This time around we’re going to start in The Faroe Islands, north of Shetland, which never fails to impress with its’ production of traditional Country music. I doubt if many musicians in Nashville have even heard of the place, let alone played there, but they certainly love the traditional sounds.
OLIVER (Olavur Hojgaard) is not the first Faroese artist I’ve reviewed in these pages, but he continues the trend of producing excellent real Country music albums.
Perhaps it’s because of its’ remote location, that Country music there has remained so pure.
To record this album, Oliver travelled to Nashville, to record his album “When I’m Dreaming” on Music Row, with players like Charlie McCoy, Wanda Vick, Lonnie Wilson, David Hungate and Brent Mason.
All the songs are original, either written by Oliver, Martin Joensen or Lena Anderssen.
He has a track on the album called “Gotta Go To Nashville”, which, of course, he did making the album. It did concern me that the traditional Country music sounds of The Faroes was selling out to the commercial Nashville scene, but I’m glad to say that there is no sign of that.
The title track from the album has already received a bit of airplay from being included on the Hotdisc Rush Released Radio CD, which Jackie reviews in his column. Other tracks that I particularly enjoyed included “Baby Just Talk” and “My Horse And My Saddle And I”. But, really, there isn’t a bad track on the album.
If you like real, traditional Country music, this is one for you (www.oliver.fo)
From Nashville comes RANDY HOUSER. His new album, “Anything Goes”, released here on the Blue Wrasse label has been, in his own words, “25 years in the making”. Randy got his break after writing Trace Adkins big hit, “Honku Tonk Badonkadonk”. That made people sit up and take notice of Houser.
My initial impression was that this was quite a rocky affair, especially on the opening track, “Boots On”, and on numbers like “My Kind Of Country”, “Strange” and “Paycheck Man”. These tracks didn’t do much for me at all. But as I gave the album another listen, I found that he could handle a mean ballad too.
The album’s title track is such a ballad. Well sung, and one that’s certainly made for Country radio. “Something Real” also falls into this category.
Vince Gill joins Randy on the Jon Randell / Al Anderson composition, “How Many Times”, which more of an old fashioned soul ballad than a Country number.
The closing track, “I’ll Sleep” is the most Country track on the album. It has a distinctive George Strait sound.
That could be Randy’s problem. On balance, this ain’t a bad album, but he just doesn’t have a sound of his own. He just sounds like every other male singer in Music City.
Nashville seems to be in an open door to entertainers from other genres these days. Whether you’re a dancer on Dancing With The Stars, or more famous for your movies, there’s an opening in Nashville for you (whilst the real Country singers cant get a break). The latest name to appear is actor KEVIN COSTNER. He and his band, Modern West have just released an album of modern Country music, called “Untold Truths”.
In truth, it’s not a typical Nashville album. He used four different Music City studio’s as well as ones in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. None of the players are names you would instantly recognise from a Nashville album.
The “Bodyguard” and “Dancing With Wolves” actor isn’t new to music. He was in a band called “Roving Boy” before he made it in Hollywood.
He describes the album as “Roots rock with elements of Country”. He cites his influences as Mellencamp, Tom Petty and Springsteen. All of these influences come through on the album. There’s lots of twanging guitars.
I did find the album quite listenable. Costner has quite a good voice, suited to these songs. It’s not a bad album, but directing it towards Country music fans may not be the best direction to promote his singing career.
Directing his music towards Country fans hasn’t done RAUL MALO any harm. The voice of The Mavericks, who was recently in Northern Ireland for the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival has a new album, “Lucky One” just released here (Fantasy label).
Raul comes over quite relaxed on this album, but then his sound is more inspired by the crooners than the cowboys.
That’s not to say it’s not a bad album. I really quite enjoyed it. It was refreshing to here an album this different. There are uptempo , Mavericks type tracks, such as “Something Tells Me”, “Hello Again” and , especially “Lonely Hearts”.
The other tracks have quite a “retro” feel to them, which should appeal to a wider audience.
Every track was co- written by Malo, and recorded at Sound Shop Studio in Nashville.
I was never a huge Mavericks fan, and wasn’t taken with Malo’s previous solo outing, but I really found “Lucky One” to be a huge blast of fresh air.
Moving on down to Texas, and we find KIMMIE RHODES heading our way for a concert at Glasgow’s Classic Grand on May 2nd. Her music is Austin certified, and her songs have been recorded by everyone from Emmylou and Willie through to Wynonna and Peter Frampton.
To tie in with her visit, her “Ten Summers” CD, originally released in 2005, is being re-issued here on April 19th on the Sunbird label.
The album features the pick of her music during the 1995-2005 period, and includes collaborations with Waylon Jennings, Townes Van Zante, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Beth Neilson Chapman. All 14 tracks are written by Kimmie.
The stand out tracks are the Waylon duet, “Maybe We’ll Just Disappear”, and the beautiful “Love & Happiness” with Emmylou & Beth.
There’s some nice music on here. I find Kimmie quite easy on the ear, and music is never overdone.
Staying with the American girls, and Long Island raised DIANA JONES paid us a quick visit last month, with dates in both Glasgow & Edinburgh. To tie in with the tour she released her 4th album, “Better Times Will Come”(Proper Records).
Diana’s first break came when she had a song cut by Joan Baez, but it was her third album ,”My Remembrence Of You” in 2006 that really got her noticed.
This album should further gain her recognition.
Diana has a beautiful deep folksy voice, which works really well on the songs, which are all from her own pen.
Guests on the album include Mary Gauthier and Nanci Griffith.
The album includes Henry Russell’s Last Words”, the song which Joan Baez cut all those years ago, and “If I Had A Gun”, which Gretchen Peters fans may recognise.
I really enjoyed the album, especially “All God’s Children”, “Soldier Girl” and “Evangelina”.
Diana wont appeal to the pop country fan, but if you like your Country music, veering towards folk, bluegrass and old timey influences, then this could really be one for you to treasure.
We’ve had quite a few new releases from south of the border in the past few weeks.
The first release on internet radio station CMR Nashville’s own label is “Butterfly In A Hurricane”, from 16 year old BRIANIE.
Whilst Brianie recorded her vocals in Sailsbury, the music was produced in Nashville by Mark Moseley.
Whilst possessing a strong voice, she has that “little girl” feel about the album, and it works really well on tracks like “Daddy’s School”, Lorna Flowers’ “I’m Not Ready Yet” and “Mama Tell Me”. She really does really strong versions on these numbers.
Unfortunately she struggles with more uptempo numbers like “I Still Think About You” and “High Performance Woman”.
Having said that, Brianie, is still young, and has plenty of time to perfect her craft. If she’s dedicated enough, she’ll make it.
BEX MARSHALL , originally from Devon, now bases herself in London. She is well travelled with her music, and has secured the talents of Hayseed Dixie’s Don & Dale Ross to play on her new album, “Kitchen Table” (House of Mercy Records).
All ten tracks on the album are from Bex’s own pen. They are difficult to categorise.
There’s traces of contemporary singers like Rosanne Cash , Mary-Chapin, Tift Merritt etc. Her voice has a raunchy bluesy edge to it, which works well on tracks like “Kitchen Table”, “Hot Headed Guy”, “Bad Bad Girl” and “Too Much Rock’n’Roll”.
The voice isn’t so raunchy on the softer “Here Is My Heart” and “Head In The Clouds”.
As if 10 original tracks aren’t enough to be going on with, Bex also gives CD buyers a recipe for Blackened Sticky Chicken Surprise (she did win on ITV’s Home Guest programme back in November).
This isn’t traditional Country, but if you like original girl singer songwriters, be sure to check her out at www.houseofmercy.net
From an all original album, we head north to Manchester for an album of modern Country & linedance favourites from CACTUS JACK. “New Horzons” covers songs like “Some Beach”, “We All Get Lucky Sometimes”, “I Just Wanna Dance With You”, and “Friends In Low Places”. There’s 14 in total, all down in a very listenable style.
Cactus Jack has been playing his music in Spain for the last few years, but is now back home, and, if this album is anything to go by, will settle in nicely to the scene here without too much trouble.
Enquiries about the CD, and Cactus Jack, email firstname.lastname@example.org
PATSY PETERS was born in Belfast, but now lives in London. As well as music, she’s regularly been on TV, on as diverse programmes as “The Bill”, “The Lenny Henry Show” and “Jack The Ripper”.
But music has always been her love. And although previous albums have seen her jazz and mellow sound, her Country credentials take her back to the Wembley Festivals.
Her album “Down Country Roads” features 17 well known Country standards, from “Country Roads” and “Snowbird” to John Denver’s “Follow Me” and Mickey Newbury’s “American Trilogy”.
She does a fair job on the songs.
Finally, it’s back to the USA, for a stone Country release, from a guy called BOBBY MOUNTAIN. It may seem a strange name, but he appears to well named. This guy is huge. But don’t let that put you off.
This Georgia native has delivered a mountain of an album called “Holding On” (BSW). It’s apparently his third release, but the first since 2001.
This is real Country music. No artificial Music City ingredients are evident.
I especially liked “Country Gold”,”Guitar Song” and the beautiful “Elijay”. But there ain’t no bad tracks here. “Build A Fire” has a good ol’ classic feel to it. “Only Money” has a clever approach to it, with the corny line, “Not worth the paper it’s written on”. Again, they’d never dare use a line like that in corporate Nashville!
The album is made that just more special by the harmonies from Emily Rodgers. She and Bobby make beautiful music together.
It’s my pick of the pack for this month.