Lets start of this month on the homegrown scene and let me introduce you to THE WYNNTOWN MARSHALS. They are a 5 piece Edinburgh based band, who draw their influences from the likes of The Jayhawks, Ryan Adams and Neil Young. Yes this is Country rock- Scottish style.
Keith Benzie, lead vocalist and songwriter, together with Keith Jones, Iain Sloan, Iain Barbour and Murdo Macleod got together in 2007, and the following year toured as support to Chuck Prophet (whose latest album, “Dreaming Waylon’s Deam” is a complete recover of Jenning’s “Dreaming My Dreams” 1975 album).
Now. Their debut album, “Westerner” has just been released (Charger Records). The album was recorded in Fife, with all but one song written by Benzie.
The exception is a superb cover of an LA Guns’ “Ballad Of Jayne”, which is also out as a single, and has been picking up some credible airplay.
The subject matter of the original songs range from the almost extinct albino gorilla in “Snowflake”, a fateful long Greyhound bus trip in “48 Hours”, and remembering 50’s Pin-Up artists called “Gil”.
The vocals are strong, and the instrumentation superb
There’a a lovely slow reflective instrumental interlude,”El Prado” half way through, which is quite well fitting.
If you like your Country a bit on the rocky side, then be sure to check out The Wynntown Marshalls.
Staying right here in Scotland, “On The Sunny Side Of The Mountain” has to be one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard for a long time. It comes from GRASS ROUTES, who are Roy Bayne, Dave Smith, Murray Wilson and John More, who have been in various bands throughout the years,, and bring a wealth of experience to the new group.
As the CD liner notes say, “The roots of Grass Routes are in the 60’s,where everyone seemed to be involved in the folk revival, but the next forty years saw the folk bands become country bands, bluegrass bands and rock bands, and musical ionfluences grew to include Flatt & Scruggs, Hank Williams and Gram Parsons”.
Don’t expect a modern sound from these guys. This is real feel good old time bluegrass and western swing. There’s superb fiddle, banjo, steel, double bass and wonderful harmonies.
They are at their best on the uptempo numbers like “Good Ol’ Mountain Dew”, “Lost And I’ll Never Find The Way” , “Corrina Corrina” and “Teardrops In My Eye”, but add something to the classic ballads they feature, especially “She Thinks I Still Care” and “I Cant Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”.
The band have been featured on STV’s “The Hour”, and can be seen live on the third Tuesday of every month at The Cedar Inn, Aberdour, with a similar gig on Saturdays at The Halfway House , Kingseat, Dunfermline.
They are also hoping to get back into the mainstream Country clubs, and would certainly be a blast of fresh air wherever they play.
I loved the album. Superb stuff.
The American version of Grass Routes may be THE GRASCALS. They’ve been around for a few years now, and their fourth album , “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s” has just been released here on the Rounder /Universal label, to coincide with some planned Summer festival dates across Europe.
The group feature the fantastic playing of two times IBMA Banjo award winner, Kirsten Scott Benson, who is the newest member of the group. They have three lead vocalists in Terry Eldredge, Jamie Johnson and Terry Smith.
Their music range from high energy Osborne Brothers covers to Steve Earle’s “My Old Friend The Blues” to The Monkees’ “Last Train Clarksville”. Hank Williams Jr. teams up with them on the old Bill Monroe/Hank Snr classic “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome”. It’s a great collaboration.
There’s also a catchy instrumental “Blue Rock Slide” half way through the 12 track album, which really shows off their various insdtrumental skills.
Superb pickin throughout, and one you should pick up on too,
Indian born AUBREY LOVEJOY has been a mainstay of the English Country music scene, without perhaps making any inroads north of the border. Why that should be, I don’t know, but , if his new album , “Silence In The Wind” is anything to go by, he should find plenty of fans up here.
This album was recorded in Nashville, with Mark Mosely in the producers chair. As with Mark’s other recordings, it’s top notch, and features a mix of original material, and well crafted covers.
You’ll find a few Ronnie Milsap, Porter Wagoner, Johnny Rodriguez and Charley Pryde covers, alongside songs written by Mark The covers are exceptionally well done, and as it’s not every day you hear “Why Don’t You Spend The Night”, “Silence In The Wind” or “Almost Like A Song”, they really stand out.
Jennifer O’Brien joins Aubrey on “Let’s Leave The Lights On Tonight”, a catchy easy listening number.
He rocks it up a little on “Watch Robin Like A Hawk”, a cleverly written ditty from the pens of Moseley and JoeBarnhill, and closes the album with Brooks & Dunn’s laid back “Neon Moon”.
This is a thouroughly enjoyable album. Well recommended.
Louisiana Man ROBERT MIZZELL has been one of Ireland’s top Country entertainers for the last decade or more, and has just released his 5th album, “Redneck Man”.
The album was recorded primarily in Longford, with one track recorded in Nashville.
The album features 15 tracks, mainly covers of American Country hits. Whilst some will be familiar to Country fans, they’re not the tried & tested classics.
Fans will recognise”I Swear” “Murder On Music Row” (a duet with Collin Raye) and “Wind Beneath My Wings”, but there’s also covers of Darryl Worley, Janie Frickje and George Strait songs.
The album title is taken from Alan Jackson’s “Blue Blooded Woman”, which opens the album. Robert does an incredible version of the song that was Jackson’s first single.
One Irish original, and Mizzell’s latest single, is “Mama Courtney”, a song in appreciation of a legendary carer who couldn’t have kids of her own, but fostered 32.!
It’s an incredibly strong traditional Country album, with superb vocals and great music, especially the fiddles.
But if there’s one track which stands out, it’s the cover of the Randy Travis/Carrie Underwood hit “I Told You So”, Whilst both American’s did great versions of the song, the duet version was less than harmonious. Here, Robert teams up with Glasgow’s shining star LISA McHUGH , and their voices really blend together beautifully. This girl is certainly worth watching out for.
And “Redneck Man” is a great album worth checking out too !
THOMAS McGUIRE & FHIONA ENNIS are Ireland’s golden couple at present, and make regular trips to the North of Scotland circuit. “Solid As A Rock” (Nell Records) is their third album together, and features 15 tracks, 4 duets, 5 from Fhiona and 6 from Thomas.
They cover quite a variety, as Irish acts normally do. You’ll finfd The Kendall’s “Heavens Just A Sin Away”, Buck Owens’ “Tiger By The Tail” and The Bellamy’s “I Need More Of You”, through to Fhiona’s very good version of the gospel classic “Precious Memories”.
There’s a couple of Irish flavoured numbers in “Your Health Is Your Wealth” and “Come Home To Ireland”, and a couple of more pop flavoured numbers.
The album features the fun Henry McMahon song “I Hate Karaoke”, which was a successful single for the couple.
It’s a good fun, happy album. Thomas & Fhiona do it so well.
Back to Scotland, and one of our most popular and longest running duo’s, JOLENE & BARRY have a new gig CD available.
“Just Another Love” features 13 tracks, and just like they do on stage, they deliver a broad mix of popular covers, old & new, which suits dancers and listeners alike.
This time around, they feature long time favourites like Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden”, Merle Haggard’s “Lonesome Fugitive”, and Crystal Gayle’s “Somebody Loves You”, alongside Alan Jackson’s “Five O’Clock Somewhere” , Hal Ketchum’s “Small Town Saturday Night” and Tim McGraw’s “Just To See You Smile”.
They vocals are split with Jolene leading vocals on eight tracks, with Barry taking the lead on five tracks.
The two tracks which stand out for me, are Barry’s version of “Too Gone For Too Long”, which he gives a real old timey feel to, and Jolene’s beautiful version of Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”.
After over 30 years on the scene, the Falkirk based duo know their audience, and know the songs that their audience want. This new collection is certainly one for their fans to add to their collections.
If you like Alison Krauss, then you’ll love BECKY SCHLEGEL.
“Dandelion” (Lily Ray label) is her second album, and features some really beautiful songs, all written by the lady from South Dakota.
The album has a lovely blend of simple arrangements and crystal clear vocals.
I especially liked the banjo flavoured ballads “Cincinnatti”, and the more uptempo “Colorado Line”, but also enjoyed the lovely “Reunion”, a song with some lovely memories of teenage years.
In fact, the whole album is just a joy to listen to. It’s not an album for linedancers, or hony tonkers, but lovely just to listen and relax with.
Moving a bit farther northwest, we’ll find the WATER TOWER BUCKET BOYS.
From their very name, you can tell that their music is going to be interesting to say the least.
If you enjoy bluegrass, old timey music, then their album, “Sole Kitchen” , which is released here on 5th July is well worth checking out.
The album kicks off in an old timey mood, with “Crooked Road”, but quickly picks up speed with some high energy bluegrass fiddlin’ & banjo pickin’ on tracks like “Fromage”, “Bread” , “London Breakdown”,
They slow it down on tracks like “Tequilla With Lime” and “Heaven”.
Vocals are quite raw and authentic, which adds to the sound somewhat.
It’s a very enjoyable album. They’re coming on tour in August, but have no Scottish dates at the time of writing. Maybe next time, in the meantime, check them out,
KIM RICHEY should need no introduction to Country fans. An artist in her own right, and a regular visitor here, Kim is also one of Nashville’s leading songwriters having written hits for the likes of Trisha Yearwoood (Believe Me Baby I Lied), Radney Foster (Nobody Wins) , Terri Clark (I’m Alright), Mindy McCready, Patty Loveless, The Dixie Chicks and many more.
Singing her own songs, “Wreck Your Wheels”, is her sixth album (Loginx label), released here to coincide with her summer tour. The album features 11 songs, co-written by Kim with folks like Will Kimborough, Mark Olsen Boo Hewerdine, Pat McLaughlin and Beth Rowley.
I do think that Kim has a particularly strong set of songs this time around.
I particularly liked the uptempo “Leaving 49” , the catchy “In The Years To Come” and the traditional sounding “Once In Your Life”. In the main, however, Kim demonstrates her strong handling of ballads.
You can catch her in Glasgow or Kircaldy during June (see giglist) , and online at www.kimrichey.com
MARTY RAYBON was the power & voice behind the 8o’s Country group Shenandoah, whose hits included “Next To You Next To Me” and “The Church On Cumberland Road”. Altogether the group notched up 13 Number one’s.
That’s a tough act to follow, but Marty emarked on a solo career ten years ago, and has enjoyed moderate success since.
His latest album, “At His Best” (GrandVista) features 11 tracks, six of which were co-written by Marty himself, and feature top notch musicians like John Hobbs, Eddie Bayers and Larry Franklin.
It’s a good modern album, with a musical direction generally pointing the same way as Shenandoah did.
The album features his latest single “Daddy Phone”, a song which captures the emotions of a child in a modern day broken family situation. The song is so popular that it has it’s own website (www.daddyphone.com)
“A World Without You” is, for me, the strongest track. This song really shows Marty’s vocal strength. It’s the type of song, which is so traditional Country, yet so crossover as well. It kinda reminded me of the type of song, Charley Pryde had hits with.
“That’s The Way” is also quite a strong number, which verges Country & Gospel genres.
“I Don’t Want To Lose You Anna” has quite a traditional feel to it, and has to take the award for corniest play on words, “Louisiana was a lonely place” (lose you Anna). It works though. Don’t blame Marty for the words though. This song was penned by Mark Sherrill
“I Am Coming Home” is a pretty homecoming song, which will obviously be a hit with American military. It’s one of the better songs of this type that I’ve heard.
Altogether, a very strong commercial album.
OTIS GIBBS is quite a character. The Indiana native is your real “mountain man”, large in stature, heavily bearded , well travelled (he’s planted over 7000 trees, slept in hobo jungles, played anti war rallies from Texas to The Czech Republic, and proudly boasts an FBI file).
He has a voice has that well lived feel to it too.
His new album “Joe Hill’s Ashes” (Wanamaker) has quite a charm about it.
Although he hasn’t the most melodic voice around, it’s well suited to the songs featured here, all of which were written by Gibbs himself.
They’re all well crafted stories about life on the road.
“The Town That Killed Kennedy” has frequent references to Killkenny, but apparently is indictive of the Greyhound bus service in the states.
Most of the songs are about things he’s seen on his travels, like “When Only The Graves Were Real”, about the music industry. “Cross Country” , an anti-city song, is the most uptempo number on the whole album, with some impressive fiddle.
“The Ballad Of Johnny Crooked Tree” is also quite a catchy number, which I really liked.
Otis is perhaps an aquired taste, but this album is remarkably easy listening that a lot more folks will aquire a taste for his music with this album.
SI KHAN is something of a legend in folk music circles, and civil rights activist, but, as his new album, “Courage” (Strictly Country Records), demonstrates, his music definitely has a Country edge.
This is the 16th album of original material from the 66 year old , and is bvilled as a tribute to the people he’s known over the past 45 years or so.
There’s songs about a dog called Otis, Farmers, emigrants, women’s rights fighters, Abraham Lincoln and truck drivers.
There’s a strong Irish connection, with “Peace Will Rise”, “Shoulders” and “Ireland Of My Dreams”.
I really enjoyed “Going Up The Mountain” , a duet with Anji Krugan, and “Playing The Old Songs” and the real banjo flavoured “Hunter”/
Kathy Mattea lends her harmony vocals on several tracks, and also contributes sleeve notes.
The album is released in Europe on the Dutch bluegrass label, Strictly Country Records. www.StrictlyCountryRecords.com
Finally, a few singles and mini albums to finish off with.
MEXICAN JOE WALKER, is in fact, Irish, and does a mean Don Williams cover.
His new CD, “Expect At Everything” features a couple of Don’s covers and Kris Kristofferson’s “One Day At A Time”. The title track is quite catchy in a laid back way, but it’s “The Words Wont Come”, written by Alex Birnie, which is the strongest song on the CD. The instrumentation is stronger on this track, and Mexican Joe’s delivery has more energy, without losing his Don Williams style.
Sometimes, it really is better to record original songs.
NORMAN BORLAND has been around the West of Scotland scene for many years now. His latest single, “Catfish John” is another old Don Williams song, but Norman has given the song his own stamp. It’s a bit quicker that Don would ever have done. It’s got a good beat, and will be a popular one on the dancefloors.
The song, recorded in Letterkenny is available as a free download @ www.normanborland.co.uk
THE RODNEYS are a Glasgow based 6 piece band with a driving Country rock beat.
The group features John McIntosh, Elspeth Alexander, Bill Walker, Bob Muggleton, Frank McHugh, and steel supreme Malcolm McMaster.
Their single, recorded in Motherwell, features a really strong version of “Alcohol And Pills” and “Willin”, which shows off some neat harmomies.
Lastly, “Something Goin’ On Up There” is the new single from LUKEY AND THE HANDCLAPS on London based Inspirationl Records. It’s a real happy sounding song, recorded in Nashville and London, and has a good country, with a shade of gospel, feel to it.