
Other hits featured here include “Right Where I Need To Be”, “Man To Man”, ”The One” and “Man Of Me”, amongst others. There’s 15 tracks in all.
If you’ve not got acquainted with Gary Allan, now’s your chance.
The Invisible Man – Full Light Records (US import)
Nashville based Darrell Scott, made two appearances in Glasgow back in January during “Celtic Connections”.
Darrell produced this album, and wrote all but one of the tracks on this 12 song collection. The exception being “Shattered Cross”, written by the late Stuart Adamson (from Dunfermline) and Jerry Boonstra.
The instrumentation features Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and Richard Bennett, whilst vocals come from the cream of Nashville session singers- Suzy Ragsdale, Jonell Mosser, Marcus Hummon, and John Cowan.
They music is quite heavy on political and social issues, whether it’s the American people, the cowboy, religion, and even Jack & Jill.
The album starts with “Hank Williams Ghost”, quite a rocky start to the album, which really has nothing to do with Hank, other than pointing out that we can all live life in the fast lane a little too often, and that Hank’s fate could be ours sooner than we plan.
“Looking Glass” stands out for it’s quiet reflective mood, with Scott himself on piano, and Andrea Zonn on violin. “And The River Is Me” also stands out for it’s simplicity.
“I’m Nobody” with a deep spoken vocal delivery” and chorus, is different enough to catch the ear.
“The Dreamer” is probably one of the most traditional Country tracks on the album, thanks to Tim O’Brien’s fiddle & mandolin. It’s certainly my favourite cut.
This album has the same type of sound Steve Earle offered on his “Guitar Town” album. Gutsy Country Rock with attitude – a sound that gets you noticed.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER
The Calling – Zoe Records
Mary Chapin was another artist who graced us with her presence at this years’ Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. It turned out to be one of the fastest selling concerts over the whole three week event.
It’s 20 year’s since her “Hometown Girl” first appeared, and received stunning reviews from the critics, and was ignored by Country Radio. Several hits like “Down At The Twist & Shout”, and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” changed all that.
It’s been 4 years since her last release, and whilst there’s no “Twists & Shouts” on this album, there are some really cracking tracks.
“The Calling”, the opening track has really grown on me since it appeared at the start of the year. It’s a song that well suits her style. Similarly , “We’re All Right”, although, a bit more uptempo, has that unique Chapin sound. It’s one of the most commercial tracks on the 13 track collection.
I also enjoyed “Your Life Story” ,“Why Shouldn’t We” and the simple “Bright Morning Star”.
I did enjoy this album. There’s a good balance of brighter lively songs alongside her softer slower tracks.
The most memorable thing about the first concert I saw Mary Chapin perform was her constant changing of guitars. Well, apparently, on this album, she recorded every song with her trusted 31 year old Martin HD28, her first guitar.
ISLA GRANT –
Faith, Love And Hope - Rosette Records
Isla is one of Scotlans's top musical exports, selling out across Ireland, Australia & Canada. She is yet to achieve the success that she richly deserves from her ain folk.
Her latest album, on Ireland's CMR label (and distributed in the UK by Rosette) sees the gentle Borders based singer songwriter concentrate on the popular light gospel market. Across the 13 self penned tracks, Isla sings of family values and respect for God, without being getting too heavily religious.
Indeed, the format is the same warm style that we've become used to from Isla.
If you're already a big fan, you'll recognise a couple of tracks. "Will You Walk With Me", and her Christmas song, "The Day That Christ Was Born" have been released previously, but there are still 11 new tracks on offer here.
My favourites would have to be the bouncy "He Walks Beside Me" and "Will You Walk With Me", together with "If Only This Old World Could Be A Peace".