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Tuesday 2 October 2012

Oct 2012

KATHY MATTEA was one of the most popular female singers on the Country scene through the 80’s & 90’s with a string of over 30 chart hits, including “Eighteen Wheels & A Dozen Roses”, “Goin’ Gone” and “Come From The Heart”.  But even at the pinnacle of her career, Kathy showed an authenticity and downhome approach to her music, which wasn’t the standard at that time (and still isn’t). Whilst her hits were getting hot airplay on American Country radio, Kathy was touring America, and here, with Perthshire folk singer/songwriter Dougie Maclean.
Four years ago, Mattea, caught everyone off guard with an album of old-timey Appalachian mining songs called “Coal”.  She’s delved even deeper into her Appalachian heritage with the new release of “Calling Me Home” (Sugar Hill), co-produced with modern acoustic mastermind Gary Paczosa and featuring liner notes from bestselling author, and Kentucky-born kindred spirit, Barbara Kingsolver.
Mattea’s new direction couldn’t have taken her further from her old way of doing things. Where once she was pitched songs by Music Row writers, now she collects the generations-old and new but old-in-soul tunes that move her at folk gatherings, and rounds out her repertoire through extensive research. Two songs here came from a CD that Alice Gerrard, of the influential ‘70s folk duo Hazel & Alice, personally pressed into her hand at a festival.
She’s always had a profound respect for traditional folk music—her ancestors played it, and in college she even took clawhammer banjo lessons and formed a bluegrass band—but she only recently came to accept that the music is in her blood.
That she sings from the perspective of an Appalachian whose career took her elsewhere is part of what makes Calling Me Home feel as contemporary as it does traditional. The top-notch cast of players doesn’t hurt either. The contributions of the multi-talented Stuart Duncan and Bryan Sutton, along with bassist Byron House, percussionist Jim Brock, harmonising siblings and fellow native West Virginians Tim and Mollie O’Brien and Mattea’s longtime guitarist Bill Cooley, make for a crisp, vivid new-timey string band palette.
There’s unfinished business from the “Coal” album, with her heartfelt delivery on “West Virginia Mining Disaster”, the gutsy “My Name Is Coal”, and “Black Waters”, which features some really neat harmonies.
My favourite tracks are the acoustically catchy “Woodthrush’s  Song”, which really delivers Kathy’s vocals, and the lovely “West Virginia My Home”.
This is certainly not an album recorded with the aim of getting heard on the radio. The arrangements are simple, bluegrass styled, and Kathy’s vocals certainly sound really rural America. She’s more of a folk singer these days, and sounds really comfortable with it.  As a listener, you can hear the authenticity in the heartfelt belief in her songs, and the musical arrangements.
It’s a beautifully produced album, which I enjoyed immensely.

Caithness Festival goers were treated to a few previews of JOEY & RORY’s new album back in April, and now the album “His & Hers” (Vanguard) is released, and what a beautiful masterpiece it is.
The duo had two individual careers, Joey as a singer, who recorded an unreleased album for Sony Music, and Rory, the songwriter who wrote such modern classics as “The Chain Of Love” and “Some Beach”.
Then they entered a TV talent show for duo’s, and whilst they didn’t win, their “Cheater Cheater” became a huge hit, and their duo career took off. Having said that, Joey was still the singer, and Rory wrote the songs.
But this new album does give more of a singing profile to Rory, and he proves himself to be quite a vocalist himself.  He leads vocals on six of the twelve tracks, from the fast paced opener “Josephine” to midtempo numbers like “Your Man Loves You Honey”, through to the ballads “Cryin’Smile”and “Bible & A Belt”. “Someday When I Grow Up”, is a bit different, and a bit more light hearted, but it works just as well as the more serious songs.
But Joey still shines on a variety of styles from slow ballads like “When I’m Gone”, “Waiting For Someone”  and “He’s A Cowboy”,   to fast paced bouncy numbers like “Lets Pretend We Never Met” and “Love Your Man”.
I love Joey & Rory’s simple, almost acoustic arrangements, which really show off their voices. And there’s no better example than the album’s title track, “His & Hers”. Here’s a pure Country song, laced with some beautiful steel licks that conjures up memories of vintage Tammy Wynette.
It’s a beautifully produced album, and one that should rekindle memories of the fabulous show they gave us in Halkirk back at Easter.

MARTY STUART is one of Country music’s real preservationists. Despite keeping things fresh, everything he does, is done with consideration to the past. His latest album “Nashville Vol 1” (Sugar Hill) has been described a “rollicking collection with a spirit of "the Old Testament days" of country music”.
It certainly starts off in rollicking fine style with “Tear The Woodpile Down” and “Sundown In Nashville”.
“A Matter Of Time” a real old time Country song is delivered by Marty in a real old time Country style, and follows it up immediately with a blazing guitar instrumental “Hollywood Boogie”, which is far to short at only 86 seconds. Then another Classic sounding number in “Holding Onto Nothing”.
“Truck Drivers Blues” digs into both his Rockabilly & bluegrass backgrounds, and the blend is an extremely interesting mix indeed. Then it’s back to the steel driven “Goin’Goin’ Gone”, which sounds like Marty’s current style, whilst “The Lonely Kid”, is more of a story song, and Marty can deliver a story song.
Lorrie Carter Bennett of The Carter Family adds some lovely harmony to “Song Of Sadness”, whilst Hank Williams III duets on Hank Snr’s “Pictures From Life’s Other Side”.
Marty’s flying visit to Glasgow at the start of last year seems so long ago now, but this album will really rekindle the memories.
Superb. Real Country, from a real master.

TEEA GOANS isn’t the best known name in Country music – yet!   But I’m sure we’re all going to be familiar with her music before long.   She was a Grand Ole Opry fan as a child back in Missouri, and locally was a member of the Truman Lake Opry.  When she arrived in Nashville, she got a job with Opry radio station WSM, and has even hosted the radio station’s backstage programme between the Saturday night shows. So there’s no doubt that she’s well versed in the Opry and traditional Country music.  
Her first album got raves reviews, including from me, and impressed Larry Gatlin, who took her back to Missouri to open his Branson concerts.
Now she’s followed it up with “That’s Just Me”, which maintains her traditional Country music stance.  There’s a good balance between standards and new songs. The standards include Wilma Burgess’ hit “Misty Blue”, Kristofferson’s “Nobody Wins” and Gatlin’s “I’ve Done Enough Dying Today”, which all fit nicely into Teea’s style.
The new songs include the bright and breezy “Pour A Little Love On It” and “The World’s Biggest Fool”, which are certainly very classic Country radio friendly.  Then she can slow things down on tracks like “Loving You Makes Leaving Easy”.
There is a slight jazzy big band feel (without the big band) to a couple of numbers, including opening “Loves In The Hear & Now” and “The Big Hurt”.
She really turns on the emotion in the sentimental “Wake Up Dancing”, which will neatly follow up her “Letter From Home” hit from the first album.   And then to top it off, she takes the liberty of performing a gorgeous version of “Over The Rainbow”.
Stand out track for me is “That’s Just Me Loving You”, a duet with Jamie Dailey”, a traditional Louvin’s style duet, which I just love.
I love the whole album. Teea Goans is Country – maybe too Country for the so-called Country radio stations in America. But, boy, she is the real thing!  Good looking girls singing pop songs get loads of airtime on these stations. Well here’a a good looking girl, who is Country through & through!
I cannot recommend Teea highly enough!

When Vince Gill recently announced he had departed his long time record label, nobody believed that he’d be disappearing. He has for some time been seen “moonlighting” at the Station Inn, in  Music City,  just jamming around with some friends like Ranger Doug from The Riders In The Sky, Larry and Paul Franklin , and Dawn and Kenny Sears, under the name of THE TIME JUMPERS.
It’s all just a love to play music thing, without the commercial pressures of meeting sales and ticket numbers. They have released two live albums and a DVD, but now Rounder Records are releasing their first studio album, recorded at Vince’s home, called “The House” studio.
It’s great old timey music, lots of bass from Dennis Crouch, masses of fiddle from Kenny Sears, Larry Franklin and Joe Spivey, and steel from Paul Franklin.
There are 11 Time Jumpers on the recording, which allows for a variety of styles.
There a superb instrumental opening the album in  “Texoma Bound”, and the vocals are shared by Vince, Dawn Sears, and Ranger Doug.
Vince, who also co-wrote five of the songs, leads the vocals on five songs (two of his own) including “New Star Over Texas” and “Three Sides To Every Story”, which is one of the strongest, and most commercial tracks on the album.  Vince’s distinctive vocals also reign over the catchy “Woman Of My Dreams”, which has lots of steel & fiddle, and the western swing styled “On The Outskirts Of Town”.
Dawn Sears, who was part of Gill’s band when he played Glasgow Green all those years ago, is lead vocalist on four tracks, including a swinging version of Harlan Howard’s “Someone Had To Teach You”.  She also co-wrote “So Far”, a killer Country ballad.
Ranger Doug completes the line up with two lead vocals, on “Ridin’ On The Rio” and “Yodel Blues”, which are a bit more old time western swing than Vince or Dawn’s numbers.  
A real good ol’ mix of Country heritage from players that love their music. No heavy handed production here.
Great to listen and tap your toes to!

From Canada, our next CD comes from a young lady called ASHLEY ROBERTSON , who has spent the past few years honing her craft in Nashville, whilst studying at Music City’s Belmont College.   She has been busy writing, performing and promoting her music, not just around Nashville and back home in Canada, but also on the International stage. She has been the European Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year twice, and recently spent a month, touring and performing around Europe.
Her new album, “Start Again”, begins with her recent single, “Finished With You”, just one of the songs on the album about lost love. “I Came Before Her”, is another. It’s a really strong emotional, but very pretty song, which stood out for me.
I also liked the more uptempo “Last Night was Not Enough” and the bluegrass  flavoured “Little Birdie”.
Ashley has a lovely sweet voice, and the simple instrumentation, featuring the likes of Glen Duncan , Harry Stinson and Aubrey Haynie, really delivers a lovely style.
Here’s an album that I haven’t tired of listening to since it arrived.
WESLEY PARKER first stepped on stage back in 1977, and the rest, as they say, is history!  One of the songs he performed that day was “Rusty Warner”, a story about his grandfather, but soon his fan base grew from that song.
Now Garden Isle Records, based in The Isle Of Wight, have released “Now & Then”, a collection off Wesley’s songs over the year, many of which have been carefully marketed to radio in this country over the past few years.
Wesley has a style not unlike that on Don Williams, especially on tracks like “Montana Sky” , “What I Was”, and there’s maybe a touch of Marty Robbins on “Fugitive Of Broken Dreams”, but Wesley has his own style. His rich deep vocals really work the songs on this album well.
“I’ll Take You Back There” is a good ol’ uptempo song, whilst “Her Heart Got In The Way” has a bit of a calypso feel to it.
Good traditional Country music. Just the way I like it !

Three years ago.I enthused about an album by Bristol based bluegrass songstress HEATHER BRISTOW.  So I was really pleased to receive a copy of her second album, “Ragged Souls”, and was even more excited to hear just what a first class job she had made on it.
The American born singer-songwriter wrote (or co-wrote) the whole 12 track album, laying down her vocals in a studio in Bath, whilst co-producer Ben finished it off in Idaho. She has an impressive list of guests from both British & US bluegrass scenes, including banjo player Leon Hunt, American flatpicker John Lowell, and even harmonies from Mollie O’Brien,
The material varies from the very folksy “Hold Back The Waves”, with only Josh Clark’s bodhran as accompaniment, to the gentle  “The Fall” and Jenny’s Song”.
I particularly enjoyed the traditional Appalachian sounding” Where The Dogwood Blossoms Bloom”, with it’s effective banjo, and proud vocals. It’s a song anyone from the Carolina’s would take as their own.  “Fool’s Gold” has a quirky Kathy Mattea feel to it, which I liked a lot. “True North”, with it’s added benefit of Keith Phillips’ accordion, also caught my attention.
But stand out track has to be the catchy gospel song, “Passport To Heaven”, which features Mollie O’Brien on some lovely harmonies.
Altogether a stunning piece of music. A feast of traditional bluegrass originality. As Jon Lowell sums up, “From Gospel to bluegrass, love songs to social commentary, Heather writes with a heartfelt style. Put this recording in your player, put on a set of headphones then sit back and listen. You’re in for a treat”.
I cant say any more than that.

THERESA RODGERS has been around the Irish & London-Irish circuit for many years now. She’s not quite caught up with the likes of Philomena & Susan, but has built up a following  nevertheless.
“Sixteen Years” is her 4th album for I&B Records, and features 14 tracks, of easy listening Irish Country music, recorded in County Down, with popular musicians like Charlie Arkins and Stephen Smyth, with Leann Benn and Gerard Dornan in support.
It’s certainly not an album of tried & tested covers, but she has found some gems, like Billy Yates’ “Our House Of Love”, “Someone That I Can Forget”, co-written by Linda Hargrove,  Eddy Arnold’s “Mommy Please Stay Home With Me”, and even Johnny Horton’s “The Goldrush Is Over”. All fit nicely in the Irish Country style that Theresa has produced here.
Of course, there’s a few Irish songs too, a few on Donegal, one about London’s Camden Town, and one sung in Gealic. Apparently “Pocai Folamls is Choigeamn tinn” translates to “Empty Pockets And A Sore head”, and is popular down Connermara way. It has a familiar feel to it.
I did enjoy the album. Theresa has a pleasant style, and made the album very enjoyable.

I don’t know much about Okie JIMMY C WILLIAMS, but I know when Texas based BSW Records send in a new release, it’s worth a listen. And this one from Jimmy is no exception. “Ride The Train”, is as it suggests, an album of train songs. Perhaps not an original idea, but I cannot remember anyone doing one since Boxcar Willie.
For some reason, trains and Country music have a strong connection, going back to Jimmie Rodgers, and as recent as Alabama. Indeed the title and opening track of this album is a cover of the classic Fort Payne quartet’s railroad track from the early 80’s.
The journey then meanders through such classics as “Orange Blossom Special”, “Freight Train” , “Wreck Of The Ol’ 97”, “Wabash Cannonball” , “Hey Porter” and even Hank’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. There’s also a superb uptempo version of the folk classic “500 Miles”.
Jimmy delivers the songs well, the arrangements are very traditional, and the song choice so well put together.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip

Our homegrown recording this time around is “Lonesome Man”, a 6 track EP from Kinross based SIENNA.
Formed in the Summer of 2011 as an acoustic trio, they quickly grew to be a five piece band by the end of  last year.  The current line up features Danny McAtear and Stella Reilly on vocals, with Ross Mathieson, Andy Clarke and Benn Watt. They are a bit hard to box into any particular label, with influences of Americana, folk & rockabilly.
The music on this short collection will certainly appeal to Americana fans, with some neat harmonies between Danny & Stella. The instrumentation is simple but effective.  All six songs are originals, five written by Danny, and one , “Weekend Girl” by Andy. Most of the songs are quite slow, a style that seems to go down well on the Americana circuit.
“Slow Down” and the title track are the stand out tracks for me.  “Lonesome Man” picks up the tempo quite nicely.
A pleasent listen.

BOB BROLLY has been a popular entertainer and radio presenter in the West Midlands of England for many years, but his roots are deeply engrossed in the Country & Irish market.
His latest album, “Till We Meet Again” features 14 tracks, 9 of which were written by Gerry Cairney, who wrote the popular hit “Paddy” for Mike Denver.  The exceptions include covers of  “Innisfree”, “Fields Of Athenrye”  and “There Goes My Everything”.
The album is more Irish than Country, but done in a way that will appeal across the board. There are titles like “Shannon Breeze”, “Waltzing The Ladies Of Clare”, “The Land Where I was Born” and the showband inspired “Home Is Where The Heart Is”.
One track that is a little different is the Hawiian inspired “Aloha Oe”.
If you like the Irish style, Bob could have an album for you.

Another new CD from Canada, is from “prairie balladeer” SCOTT COOK.  He is a tirelessly travelling songwriter with a heart forever on his sleeve. At least that’s what his promotional material says. He is a fixture of the Canadian festival scene, with a diary of a dozen or more festival appearances each summer, and was recently awarded as Edmonton’s Male Artist Of The Year
He was recently over here, with dates in Glasgow and Biggar, in promotion of his album, “Moonlit Rambles”, which I found to be a very enjoyable listen. This is an album of road stories. All 10 tracks on the album are from his own pen, and feature a variety of styles and themes.
The album kicks off with a slow, but quite catchy “Song For The Slow Dancers”, in which he takes issue with the commercial consumer music scene, with one of the lines, ”Thank god for the real singers, house concerts and community radio”.
That’s followed by the catchy “Goin’ Up To The Country”, and the even catchier “The Lord Giveth And The Landlord Taketh Away”. What a great title!  It’s a catchy title, and probably one of the most likely songs for radio play.
Slower numbers include “All My Moonlit Rambles”, from which the title comes, which is enhanced by some neat accordion from Jason Kodie,  “Go On Ray” , “Let Your Horses Run” and the closing track, “Song For A Pilgrim”.
The album comes in a well produced package, complete with a 24 page booklet with lyrics and credits. Quite a good listen from a guy, who will be back on his travels soon, I hope.

Another travelling songwriter is North Dakota’s JOSH HARTY.
His father was both a preacher and the police chief of his small town growing up. “I was either going to jail, or to hell”, he says. His father did install a musical gene in Josh however. He moved in with his brother, into an apartment near the Empire Tavern in Fargo, which he describes as “like going to songwriting  college”
He has put together a 7 track CD, titled “Nowhere”, to showcase his music. The CD kicks off with “Whiskey And Morphine”, which he co-wrote with Jeremiah Nelson, which introduces Josh coming through the dark side of life.
“Sweet Solution” is a catchy self penned number , whilst the other tracks are simple singer songwriter numbers with little, but effective backing.  He also features Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”.
One for the Americana fans to check out.

Finally this month, JIMMY LAFAVE is no stranger to fans the Austin music scene. “Depending On The Distance” is, however, his first studio album in five years, and his first release of new material for his own Music Road Records. Alongside eight new original songs, there’s three Dylan covers, a Springsteen cover, and his version of John Waite’s “Missing You”.
The album has been a long time in the making, having been recorded over a two year period, between his touring in the Woody Guthrie tribute show “Walking Woody’s Road”.
Growing up closer to Dallas, than Austin, he moved to Oklahoma, before heading to Austin in 1986, where he’s been part of the scene since.
Most of the numbers are slow, soulful deliveries. “Red Dirt Night” is perhaps a bit more bluesy.
“Talk To Me” and “Land Of Hope And Dreams” are two of the more uptempo songs, and I did enjoy “Bring Back The Trains”, which has almost a gospel feel to it, with it’s soulful backing singers.
Another for the singer songwriter fans.

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