LAURA KENNY is a Glasgow girl- a singer/songwriter who has a lot of talent, if her debut CD “Drive” (Vola Records) is anything to go by. Already she is making inroads into both West Of Scotland and Irish scene’s having been featured in BBC’s “Country Cool” TV series in Northern Ireland.
Laura has a good strong vocal style, which delivers her own songs well. There’s a good mix of emotional ballads and catchy upbeat numbers, which make for a very enjoyable listen.
On the ballads side, I especially liked “Footprints” and “If You Ever Feel Like Passing By”. “To Go” tells of leaving the family nest. The emotions, not to mention the self harmonies, really stand out on this track, making it one of the 12 track album’s highlights.
The other stand out track for me is “All I Want” - Another ballad, which suits Laura’s voice so well.
On the more uptempo side, the album’s opening tracks set the tone nicely. “Drive” is the title track, and is quickly followed by “Cleopatra Madagascar”,, probably the most Country influenced track on the album. It’s a kinda Thelma & Louise story about touring America with a band. Strange title but it works well. Certainly the most commercial track on offer here.
A couple of the tracks, namely, “You Don’t Miss What You Never Had” and “Morning Run” are a shade on the poppy side, but still fit nicely on the album.
I’ve not quite worked out who Laura’s influences are. There’s a bit of Nanci Griffith in there, a bit Kathy Mattea, and even a bit of Eva Cassidy!
Not only did she write all the songs, but Laura co-produced the efforts with David Scott, of the Pearlfishers fame.
A superb debut-note the name and listen out for her!
In the last magazine, we reviewed the 3 track single from THE MARYHILLBILLYS. Since then, the boys have been touring venues all over the country, from Shetland, to Ullapool, several Celtic Connections gigs in Glasgow, and even as far south as Kent.
Their album “Meet The Maryhillbilly’s has also been released here.
The band are Australian, but lead singer, Scott Richardson was Glasgow born, and followed his girlfriend back the the land of Oz five years ago.
They are a real raw, party band, and whilst all the songs have a good feel, the subject matter, in clichéd country style, is sometimes far from being something to sing about.
Take the opening cut, “Mad Ass Maniac”, has fun lyrics, unless, of course you know someone like the girl the song is about. “Battlefield” takes Scott home to his roots in Mount Florida.
“Goddam He Thinks He’s Elvis” (the single) is about a regular at their gigs in the St Kilda Bar (their local bar in Melbourne), and they even featured him in the video for the song!.
“Pills & Alcohol” is very traditional Country, dealing with a traditional Country theme, whilst “Back Home To Trouble” has a bit more of a folksy feel to it. “Déjà Vu” and the very western influenced “Stranger In Town”, meanwhile, are a bit slower, but still works well.
The Maryhillbillys are a breath of fresh air. “Meet The Maryhillbillys” is certainly one of the stand out albums of the year so far!
ALAN JACKSON’s new album was previewed in the last mag, but now we can listen to “Precious Memories” for ourselves, since it’s UK release on March 6th.
The collection of classic hymns was originally intended as a Christmas gift for the mum. You can command top producers like Keith Stegall, guitarists like Brent Mason and backing singers John Wesley Ryles and Melodie Crittenden, for a private project when you’re as big as Alan Jackson! Record label boss Joe Galante had other ideas though and persuaded the big man to go public with it.
The 15 track album includes well known songs like “How Great Thou Art” , “I’ll Fly Away” and “The Old Rugged Cross”, as well as some that are perhaps better known in the US than they are here.
Alan does a wonderful jobon each and every track. We all remember when he first came out with “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning”, a song, performed with such simplicity, yet was filled with such deep emotion. This whole album is like that. Gary Prim’s very effective piano tops it off nicely. You actually get the feeling that you’re back in church. Especially when Alan’s wife & children join in on “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”, the stand out track on the album, just ahead of “I want To Stroll Over Heaven With You”.
So often, artists recording gospel songs try to do something different with them. Alan just sings them the way he heard them, and that’s the charm of the whole project.
Only someone of Alan Jackson’s stature could pull this off. It’s one of these little gems that should have a place in every home.
DOLLY PARTON, on the other hand, never does things by half measures. The guest list on her latest album, “Those Were The Days” is as long as your arm.
The songs are all from the folk era of the 60’s & 70’s, although Dolly has done them very much in her own style. Stand out tracks for me were “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Where Do The Children Play”. Even her covers of “Me & Bobby McGhee” and “Imagine”, which have been done to death have a bit of life blown into them.
The title cut has quite a cast list on it’s own. She even has Mary Hopkin in there alongside Opry stars like Porter Wagoner, George Hamilton IV, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Jan Howard and Jimmy C Newman (just to name a few), plus The Moscow State Circus!
Other guests, mainly harmonising, include Nickel Creek, Norah Jones, Lee Ann Womack, Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss & Roger McGuinn. Judy Collins joins Dolly for a refreshing uptempo version of “Both Sides Now”.
Keith Urban shares the lead vocal on a breezy banjo bluegrass version of “The Twelfth Of Never”, and Joe Nichols leads on “If I Were A Carpenter”.
It’s a wholly interesting album, very much in the inimitable Dolly style.
Those close to Johnny Cash have been making the most of the release of his film biopic “Walk The Line”. The soundtrack to the film itself is less than impressive. Joaquin Pheonix isn’t a bad singer by any means, but he sounds nothing like the Man In Black, and Reese Witherspoon sounds dreadful in her cover of June Carter songs. Better to dig the originals out and listen to them.
Johnny’s daughter ROSANNE CASH has put herself on record criticising the movie. Nevertheless she timed the release of her new album, “Black Cadillac” to “cash in” (sorry) on the movie’s hype.
I’ve never really appreciated Rosanne’s talent. Whilst appreciating that she has a fine voice, I find her songs quite deep and dark. Her best material, in my opinion, are songs her daddy did before her, like “Tennessee Flat Top Box” and “Forty Shades Of Green”(from Transatlantic Sessions”.
This album is dedicated, not only to Johnny, but also to June, and her own mother, Vivien Liberto, who all passed away within the last three years.
Whilst the material is pretty much standard Rosanne Cash fare, I did find the album quite listenable. I especially enjoyed “Radio Operator” and “Dreams Are Not My Home”- very commercial, and the best I’ve heard her perform for a while.
I also liked the very acoustic “The Good Intent”. Very simple but effective.
On the negative side, the final track is 71 seconds of dead air- one second for every year of her dad’s life!
Finally, JEFF & VIDA’s “loaded” album has nothing to do with the lads mag of the same name. They do, however , offer a real blaster of a traditional Country album. They label their music as “ Original Rockabilly & Bluegrass At Its Best”, and that’s a pretty good description. They hail from New Orleans, more renowned for it’s jazz & Cajun.
Vida Wakeman’s lead female vocal stands out. It’s real Southern drawl at times, and really makes the sound work.
“Don’t Give Your Heart To A Stranger”, is a Becky Hobbs style rocker, whilst “Blessed But Not Favoured”, is much slower, the vocal style much more relaxed, but still blends nicely.
“Let Him Go” is a really blistering bluegrass number, before Jeff adds a bit of harmony support on the slower “Lonely Eyes”.
Even slower is “I Cried”, one of these slow piano jazz styled torch songs, before another racey bluegrass number in “I Remember Wrong”. “Fresh Start” is a bit more mainstream, downhome Country.
Jeff & Vida really offer a wide variety of musical styles on this album. Check them out at www.jeffandvida.com