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Wednesday 9 February 2011

Dec 2006


There’s no doubt that KC is one of America’s top Country stars these days. As the blurb that accompanied this CD, he has played to over a million fans in each of the past five year’s tours. This album is aimed at this mass market, with the billing of “Live Those Songs Again, Just Like You Did Back Then”.
Perhaps for the British market, they should’ve changed the slogan, as British Country fans have never had the chance to “live those songs”, in the way our American cousins have.
Instead, the sound quality is superb, and British fans could take this as as a Greatest Hits album. They’re all here- “Young”, “I Go Back”, “When The Sun Goes Down”, “Back Where I Came From” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” – indeed 14 of his biggies all included on the collection.
The one thing I hate about “live” albums is that they are a collection of tracks recorded live, rather than a live a concert. I’m sure that, in these days of technology, they could mix the crowd noises between songs rather than fading out & fading in again.
British fans may find it difficult to put into the CD player and imagine they’re at a Kenny Chesney concert, but it may be the best chance we’ll ever get!

“Like Red On A Rose”

Alan Jackson has built up his popularity based on unashamed lightweight happy numbers like “Chattahoochie”, “Tall Tall Trees” and “Mercury Blues”. Whilst he can also turn his hand at more serious songs like “Midnight In Montgomery” and “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning”, it’s the lighter side of Alan that has always shone through.
For this new album, he has teamed up with Alison Krauss as producer, and Alison certainly makes her mark on the album.
To be honest, I think Alan’s long time fans may get a bit of a shock when they hear this album. The arrangements are more bluesy on some tracks, and Alan’s vocal’s sound strained on others.
Ironically “Don’t Change On Me” is one of the stand out tracks for me. The others include “The Firefly’s Song”, which is the closest song on the album to the “Old Alan”. There’s also “Where Do I Go From Here(The Trucker’s Song)”, which starts with a slow chorus of “Oh Susannah”. The song never gets out of first gear though!
In the main, the album is slow tempo, and quite dreary.
It’s certainly a change of direction for Alan Jackson. Let’s hope it’s only a diversion, and he’ll quickly get onto the mainstream highway.

Brand New Girlfriend (Curb)

It’s 4 years since young Steve Holy really established himself on the Country charts with the romantic “Good Morning Beautiful”. He has now finally released his second album, and the good news is that his label, Curb Records, have released the CD here in Britain.
The title track, a real traditional Country sounding number, has already been a hit single stateside, and will be familiar to readers. Other strong Country numbers include “Good Night To Be Lonely”, which swings along quite nicely, and “Memory On The Run”.
“A Cliff In Colorado” is a beautiful strong story song ballad, and “Lead Me On” is quite easy on the ear too.
Billed as a bonus track, he covers Hank Jr’s “All For The Love Of Sunshine”, which is apparently his grandmother’s favourite song. He does a very traditional family choir type arrangement, which is certainly different.
The bio with the album cites Steve’s “50’s Rock’n’roll Influence”, which isn’t apparent over the whole album, although “Men Buy The Drinks (Girls Call The Shots) has quite a rockabilly sound, with female backing singers, ringing out cheesy “na na na’s”.
“Only The Lonely Talking” has quite a Roy Orbison sound, which came across on his first album.
The songwriter in Steve comes out with 3 co-written numbers.
A good album, with a good mix of traditional Country, with influences of pop & rock’n’roll. No “Good Morning Beautiful”, but a good listen anyway.

If You’re Going Through Hell – Curb

Another British release from Curb Records. This time it’s from East Tennessee raised Rodney Atkins. This is actually Atkins’ second alum too, although the first never saw a UK release.
Rodney has had a fair bit of success recently, with the title track already having topped the American Country charts. It’s a racey number, with a Tim McGraw/Keith Urban influence, which works well on American Country Radio these days.
Rodney has a great strong Country sound, however, which is evident from the first note on the album.
“These Are My People” is community anthem type of song, and is followed by the equally community spirited “About The South”. “In The Middle” follows the same theme.
“A Man On A Tractor” is one for the farmers, whilst “Wasted Whiskey” has a great Honky Tonk sound, although has more of an anti drink message, with lines like “I gotta stop this drinking or start rethinking my reason for throwing them back”. A great song.
“Invisibly Shaken”, is an emotion tugging hurtin’ ballad. Atkins, puts a lot of energy into the song, although it doesn’t stand out as one of the album’s most memorable tracks. It’ll probably work for him though.
It’s very much a hands on project from Rodney, having co-written half the songs, as well as co-producing, and co-engineering the album. Despite the Tim McGraw influences on some tracks, Rodney Atkins is his own man, and is well worth a listen.

Water & Bridges – Capitol

There’s no doubt that Kenny Rogers is one of popular music’s true superstars. Since he first appeared on the charts in 1969 with “Ruby”, he has constantly reinvented himself, firstly with Lucille and The Gambler, then with Dolly Parton and Lionel Ritchie. Now 37 years after his first hit, he’s back again, selling out theatres across the world, and selling albums like he was the latest musical fad. Indeed, The opening words are “I Was Young”, which I thought was quite ironic, coming from this 68 year old legend.
His latest offering is “Water & Bridges”, an 11 track album produced by Dann Huff.
The album is quite an easy listen, with a few inspired vocal chords that just serve to remind you of the talent you’re listening to. Indeed after a few listens, several of the tracks become very familiar.
Especially notable are “Someone Is Me”, which has quite an Eagles type Country rock feel to it. Much quieter is “Someone Somewhere Tonight”, which has neat harmonies from Sarah Buxton.I’m sure we’ll hear more from her in the future.
“Calling Me” features a duet with ex Eagle Don Henley, and Vince Gill joins Kenny on “You’ll Know Love”, one of the slowest tracks on the album.
“Half A Man” sounds the most traditional Kenny Rogers styled song on the album.
For my ears, there’s no huge big hits like “Coward Of The County” lurking on this album, but a very enjoyable album, which proves that Kenny can still deliver a good solid album.

It Just Comes Natural – MCA

Sometimes it’s hard to find real Country music these days, but look no further!
The newest inductee in the Country Music Hall Of Fame has celebrated the honour with a brilliant traditional 15 song collection.
It would be hard to qualify this as his best album to date, as he’s made so many great records during the last quarter of a century, but it certainly rates up there with the best.
Apparently, the reason there’s so many tracks on this album is because George liked all the songs so much, he couldn’t pick any to leave off.
I wouldn’t go that far, but there are some really cracking tracks here, that, to my ears, do leave a few others in the shade.
The highlights for me include the opener “Give It Away” , co[written by Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. It’s a mix of spoken and sung lines, which you don’t hear too often these days, but it works. Listen a few times, and you’ll finf it really catchy.
“She Told Me So” is so Country, you hardly notice that it’s like a revisit to “Ocean Front Property” , with “Roses in The Arctic Circle, and Icebergs In the Gulf Of Mexico” .
“Come On Joe”, the closing track, has a real soft Cajun feel, thanks to the accordian. The chorus really works well.
“Wrapped” sways along nicely, and has some nice steel guitar licks, whilst “A Heart Like Hers” slows the tempo. I also liked “How About Them Cowgirls”.
“Texas Cookin’” is probably the least typical Strait song on the album, but will get the feet tappin’ and the mouth watering at the same time.
The whole album is a masterpiece. I’ve only picked out my favourite tracks, but there’s no bad cuts on this album.
George has never visited the UK, and not all of his albums get released here, but I’m delighted that this album is available in local stores across Britain. Lets hope sales make it worthwhile.
If you only buy one album this year, this has to be it!

At The Movies - DMG TV

Mick Foster & Tony Allen, may be an aquired taste, but they have a mega popular brand, having had three gold albums (1.5 million sales in the UK alone) in the last three years.
They give a laid back easy listening sound, which has been maturing since “A Bunch Of Thyme” saw them on Top Of The Pops 24 years ago.
Their latest double album is based on songs from the movies, although it has to be said that their choices are from the modern film era, and some are perhaps not too well known for their film parts. Charles Aznavour’s “She” , for example, was sung by Elvis Costello in “Notting Hill”!
The songs do represent a wide variety of pop music, from “Love Is All Around” and “I Will Always Love You” to classics like “The Young Ones” , “Singing In The Rain” , “High Noon” and this year’s big Country film, “I Walk The Line”.
All the song’s are given the F&A treatment, and they all work in their own way.
40 songs with a nostalgic feel that’ll rekindle many memories.

Mountains - BNA

Once upon a time, groups just didn’t fit into American Country music. There were The Statlers & The Oakridge Boys, and nobody else could challenge them. Then 25 years ago, Alabama changed all that, not only breaking the monopoly, but opening the door for groups to have chart success.
Many have come & gone, but Lonestar have held on in there. They do, of course, have a classic career song, “Amazed” which was a huge worldwide hit.
Follow up hits like “I’m Already There” and “My Front Porch Looking In” have emphasised their wholesome family values.
This album doesn’t deviate from the tried & tested route too much. The harmonies are first class, and shine through on tracks like “Mountains”, “Hey God” and “I Wanna Do It For You”.
They pick up the tempo on “Cowboy Girl”, and we discover that the singers don’t always get the best out of life, on the album’s closing cut, “I Was Always In The Band”, which I really enjoyed.
I still have a bit of a problem trying to differentiate between Country boy band’s, and the pop boy bands, but Lonestar do have a tried & tested formula that works and fits into Country radio.
How can I argue with that?

The Blaney Years - H&H

There’s no doubt that Susan McCann is one of Ireland’s long time favourites.
This 48 track double album takes us back 30 years to the start of Susan’s career, and is effectively, the reissue on CD of Susan’s first 4 albums.
There’s a generous mix of easy listening Country , gospel and a touch of Irish – just as you would expect. Whilst there’s a fair sprinkling of Billie Jo Spears and Crystal Gayle covers, there’s a few songs that you wont have heard for a long time.
Song’s like “Adios Farwell Goodbye”, “Sparkling Look Of Love”, “I Don’t Wanna Play House”, “That’s A No No”, “My Hi Fi To Cry By” or “Other Side Of The Morning” start to rekindle fond memories.
Susan’s early albums were produced by Big Tom in Castleblaney (hence the title), and thanks him by including “Big Tom Is Still The King”.
Susan has been at the top of her craft for thirty years now. She’s probably still singing a lot of these songs. Many of her fans will have these early albums- here’s a chance to get them on CD.

Long Trip Home – Capitol (US release)

Dierks Bentley has become one of Country music’s biggest stories in recent years, after hits like “What Was I Thinking” and “My Last Name”. He also managed a gig in Glasgow as part of the CMA’s New From Nashville tour earlier this year.
His new album, produced by Brett Beavers, sees him out on the road with his music. It’s a neat concept which works really well.
He starts off with “Every Mile A Memory”, which leads into the second track, “Can’t Live It Down2, which opens with the line, “I’ve Been Called A Rambler”. This track has a good rambling beat.
The title track is next, which is much softer, but the tempo picks up again on “That Don’t Make It Easy Loving Me”, which takes us into the concert hall, and groupie fans.
“Trying To Stop You Leaving” is probably the strongest tracks on the album, about to stop his girl from leaving with a song & a guitar. But it’s Dierks himself who bouinds away “Free and Easy , Down The Road I Go”, which is my own particular favourite. It has a good road rolling beat, ideal for the car stereo.
He is back in the bar room for “Band Of Brothers”, which has quite a Hank Jr outlaw sound to it, and the album finishes with “Prodigal Son’s Prayer”, with bluegrass outfit, The Grascals.
I love road songs. They make a boring car journey much more pleasant. And Dierks has a permanant place in the car CD player these days.

Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away

A new Double CD from John McCaig & Gordon Thompson, who are two of the longest serving musicians on the West Of Scotland Country scene.
This release marks Rambling Fever’s 30 years on the road, and neatly features “then & now” pictures on the cover. Of course, long time fans will recall that Rambling Fever weren’t always a duo. They were a four piece for many years, but as Tommy, then Willie left, John & Gordon kept things running along themselves without seeking out replacements. They are probably as popular these days, as they have ever been.
Apart from the cover, and the title track, the song selection hasn’t been crafted in any way to represent the last thirty years, other than being 20 songs that fit well into the Rambling Fever sound.
What they have done is made two separate CD’s, one with 10 songs from John & the other CD is all Gordon. They have two very different styles, and deliver the songs in their own way.
John is a bit more of a rocker. Like his last cut, he “Puts Some Drive In His Country”. He also remembers days gone by with “Only You And You Alone” and “Always Late With Your Kisses”, alongside some Ricky Skaggs, Radney Foster & Alan Jackson covers.
Gordon, usually a bit more laid back, sets the tempo with Don Williams’ “I’m Just A Country Boy”, but comes right up to date with “I Love This Bar” and “Liza Jane”.
There’s Hank Locklin’s classic “Please Help Me I’m Falling”, and Lorrie & Sammy’s “He Drinks Tequilla”. Gordon also gets some unrecognised female harmonies, which work well on tracks like “when The Wrong One Loves You Right” and “Badly Bent”.
Quite a variety from two of Scotland’s hardest working troubadours.
And with two CD’s for the price of one, they’re still selling at 1976 prices (well, maybe not quite)!

Fever Artists - Curb

It’s been some time since Curb Records had a release in their Line Dance Fever series, which at one point were coming out every few months. Not being a linedancer, I cannot comment on the value this collection will be for dancers, but I do suspect that this is primarily a showcase for Curb’s Country music catalogue, much of which has been released in the UK in recent months, like Steve Holy’s “ Brand New Girlfriend”, Blue County’s “Summer Song” and Hank Jr’s “Why Cant We All Just Get A Long Neck” ,whilst introducing others like Cowboy Crush, Rio Grand and Tyler Dean. There’s certainly a much more “Country” feel to this volume than previous discs.
Track’s like Bomshel’s “Bomshel Stomp” and Evie Sellis’ “Honky Tonk Town” are most definitely aimed at the dancers, but the label’s biggest Country name, Tim McGraw’s “When The Star’s Go Blue” , or Patty Griffin’s “Love Thow A Line” may not get too many plays in the dance hall’s.
I really enjoyed the closing track from The Hacienda Brothers- now they are Country !!! I also enjoyed “Reuben” from Joe Brown & friends, but I’m not too sure why it’s included here.
It’s a great compilation of what’s hot in Country music today though. Whether it’s a useful release for the linedancers, I’m not so sure.

Songbird – Lost Highway

For a 73 year old, with a string of hit records stretching back 44 years, Willie Nelson is quite an innovator. Never one to follow the trends, he’s been an outlaw, a crooner, a guitar man, an actor, and always different. A year or so ago, he brought out a reggae album.
Now this latest release sees him working with Ryan Adams as producer, with a selection of classic covers and a couple of originals too.
His own songs include the bluesy opener “Rainy Day Blues” , the heartfelt “Back To Earth” (on which Willie’s voice struggles somewhat), the rockin’ “We Don’t Run”, which works really well. The backing here is kinda reminiscent of Dave Edmunds Rockpile, with tanging guitars & steel side by side. The fourth self penned number is “Sad Songs And Waltzes”, which is probably the most Willie like track on the album.
Certainly my favourite cut.
The other track which stands out is Harlan Howard’s “Yours Love”, which is just pure classic Country, complete with the wailing steel guitar, that has made so many records.
I’m less sure of the version of “Amazing Grace” which closes the album. The arrangement sounds like “House Of The Rising Sun”. It’s a very interesting arrangement. It works, although the purists may not like it.
Other covers include Fleetwood Macs’ “Songbird” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Gram Parsons’ “$1000 Wedding”.
An interesting album to say the least, with some real classic Country numbers.

Enjoy The Ride – Mercury

Sugarland are Jennifer Nettles & Kristian Bush, a duo who burst onto the scene a couple of years ago with a really catchy little number called “Baby Girl”.
This is their second album, released here in the UK at the same time as it’s American issue.
All the songs are co written by the pair, and vocally performed by Jennifer, whilst Kristian plays guitar.
There’s no doubt that Nettles has a superb voice which lends itself to today’s modern Country sound. It’s kinda poppy, but doesn’t lose that Country edge. The instrumentation is slightly heavier than your average Country sound, which may see their sound aimed at crossover radio.
Most of the songs arte really radio friendly, and instantly strike a chord, especially tracks like “County Line” and “Want To”.
They really rock it up on “Mean Girls” which probably wont appeal to Country listeners, but is followed by the very acoustic “Stay”, which was the only song written by Nettles on her own.
My favourite track though, has to be their theme song, ”Sugarland”. The song is dated 2003, so was probably the song that the group took their name from. It’s a song that really works for them. Why it wasn’t on their first album, is a mystery.
Sugarland have a modern Country radio sound, and quite a good listen.

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