There’s not as big a rush of CD’s this time around. But what we have is certainly quite varied.
I’m going to start with TOM THOMSON, whom I’d assume comes from Southern Perthshire. .He can be seen performing in the streets of Stirling with his keyboard.
His album. “The Muthill Man” features 6 self penned numbers, alongside some covers which he has adapted to his own style. The covers include “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Back Home Again”, “I Still Miss Someone” and “Lucille”.
His own songs offer local influences, with “Shona” being called back to Comrie, with other songs titled “The Old Muthill Road”, “Lady Mary’s Walk”, and “Peter Conway”, who is obviously one of his personal hero’s.
The CD doesn’t credit Tom with a great voice, and the arrangements aren’t what you would consider standard for Country music, but his original songs are interesting. I’m always looking out for songs with local influences. Why sing about Texas and Kentucky, when we have so many places at home worth singing about. For Tom to sing about Muthill & Comrie scores points with me.
Oklahoman BLAKE SHELTON has been one of the mainstays of the Nashville scene in recent years. He’s come a long way since he first appeared with “Austin” in 2001. His new album “Startin’ Fires”, has already gone Top 10 Stateside.
The album kicks off with “Green” with the catchy line “I Was Green Before Green was the thing”, before “Good At Startin’ Fires”, a good strong song, from which the album title is taken. Other strong songs include “I’ll Just Hold On” and “Country Strong”, which are both uptempo, whilst “ Home Sweet Home” has quite a quiet intro before building into a strong powerful ballad.
“This Is Gonna Take All Night” actually sounds more like a George Strait track, but it works equally as well for Blake. “Here I Am” co-written by Blake and Dean Dillon works well too.
Stand out track, though, is the closing track, recorded at Arrowhead Ranch with Miranda Lambert. “Bareskin Rug” was written by Miranda & Blake, and is a wonderful old time number. It’s just Blake, Miranda , a guitar and the crickets. The song certainly rekindled some interest in Miranda. She never sounded as Country on her own albums.
This is Blake’s 5th album, and one well worth adding to your collection.
MEGAN MUNROE may be a new name to you but she’s one of the names to look out for in 2009, especially if her album “One More Broken String” is anything to go by.
The lovely lass from Washington State, has done her bit in Hollywood appearing in various commercials, TV shows and films, but it’s the music that really means the most to her, so she moved to Nashville in 2007, and this album is her first national release.
It’s an all original offering. It’s not traditional Country. There’s a bit of blues in there as well, especially on “Good Fight” .
“Leavin’ Memphis” is a high energy tour of the USA
Most of the tracks are ballads, including “Pennies In The Ocean” which is a gentle ballad, as is “Shameless Fool” and “Perfect Storm”.
“Angel On Fire” is the stand out Country track, with its’ banjo, whilst “Belle Meade” has a rather nice old timey feel to it.
I really liked “Lonely Tonight”, which closes the album. She seems to put more into the song that the arrangement allows for, but it works well.
Not a bad debut. Check her out at www.meganmunroe.com
Down south now, and a new album from PAUL TAYLOR. Paul has been playing to Country & Linedance fans for the past 10 years, sometimes in the duo called Blue Rodeo (not to be confused with the Canadian Country rock band). His giglist includes venues from Haven holiday camps to Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.
His 10 track album, “ Beer In Mexico” was recorded in Nottingham.
Paul’s a good singer, and the production is first class. The song choice is certainly aimed at the linedance crowd, with covers of “Laid Back In Low Key” and “Galway Girl”, For Country fans, his version of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” is superb. , and more up to date covers of “Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song” (George Strait), “I Don’t Know What She Said” (Blaine Larson) and the title track “Beer In Mexico” is from the Kenny Chesney songbook.
One of the lesser known songs, and one of my favourites from the album, is “White Rose”, which Fred Eaglesmith recorded a few years back. Paul’s version certainly fits into the album.
Not a bad album, and one of the British names to look out for this year. Check him out at www,paultaylorcountrymusic.co.uk.
KIM DICKINSON was born in Liverpool, but moved to Omagh when only 11 years old. She’s been a rising force in the Irish music scene in recent years, and has been playing Karen Carpenter in the touring tribute show “Yesterday Once More”.
No surprise then, that “Yesterday Once More” opens up her new 14 track CD on the AllCountry label..
The album features quite a variety from Middle Of The Road/Easy Listening numbers like “Yesterday Once More” and “Johnny’s Fool” to traditional Country like “ I Don’t Wanna” , “Leavin’On Your Mind”, “When Was The Last Time”, “A Safe Place To Land” , “Somewhere Between”.
She does a really nice slowed down version of “Past The Point Of Rescue”.
Kim has a good voice, suited for easy listening Country.
This album will win her many new fans.
From the same label is BRENDA MULGREW. Like Kim, Brenda is English born, but now lives in Northern Ireland. I think her new album, ”Time”, is her third release, and she continues to build up a strong following with her strong vocal style.
Brenda has a unique warble in her voice. There’s a bit of Gretchen Wilson in there. There’s also a hint of Elkie Brooks. She’s certainly has a sound all of her own.
The album kicks off with a really strong version of “Belfast Town”, a song that must stir the emotions in the city. It’s the same song that Roly Daniels is best known for. A real Belfast anthem.
She also goes through different Country styles, from Sara Evans, “Wait A Minute” to Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and Dolly’s “To Daddy”.
One of the strongest songs on the album is Rod Stewart’s “First Cut Is The Deepest” .
There’s two self penned songs, including a sentimental song for “Mama”, and the title track duet with labelmate TJ Stuart.
Brenda has a really superb voice that deserves to be checked out. One of the best on the scene at present.
Talking of TJ STUART. His latest album is “This Time”, again on the allcountry label. TJ, from Country Antrim, has a strong Country voice, and this CD features no less that 8 self penned songs, with others being from the songbooks of Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson and George Strait.
There’s a token Irish number in the self penned “Irish Colleen”, and two duets with Brenda Mulgrew.
But his own songs deserve to be recognised. “Loves Blind” and “There’ll Never Be Another You” are bouncy radio friendly songs, whilst “ Without Love”, “As I Sit Here” and the title track are quite nice reflective ballads. Don’t dismiss them, just because he’s Irish. These songs are as good as Nashville sound. In fact, I did detect a certain Paul Overstreet influence in his own songs.
TJ was runner up in a nationwide talent show in 2006, and went on to tour with Moe Bandy and Gene Watson. I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more of him in 2009.
Both Brenda & TJ are featured on the “BEST OF BRITISH” CD, produced by HotDisc, which Jackie Blair reviews every time in this magazine. Basically, Hotdisc is a monthly compilation CD sent out to DJ’s across Europe. Each year, the most popular British tracks are selected for a British CD to sell to the public. This year’s 23 track selection features Dave Sherriff, Chilli Gold, Bryan Chalker, Kelly Lee and Gary Curtis, alongside three Scots acts.
The hard working Paula Macaskill is featured with her version with the old Seekers hit, “I’ll Never Finds Another You”, whilst One Day40 offer their original “Sad Cowboy”. Also singing her own song is CMR presenter Jackie Storrar. The singer who is brining her show to Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall on February 5th is featured with “She’s All Cried Out”.
The album will cost £9.99 and is available direct from Hotdisc (they’ll also throw in an extra 4 CDs for free). You can also buy the complete 10-Disc set of Best Of British albums in the series (1999-2008) for an inclusive postage-free price of £40 - send a cheque made payable to Hotdisc Limited and mail to Hotdisc, Stables Cottages, Eildon Hall, Melrose TD6 9HD, Scotland. Or you can pay directly by Paypal using our dedicated Paypal e mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.