Starting off this month with a superb new album from JOSH TURNER, who has one of the deepest, richest male voices in today’s Country music. He’s also one of the most traditional stylists around these days.
“Haywire” continues to build on a successful career for the Grand Ole Opry member, who was once refereed to as “A Country Barry White!”
He has co-written four of the tracks on the album , and wrote the title track himself.
Other writers include Shawn Camp, Rory Burke, Mike Reid, Pat McLauchlin, and Rhett Akins.
Stand out tracks for me include the fast moving, “Eye Candy”, the soulful, “I Wouldn’t Be A Man” , the bluegrass flavoured “Your Smile”, and “Fast As I Can”.
Whatever style of song Josh takes on, he certainly delivers with soul and conviction.
The “Deluxe Edition” of the album, features four addition tracks, including the really catchy “Lets Find A Church” , which was from his “Long Black Train” session, but didn’t make the album.
Also featured are two live tracks, “Long Black Train” and “Your Man”, two of his biggest hits to date. Great to hear these songs “live”, but, personally, I prefer to listen to the voice of the man singing, not his screaming fans.
Despite that, a superb album, and great to see HumpHead releasing here.
From the same stable comes a brand new name, but he wont be a stranger long, I’m sure .
Florida native, EASTON CORBIN’s self titled debut album on Mercury Records (released here by Humphead) is a real Country winner. Although his heroes are listed as Whitley, Haggard & Jones, I hear a whole lot of George Strait & Alan Jackson in his voice and styling. That’s quite a winning combination.
Having written four of the songs, and featured others by names like Rory Feek (Joey & Rory), Mark D Sanders, Aimee Mayo, Kevin Denney and producer Carson Chamberlain , Easton has delivered a 100% proof Country album, that will still fit nicely into American Country Radio.
It’s such a good album that it’s difficult to pick out any particular tracks. I did like “A Little Bit More Country Than That”, which has also been released as a single. It was his US debut single and went Top 20. I also enjoyed “Don’t Ask Me About A Woman” and the slightly gulf coast sounding “A Lot To Learn About Livin”.
This is going to be one of the albums of 2010.
A couple of cracking home grown albums next.
JOHN MILLER has one of Scotland’s purest traditional Country voices, and has just released his third solo album ,”Still Carrying A Flame (Folk & Western label).
As with his previous offerings, John has written all the songs, and offers a good variety of tempos and styles.
From the catchy opening track, “Take It From Somebody Who Knows” to the softer “My Dreaming Party”, and the western swing styling of “My Baby Ain’t My Baby Any More” and the rockabilly flavoured “Mama Says No”, John is in fine voice/
There’s some nice harmony from Seonaid Aitkin on “Heavy Hangs The Head”.
One track which pleasantly surprised me was “Tiny Sweetheart Roses” which has a very sentimental, almost Irish Country, feel to it. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of interest in this one.
“Feeling Sorry For Ourselves” has a great Asleep At The Wheel swing feel to it, complete with an 86 second instrumental intro. He even tops off the album with “Trucking On Back To You”, a pedal pumping big trucking number.
One song I recognised was “Take Me Back To San Francisco”, which was previously recorded by John on The Radio Sweethearts’ “Lonesome Blue” album. I liked the dobro and organ, giving it quite a different arrangement ten years on.
I particularly enjoyed “I Just Cant Live Without You”, with it’s superb steel intro and superb delivery.
Whatever track you listen to, it’s pure Country music.
He has a good line up of players on the album, including BJ Cole, Francis MacDonald, Andy McDowell, Martin Barrett and David McClean, The whole thing (except BJ’s steel licks) was recorded in Busby.
Another successful songwriting talent we have here in Scotland is ISLA GRANT.
Isla’s latest album, “Movin’ On” has just been released on Rosette Records here.
Whilst Isla is a household name in Ireland, and has huge followings in Australia, New Zealand & Canada, she has found her homeland a harder nut to crack.
Her music has, traditionally leaned towards the sentimental side of Country music, which is no doubt why Ireland has embraced her so warmly.
However, Isla is much more than that. Her last album was full of Hank Williams songs, and this new album has her displaying different styles from blues to bluegrass.
The title track is kinda bluesy, but this style suits her vocals, as much as the sentimental numbers like “I Still Love You”.
I really enjoyed hearing the rather sentimental, yet bluegrass sounding, “Sleep Little Baby”. It reminded of the music from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. There’s an old timey feel to “You Don’t Belong” too.
Then there’s gospel. Isla does a fantastic job on “A Train Called Glory”. Such a well crafted song, and it stands out on the album for me. It’s a feel good uptempo number.
Elsewhere, she goes back to her old folk roots on “The Old Canal”.
As those who have seen the lady in concert over the past couple of years will know, she’s been adding harmonica to her set, and this is prominent on “It’s Not Easy”
She also revs it up with some uptempo numbers, like “What Are You Trying To Do To Me” and “What Love Can Do”
Isla hasn’t changed completely. Songs like “It’s Too Late Sweetheart” and “Dont Give Up On Me” bear her well loved sentimental stamp.
Having written songs about Scotland, Ireland & Australia, Isla’s latest place is New Zealand. She closes the album with a lovely song for her kiwi fans in “Aotearoa”. It’s a lovely song that you don’t have to be from the other side of the world to appreciate.
With 15 tracks, Isla has delivered a superb album of all original material.
Throughout this column, and on my radio programme, I’ve often praised the quality of Country music coming from our northern neighbours in The Faroe Islands.
Last year we reviewed an album from HALLUR, and second album “Smile” has just arrived.
As with his debut, Hallur demonstrates a superb Country style, a very traditional sound, and a beautiful twinning of Nashville & Torshavn musicians. Indeed, it was for a celebration of the ties between the cities that brough Music City musos like Brent Mason, Paul Franklin and David Hungate to the windswept rocky islands last summer.
The album features well produced classics like Hank’s “Why Should We Try Anymore”, Ernest Tubb’s “Walking The Floor” , Ray Price’s “I’ll Be There” and Cash’s “I Got Stripes”..He does a superb version of “Til A Tear Becomes A Rose”, dueting with Tanya Hencheroff”. There’s also a Faroese version of a Charley Pryde song
But there’s also original songs by local North Atlantic writers. The album’s title track, has quite a poppy, almost Eurovision, (don’t think The Faroes take part, maybe they should!) feel to it, but sounds really catchy . There’s two versions of the song, in English, like most of the album, and in the local tongue.
“Window Shopping” really impressed me. It has a good traditional feel to it, and “My Sweetest Hello” is a duet with Nashville songstress Dawn Sears.
Throughout, Hallur’s Country credentials, and strong vocal style shines through.
It’s another winner from The Faroes!
One of the most talked about films recently is “CRAZY HEART” which stars Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell in a tale about a hard living Country singer.
There’s plenty of good music in the film , both old & new, featured on the soundtrack, which is available in two versions. You can get a version with 16 tracks, or a deluxe version offering 23 tracks.(New West )
Whilst Colin Farrell does a fairly decent job on “Gone,Gone,Gone”, I was less than impressed with the contributions from Bridges and Ryan Bingham. Bingham’s “The Weary Kind”, which is the film’s theme, is indeed, rather weary.
Most of the new material is rather heavy and rocky, in direct contrast to the older songs from Buck Owens, The Louvin Brothers, Waylon and Townes Van Zante that get a new airing. It was great to hear “Hello Trouble”, and “If You Needed Me” again, and they blew through the album like a breath of fresh air.
If you enjoy the film, then you’ll enjoy the CD as a momento, but, as a musical offering, I wasn’t persuaded to head out to see the film.
There is no doubting that BETH NEILSEN CHAPMAN is one of Country music’s most prolific female songwriters. Her work extends well beyond Nashville, with Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Neil Diamond and Roberta Flack having recorded her songs, alongside Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill and Willie Nelson.
She is no stranger to the studio, having released several albums, including a Warner Brothers Greatest Hits collection.
Her new album, “Back To Love” (BNC) released here to coincide with her recent lengthy UK tour, is one of her strongest to date.
The album is labelled as a “mainstream pop album”, but, to me it’s a songwriter’s album. BNC has always had that Middle Of The Road feel to her songs, where she can sell these songs to a Country audience, and beyond, into a bigger pop market.
OK, so the instrumentation on this album, may be just a shade more contemporary, but the songs adapt well to the arrangements.
I particularly enjoyed the opening two songs, “Hallelujah” and “I Can See Me Loving You”, which are both quite uptempo for Beth. The rest of the album are ballads, ranging from the powerful “How We Love”, to the delicate “Shadows” and “Path Of Love”.
“Happiness” is probably the most obvious Country flavoured number,
But , throughout, Beth displays a beautiful delivery. At times, there’s a hint of laughter, which gives you the feeling of listening to this album in an intimate songwriting club.
I really enjoyed listening to this album from Beth Neilsen Chapman, and was left wishing I had caught one of her recent concerts here.
JOHNNY CASH has become such an icon since he died. His later recordings are, to the long term fan, by no means his best. But there’s no doubt that these latter day recordings did capture a whole new generation of fans.
“American VI : Aint No Grave”, released in February to mark, what would’ve been his 78th birthday, is the final recordings in a long career that stretched back ti the 50’s. The album was produced by Rick Rubin, who produced the previous five albums in the series.
Throughout, John sounds frail, and the choice of songs do come from a dying man.
He covers a few Country classics, like Hank Snow’s “It Don’t Hurt Anymore”, and Kristofferson’s “For The Good Times” (with it’s opening line “The Party’s Over”).
There’s Tom Paxton’s “Cant Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”, and Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day”. Cash’s delivery on these songs are all farewell songs.
Even Bob Nolan’s “Cool Water”, which I’m sure Cash has recorded before, looks towards the afterlife.
The album also features his last written composition. “First Corinthians” in which he tells of his journey to his redeemer.
Some may feel that this is quite a morbid album, but I’m sure Cash recorded it, with the view to his life and music carrying on after he died. It’s certainly one to complete that Cash collection.
From Arkansas, Cash’s home state, our next album comes from AMY CLAWSON. “The Woman In Me” (BSW) is a modern album with some good traditional stamps on it. David Frizzell produced half of the tracks on the 15 track selection, wrote four of the songs, and duets on “Why Wasn’t It Me”, one of the strongest songs on the whole CD.
Amy, herself, had a hand in writing the fast paced “Another Clown”.
Several of the numbers are quite poppy, with “Cowboy Up”, which closes, verging close to rapping in parts.
But there are plenty of songs of interest for Country fans.
“Can’t Call It Love” is a particularly strong Country song
“I’m Gonna Fly”, co-written by Karen Taylor Good is one of the more sensitive offerings, with “Where In The World Am I” also standing out.
There’s a classic in the form of Hank Cochran’s “Don’t Touch Me”, which Amy does a really strong version on.
Amy Clawson certainly covers a lot of ground on this album.
Well worth checking her out at www.myspace.com /amyclawsoncountry
Moving up to Nebraska, we find Omaha native HANNAH McNEIL, from whom we received a package including her self titled album, and a DVD of her current single, “What Am I Getting Up For”. (Red)
Hannah worked her way through the honky tonks and Country fairs across the Midwest, before heading to Tennessee. With her husband, she now lives on a farm in Franklin, an easy commute to Music City.
For her album, she teamed up with Ron Higgins, and they co-wrote the whole album of 13 songs.
They’re all quite catchy radio friendly modern Country songs, and well produced and performed by Hannah.
My favourite cuts would be “Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” , “Walking Away A Winner” and “I Am Strong”. They’re up to the Nashville standard, equal to anything you’ll hear from a bigger label.
I’m sure well hear more from Hannah.
It doesn’t feel like 23 years since MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER burst onto the scene with the wonderfully under acclaimed “Hometown Girl” album. These days, a new album from Chapin is something of a rarity, so it’s always worth checking out.
Her new CD, “The Age Of Miracles” is on the Rounder label, and is released towards the end of April.
We have an advance copy, without the usual writing and production credits, but I can confirm that it is a very enjoyable listen. She’s in fine voice throughout.
Vince Gill joins her on “I Put My Ring Back On”, but only in a very background vocal capacity. It is, however, one of the stronger songs on the album.
She recalls the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 on “4 June 1989” from a\17 year old’s point of view. She continues the global theme on the soft and gentle, “Iceland”.
The album’s title track is quite midtempo and folksy. It works really well.
As with any MCC album, many of the songs are quite dark and serious, with the odd flicker of light and joy.
This album has the usual Mary Chapin Carpenter formula. It’ll be another winner!
GARY ALLAN has been around since the mid-90’s, being a consistent Country chartmaker in America, without quite making the superstar status. His sound is of a modern day outlaw, a bit rockier than Waylon or Willie ever was, although he has given us a few lovely ballads over the years.
His music has never made much of an impression on me, and his new album , “Get Off On The Pain” (Humphead) wont change that.
It’s OK, as it goes, but having listened several times to the album, there’s nothing that caught my attention.
Allan had a hand in writing half of the tracks. If you get the “Deluxe Edition”, you get three extra “live” tracks recorded at The House Of Blues in Chicago last October.
If Gary Allan has made an impression on you during the past 15 years, then this album will be worth checking out. If you’re not familiar with Gary already, I doubt if this album would change that.
When you’re a superstar like WILLIE NELSON, you can call your album anything you like. To call it “Country Music”, is simple and effective.
There’s 15 tracks, with a very traditional feel, especially on tracks like “Seaman’s Blues” You Done Me Wrong” and “Gotta Walk Alone”.He does a few standards too, like “Satisfied Mind”, “My Baby’s Gone”, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Drinking Champagne”.
This new album is released at the end of April on Rounder.
BARNEY BENTALL has been part of the Canadian music scene for many years, in various bands. This is the Toronto born singer songwriter’s second solo album for True North Records.
“The Inside Passage” features 10 self penned songs, recorded in British Columbia.
They range from the uptempo opening track “Hold My Heart” to ballads like “I Never Meant To Make You Cry” and “She Ran Away”.
The title track is a soft ballad, as is “Face To Face”. The slow songs are nice, but don’t deliver as strong a message as some of the other tracks on the album.
Uptempo tracks like “Catch That Train” and the bluegrassy “Papa Henry’s Boy” are the album’s stand out tracks.
BUCHANAN are a Manchester based five piece band, who have a solid based Country sound. “Suit Of Lights” (Goldrush Records) is their third release, and it continues from where they left off.
It’s all original material, and is delivered with such strong conviction. Their influences are cited as Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons and Robert Earl Keen.
The twelve tracks offer some quite distinctive sounds.
The album kicks off quite quietly with “She Rides With The Wind”, but the album has some superb uptempo numbers too. “The Girl From Your Hometown” is particularly catchy.
It’s 100% Country throughout, but “House On The Hill” has a particularly strong Country feel to it. “Jim Todd’s Blues” also stands out.
“The Longest Night”, which closes the album has a real old Western story feel to it.
The album was recorded in Manchester, and guest vocalists include Cathryn Craig and Monica Nordli.
It’s a first class UK Country recording. Superb stuff.
ALAN WEST has been part of the UK Country scene, primarily down south, for many years. He was half of the BCMA award winning West & Elliott duo, before setting out on a solo career.
His first solo album was recorded in Nashville, whilst his new release, “The Way Of The World” (Rido Records) was made in England.
This album features songs written by Steve Black , hailed as one of Britain’s unsung songwriters. Well, his work is sung now, and given a really good hearing by Alan.
The opening track , “The Big Freeze”, is a particularly good, strong commercial number, whilst “Wasilla” is much more of a story song.. “I’m Not Over You” has quite a simple ballad that works really well.
“The World That’s Lost Your Name” is back to the catchy beat, with a bit more of a folksy influence. “Devil Or An Angel” is quite fast too, with a good linedance beat to it.
“How Much Time” is has a nice Country feel to it, with some nice harmonies. Sarah Jory and Albert Lee are amongst the background vocalists.
I really enjoyed this album. It was quite different.
SOCIETY are a trio from West Sussex, who have just released their CD, “Songs From The Brickhouse” on their own label.
They have a good Country Rock sound, with good measures of harmonica and Mandolin, which offers much more than effect. They have been likened to CSNY, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and The Band. Certainly they have that popular West Coast sound.
The band’s Matt Wise wrote all 11 songs, including the cracker of an opening track, “Fools End”.
I also enjoyed “Blown On The Breeze” and “Back In The Woods”, but, I have to say, the whole album brought back memories of the 70’s Country Rock sounds of Poco and The Eagles.
Check them out at www.myspace.com/societymusic
Kent born GRAHAM LANDI has spent years honing his album, “Halfway Home” (Little Onion Records via Frontier). It’s taken years from scribbling down ideas in a little notebook, to putting them into his first album. He doesn’t have a particular style, with bits of folk, rock & country all featuring on the CD.
The whole album, produced by Sean Kenny, is very listenable.
“Yes Days & Yesterdays” is a particularly strong driving song, which features some nice harmony from Hayley Oliver, whose own album, we reviewed last time.
I also enjoyed the catchy “Where Did You Go”, and the slightly rockier, (although not far away from today’s Nashville sound”) “Ashamed”.
“Corduroy Pillow” and “ Four” are a little softer, but the very melodic “I Can’t” really caught my attention, perhaps more of a ballad than a Country song, but it works well.
“Water” and “What If I’m Right” have more of a folksy feel to them, but, again, they work well.
This is his life story in 12 songs (“Mother” has two different versions). I hope he has more to tell.
Finally, over to Ireland for a couple of new releases. One from one of the longest running bands, and one of the newest names on the scene,
THE INDIANS, a colourful group of guys who have been entertaining for close on 40 years,
As the title suggests, “From The Beginning”, takes us back to the start, and traces The Indians long career since they first came along in 1971.
Although the line up never changed much in that time, they did have five “Big Chief’s” throughout the years. Three tracks are featured from each era, with songs that have been mainstays of any Indians show.
As with any showband, it’s not all Country, but good dance numbers. Here you’ll find a good few Elvis numbers, like “She Thinks I Still Care” and “Cant Help Falling In Love”. “Love Is All Around” (the Wet Wet Wet hit) is also credited as having been written by The King. There’s The Eagles, “Girl From Yesterday”, and The Statlers’ “Flowers On The Wall”.
Stand out song, is their single hit from a few years back. “Galway To Graceland” is such a great song..
There’s not too many showbands still around these days. The Indians are something of an Irish treasure. Here’s a superb album to remember those great showband nights with.
20 year old NATHAN CARTER is certainly making a name for himself. The winner of the Best Newcomer at the recent Sunday World All Ireland Country Music Awards, has just released his debut album, “The Way That You Love Me”.
The album features a good selections of covers, including Joe South’s “Games People Play”, Vince Gill’s “I Still Believe In You”, John D Loudermilk’s “Break My Mind” and a bouncing Buck Owen’s Medley.
The adds a bit of Irish with Foster & Allen’s “After All These Years”, an Irish medley, and two songs, including the title track, penned by John Farry.
He does a good job throughout the album. It’s your typical Irish Country album, good songs, well produced, and great to dance along to. He doesn’t quite offer anything that stands him out from the crowd, but he has a future, of that I’ve no doubt.