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Friday 15 April 2011

Apr 2011

RAUL MALO is still recognised as the voice of The Mavericks, which does ensure that he has a good following, even if his music has moved on a bit.
His latest album “Sinners & Saints”(Fantasy) was released the day after he appeared at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, and features a wide mix of styles.
The title track opens the 11 track collection, with over two minutes of trumpet, before he arrives with vocals. It’s not Country, but, I doubt if Raul intended it to be. That’s followed by a rocky, and rather repetitive “Living For The Day”, before he woos the long time Maverick fans with a pacey, danceable “San Antonio Baby”, which is one of the stand out tracks on the album.
Other tracks in this vein, include the catchy “Superstar”, and the closing track “Better Off In Texas”, with Ray Benson.
He does a 6 minute version of Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again”, and a strong Englebert styled “Staying Here”.
The Spanish influence comes to the fore in “Sombras” and to a lesser extent on “Saint Behind The Glass”, and “Mrs Brown”
Raul is an aquired taste, but this is a strong album. Lots of latin overtones, but enough Tex-Mex to interest the hardened Country fan.

One of the best Country male voices over the best decade has to be BLAKE SHELTON. Now, marking 10 years on the charts , HumpHead release “Loaded: The Best Of Blake Shelton”, in the UK.
The 15 track collection kicks off with his 2001 debut No.1, “Austin”,the great romantic telephone answering machine song. Of course, the collection also features the popular linedance number, “Some Beach”, and the cult “Playboys Of The Southwestern World”.
All his hit ballads are here too. Titles like “Ol’Red”, “The Baby”, “Nobody But Me” and his latest American single “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”
And there’s the more recent uptempo numbers like “All About Tonight”, “Hillbilly Bone”, and “Kick My Country Ass” too.
Added to that, there’s a 20 page booklet, with Blake’s comments on each song.
If you’ve missed out on Blake Shelton, this is a great collection to aquaint yourself with him.

Humphead have also released JOE NICHOL’s Greatest Hits collection , featuring 10 hits since he burst onto the scene in 2002.
The 34 year old from Arkansas, had a slow start in the business, and a couple of labels folded before he got going, but he made up things in 2003, when “Brokenheartsville” became a smash, and the rest, as they say, is history. Other hits followed , like ”Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”, “The Impossible”, “Whats a Guy Gotta Do”, and the much sought after “I’ll Wait For You”, which got lots of video plays on the Hot Country TV series.
There’s some really good music in this collection. Like Blake Shelton, it’s a great album to catch up on one of the best Country acts of the century so far!

Coming home now, I really enjoyed Aberdeenshire’s KENNY WATSON’s first album, and he’s been quick to follow it with another. Like his first outing, “The Roots of My Raising” (Pan Records), is a bouncy easy listening set of popular covers, like Glen Campbell “Gentle On My Mind”, Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors”, Milsap’s “Back On My Mind Again” and of course, the title track, best known for the Hag’s version.
He comes a bit more up to date with “Love Me” (Collin Raye) and “Tonight We Might Just Fall In Love Again” (Hal Ketchum).
There’s a nice Irish feel to “Someone From Home”, written by Nick McCarthy , and featuring some nice accordian from Alistair MacDonald.
“Able Bodied Man” caught my attention, as a song I didn’t recognise. It’s a Charley Pryde song, but not one of the obvious ones. Kenny does a good version of it.
There’s an impressive list of players, including Keith MacLeod, Richard Nelson, Phil Anderson, Gordy Gunn,Stewart Shearer, Manson Grant and Robert Cameron.
The whole album is nice easy listening.It’s an album I really enjoyed.

Another homegrown release comes from Glasgow based SARA DOUGLAS, whose latest album “Rocket Shop” was recorded in Nashville.
Sara has quite a variety of styles, a strong vocal , and proves herself a strong songwriter as well, having written or co-written all but one of the songs.She has already supported the likes of Kevin Montgomery. Her band has only been together or a few months, but already getting noticed.
It’s not all Country. There’s folk and pop influences too, but the opening track “Jenny’s Song” is certainly Country enough to catch my attention.
On “Hoping”, Sarah delivers a strong Country ballad.
“The Beating Of My Heart” has a catchy beat, and although quite bluesy, does have a kinda Judds feel to it. The more uptempo “Tightrope Walking” also has a Judds influence to it.
The album’s closing track, “Shame, Shame,Shame” has quite a raunchy feel to it. It doesn’t sound like a Nashville recorded album, but I really liked her sound.

Last year LORETTA LYNN celebrated her 50th year in the business, and Humphead have released “The 50th Anniversary Collection” in her honour.
In that time, Loretta has notched up 16 Number One’s, had a movie about her life, and is still performing and recording today. Loretta picked up from Patsy Cline, her mentor, firmly establishing a place for women in Country music. She broke all the rules to hit the public with titles like “You Aint Woman Enough To Take My Man”, “Fist City” and “The Pill”, and enjoying hits like “Blue Kentucky Girl”, “Honky Tonk Girl”, “You’re Lookin’ at Country”, and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind”.
They’re all on this new double album collection – 36 tracks in total, including eight duets with Conway Twitty.
A great collection from Country music’s No. 1 lady of song.

THE SECRET SISTERS are Laura & Lydia Rogers, who hail from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Their secret is out with the release of their self titled debut album (Universal).
They went Nashville to record this album, but went back to a bygone age, at the same time, to an era when harmony ruled, and no one can harmonise like sisters.
Classic, ‘old school’ recording equipment was also the rule of the day at the two week-long recording marathon. The album was recorded the same way it would have been recorded in the 1950s. No computers or digital equipment were even allowed near the sessions in an effort to capture the sisters’ stunning vocal prowess ‘as is.’ The production team and the girls utilized vintage microphones and ‘throwback’ recording techniques down to the same type of tape they would have used fifty years ago. “Some songs only took a few takes to capture,” says Lydia. “Often we’ve found we’re freshest on the first-take. The way we bounce off each other when singing also seems to give us a confidence to ‘go for it,’ even though this was our first time in a ‘real’ studio.”
The songs range from “Something Stupid” and “Do You Love an Apple” to country classics like “Why Baby Why”, “My Heart Skips A Beat” and “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do”.
They also feature two self penned songs, the opening “Tennessee Me”, (released here as a single) and the lovely “Waste The Day”, a strong Country song, but with a unique 50’s feel to it. They also do a stunning version of Hank’s “House Of Gold”.
To some it may be more Andrews Sisters than Dixie Chicks, but it’s simplicity just shines so brightly, this album was just such a delight to listen to. They’re back on tour in May, including a date at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on the 3rd.

HAYES CARLL won over many fans with his debut album , “Trouble In Mind”. He came over as a modern day outlaw, with a couldn’t care less attitude. His “She Left Me For Jesus” won Song Of the Year at the Americana Music awards.
His new album, released here by Humphead, continues the same vein, whilst possibly being a bit more confrontational.
Take the title for starters. It’s KMAH YOYO, which if you cant work it out, stands for “Kiss my ass guys, you’re on your own”. The album kicks off with “Stomp And Holler”, which has the best potential for a hit amongst linedancers.
“The Lovin’ Cup” is a strong Country number, whilst “Bottle In My Hand” , which features Todd Snider and Canadian Corb Lund, and “Bye Bye Baby” both features some nice banjo.
The album features some quite rocky numbers,including “Hard Out Here” and the title track, whilst a bit quieter are “Chances Are”, “Grateful For Christmas” and Hide Me”.
My favourite track, although the lyrics are a shade risque, is “Another Like You”, which features, some catchy vocals from Cary Ann Hearst.
Hayes Carll is different. It’s certainly not mainstream Nashville, and not traditional.
He’s a modern day Outlaw.

When I recieved the next CD, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Was her name really BETTY SOO ?
She’s real all right. An Asian-American singer songwriter, who comes from the same stable as Lucinda Williams, Slaid Cleaves and Mary Gauthier. She recorded her first album in 2005, and is now on her third full album.
“Heart Sin Water Skin” has just been released, and she plans to visit us later in the year.
The album was produced by Gurf Morlix, who appeared at last year’s Glasgow Americana festival.
Betty Soo’s sound is relaxing, self penned song material. The previously released “ Never The Pretty Girl” stands out, but the album is quite enjoyable throughout.
I really enjoyed “Next Big Thing”, with it’s steel guitar and fragile vocals, in a kind of Katy Mofffat way.
Betty Soo could well be the next big thing – look out for her !

KIMMIE RHODES is no stranger to UK audiences and she’ll be back in May for a tour that includes Glasgow’s CCA on the 14th. To coincide with the tour, the Texan has released “Dreams Of Flying” (Sunbird).
An accomplished songwriter, Kimmie wrote all but two of the tracks on the 11 track collection. One of the exceptions is a senseitivly worked version of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind”, on which she is joined by Joe Ely.
There’s also one written by her son Jeremie, whilst her other son Gabe produced the project.
Elsewhere, it’s all Kimmie, with a band of musicians who have worked previously with everyone from Dylan and The Dixie Chicks to The Eagles.
The whole album is a relaxing listen. The tracks that caught my attention, included “New Way Through”, with it’s soft southern Texan arrangements, and the title track.
Rodney Crowell cited Kimmie as “the soul of a poet and the voice of an angel”.
I cannot disagree with him.

CARRIE ELKIN is a new name to me, but I was very impressed by her new album, “Call It My Garden” (Red House) , which will be released April 11th, to coincide with a tour, which, sadly, doesn’t include any Scottish or Irish dates.
Carrie is something of a gypsy, having called Ohio, New Mexico, Boston and Colorado home. These days, Austin Texas is home, and her music is certainly within that city’s limits.
She has a unique bluegrass vocal style, and put it to best use, on an album of all her own songs (except one written by Dar Williams)
The album kicks off with the chirpy “Jesse Likes Birds”, which has already been a No.1 on the folk charts. I enjoyed the whole album, but I just loved the soft acoustic feel of “Land By The Sea”.
Carrie is like Nanci Griffith with a grown up voice.
I’m sure we’ve got more to hear from her.

The next offering is a very enjoyable album from Indiana born AMY LASHLEY. “Travels Of A Homebody “ (Wannameker Records) was produced by her long time partner Otis Gibbs, and is released here on April 25th.
This is an album of rare American family values. Despite now resident in Tennessee, there’s no Nashville polish here, yet Amy manages to shine through, what the supprting publicity states is “light hearted stories of self-depreciation and doubt”.
All 12 songs were written by Amy, and with simple arrangements, I found this album such a pleasanr listen.
Standout tracks would by “Wrong Side Of Gallatin”, with its lilting melody , and the uptempo downhome “Livin’ On Beans And Cornbread”. I also enjoyed the softer “Kiss Indiana Goodbye”, which opensthe album.

Despite the language barrier, Country music is increasingly popular across Europe.
Unlike Britain, where there is no such barrier, an increasing number of European Country singers are making their mark.
ILSE DELANGE is not new to Country music. This Dutch singer songwriter is not new to Country music. She was signed to Warner Brothers in Nashville in 1998, and did get an album out of the deal.
A sensantion in her own country, Ilse is now making her mark in the UK, getting Radio 2 airplay, and a special UK CD release. “Isle DeLange” (Wrasse) features 13 tracks , from her two most recent Dutch releases, plus a live version of “World Of Hurt”, the title track to her Nashville label album.
She is still recording in Music City, although some of her vocals here, were recorded in Sweden !
Her sound is much more mainstream these days. If I hadn’t been aware of her background, I would’ve dismissed this as purely a pop album.
“So Incredible” does feature some nice banjo, and is really quite catchy, while “Beautiful Distraction” is a ballad, that fits in well with todays Country girls. I also really liked “Untouchable”, which has quite a soft Country arrangement.
The “Live” track is the most Country track on the album.
Tracks like “Puzzle Me” are just a shade too “Eurovision” for my liking, but “Carousel”, although a bit poppy, has a strong beat that I really enjoyed.
Ilse has a superb vocal talent, but, I’m afraid, she doesn’t have the Country feel that she once had.

Staying in Europe, I have previously sung the praises of the talent in our northern neighbours in The Faroe Islands.
Now, let me introduce you to their newest star. 29 year old EVI had never sung in public before her own wedding last August, but is now making up for lost time.
The two tracks are both well known covers, but Evi does really good jobs on The Louvins “How’s The World Treating You”, and Jim Reeves “He’ll Have To Go”.
Recorded in her homeland, the production is excellent, and the simple arrangements really make Evi’s voice shines through. I hope there’s a full album soon.

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