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Tuesday 9 April 2013

Apr 2013

Starting off this month with an absolute cracker of an album called “Classic” from Canadian TERRI CLARK (Humphead). Quite a few Country girls have taken to recording an album of well known Country music standards – first it was Reba, followed by Martina McBride, then Leann Rimes. Now it’s Terri’s turn.
Terri captures the flavour right off, with a thirty second recording of Miss Kitty Wells, before launching into a blistering version of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. There’s plenty of twang, a bit of a Status Quo feel, but with lots of fiddle and steel, and I dare you not to get the air guitar into action. It’ll be irresistible.
After such a wonderful start to the album, it’s going to be hard to keep up, but Terri just delivers one knock out track  after another. There’s “Love Is A Rose”, “Dont Come A Home A Drinkin”, “Swinging Doors”  and a softer “Gentle On My Mind”, and a few guests as well.
Reba duets on her old hit “How Blue”, and she enrols Tanya Tucker for a remake of her child hit “Delta Dawn”. She does the George & Tammy thing with Dierks Bentley on “Golden Ring” , and an incredibly good pairing they make.
She also goes back to Canada to team up with Dean Brody for a rockin’ version of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” , and with Jann Arden, on a rather bluesy “Leavin’ On My Mind”.
With all the new pop country coming out of Nashville these days, this album was a pure joy to listen to. There’s nothing like the old songs, as they say. Especially when they’re performed with the voice and emotion of Terri Clark.
I was amused that it was felt necessary to list the original hit singers on the track listing. These songs should be engrained in every Country music fans mind. But then, Terri will be hoping to impress younger listeners with these songs, and, if that means they may then seek out the originals, then I’m all for it.
It’s only April, but this is my album of the year.  

CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH was a late starter, but has certainly made up for lost youth.  His career didn’t take off until he was into his 50’s, but has now just released his 26th album!
“Silhouette” (Edsel Records) features an interesting mix of original and cover songs.
There are trademark Charlie ballads like “Rovers & Streams” ,  “More Honest Than Sweet”, and “Another Dream Of You”, and more uptempo numbers like “Fog On The Brain” and “Starting At The Bottom”.
It’s the cover songs that will probably raise the most interest, with an uptempo swing version of Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart”, a jaunty cover of “City Of New Orleans”, and a lovely slow version of Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again”. He also covers “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “Spanish Pipedream”.
Charlie has found a formula which crosses boundaries from Country to Easy listening. It’s a formula that has won him a legion of loyal fans. This album will further enhance that loyalty.
A lovely album.

When a new Nashville duo LOVE AND THEFT released a radio single in the UK, it was an instant miss with me. “Running Out Of Air”, sounded more like something you’d hear in an 1980’s disco.
But when their self titled album was released (RCA), I thought I’d better give them the benefit of the doubt.
I’m glad I did. The album is very much a modern Nashville Country album. The single stands out on the album for just not fitting in.
The duo are Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson. Both guys take lead vocals and play guitar. They were originally formed as a trio in 2006, taking their name from a Dylan album. They have had one album released previous to this RCA debut.
The first US single from the album, “Angel Eyes” was a No.1 in the Country charts for them.
It features as a good opener to the album.
They have a distinct Eagles sound to them, especially on tracks like “Town Drunk” and “Girls Look Hot In Trucks”.
The stand out tracks for me are the slower ballads like “Thinking Of You And Me” and “She’s Amazing”.
“Inside Out” is quite an uptempo number, which I quite enjoyed, whilst the fast paced “Girls Love To Shake It” is just too sexist to take seriously.
After my initial dismissal, I have to say that I did quite enjoy this new duo. Whether they stand out from the crowd in a busy Nashville market remains to be seen.

“In Time” is the new album from the reunited MAVERICKS (Decca), who gave Scottish fans a preview by performing some of their new material during their visit for Celtic Connections back in January.
How their music ever fitted into the Country genre, I’m not sure. Certainly Nashville hasn’t really warmed to them. I recall a reviewer of their appearance at the CMA Festival, as “some band playing Cuban music!”. But on this side of the water, their music was especially popular with line dancers, and thus their adoption by Country fans.
Their new album doesn’t really mark any change in direction. Their sound is perhaps a little edgier. A little less trying to conform to something they’re not.
In the main, it’s foot tappin’ world beats, with songs like “Back In Your Arms Again”, “Lies” , “All Over Again” and “That’s Not My Name”, which will go down well with listeners & dancers alike.
A few songs like “Born To Be Blue” and  “Fall Apart” have more of the Latin crooner sound, whilst
“Come To Me” is totally Latin, which didn’t do anything for me at all.
Another couple of numbers, like “In Anothers Arms” and “Call Me When You Get To Heaven” were just  too slow to keep me interested.
But for Maverick’s fans, this album will be top of your list.

EMMYLOU HARRIS & RODNEY CROWELL are two of a kind. Their history goes back to Emmylou’s legendary Hotband in the mid 70’s.  They have went their separate ways over the years, but have got together again for this new album, “Old Yellow Moon” (Nonesuch Records) and a European tour, which plays Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on May 15th.
Their harmonies still blend together beautifully on an album which also features James Burton, Vince Gill, Emory Gordy, Larry & Paul Franklin, John Jorgenson, Glenn Hardin and producer Brian Ahern, and three songs from Hank DeVito’s pen.
Crowell contributed four songs, whilst Matraca Berg, Allen Reynolds, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson also get writing credits.
It’s DeVito’s “Hanging Up My Heart” which opens the album. It’s a good uptempo  radio friendly number to get the project under way. That’s followed by a really enjoyable version of Roger Miller’s “Invitation To The Blues”.
The rest of the album, is perhaps, a shade less commercial, but does feature some nice material, showing off some beautiful harmonies, especially on ballads like “Back When We Were Beautiful”, and “Here We Are”.
This is a really enjoyable album, from two stand out Country performers.

CHRIS YOUNG is one of the brightest talents to emerge onto the Nashville scene in recent years. He is a local born , raised and educated young man, who won the Nashville Star TV talent show back in 2006. Still in his 20’s ,his third album, “Neon” (Sony) has been given a UK release to tie in with his recent visit to the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.
Young has co-written seven of the album’s ten tracks, including two songs that have already hit the charts.
I think Young is best excelling at powerful ballads like the title track, “Neon” , “Old Love Feels New”, “When She’s On” and “Tomorrow”, a particular strong emotional ballad, and no wonder it was such a big hit for him. But it’s the closing track, a softer ballad, “She’s Got This Thing About Her” which really stood out for me.
In direct contrast, “Save Water Drink Beer” is a Hi energy modern honky tonk anthem. The bouncy “You” is also catchy enough to impress me.
I was really impressed with this young man. I’m sure we’re going to hear more of him in the future.

GARY ALLAN has had quite a few of his albums released here, but I’m guessing that he’s still going to be relatively unknown to most readers.
His latest album, his 10th to date, “Set You Free” (Humphead) was released here in late January, and features 5 songs which he co-wrote, including the No.1 US hit “Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain”. This was his 4th chart topper, but his first since 2004. It’s probably the one track I’d have chosen as stand out track.
I also liked “You Without Me”, a nice ballad, and the rather different “No Worries”. This one almost has a reggae influence running through it, but it works.
Gary’s album’s are quite listenable, but just don’t stand out from the pack.

Now for something very different.
West Coast bluegrass from SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND, who have just released “White Swan”, their first album since 2008. And it’s well worth the wait.
The five piece outfit fuze bluegrass , bluegrass, Appalachian folk and celtic music into a sparkling sound that leaves you quite transfixed.
The songs are a mix of band compositions and covers, like James Taylor’s “Mill Worker”, and Jean Ritchie’s “The Soldier”.
All but two of the tracks feature Susie on lead vocals. The exceptions include “Me & The Eagle”, written by Steve Earle, which features band member Steve Rankin on the lead vocals. He does a good job.  As does Fred Sanders, who wrote and sings “Rockin’ In Your Granddaddies Chair”.
A few of the tracks are just a shade too folkie, such as “Fair Ellender”, but is delivered beautifully.
I really nice album.

ANNIE KEATING is a New York based singer songwriter who has made quite an impression on her previous four albums, and her visits to Europe, including Glasgow’s Americana Festival.
Her fifth album, “For Keeps” gets a release here this month.
Annie has a fuller sound that many singer songwriters, and has written all but one of the songs here. The exception is Neil Young’s “Cowgirl In The Sand”, which is a bit on the slow side, and doesn’t quite fit into the rest of the album for me.
The strongest songs, in my mind, are the quite punchy “Just For Today” and the quite commercial “Leap Of Faith”.
Her visits to Scotland has obviously made an impression, as one of the songs is called “River Clyde”. It’s quite a slow number that is growing on me, I have to say.
An interesting album, well worth giving a listen to, if you like your Country music slightly on the pop side, without sounding like it was straight out of the Nashville Music machine.

Heading south to Texas, RITA HOSKING is another singer songwriter, who has made impressions over here. “Little Boat” is her latest EP, or Mini-CD, featuring seven self penned (one co-write with her daughter Kora Feder) songs, which were recorded over four days last November in Austin.
Uncut magazine said that “Her old-timey, keening vocals and simple accompaniments lie between Iris Dement and Gillian Welch”, and that’s not a label that I would dispute. I also hear a lot of Nanci Griffith in her style.
There’s some nice instrumentation, including banjo, clawhammer banjo and Hammer dulcimer running through the album.
The harmonies are quite outstanding, with “Sierra Bound” standing out as my favourite track. I also really enjoyed the more uptempo bluegrass influenced “Nothing Left Of Us”, and the “hometown” song, “Five Star Location”, about her town losing jobs to China. A theme we can all appreciate. She has a good view on the subject.
A nice listen.

JARROD DICKENSON  is another Texan, having grown up in Waco, but as his album title, “The Lonesome Traveler” suggests , he’s no longer there. He’s spent time in Nashville, California, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.
His musical style has travelled as far. His early influences were the blues,  but the guitar took over, and by the time he went to university in Austin, he was fully immersed in the songwriting scene.
“No Work For a Working Man” stands out, with it’s nice banjo instrumentation, and lyrics that many looking for jobs today, will fully appreciate. He certainly captures the emotions running through families in similar situations.
“Rosalie” also stands out, as probably the most radio friendly tracks on the album.
Other tracks tend to be on the slower side, and failed to keep my attention.

Back to Canada, where Vancouver based BARNEY BENTALL  has been telling stories with his music for the past 35 years. He has recorded ten albums in that time, and formed a band called The Legendary Hearts, whose debut album went Platinum in Canada, and won a Juno Award.
His latest album, “Flesh & Bone” (True North) is a fascinating set of stories well performed in song.
His music is a rich fusion of Country, folk, roots and celtic sounds, that blend together quite nicely.
They range from the uptempo “Ballad of Johnny Hooke” and “Four Went To War”, the more commercial “Outskirts of Buffallo”  to the softer “Annabel” and “Her Beautiful Mind” which features some lovely harmony from Angela Harris.
I enjoyed the bluegrassy flavoured “High Up On The Mountain”  and the harmonica infused “St Valentine’s Day”.
A really nice album. A bit different, but really enjoyable.

Staying in BC ,PHARIS & JASON ROMERO, are back with a new album for 2013, in “Long Gone Out West Blues”(Lula Records). Their previous album gathered awards from both the Canadian Folk and Independent scenes.
They have a unique old timey/bluegrass style that just sounds so effortless. Pharis leads the vocals on most, but not all of the tracks. Jason leads on the more gospel sounding “Wild Bill Jones” and “Waiting For The Evening Mail”.
Pharis has a vocal style, not too far from Emmylou’s early songs. But it’s tracks like “Come On Home”, which really show how harmonies make beautiful music. There’s also a couple of quaint little old timey instrumentals , “Lost Lula”  and “Sally Goodin”.
All the songs are either traditional numbers, or originals by the duo, apart from the final track “Across The Bridge”, credited to Walter Scott . It’s my favourite track  on the track., Great harmonies.
Certainly not for the modern Country fan, but a really nice listen all the same.

Country music in Ireland has an immense following, with a good mix of long time favourites and a healthy number of newcomers. TV and radio coverage  has really encouraged artists to make records and videos.
But whilst some acts are good live acts, the transition onto radio and television sometimes doesn’t work.
I feel that’s what’s happening with THE|OUTLAWS, who have a new album, “The Best Part Of The Day Is The Night” just released (Sharpe Music).
Despite four self penned numbers , and really original covers , including an uptempo “Lying Eyes”, this just sounded like a gig album to me. That’s to say, fans will love it, but I cant see them getting much airplay.
The album has a good selection of uptempo and waltz timed numbers, which will keep dancers on the floor all night, but, as i say, not a radio hit.

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