We’ll kick off this time with “THE VILLAGE”, a 13 track celebration of New York’s famous musical district. Greenwich Village was New York’s Music Row, or Tin Pan Alley, especially during the folk revival era back in the 1960’s.
The scene didn’t just attract musicians, but songwriters, political activists and civil rights campaigners. It was the “In Place” in The Big Apple.
Now 429 Records & The Savoy Music Group have come up with a stunning album that captures the era on CD. The project is distributed in the UK by Proper Music.
Although some of the names will not be recognised by Country music fans, you will recognise Shelby Lynne, Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Chapin’s “Violets Of Dawn”, written by Eric Anderson, is a very typical MCC sound, whilst Lynne and Williams cover Bob Dylan numbers.
Dylan’s music is also covered by Ricky Lee Jones, The Duhks and Rocco Deluca.
Joni Mitchell’s “Both Side Now” is covered by Rachael Yamagata, whilst the very traditional “Wayfaring Stranger”, the stand out track on the album for me, is covered by a group called Sixpence None The Richer.
The tracks are recorded in places as far away from The Village as LA, Colorado and Washington state, which kinda spoiled the illusion for me.
It’s not an album for Country traditionalists, or line dancers, but certainly is a superb tribute to one of the world’s most influential musical districts.
Coming closer to home, the long awaited new album from McKENZIE arrived just before Christmas. “2 For The Road” features the duo talents of Zoe Caryl and Scots born Kenny Plenderleith. There is a third member of McKenzie. You don’t hear him, but Perthshire’s Alex Birnie contributed no less than eleven of the tracks on the 14 track album.
The album includes “Ice Road Truckers”, which features George Hamilton IV, and there’s also some neat steel guitar from BJ Cole on three of the tracks.
Zoe is obviously the main vocalist in the duo. She has a great voice for ballads like “That Country Song”, “Waiting For You”, “One Tear From Home” and “I Cant Love You Anymore”, whilst “Just Because You’ve Fallen Out Of Love” is a bit more uptempo. They also do a neat tribute to “Les & Mary”, really capturing folk duo’s sound.
Kenny’s vocals are featured on the rather poppy “Live ‘n’ Kicking”, and the duo share harmonies on “Loved Rolled Me Over”.
The album certainly featured some nice original music, is well produced, and well worth a listen.
Check out their music at www.myspace.com/mckenziecountry
Still down south, and I was very impressed with the album, “I Can Still Dream”, by young HAYLEY OLIVER. Hayley has been in music since a very young age, appearing on the stage of The Royal Albert Hall at the age of eleven. She won Joe Pasquale’s “Curtain Call” in 2002, and been on TV’s “Wide Awake Club”.
She released an album of mainly Country standards a few years ago, but this new album is essentially original material, from accomplished Nashville writers like Mark Miller, Shaza Leigh, English writer Jon Philibert, and recent Glasgow visitor Steve McClintock.
The most impressive thing I found about Hayley was the cute warble in her voice, the kinda warble that Dolly Parton or Brenda Lee made famous. Saying that, Hayley is by no means a Dolly or Brenda soundalike - she has her own sound. Her voice just suits the more Country songs on the album.
The album’s lead track “Another Lonely Night” was released via the Country Hotdisc. I felt it was a shade poppy, and didn’t quite do it for me. That track certainly doesn’t sell the rest of the album.
For Hayley has some really wonderful Country songs on this collection.
“I Only Want To Love Forever” and “You Know Who” are quite bouncy numbers, which really make Hayley shine. She kinda reminded me of Charly McClain, one of my favourite girl singers back in the 80’s.
“Heartless” has a real vintage feel to it, in a Brenda Lee kinda way.
Jon Philibert’s “Love Doing It’s Thing” has a real downhome sound, which suits Hayley’s vocal style really well.
She also handled ballads like “Be Love” and “For A While” very well.
Indeed, the longer I listened to this CD, the more I really enjoyed it.
Be sure to check her out at www.hayleyoliver.com
PHIL VASSER has built up quite a career in Nashville, firstly as a writer of hits for the likes of Tim McGraw,Jo Dee Messina and Alan Jackson. Then as an artist in his own right, since his debut album was released in 2000.
The Virginia born singer recently made a 5 stop tour of Western Europe, including a date at Glasgow’s King Tuts (Jan 30th), to promote his new album, “Travelling Circus” (Humphead).
For his 5th album, Phil has an impressive set of modern songs, which he’s co-written with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Charlie Black, Craig Wiseman and Jeffrey Steele.
Most of the numbers are uptempo, including the really catchy “Tequila Town” and “Lemonade”.
For me, however, it’s the ballads, like “John Wayne”, “Everywhere I Go” and “A Year from Now”, which make Phil stand out from the crowd.
The album closes with “Where Have All The Pianos Gone”, a neat tribute to the keyboard guys, like Ronnie Milsap, Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Elton John.
MARK WAYNE GLASMIRE is a new name to me, but not one to be forgotten in a hurry. The songwriter’s debut album, “Life Goes On” turned out to be an extremely enjoyable listen.
The album features 12 tracks, with 10 self penned. My favourite cuts include the opening cut, “True Love Knows”, which has a strong Collin Raye influence, and the John Denver influenced “I Believe In You”.
Mark is particularly strong on ballads, and his vocal style certainly is in the Denver/Raye/ James Taylor mould.
“Ain’t Love A Funny Thing” and “This Must Be Love” are more uptempo, but he works them well.
He has a very pleasing relaxing easy listening sound.
Over the last couple of years, Mark has been winning Songwriting competitions in Texas and California. Now he’s made it to Nashville to record this album.
Make sure you check him out at www.markwayneglasmire.com
JASON & THE SCORCHERS have been around for 30 years. The group, as such, split in the mid nineties, with Jason continuing to tour and record, either under his first name, or Jason Ringenberg, or even Farmer Jason, for the kiddies! He toured quite often over here, and he released several albums on the Glasgow based Spit & Polish label.
Whatever he’s been for the past few years, Jason is back with The Scorchers for a new album, called “Halcyon Times”, which will be released on Feb 22nd on the JCPL label.
The band were renowned for their hard driving southern rock, although Jason. himself, in an interview I did with him in 1993, felt that the band had become too hard rock.
Well this album finds them back in the South again. Yes, it’s Rock, but there’s also a Country edge to many of the songs. Particularly strong are “Twang Town Blues” ,
“When Did It Get So Easy To Lie To Me”, which has more of a raw acoustic sound, in a Shel Silverstien style, whilst “Beat On The Mountain” starts quite soft, but builds to quite a strong story song.
“Days Of Wine And Roses” has, perhaps more of a West Coast Country Rock sound (aka The Eagles).
Jason will be back in the UK in May. This album will keep you warmed up til then.
JESSIE FARRELL has certainly made her mark on the Canadian Country scene over the past couple of years. Her second album, “Good, Bad & Pretty Things”, as with her debut album, has a strong Country-pop radio friendly feel to it.
The album was recorded in Nashville, and produced by singer-songwriter Victoria Shaw. Whilst Jessie has been involved with writing all the songs, eight were co-written with Shaw, whilst guys like Gary Burr, Trey Bruce and Richard Marks also got involved. Musicians included Eddie Bayers and Brent Mason, whilst fellow Canadian singer Deric Ruttan adds his vocals to one of the tracks
“Sober” and “Not In Kansas Anymore” are the stand out polished ballads, although the simple “New Ways To Love” has a lovely charm about it.
“Nobody Says No” has quite a modern Country feel to it, but it’s the rather less than complimentary “Roadside Sandwich” which stands out for me. .
“Lavender Tea” has quite an interesting sixties pop feel to it.
This is a modern Country pop album, but the Canadian redhead has a lot of different styles on offer, and quite an enjoyable listen.
KIERAN GOSS has been a very highly respected Irish singer songwriter for over 20 years now, and his 8th album, “I’ll Be Seeing You” is released on Feb 22nd (Cog).
For this album, he went to Austin, Texas, and teamed up with Kimmie Rhodes and her son, Gabe. Gabe co-produced the album, and Kimmie, a recent visitor to Celtic Connections, co-wrote five of the songs, and contributed vocals to several songs on the 12 track album.
The songs range from soft ballads like “Make The Morning Shine” and the title track,
to catchy little numbers like “The Reason Why” and “The One That Got Away”.
I really quite liked “One Boy’s Treasure” which opens the album. It has quite a melodic feel to it. The bouncy “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” also stands out.
Kieran last toured Scotland with Don Williams in 2006, but hits our shores again at the end of February with dates from Stornoway to St Andrews. Check the dates in the gig guide, and check out the album at www.keirengoss.com
SUSAN HICKMAN may be a new name for us, but is certainly a name to look out for. Her voice has been likened to that of Allannah Myles, Shelby Lynne and Alison Moorer, and she has already shared stages with Tracy Byrd, Phil Vasser and Jo Dee Messina.
Although she lives in Texas, and the album recorded in Arkansas, she has a strong mainstream sound, and equally fits in with the current Nashville scene. Indeed Music City writers Brett James, Mila Mason & Bobby Pinson all contribute to the album.
“Sunday Papers”, despite it’s corny little intro, is the stand out Country track for me.
She can sound bluesy on some numbers, notably “Whipping Post”, and vunerable on “Hell Still Ain’t Frozen Over”, which is also one of my favourite tracks.
Her handling of ballads like “One Of Those Who Make It Up There” , “Make Me A Miracle” and “Wounded Heart” is excellent, but she also has a good delivery of the more uptempo numbers like “Wrapped Up In Me” and “Friday At The Latest”.
Throughout the album, Susan proves herself as a fine vocalist.
Check her out at www.susanhickman.com