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Tuesday 15 March 2011

Dec 2010

With the run up to Christmas, there’s a load of CD’s up for review this time around, and I’m pleased to say we have some good home grown music to kick off with.

A few issues back we introduced you to LISA McHUGH, a Glasgow lass making her name in Ireland, since reaching the final of last year’s Glor Tire TV talent show. Now her debut album has arrived, and it’s a real cracker!
“Old Fashioned Girl” is the title track of the album, and was her first single. It’s a bright breezy number that really gets the feet tappin’. It’s one of three Joni Harms songs on the 13 track collection, the others being the equally catchy “Catalog Dreams”, and the slower “When I Get Over You”.
Lisa excells at quick catchy numbers and does a good job on “Ramblin’ Man” and “I’m a Little Bit Lonely”. She also covers Australian group The McClymonts “You Were Right”, and “I Wish It Would Rain”, previously best known for Nanci Griffith’ version.
She does a great tribute to Loretta Lynn on “You Aint Woman Enough”, which I particularly enjoyed.
But it’s not all uptempo. This girl can deliver a mean ballad.
“God’s Plan” is also out as a single from it’s writer Derek Ryan, but Lisa really delivers the song with stunning emotion. I’m also pleased to see her include the beautiful Cara Dillon song “There Were Roses”, a song with touches on the innocent losses suffered by families during the troubles in Ireland. She performed the song on the Glor Tire semi final, (video avaiable on You Tube) and really handles the song with such sensitivity and grace.
Add to that a number in Gealic, written by The Corrs, and a lovely song written by Daniel O’Donnell, and this album covers a real variety of material.
I really enjoyed the whole album. Every single track won me over, and I cannot rate this album highly enough. It’s a brilliant debut for the lovely Lisa.

Nobody can deny that SYDNEY DEVINE has been Scotland’s most succesful Country singer. 55 years in
the entertainment business, 25 albums, and his TV and radio shows tell it all. As in Barbara Mandrell’s song, Sydney was “Country Before Country was Cool”. He certainly brought Country music to a huge audience in Scotland in his heyday.
His latest album, “Skiffle Country” (Scotdisc) takes him back to his early years, by covering Lonnie Donegan hits like “Battle Of New Orleans” and “Putting On The Style”, and Nancy Whiskey’s “Freight Train”.
He has also covered “Tennessee Waltz” , “I’m Movin’ On” and a couple of old Hank Williams tunes, including “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Move It On Over”.
The album sleeve gives a history of Skiffle music, which I liked.
Produced by Bill Garden, the album features Dougie Stevenson, Bill Garden, Stevie Lawrence, Stuart Anderson, Chas McKenzie, Eve Graham & Kevin Finn.
Sydney’s in fine voice throughout the album. If you’re a Sydney fan, this is one for you.

There’s a small but very enthusiastic bluegrass scene right here in Scotland. One of the long standing groups on the scene are a family band from Glasgow, NEW REDWING, and their new album , “Glimpes,Visions + Dreams” is a beautiful mix of bluegrass , old time, acoustic and gospel music.
The album features 13 tracks, all but two self penned.
“A Glimse Of You” is just one of the lovely songs from Louise. She also does a good job on the catchy “Come Back Dear”. “The Right One” works well too, as does the more uptempo, “You’re Not Worth It”
“Wishing My Life Away” features some wonderful family 3 part harmonies, as does “Everlasting Kiss”
Meanwhile, Alan leads the instrumentals, in “Struggl’n Muggl’n“ and “Fare Thee Well” and vocally on “Dark Holler”. He also leads the vocals on the gospel flavoured “Turn To the Lord”.
Hazel’s vocals are best heard on “Broken Dreams”, in two part harmony with mum Louise.
The album was recorded in Moffat, and features an array of acoustic instruments. Louise plays resonator guitar, double bass and guitar, whilst Alan plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle ,and daughter Hazel plays the double bass.
I loved the sheer simplicity of this album. It was just a joy to listen to. I loved it.

More homegrown bluegrass next, in the form of a new album, “Carolina Star” from GOLDRUSH, who have been part of the Scottish scene for 21 years now. The current line up features founder member John Sheldon, alongside Alan Jones, Tom Connel, Danny Hart and Kenny Marshall.
The album features covers by some of the bluegrass legends like Richard Thompson, Don Reno and Earl Scruggs. They cover Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and the title cut comes from the pen of Hugh Moffatt.
It’s all well produced banjo driven traditional bluegrass, which the band is renowned for. I especially enjoyed “Waltzing For Dreamers”, which has some nice concertina.
Contact John on 07968 124582 for your copy

I wasn’t familiar with THE SCUFFERS, but I am now.
They are a Glasgow based band, whose music has an likeable rawness to it. They’re not what I’d label a Country band, but there are definite Country influences in their music.
“Scrambled Pictures”, is their second album, and apparently the first one had more of a Country feel to it.
Recorded at Glasgow’s Carlton studios, all the songs were written by Gavin Wallace, who also leads the vocals, and plays acoustic guitar, harmonica,recorder and melodica. There are six members in the band, but a total of ten musicians are playing on the album.
Some of the tracks are on the rocky side, but there are plenty of Country influences, notably the simple “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now”, the haunting story song, “The Night God Came To Town”, and the breezy “Take Me Down”, and “A Man Who Treats You Right”
The harmonies at the start of “A Heartful Of Lovin’” are superb, and really show the important part Angie Darcy plays on the album. This track also features some nice melodica.
“High And Low” has a good strumming guitar beat, in a Dave Edmunds style. Elsewhere, The Scuffers reminded me of another Glasgow band of yesteryear, the Humpff Family.
I really enjoyed the album. It was bright and breezy and refreshing.
Only one caution. Track 10, an otherwise pleasant ballad called “Here’s To The Day’s”, is spoiled by the use of unneccesary swearing, which will certainly prevent it getting radio play.

As reported in the last issue, JOHNNY REID , who was born in Lanark, has had another huge year in Canada. His latest album, “A Place Called Love”(EMI Canada) was the top selling album in Canada across all kinds of music within days of it’s release.
I have to be honest, and state that this isn’t an all out Country album. Having supported Johnny since his first self released album, he has always demonstrated a raunchy soulful vocal style, and that seems to be more apparent on this new album, than ever before.
Some of the songs do sound more Motown than Music City, but he does blend the two beautifully, and even manages a Celtic twist. All the songs were co-written by Reid, many with Brent Maher, who produced the album. The album was recorded in Nashville, and features some impressive names including Eddie Bayers, Brent Mason, Tammy Rogers, Richard Bennett, Glenn Worf ,and harmonies from Vicki Hampton (ex Dave & Sugar).
“Out of The Blue” is possibly the bounciest Country radio friendly song, and he gets all sentimental on “Tell Me Margaret”, a song devoted to his grandmother. I really enjoyed “This Is Not Goodbye”, a good uptempo number which really shows off his soulful tones.
The album’s title cut is devoted to family life, of which Johnny is a strong advocate.
But I did promise a Celtic twist, and that is featured in “Today I’m Gonna Try And Change The World”, which was the first single from the album. It’s another song that Johnny cries for peace and friendship, and just when he was starting to sound like a politician, along comes Jim Drury and his bagpipes, and totally transforms the song.
Johnny wont be everyone’s idea of a Country singer, but us Scots cannot ignore such a superstar that we’ve given our Canadian cousins. We should share in his pride (he calls his fanclub The Tartan Army).
The album should be released here in the spring, but is available from Canadian outlets now.

“The Essential DIXIE CHICKS” (Columbia) is a 2 CD set of hit material from the trio, that ironically was released in the UK to coincide with two thirds of the trio’s new brand, The Court Yard Hounds, making their London debut in November.
The chicks have been one of the most inspirational Country groups of the past 12 years or so. They have set the standard for girl groups, and set the standard for being able to speak out with your music. They may have made some enemies along the way, but that, perhaps, said more about those who tried to stifle free speech, than the Chicks music.
This 30 song collection stands up for the girls’ music. It features 30 songs, including all six of their Country chart toppers, taken from their four widely acclaimed albums. Among the favourites, you’ll find “Travellin’ Soldier”, “Wide Open Spaces”, “Long Time Gone”, “Ready To Run”, “There’s Your Trouble” and the linedancers favourite, “Tonight The Heartache’s On Me”.
It’s a superb collection for fans who dont already have their albums.

JAMEY JOHNSON made quite an impression with his last album, “That Lonesome Song”, which produced hits “In Colour” and “Between Jennings & Jones”. His latest offering , “The Guitar Song” (HumpHead) will make an even bigger impression on fans, for its VFM if nothing else. It’s a 2 CD set, with no less than 25 songs. The collection is basically split in two. The Black album is a CD of “down” songs, whilst the White album is more positive. That’s not to say they’re upbeat happy songs, far from it.
My favourite track on the whole album is the opening track on the black CD. “Lonely At The Top” is a real honky tonk song, from a succesful singer’s viewpoint. It’s all the more ironic that it was co-written by the tragic Keith Whitley.
Whilst most of the songs were co- written by Johnson, he has included a few more covers, including Mental Revenge (Mel Tillis) , For The Good Times (Kristofferson) and Set Em Up Joe (Vern Gosdin).
The legendary Bill Anderson joins Jamey on the album’s title cut. It’s a stand out track.
The album took a couple of listens to really get into it. It’s a really strong Country album , in the Haggard or Jones styling. It’s got a real personal feel to it. If this is your kinda Country, it’s a must.

Oregon raised RACHEL HARRINGTON has become quite a regular visitor to our shores in recent years, with lengthy tours playing the smallest of venues in the remotest of towns. She’s a lovely lady, who loves to express herself, and just loves travelling.
Her new album, “Celilo Falls”(Skinny Dennis label) is a lovely acoustic set of stories from her travels on the road, and closer to home in America’s Northwest. All but one of the songs are from her own pen.
“Goodbye Amsterdam” is one which is inspired by her European travels, with mentions of Barcelona, Birmingham and Viennna, but “by the time I get to Glasgow I’ll feel right at home”.
She also delves into the celtic musical history on “Pretty Saro”. The song is based on her interest in the Scots/Irish/American musical heritage and found this tune. When she found that the lyrics didn’t follow the story, she wrote her own. She does it accapella.
I really enjoyed “The Last Jubilee” which Rachel describes as her her “own version of heaven”, which also honours Johnny Cash, Elvis & Hank. I also enjoyed “He Started Building My Mansion In Heaven Today”, inspired by her grandpa.
The album was recorded in Washington state, and features impressive musicians like Ronnie McCoury and Lindisfarne’s Rod Clements (who accompanied her on her recent UK tour).
Rachel has a very pleasing acoustic feel to her music. I love listening to her. Very relaxing.

RANDY HOUSER burst onto the American Country scene last year with “Boots On” from his first album , “Anything Goes”. Now Humphead have released the follow up, “Cadillac” here in the UK.
The title track is a cracker. Co-written with Brice Long. It’s got a good uptempo beat. “Whistlin’ Dixie”, the first single from the album in America is a shade rocky, in a Country kinda way, if you know what I mean.
Other highlights include “A Man Like Me”, and “Out Here In The Country”
“Will I Always Be This Way” is a softer ballad with some nice slide guitar, courtesy of Eddie Long, and “Here with Me” is also a pretty Country ballad. “If I Could Buy Me Some Time” sounds so Merle, I had to check the CD again.
The Mississippi native has co-written the whole album, with other singer-songwriters like Shane Minor, Keith Gattis, Jameson Clark, and Kent Blazey.
I really enjoyed the album. Definately Country with lots of traditional values, yet not out of place in today’s modern world.

THE COAL PORTERS are one of the UK’s most established bands of alt-Country, Americana & Bluegrass music. The Chris Hillman inspired band is led by Sid Griffin, the former Long Ryder, who although is originally from Kentucky, has called London home since 1992.
Together with the current line up of Neil Robert Herd, Dick Smith, Jeff Kazmierski and Carly Frey, they’ve come up with a superb album of modern bluegrass in “Durango” (Prima Records). There are also some guest appearances from the likes of Tim O’Brien & Pete Rowan.
It’s a high energy album with beautiful blended vocal harmonies. Most of the songs are written by the band members, although they do cover Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane”, which fits in nicely with the rest of the album. Peter Rowan wrote “Moonlight Midnight”, on which he features as a guest.
I really enjoyed the album for it’s versatility. Picking favourite tracks is difficult, but “Like a Hurricane”, and the old timey “Looking For A Soft Place To Fall” did stand out.

There’s no doubt that KENNY CHESNEY is one of Country music’s biggest star’s. 30 Million album sales in America alone will testify to that. Having said that, he has yet to make a huge dent in the international scene.
His new album, “Hemmingway’s Whiskey” is one of the most impressive I’ve heard from him for a long time. The album kicks off with “Boys Of Fall”, a football anthem. Apparently the video features some well known American footballers. He continues with his soft Gulf of Mexico sound with “Coastal” and “Round And Round”.
That lazy beach sound is also evident on the title track, a song co-written by Guy Clark.
But for me, there are two duets which stand out on the album.
“You & Tequilla” is a lovely durt with Grace Potter. Their voices blend beautifully together.
Then he teams up with George Jones on “Small Y’All”. Featuring George just adds class to the whole album.
Quite a listenable colection of songs, which can only further his appeal here.

Western music doesn’t get the profile it used to, yet there is still a vibrant scene out in America’s heartland. RW HAMPTON is one of the guys still keeping the sound alive.
“Austin to Boston” (Cimarron Sounds) is his latest album, just released here. It’s actually his 12th album,so he is by no means, a new atist. Then, Chris LeDoux had over 20 albums out before Garth Brooks mentioned him in a song, and he suddenly became an overnight success. Perhaps Garth needs to do a new song, or we just need to check this album out to discover what a talent RW is.
The lead off European focus track, “Cowboys Prayer” was No.1 in the Hotdisc chart for 3 weeks, based on reactions from DJ’s and journalists on this side of the Atlantic, so he is catching the ear of the media.
He has a superb authentic, heartfelt voice, that blends nicely with simple musical arrangements.
There is a lot of ground between Austin and Boston, and RW covers a lot of ground on this album.
He was involved in writing three of the tracks. Whilst “Lady” and “Rodeo Man” are quite slow ballads, “Shortgrass”, which closes the album , is quite a bouncy number, which is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
The swing feel to western music lends itself nicely to Michael Buble’s “ Home” and Eddy Arnold’s “You Dont Know Me”, but the two tracks that really show the albums’ diversity are a beautiful version of “Danny Boy”, (complete with bagpipes and tin whistle), and a really catchy swing version of Freddie Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. It certainly doesn’t sound out of place.
Western music is still alive, and as long as guys like RW Hampton are producing it, there’ll always be a market.

Going back to your roots can sometimes demonstrate just how much life has changed. In the music world, technology has changed so much in the past twenty years. Much of the eighties music is no longer available.
I recall an impressive appearance by a young Canadian singer called MICHELLE WRIGHT at the Peterborough Festival back in the late 80’s. Her album, “Do Right By Me” was a strong showcase for her music. Savanah Music (via Proper distribution here) have just re-issued the album on CD for the first time.
The look is different, but the music isn’t much changed from what she’s doing these days. Some of the tracks, which I perhaps thought were a bit pop back then, are mainstream Country these days. I guess, Michelle was just a little ahead of the times.
The album brought back memories, with songs like “New Fool At An Old Game” and “Do Right By Me”.
She always had a soulful bluesy sound, evident here on “ I Wish I Were Only Lonely”.
The album has an additional track from the original LP – a duet with Terry Carisse on “None Of The Feeling Is Gone”. That kinda sums up the album. It was a powerful album back in 1988, and 22 years later still shines against the current crop of Nashville girl singers’ CD’s.

Ireland is awash with good Country singers. JOHN McNICHOLL is one of the newer guys on the block. The former chef from Forglen, Derry has now five albums to his credit. The latest, “Someone Like You” (Arran) offers quite a variety. He is certainly broadening his appeal accross various musical styles.
He has some rock’n ‘roill, Shakin’ Stevens style, with “This Ole House”, “Oh Julie” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, which contrasts with showtunes like “Somewhere My Love” and “Love Changes Everything”.
There are duets with Daniel O’Donnell, Margo, and Louise Morrissey, the latter featuring the Louvins’ gorgeous “Hows the World Treating You”.
The title track is the old Gail Davies song, and he does the old Eddy Arnold number “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”. His latest single, which closes the album , is the old T Texas Tyler/Wink Martindale tale of the “Deck Of Cards”. John has also done a video for the song, which has been featured on Hot Country.
John offers a lot of variety on this album, and proves himself to be a master of all trades by handling the different styles equally well.

ADRIAN NATION is a new name to me, but apparently well travelled throughout the UK & Europe, and has toured Greece twice this year. He was influenced by Dylan and Knopfler, as well as the late Isaac Guillory.
He is a guitar based singer songwriter, having written or co-written each of the album’s 11 cuts.
Most of the album was recorded in Essex and Surrey, although the slide guitar on “The Heart Beats On”, was recorded in Nashville.
The album kicks off with “Dont Turn Away”, which has a good uptempo beat, and a good vocal chorus.
“The Other Side Of The Night(Maria’s Song)” has a lovely folksy feel to it. A couple of the ballads, especially “Brightest Star” work well. And he proves his guitar skills on “Five Finger Rapids”.
I really enjoyed the album. Not apparent Country, but still pleasing to my ear.

ROSEHILL are a trailblazing Texan duo, consisting of Mitch McBain and Blake Myers, whose debut album, “White Lines and Stars” (Cypress Creek Records) has just been released.
Their influences are listed as Townes Van Zante, Dylan and Buck Owens, which covers quite a spectrum. There’s also some Eagles or Doobie Brothers sound in there too. They claim to be “a little bit Country, a little rock’n’roll”.
The album was produced by Radney Foster. The duo, Foster and Jay Clementi wrote most of the album, although there’s a few credits for George Ducas (remember him!) and a few others.
Most of the material is quite uptempo, without being too rocky. After saying that “Sunday” has quite a rock’n’roll beat, but is extremely catchy.
The album’s title cut, already a big hit in Texas, is a soft Country rock, easy driving song.
“Glass Of Whiskey” is probably the strongest Country cut. It has strong vocals, and steel guitar.
“Picassos For Pesos” stands out for being quite different. It’s quite a mellow, tex mex arrangement, and works really well.
“Love Burns On” quite a pleasent ballad, which should find itself airplay outside of Texas.
I really enjoyed the album. Check it out if you get a chance.

There’s no doubt that The Louvin Brothers were one of the most influential acts in Country music history. Their music goes back to the Forties, and is still heard today. Ira died in a car crash in 1965, but brother Charlie Louvin carried on with a solo career that gave him 30 chart hits.
Now aged 83, CHARLIE LOUVIN is still recording, and has just released “The Battles Rage On” (True North Records). The vocals aren’t as strong as they once were, but that adds to the sincerity of the emotions contained in this new collection.
Being a legend himself does make it notable when he covers old Merle Haggard, Red Foley, Ton T Hall, Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff numbers. There’s also a couple of reworked Louvin classics, including “Mother I Thank You For The Bible”, which was also recorded by Hank Snow.
Then there’s a modern approach with harmony vocals from Del McCoury and Jamie Dailey.
I particularly enjoyed his arrangement of “There’s a Star Spangled Banner”, and “Weapon Of Prayer”.
With title’s like “What We’re Fighting For”,”More Than a Name On A Wall”, “A Soldiers Last Letter”, “Weapons Of Prayer” and “Searching For a Soldiers Grave”, there is a theme running throughout the album. Yes, this album is dedicated to the military and the sacrifices of war. It’s always been a popular theme in Country music. Unlike the current trend for this type of song, however, this album isn’t just about American pride.
Charlie Louvin delivers a whole lot more of emotion.

Finally, a couple of seasonal releases.
Texan KIMMIE RHODES told me, back in January, when she was over for Celtic Connections, that she was going back to finish a Christmas album. Well, “Miricles On Christmas Day”(Sunbird) is the proof.
The 12 track collection is a nice relaxing set of songs, featuring mainly her own songs, although she does cover Patty Griffin’s “Mary” and the traditional “What Child Is This” (to the tune of “Greensleeves”.
This album was inspired, years ago, by her friend, one Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper, and she vowed to write a Christmas song every year. These songs are now included in this collection.
The songs vary from the tex-mex flavoured “Wake Up Sleepy Town” to the bluesy “Little Touch Of Christmas”.
All the songs are handled quite sensitively and heartfelt. They’re not the usual Christmas commercial sounds that Country music thrives on. That gets plus points from me.

A more lively Christmas song is “Get Me Home In Time For Christmas”, from the much travelled McKENZIE, written by Kenny & Zoe, along with Alex Birnie. It’s a really catchy number, with good instrumentation and lively vocals. It’ll certainly be on my Christmas (play)list.
It’s available on iTunes, and from their Myspace site.

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