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Wednesday 9 February 2011

Jun 2006

STEPHEN SMYTH – Cabin Home On The Hill (EK Promotions)

This is Irishman Stephen’s second album, and was released in April to mark his 1st Anniversary as a solo artist. This 12 track collection follows on from where “All I Can Be” (his first release) left off.
It’s a typical Irish album. Strong fast paced numbers with the odd Country classic and a little bit sentimental too. Stephen’s vocals are first class, and that makes him stand out from the crowd.
On this album, he kicks off with the fast paced “Who’s Gonna Dance With Sally Anne”, followed by the quicksteppin’ “I’ll Give All My Love To You”. Then the first of the classics- and an extremely good version of “Tips Of My Fingers”.
The Irish comes out strongly in “Away With Ye Johnny”.
Then a rather bouncy “How Much Time Does It Take” flows gently to the Don Gibson classic, “I Cant Stop Living You”. Lots of nice instrumentation here, including steel guitar by Stephen himself, and some nice Floyd Cramer styled keyboards.
The sentimental side comes out, as Stephen turns songwriter on “Finding My Way Back Home”.
The title track, originally a bluegrass tune” is given a typical Irish Country feel, whilst “I Wanna Go To Heaven” is one of the strongest Country numbers on the whole album.
“Here I Am Drunk Again” , “Up To Feeling Down” and “The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” round off the album in uptempo style.
As I say, Stephen’s delivery is strong, and I really enjoyed the album. It is Country, with a definite Irish feel, but really not in a Daniel or Dominic way. Give Stephen a listen- I’m sure you’ll enjoy him!

EAMON McCANN – Lay You Down (Riverside Music Group)

There’s no doubt that Eamon McCann has one of the strongest Country voices ever to come out of Ireland. Indeed he is so often mistaken for Randy Travis.
This 14 track album, produced by Clive Culbertson, makes no effort to change the formula.
He’s still sounding like Randy Travis, and covers “Three Wooden Crosses” and “Forever And Ever Amen”, but does try his hand at covering Alan Jackson on “Livin’ On Love” and “Chasing That Neon Rainbow”, and that works equally well.
He does a good job on Gene Watson’s “Farewell Party” and The Hag’s “My Favourite Memory”.
But the biggest influence on this album is the late Conway Twitty, whose music is living on through McCann. The title track , “Linda On My Mind” and “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” all sound so suited to Eamon’s pure Country vocal style.
They’re all songs that Eamon has wanted to record, but had missed out on, until now.
He sings them well, the album is first class.
I just wish we could hear Eamon singing Eamon once in a while.

KAREN TAYLOR GOOD – How Many Women (Insight)

Here’s a blast from the past. I remember meeting Karen in Nashville about 20 years ago, and she was making inroads into the recording scene back then, having spent years singing jingles and as a back up singer.
Just to prove that you cant keep good talent down, El Paso born Karen Taylor Good is back in 2006 with a new collection of songs co written by the lady herself.
The opening track, “Hooked On You” is more bluesy than Country. The title track, “How Many Women” is a bit heavy and folksy, but will work for some folks
“God’s Refrigerator”, despite it’s strange title, is the sort of bouncy number Karen was always good at. Featuring lots of nice fiddle from Andy Leftwich, this song has already been pushed to radio here as a single, so you may have heard it.
There’s a couple of duets. She teams up with Collin Raye on the Wedding Song, “ If You Do”. It’s a nice ballad that really works well. She also teams up with latin singer Walter Suhr on “One Mile Apart”, a nice story song with a strong social message about the difference in standards of living across the Rio Grande. They do the song twice, once in English and then in Spanish.
I really liked harmonies led “Man Enough”, co written with Angela Kaset (Something In Red) and the ballads “Wild Blue Yonder” and “Deep Blue Deserts Sky”.
There’s 15 tracks on the album, and Karen covers a lot of ground throughout the album- with styles from Country ballads, Blues, Latin and Pop, but, in the main, a very welcome album. Welcome back Karen.


Normally, I criticise artists who record albums of standards, as they normally have little to add to the originals. Martina McBride, however, makes me eat my words.
Despite having a string of hits since she declared “My Time Has Come” in 1992, this album goes to prove that Martina does have a superb Country voice that we’ve never had the chance to fully appreciate through the songs that have given her the hits to date.
His vocal range is superb, and can deliver Tammy’s “Til I Can Make It On My Own” with the same degree of conviction as Loretta’s “You Aint Woman Enough”. And it’s not only girls songs she’s covered here.
She also turns in fine versions of Buck’s “Loves Gonna Live Here” and “Crying Time”, Ray Charles’ “I Cant Stop Loving You”, Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” or Hank Snow’s “I Don’t Hurt Anymore”.
Add in a bit of Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Connie Smith, Ray Price, Jeannie Pruett, Lyn Anderson, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash, and you have a truly wonderful history of Country music.
Indeed, I don’t think you’ll find a compilation with all these memorable tracks on one CD anywhere else. To have Martina McBride sing them, is a bonus.

GEORGE HAMILTON IV – Heritage & Legacy : 50th Anniversary (Lamon)

Gentleman George is currently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of recording, and what a journey he’s had. From the Blue Ridge Mountains, to Nashville to behind the Iron Curtain. A lot of the time has been spent in Scotland, where I’ve seen him in concert settings, at Butlins, in church , and even in prison!
This album, all newly recorded with The Moody Brothers, sets to recapture a lot of the songs that have become guideposts in George’s career.
Here, we’ll find “A Rose & A Baby Routh”, a song not found on too many of George’s albums. This was his first single- before he was a Country Boy!. It may surprise you but George wasn’t always the Country singer. In the start, he was a Teen Balladeer!
The more recognisable “Canadian Pacific” Early Morning Rain”, “Abilene” and “Break My Mind” are all here. He also features Dylan’s “Forever Young”, a song that’s been so much part of George for decades now.
Of course, in recent times, George had been devoting more time to Country Gospel, and this is reflected here with tracks like “ Life’s Railway To Heaven”, “Amazing Grace” preceded by the touching John Newton Story.
Son George V (Hege) guests on “Homegrown”, and our own Froggie duets on “Me & My Own Guitar” which reunites the pairing from Britain’s first summer season Country show in Blackpool’s Winter Garden’s in 1979.
The album closes with the whole Hamilton clan from 6 year old Nash upwards getting together at John D Loudermilk’s studio singing “You Are My Sunshine”.
George has put so much into Country music during the last 50 years. This is a nice momento of his career.

TIM McGRAW – Reflected (Curb)

This 16 track CD is actually a Greatest Hits Collection, from just the last few years. There’s no argument that with a string of hits like “ Live Like You Were Dying”, “My Old Friend”, “Not A Moment Too Soon” and “Red Ragtop”, Tim is one of Country music’s current top performers.
However, put these hits all together, and they do all sound very samey. Maybe, a few of his earlier hits like “Indian Outlaw” and “I Like It I Love It”, would’ve sparked some life into the album, but these songs wont reflect on Tim’s current career.
Selling points would be a new duet with the Mrs. “Like We Never Loved At All”, features Faith & Tim on , what is probably the strongest song on the album. The tune is a bit distracting- sounding very like the Rita Coolidge version of “Words”.
The other duet is the No.1 UK hit “Over & Over” for rapper Nelly, on which Tim is featured. It has no place on a Tim McGraw album.
There is a bonus track, “I’ve Got Friends That Do”, which I did enjoy. It’s not given any mention in the CD booklet, so was obviously an after thought.
Tim’s fans, and those who appreciate today’s Country pop will want to get hold of this album. It’s just all too bland for me.

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