Way Back Home – Live From New York City (CD & DVD) – WB
The Wreckers are female duo, Michelle Branch & Jessica Harp, who have been building up quite a reputation since their 2004 debut, performing on the WB teen drama One Tree Hill. Until then Michelle had been an aspiring solo act, and Jess was a much in demand backing singer.
Whether their success merits a live album at this stage in their careers is perhaps debatable. But as they explain on the introduction to the title track, the concert was played very close to where they made their first recording.
Female groups, by default, are always going to be likened to The Dixie Chicks, and here, I fear that this duo are just a shade too similar to the Texan rebels. Their music has the same Chicks edgy style, which should take them to audiences beyond Country music. Gretchen Wilson has also been a strong influence on the pair, so you can expect a Country rock with attitude approach from The Wreckers.
The most outstanding Country tracks are “Crazy People”, which for me, stands out as the albums best track. It really shows off their harmonies, and is full of southern charm.
“Lay Me Down” is a particularly strong strong for The Wreckers. It’sung in a very commercial modern style, although the girls apparently used to sing it bluegrass style. That would’ve been worth hearing.
The duo share the writing on most of the album. The exceptions being “Damn That Radio”, written by Gretchen Wilson, and, is certainly in a Redneck Woman style, which also fits well into The Wreckers style. The catchy “Different Truck,Same Loser”, written by Tim Nichols & Connie Rae Harrington is another imported song. It sounds a bit lighter than the other tracks, but is certainly a foot tappin’ radio friendly little number that stands out.
The final song not written by either of the duo, is “LeaveThe Pieces”, the duo’s first No.1 hit single,from the pens of Jennifer Hanson and Billy Austin. They do a particular strong vocal on this midtempo number.
Getting a CD and a DVD covering the same concert is quite novel. The DVD actually captures more of the girls’ appeal, and includes a behind the scenes interview with the brunettes.. The CD kinda left me wondering what the fuss was all about, but I really quite enjoyed the DVD. The certainly are a good live act, but whether they really appeal to the mass of Country fans will be up to individual tastes.
The Ultimate Hits (2CD & DVD) – Sony
Now here’s a package that is true Value For Money. There’s 2 CD’s featuring no less than 30 of his hits, plus 3 new tracks, and a bonus track. Not only that, but the package comes with a DVD featuring 33 video’s from concert footage and actual music videos.
Now, it has to be said that, if you have been a Garth fan, you’ll have most of these tracks already, but to have all this in one package will be an irresistable buy.
The CD’s feature hits like “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, “Aint Goin Down Til The Sun Comes Up”, “Shameless”, “The Dance”, “Two Pina Coladas”, “American Honky Tonk Bar Association” and “Unanswered Prayers”. There’s duets with Trisha Yearwood, George Jones and Steve Wariner. One of the new tracks is a duet with Huey Lewis. The rousing new song “Midnight Sun” really worked well for me.
The video’s include footage from his historic concert in New York’s Central Park, an early TV performance of “Much Too Young To Feel This Danm Old”, and top class video’s for songs like “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (putting the context of the song into a father-daughter relationship), “Standing Outside The Fire” and the anti-prejudice theme of “We Shall Be Free”.
You certainly get a better insight into an artist and their music from video (proving what we here in Europe miss from CMT).
The CD sleeve contains words to all the songs (just incase you didn’t already know them).
All in all, a great value package from Garth, and an invaluable showcase into one of Country music’s greatest ever performers.
CHANGE OF KEY
Home Is Where The Heart Is
Holland has given us some great Country acts over the years. There’s been a Dutch presence at The Northern Nashville Festival over the years, and they never fail to impress.
This new trio continues the Dutch reputation.
Danielle, Maijke and Joop got together at a benefit concert 6 years ago, and have built up a neat close knit sound since then. All 14 tracks on the album are written by the group, and performed in perfect English.
The opening track, “Choose Me Or Loose Me” is quite a catchy commercial number.
The album’s title track is a pleasant ballad, as is “Fly On My Emotions”.
The instrumentation is really quite impressive. The mandolin intro on “Step On Your Mind” is a beautiful start to a lovely ballad, whilst the banjo on the more uptempo “In The Mood For Food”, and “She Can Hardly Wait” gives it a fresh bluegrass sound.
“I’ll Regret It In The Morning” and “Frozen Tears” are strong traditional Country songs with fiddles & steel. “Sweet Green Eyes” and “Head Over Heels” both have a western swing/light jazzy sound , which works well.
The album ends with a simple but catchy train song, which demonstrates more instrumentation. “Music Train In Motion” picks up more speed as it travels along, and features all three vocalists.
You can check out www.changeofkey.com for more info, and to buy the CD.
The Vanishing Breed – Universal Sound
This is a well titled album, for T.Jae is one of the vanishing breed of real traditional Country singers coming out of Nashville. He has been promoting his music towards European fans since the release of his first album back in 1993, and has toured Scandinavia in the past. These days he’s also a hard working producer.
Recorded at Mark Moseley’s Sound Control studio, this is a superb mix of new material and covers. T.Jae, himself, wrote the autobiographical title cut, and the honky tonk styled “Yes, There Is Life After Beth”.
You’ll recognise “The Grand Tour”, and “Picture Of You (Without Me)”, both old George Jones classics, and Sammy Kershaw’s “Yard Sale”. All three are given true Country treatments, not too removed from the original.
Other tracks of note include the ballads “I’ve Been Down Home Again” and “I’m Tired Of Being Something”.
With musicians like Mike Severs, Larry Paxton, Danny Parks and no less than 4 steel guitarists featured throughout the albums’ 11 tracks, it’s a superb pure Country album.
Check it out at www.ricksharpcountry.com/usrecindex.htm
Sings Country – Pan Records
Daniel is the newest member of Manson Grant’s Dynamos, and has really added a lot of variety to the highland showband. He has featured on Manson’s last couple of albums with stunning versions of Marty Robbins classics.
With that in mind, I was disappointed that there were none of Marty’s hits featured among the 12 covers on this solo outing from Daniel.
Old time Country fans wont be too disappointed though, for he does superb versions of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”, Bob Wills’ “Faded Love”, Don Williams “You’re My Best Friends”, and Freddie Hart’s “The Wall” (which I had to check back, because Daniel makes it sound like a Marty Robbins song).
He goes a bit more mainstream, with versions of “Snowbird”, “Country Roads”, “18 Yellow Roses” and “Cottonfields”. His version of “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again” is pure showband magic.
As well as Manson and fellow Dynamo, Robert Cameron, Phil Anderson , steelie Robbie Turner and fiddler Aubrey Haynie feature on the album, alongside Fiona Sutherland on harmony vocals.
The album was recorded between studios in Wick & Nashville. Manson produced the album, which it has to be said, has a true Manson Grant sound. It’s a sound that works well in the markets they play. It’s a good sounding party album.
Daniel also demonstrates his accordian skills on “Caithness Music Man”, a new 16 track of traditional Scottish sounds.
Both albums can be ordered online from www.panrecords.co.uk
Not What I Had In Mind
This Canadian songbird kicks off with a rather poppy title track, and Lisa Brokop’s “Stop The Clock” but she does settle down to a more Country sound as the album progresses.
She covers a couple of Paul Overstreet songs, the ballad, “You Wouldn’t Lie To An Angel Would Ya” , and the more poppy “Your Loves Got A Hold Of Me”.
I really enjoyed the melodic “You Win Some, You Learn Some”, which Judy does a really good vocal on. I also liked “Walking On The Blue Side”, which has a swinging cabaret feel to it.
Judy whoops up a storm with the fast foot- tapping “100% Pure Texan”, and turns on the style on the quick stepping “West Texas Wind”, which has to be my favourite.
The album closes with Judy’s self penned Yuletide track. “Mistletoe, My Cowboy & Me”, a foot-tapping fun number.
Recorded in both Ontario and Tennessee, Judy has tried hard, and devoted a lot of energy to this project. She comes over as a real fun person, who really enjoys her music, and makes the listener feel good too. That’s what music’s all about.
Rick & Ol’Waylon Still Play On – Universal Sound
Another good solid Country album recorded in Mark Moseley’s Sound Control Studio’s just south of Nashville.
Rick, whilst 100% Country, has an honky tonk edge to his music. Best example of this is the second track in, “One Shot At A Time” Several other tracks, such as “No Place To Go”, “Countrified” and “Love At First Sight Kinda Girl” also touch on the rockin’ honky tonk theme.
He slows the tempo for the first of his tributes to Waylon Jennings. He does a very credible version of “Storms Never Last”. On “Waylon Still Plays On” is a great tribute to the legend. Rick delivers it, as only a true fan could.
On “Wish You Were Hear”and “Last Broken Heart”, he delivers a cleaner traditional Country sound, a bit different to what’s elsewhere on the album. It’s quite pleasant though.
“Let’s Get Even” comes over as the most traditional Country sounding number. Again, he’s in the bar room, but with a really strong Country sound.
You’ll need to really enjoy your Country with an edge to really appreciate this album, but it will grow on you.
FOSTER & ALLEN
Songs Of Love and Laughter – Demon
Foster & Allen are an institution. Their music has never changed over the years, yet they still find songs, and more importantly, themes for new albums, which still sell in their millions.
This double CD set features songs of Love & Laughter, which are evenly spread across both CD’s.
There’s an endless stream of love songs, and this time out the boys choose country classics like “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, “I Guess I’m Crazy”, “Blue Side Of Lonesome”, “Crying Me Heart Out Over You”, “Ring Of Fire”, “Let It Be Me”, “A Fool Such As I” , “Gypsy Woman”, and “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.
They’re mixed with pop classics including “True Love Ways”, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “And I Love You So”, and Elvis’s “I Just Cant Help Believing”
There’s a touch of Celtic love on The Furey’s “Sweet Sixteen” , “Love Is Pleasing”, and even “Lassie Come & Dance With Me”.
On the fun side, there’s “The Sermon”, “Mary Mack”, Delaney’s Donkey”, “The Oldest Swinger In Town”, “Seven Old Ladies” and one all about “Daniel O’Connell (not a misprint).
Foster & Allen are not everyone’s cup of tea, but their longevity proves their popularity, and they certainly offer value for money. The mix on this double CD is well thought out, and I really enjoyed it.
The CD has their 2008 concert dates listed, and they’re at the Glasgow Pavilion on Sunday 9th September. Many of the tickets will be sold out already.
22 More Hits – HumpHead
Texan George Strait has been around since the early eighties, and has notched up dozen’s of hits. There’s been quite a few hit collections, to which this one can be added to the pile.
These are tracks which may, or may not, have not quite made earlier hit collections, but the quiet singer has had so many, that MCA in the States included them on this collection.
There is a lot of familiar material here.
You’ll find “The Fireman”, “The Cowboy Rides Away”, “Lovebug”, “Drinking Champagne” and “Adalida”, alongside “Marina Del Ray”,”If You’re Thinking You Want A Stranger”, “Unwound” and “Amarillo By Morning” from his earlier albums.
The songs featured here do go back to the very start of his career, and could be a great way of picking up on some of his earlier material.
I don’t need to describe George’s music to you. He’s been consist for the last 27 years. Nobody does Texan Country music any better than George Strait!