GEORGE STRAIT has been a mainstay of Country music for 28 years now. Whilst appealing to modern day fans, the modest Texan has never strayed far from his traditional routes.
He has sold over 67 million albums, third only behind Elvis & The Beatles in album sales.
He has never made a bad album, and his latest, “Twang” (Humphead) continues the formula that has stood him proud since 1981.
The title track kicks off the album in a real catchy style. There are other uptempo tracks on this new 12 track collection, but the title track is the highlight.
He slows down the tempo on a few songs, like “Beautiful Day For Goodbye”, “Where Have I Been All My Life” and the steel laden “Out Of Sight Out Of Mind”.
“Arkansas Dave” has a pure acoustic feel to it.
There’s more than a Mexican influence on “El Ray”, which George sings in Spanish.. I do think it’s more of a novelty track than a serious recording.
Another novelty on this album is a self penned song. For only the second time in his lengthy career, George has recorded three of his own songs. “Living For The Night”, “Out Of Sight” and “He’s Got That Something Special”, which certainly stands up against the other songs, contributed by the likes of Jim Lauderdale, Dean Dillon, and Doug Johnson.
He’s such a consistently strong seller, his albums always come highly recommended.
Someone who has been at the top of the tree even longer is REBA, who doesn’t seem to use her surname these days. Having sold 55 million albums worldwide, and notched up 33 Country Number One’s, nobody can match her.
Her latest album, “Keep On Loving You” was released here on the Humphead label at the end of August.
The album kicks off with a rather poppy number, “Strange”. There is also a video of this song on the enhanced CD. The song didn’t really do much for me at all. There are other pop numbers, but there’s also some more Country tracks.
The title track is very traditional Reba.
I really quite enjoyed “Consider Me Gone”. It’s a gentle soulful ballad, in a style that Reba has made her trademark. I also think that “She’s Turning 50 Today” is a very strong Reba song, that will strike a note with many of her fans.
“8 Crazy Hours” also works well for me, but I do think that “Over You” is the strongest ballad on the album.
Although she has a great delivery on her ballads , she has a couple of interesting uptempo numbers, including “Pink Guitar”, and “I’ll Have What She’s Having”.
After a poppy start, Reba delivered a really enjoyable album.
Next up, DAVID NAIL‘s self titled debut album, also released on Humphead.
He’s a young man from Kennett, Missouri, who has been dreaming of making it in Nashville since High School.
We’ll he’s arrived, with a good solid modern Country album.
He was involved in writing 4 of the songs on the album, with other contributions from the likes of Aimee Mayo, Neil Thrasher and even Kenny Chesney.
He has a radio friendly sound, with the highlights including the softer “Turning Home”, (written by Chesney), the opening track , “Mississippi”, Gary LaVox’ “Summer Job Days” and the self written closing track, “Missouri” about his homestate.
For me, the strongest track would be the harmonica influenced “Strangers On A Train”.
It’s a really strong debut album. David Nail is certainly a name to look out for!
Next up. we’ve got some great homegrown Scottish CD’s..
It was a total surprise when I opened up the package containing RUBY RENDALL’s new CD, “From Where I Stand”. It’s been many years since Ruby’s last CD, and it seems any attempts to tempt her back into the scene didn’t work.
But she’s back, and the Orcadian Rose takes up where she left off.
Her material comes from the Patty Loveless, Joy Lynn White, Nanci Griffith and Kim Richey style of Country music.
Songs include “I Wish It Would Rain”, “Blame It On Your Heart”, “Little Tears” and “Nothing But The Wheel”.
She still has hubby Sandy Mackay and long time band member Steve Watt playing on the album, with John Barclay, Brian Nicolson and fiddler Neil Hehir adding their touches to a superb Ruby Rendall sound.
And family life has paid its dividends too. For her son Robbie adds his guitar skills to “MI Vida Loca”, and gets the closing instrumental track all to himself.
The album is available from Rockapotamus Music in Inverurie , or contact Ruby through her new Myspace site, www.myspace.com/ruby rendall
Our next new album is from Glasgow based JOHN HINSHELWOOD & SANDRA GELLATLY. The duo are regularly seen as part of the Gram Parson’s influenced City Sinners band, but are also a popular duo playing in Folk Clubs and other venues.
Sandra, originally from Canada, has been in Scotland since 2001, and the pair have been working together for the past few years.
“Shattered Pleasures” is their first album together. It features nine original songs, plus covers from Julie Miller, Gene Clark, and ex Pearlfisher David Scott.
The lead vocals are shared throughout the album. On songs that feature both, like on the opening track, “Chance & Circumstance”, and “Slow Burning Fuse”, their harmonies work really well.
John’s vocals show really well on Gene Parson’s (ex Byrds) “Tried So Hard”, and the sensitive “Long Way From Home”.
Sandra’s “Any Road” and “Hear Your Voice”.
I really enjoyed the closing track, “Dangerous Journey*, a good tempo number, which, again shows their harmonies, and some neat pickin’ as well.
The album is made complete by some wonderful musicians, including Malcolm McMaster, Tim Clarke, Iain Barbour, Dick Drake , Colin McFarlane and Alasdair Robertsdon. It was all recorded in Glasgow.
It’s a great homegrown original album , available from www.littleroots.com
KENNY WATSON is an Aberdeenshire based singer, who has been signed up by Pan Records (their first act with no Caithness connection). “KW’s Country” is a nice mix of Country standards, from the likes of Gail Davies, Lorrie Morgan and John Conlee.
Songs include “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You”, “Everybody’s Reaching Out For Someone”, “Rose Coloured Glasses”, “Maria’s Heading Out To California” and “Louisiana Saturday Night”.
He recalls his former job as a long distance lorry driver with a cover of Jimmy Buckley’s “Truckers Wallet”, whilst his duet with Fiona Taylor on “Til A Tear Becomes A Rose” is probably the strongest track on the album.
Kenny’s sound is easy listening, in the same style as many Irish Country acts.
He’s backed by Phil Anderson, Gordie Gunn, Manson Grant, Robert Cameron, Keith MacLeod, and Richard Nelson, on the album, recorded in Wick.
It’s a well produced album of catchy, though not overdone songs. He does a great job on them. I’ll certainly be looking out for more from KW.
SEAN O’FARRELL returns to Scotland for a series of dates this month (see dates in the Giglist), and marks the tour with a new album, “Think Of Me” (SoFar Productions).
Seam’s sound is feel good easy listening music, with a good measure of nostalgia. This album continues the trend.
He kicks off with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”, and “Memories Are Made Of This”, and also features’ Don Gibson’s “I Cant Stop Loving You”, Eddy Arnold’s “Make The World Go Away”, and two Val Doonican numbers, “Walk Tall” and “The Special Years”.
But there is also four of Sean’s own songs, including the very clever piece of tele-nostalgia in “When The TV Changed To Colour”. “Do You Like Me” is a catchy number, whilst “God’s Got To See That” and “When You’ve Loved The Best” are softer songs of family values, which Sean really does well.
He has some familiar names working on the album with him, including Des Sheerin, Phillip Begley, Billy Burgoyne, Ray McLaughlin , Charlie Arkins and Richard Nelson. Backing vocalists include Crawford Bell, Trionagh Moore, Leon McCrum and Lorraine McDonald.
He adds a little individual touch, by reading his sleeve notes on the CD. I’m not sure that it’ll catch on, but it’s a nice gesture that works for one of the nicest guys in the business.
Staying in Ireland, and SEAN WILSON celebrates 20 Years with a new double album, “You’ve Become The Dream” (H and H Music). Throughout the years, this Sean’s trademark has been happy singalong medleys, and this collection wont disappoint.
The second CD features around 60 songs over a dozen medleys.
The first CD has 20 individual tracks, from Country standards like “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, “Tiny Bubbles”, “Tijana Lady”, ”Could I Have This Dance” and “Forever & Ever Amen”.
I particularly liked the uptempo “Daddy Did The Best He Could” and his cover of Joe Diffie’s “Home”.
Sean is extremely good at what he does, and has a huge following. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t knock success.
H&H have also released “The Nashville Years”, a 48 track 2 CD collection from recent Glasgow visitor, SUSAN MCCANN. This is, essentially 4 albums recorded by Susan in Nashville between 1980 and 1987, made available on CD.
They include great songs like “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You”, “Blue Jean Country Queen”, “Late Late Show”, “Hands”, “Radio Heart” and “No One Will Ever Know”. There’s three duets with the late Porter Wagoner, whose studio’s three of the albums were recorded.
What’s most impressive is that the songs aren’t all well known covers. They are songs that Susan found, and made very much her own.
Musicians on the sessions included Hargus Pig Robbins, Lloyd Green and Danny Davis and Tom Pick.
This was Susan at the height of her career, and a nice sentimental package for her fans.
CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED are not, as you would expect, a Canadian band. They’re from Oklahoma, but take their name from front man, Cody Canada. They’ve been around for over a decade now, but this, as far as I’m aware, is their first British release.
“Happiness And All Other Things” was released by Humphead at the end of August, at the same time as their Stateside release.
Their bio on their website suggests that they may be the last Southern rock band around, following in the footsteps of greats like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. That pretty well sums up this 12 track collection, which, apart from “To Find My Love”, which was written by Stephen Bruton, was written by Canada and fellow band members.
It is a very rock sounding affair, with very little to appeal to Country fans, with the exception of the lovely folksy “Blue Bonnets”, which is wonderful.
The closing track, “My Chances” is also quite a pleasant ballad.
But in the main, this album did very little for me.
Humphead have also released a live album & DVD by SUGARLAND, which maybe makes up for the number of cancelled concerts they’ve missed this year. The duo did play Glasgow in March, but did cancel European, Irish, and more recently, US gigs.
So often, a “live” CD & DVD package, is essentially the same, and usually just a collection of their hits. Well, the CD was recorded across 5 different venues, from Atlanta to Red Deer,Alberta, whilst the DVD is entirely filmed in Lexington, Kentucky.
Whilst their big hit, “Stay” is featured on both, you only find “Baby Girl”, their first hit, on the DVD. Instead we’re treated to a number of covers by the likes of Beyonce, Pearl Jam, REM and Kings Of Leon.
I’m afraid, they kinda lost me with that musical mix. Their DVD was just another pop concert to me, but if you did enjoy them at the ABC earlier in the year, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this impressive package.
Next up, a young Californian lady called CORINNE WEST, who is becoming a regular visitor to Scotland. She was back here at the end of September for dates in Castlemilk and Dunfermline, to promote her new CD, “The Promise” (Make Records).
The album was recorded in Harrison Hot Springs, BC, after Corinne travelled up from California, and an engineer loaded up 1500lbs of recording equipment into a van and made the 2,500 mile trip from Nashville.
Corinne has a unique folksy, old timey sound, sometimes coming over in a Mary Chapin / Shawn Colvin style.
“Pollen” is quite a strong number. It has a soft, racey beat, whilst her voice remains pure and haunting. I also liked the more Country sounding “Lily Ann”. This would have to be my favourite track.
All the songs were written by Corinne, with the exception of the slowed down cover of Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’ ”.It’s a really nice version of the classic song. It’s not done as a cover, as she has added her own sound to it.
I had never heard of THE O’s before, but the sound on their “We Are The O’s” CD (Idol Records) was quite interesting. They are a Dallas, Texas based duo of Taylor Young and John Pedigo, who had been playing in a number of other bands until they joined forces in the summer of 2008.
It is unusual to find the banjo being the most prominent instrument in an acts sound, yet I wouldn’t call their music bluegrass. The vocals lend themselves to more of a raw Americana singer songwriter sound. It’s just a mix that seems so rare, yet works really well.
There’s not much detail on the CD sleeve. I’m assuming the songs are all original. The guys play all the instruments themselves, which, as well as banjo, include Lowebro, Tambo, Harmonica, Xylophone, Kick Drum and Guitar.
Altogether it’s a really refreshing sound. It kinda reminded me of the sound created by Glasgow’s Humpff Family a decade or so ago.
The album isn’t released here until November 2nd, but check them out at www.wearetheos.com
Finally this time around, an album with a difference.
Normally we get albums from singers and bands. But they would be nowhere without the songwriters. And it can be a mighty hard job getting people to hear your songs.
JOHN DAVIS is a Yorkshire based songwriter, who is busy pushing his music in Nashville, when he’s not playing in Atlanta, a Country Rock band, which John would love to bring to Scotland.
But, in a bid to get his songs heard, he has got some Nashville session players to record ten of his songs.
As you would expect, the Nashville sessions production was superb. (You have to remember, these singers want to get noticed too).
The songs are all excellent, and certainly match up with those John will be pitching them against in Music City. I especially liked “The Cheatin’ Kind” and “Do You Really want Me To Go”, which were co-written with Katherine Willis, and feature girl singers. But other songs like “Wrapped Around My Finger”, “If You’re Looking For Love” and the slow ballad, “Couldn’t Love You Anymore”.
It’s a really good album. I don’t know who the singers are, but they do a great job of John’s songs. The CD is available to buy for £5 + postage. You can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org