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Monday 30 September 2013

Oct 2013

The hottest new American release this time around, has to be the collaboration of VINCE GILL and PAUL FRANKLIN on “Bakersfield” (Universal). Vince is well known as a superb singer and songwriter, whilst Paul is one of Country music’s most honoured steel guitarists. Both are regulars in Music City’s best loved jam band The Time Jumpers, but here, the pair turn their attention to the Californian hotbed of music – Bakersfield.  The city was put on the map when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens developed a sound there which stood out against the strings laden Nashville sound that was being developed in Nashville in the 60’s.
This wonderful new album really creates The Bakersfield Sound in 2013, with a selection of Buck & Merle covers.  But, although, you will hear “Together Again” and “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”, it’s more than a covers project for Vince & Paul. They really dig into the old LP’s  to find the right songs for the album.  Best example is “He Dont Deserve You Anymore”, from a 1966 Buck Owens album, that only the most devoted fan will know. “Holding Things Together”, written by The Hag, was an album cut on “His 30th Album”, in 1974.
The album kicks off with Buck’s blazing “Foolin’ Around” and closes with Merle’s “Fighting Side Of Me”. In between, another 8 tracks of pure bliss. Vince’s vocals sound as if they were made for these songs. I’ve never heard him sounding as good. Franklin’s steel just adds to the magic.
This is Country music the way I like it.  Brilliant stuff !

AUDREY AULD is an Australian singer songwriter, who has impressed me with a couple of previous albums that I’ve had the pleasure to hear. Now, the Tasmanian born, but now Nashville based, star has released her 10th album, “Tonk” , on her own Reckless label.
I’m glad the move to Nashville hasn’t turned Audrey into another pop singer. Far from it, here is one of the most traditional sounding albums to come out of Music City since Loretta Lynn hit town.
With musicians like Kenny Vaughn, Paul Franklin and Harry Stinson (from Marty Stuart’s band) and Chris Scruggs amongst others, she has created an authentic golden era sound.
The album kicks off with a superb gospel offering on “Bound For Glory”, followed with some good uptempo honky tonk numbers like “Broken Hearted Woman” and “Drinking Problem”. Later in the album, there’s more like that, especially “Your Wife” and the eye catching “Bury Me At Walmart”.
The moody “Kiss Me” slows the tempo, as does the bluesy “Crying The Blues”, and “Sweet Alcohol”, one of just two of the 14 songs, that aren’t self penned.
She then has two songs for her adopted hometown, a “Nashville # 1” and “#2”, one uptempo , and one delicately crafted to capture Music City’s tougher side.
“Siren Song” is a good paced number, which Audrey really gets into. It has quite a homegrown Aussie feel to it, although not as obvious as the infectious “Rack Off”, which she certainly lets fly with.
What really adds to the album is the old timey authenticity. Many of the tracks are quite short (Six tracks are under 2 ½ minutes long), and its all recorded live with some backchat and laughs kept in the recordings.
I really enjoyed this album. For sure, it’s like nothing else you’ll hear coming out of Nashville this year. She’s coming to the UK next May. At time of writing, she hadn’t been offered any Scottish dates. Hopefully that’ll be fixed.

Changing the tempo completely, and the new album from JOEY & RORY is such a joy to listen to.
“Inspired” is a well apt title, as the album, part of The Gaither Gospel Series, is just that, a beautifully constructed album of songs of Faith & Family.
No big arrangements. The album kicks off with an accapella introduction from Joey to the gospel classic “In The Garden”, Other classic covers including “Amazing Grace” and the joyous “Are You Washed in The Blood”,  which features The Isaacs.
As with previous Joey & Rory albums, they share lead vocals. Those mentioned so far feature Joey, but Rory leads the vocals on the Paul Oversteet/Thom Schuyler number “Long Line Of Love” and Richard Leigh’s “My Life Is Based On A True Story”, as well as the catchy “It’ll Get You Where You’re Going”.
“The Preacher And The The Stranger” featuring Rory, was recorded live, and is quite a show stopper. You can really hear the silence in the listening audience.
Of  course, Rory is known as a songwriter, and he has contributed three songs, including “Hammerin’ Nails” and “We Gotta Go Back”, a beautiful number which cries out for a simple life. The couple did perform this song on the Songwriters tour of Scotland back in the spring. On the album, the deep rich vocals of Josh Turner feature too.
 Joey & Rory make beautiful music together. On this new album they are totally “Inspired”.
 A beautiful album.

MICHELLE WRIGHT has been one of Canada’s biggest Country stars since she first appeared on the charts way back in 1990.  With her latest album, “Strong”, she proves that she’s still the one, where others have come & gone.
“Strong” is a good well titled mix of commercial radio friendly songs, most of which were co-written by Michelle herself.
Most of the songs are uptempo with a good beat. I especially enjoyed the catchy “Whats Better Than This” and “Another Good Day”. But she does slow the tempo, with a really emotional “She’s a Keeper”, a song about women who leave it later in life to find a soulmate, and how they’re worth keeping. “I’ll Cry Too”, is another emotional ballad that closes the album.
Throughout, Michelle delivers an album of  “strong”  arrangements, which maintains her place at the top of  Canadian Country music.

Next up, a very interesting album from the Netherlands, which is no stranger to producing good Country music acts. But, KAYLEIGH LEITH is different. She was born in Pennsylvania, but her parents took her all over the USA, before moving to Holland.
Kayleigh has built up quite a following on the continent, with dates all over Germany , Italy and Switzerland this autumn, to coincide with the release of her album, “This Woman”.
The album was recorded in Nashville, and wont be out of place on American Country radio. Rob Crosby, who had several hits on Artista Nashville in the 1990’s produced the album, and wrote a number of the songs with Kayleigh for the album.
The album kicks off with what could be a career song “Born Ready”, a punchy beat that sets the tone for the album. The title track is quite a poppy track, but certainly one that will gain radio exposure.
There are some nice ballads, like “Be Here All Night”, and the rather soulful “Feel Like Letting Go”.
But, for me the strongest track is “Ace Of Diamonds”, an catchy uptempo number.
Despite the Dutch connection, this is very much a Nashville sounding album. Indeed, probably that bit better than any girl singer that I’ve heard out of Music City this year.

Liverpool born NATHAN CARTER has firmly established himself as one of Ireland’s younger stars.  His latest album, “Where I Wanna Be” (Sharpe Music) certainly shows just why the fans love him so much. Like many of the Irish based artists, he’s not 100% Country, but definitely features a lot of Country music in his repertoire.
Several  of his recent singles are included on this, his 4th studio album, including the title track, which is a great homesick song.
The bouncy opening track “Welcome To The Weekend”, is self penned, and it’s Nathan’s own arrangement on “South Australia”, is certainly different. It’s quite a sea shanty style number, but quite infectious.
There’s also a song, “The Road Back”, written by his manager John Farry.
He does a fair job on a really wide choice of covers, from Van Morrison’s “Precious Time” , to Kathy Mattea’s “Eighteen Wheels” and Steve Wariners’ “Where Did I Go Wrong”. There’s also quite a stunning version of “The Twelfth Of Never”, and I enjoyed his version of “On The Other Side”.
Nathan offers a wide selection of material, and this album justifies why he is such a popular entertainer. Nathan is back in Scotland in November.

LISA STANLEY has won many admirers through her co-hoisting duties on The Phil Mack TV Show, and will be back in Scotland, at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry, and Thurso’s Northern Nashville club at the end of  October.
Her album “Love Me A Little Bit Longer”  is a well produced album with some really nice material.
I really enjoyed listening  to the variety of old songs like “Blackboard Of My Heart”, “Silver Threads & Golden Needles” and “Room Full Of Roses”, and newer numbers like “Who Cares”, written by Mary O’Brien, and “Lets Make It A Good Time” , another song written by John Farry.
There are a couple of duets, “We’ve Got Tonight” with Glenn Rogers, and “When You Walk In The Room” with Eddie Carey.
But the two tracks that stand out for me are “Home To Louisiana”, written by Scooter Lee, and “Walking In My Mothers Footsteps”, which naturally suits Lisa perfectly, as her mother was singer Maisie McDaniel. The song is another written by Mary O’Brien.
I really enjoyed this album. A nice mix of nostalgia and newer numbers.

AIDAN QUINN is not only one of the best newcomers on the Irish Country scene, he has pedigree, being the son of Philomena Begley. But on his latest outing, “Overworked And Underpaid” (H&H label), Aidan is out to prove he’s out on his own.
He shows just how Country he is, on tracks like “Sing Me Back Home”, “The Fugitive”  and “Six Days On The Road”. He is also joined by Georgette Jones on “Golden Ring”.
As with many Irish artists, there are a few Irish numbers, and Aidan excels on “Mother Ireland (Come Home Paddy)” and Lough Sheelin Side”.
But he’s not forgotten mum. Philomena joins Aidan on the excellent “Hit The Road Running”, and is acknowledged on “In My Mothers Footsteps”.
Aiden has a really strong Country voice, and will surely be part of the Irish Country scene for many years.

Still in Ireland, TREVOR LOUGHREY has a new album, “Donegal To Tennessee” (All Country label), featuring 14 Jivin’ songs.  Although billed as “a new voice in Country music”, Trevor has been on the road for more than ten years, building up a healthy fan base. Trevor has a good voice, and a style that will go down well on the dancehalls across Ireland.
There are a few songs from Irish writers, which is good to see. There are songs like “Erin Tennessee”, which stood out for me. Also the opening track, co-written by Trevor is worth a listen.
I did feel, however that there were just too many current favourites on the album. Do we really need another “Wagon Wheel”, “Say You Love Me” or “Galway Girl”?
There are a few covers from the other side of the Atlantic, with a Buck Owens medley, and Vince Gill’s “Old Time Fiddle”.
It’s a good catchy album, well produced, and no doubt will be a hit wherever he plays, but I just wish it had a bit more originality.
From the same label (All Country), comes JASON McALLISTER, and I cannot knock this young man for his music choice. Of the 20 tracks on the album, no less than 14 off the songs were self penned.
A few of his own songs are uptempo numbers like “Fallen Angel”, “Drive The Blues Away” , “Dont Fall In Love” and “Dreaming With Tears In My Eyes”, but it’s the slower numbers that stand out.
 “Take My Hand”, with it’s lovely steel licks, wouldn’t be out of place on a Gene Watson album. “Right Beside Your Heart” is quite traditional, and “You Cant Break A Broken Heart” and “Pour Me Wine” are  delivered with such emotion. I really liked “Teardrops On My Pillow”.
The remaining tracks include Buck, Waylon & Merle covers, a duet with Kim Dickenson on “If You See Him/If You See Her”, and with Kerry Ann Ferguson on Heather Myles’ “No One Is Gonna Love You Better”.
A really strong album, and with 20 tracks, it’s great value.

The Irish have never had a problem in mixing comedy with Country music.
Currently, Barry Doyle, who is known as FARMER DAN, has quite a following in that category.
His new album, “Putting The Craic Into Country” has a mix of standard Country songs like “The Games People Play”, “Wagon Wheel”  and “Come On Dance”, and Irish numbers like “Nancy Spain”, Tipperary Far Away” and “Our House Is Is A Home”.
But there’s also a string of farm related titles like “Me & My Dungspreader”, “The Cow Kicked Nellie In The Belly In The Barn”  and “New Holland Tractor”.
Barry has a fair voice when doing the serious numbers, but obviously has a lot of fun on the comedy numbers.
Perhaps not everyone’s taste, but I quite enjoyed my first listen to Farmer Dan.

Our homegrown album this time around, comes from Aberdonian COLIN MACKAY, whose album “Do What You Love” was recorded in Nashville.
Colin achieved a 3rd place in a national TSB Rock School competition at the age of 16, by performing his own songs. A chance meeting with two Nashville musicians at a SpeyFest Music Festival led him to making the trip to music city, and the rest as they say is history.
Of the 10 tracks on the album, Colin wrote six of them. Other writers include respected writers like Mike Reid, Karen Staley and Harley Allen.
The music does have a contemporary edge to it, but the songwriting talent that Colin has honed certainly leans towards Country.
I have to say that it’s Colin’s originals that impressed me most.
The album kicked off with “Do What You Love”, quite a poppy number, but fits nicely with what Nashville calls Country these days. “Whiskey Morning” is another uptempo number, with a bit more of a natural Country feel to it. “Let You Go” is a bit more laid back, whilst “Your Love” is a bit more pop than the other self penned tracks.
“Handle With Care” is a particularly nice ballad that Colin delivers really well. The closing track is also a pleasant ballad,
The album cover shows Colin on stage at the legendary Tootsies Lounge.
From a listen to the album, I can see Colin back in Nashville for more recording work before too long.

New Jersey born GREG TROOPER  got his musical grounding in  the folk clubs of Greenwich Village.  In 1976, he moved to Austin, Texas but ended up back in New York for much of the 80’s & 90’s , when he launched his recording career. At the same time he was honing his writing skills, which included “Little Sister” for Steve Earle.
Now, Trooper’s 11th album has just been released to coincide with a short tour here this month (see gig list). “Incident On Willow Street” has quite an eye catching cover, and the music inside proved to be ear catching too.
He has a good folk-rock sound, with more than a touch of Country.
Most of the tracks are quite uptempo, in a Tom Russell kind of way.
I really enjoyed the jaunty “Good Luck Heart”, and “One Honest Man”, and “Steel Deck Bridge” whilst he does slow the tempo on tracks like “Amelia”.
“The Girl In The Blue” is probably the closest to conventional Country, with even a slight gulf coast sound detected too.
There is a bit of celtic influence on “Mary Of The Scots In Queens”. It’s more of a folk song than Country, but quite an interesting listen nevertheless.
My first Greg Trooper album. I really enjoyed it.

JASON DANIELS is a new name on me. He’s from Nashville, but is one of these guys who headed out of Music City to pursue his musical career, and ended up in Jackson, Mississippi, known as the “City With Soul”.
He has Country music credentials. His uncles were George & Paul Richey (George was married to Tammy Wynette), but the Jackson soul influence really shines through too.
“On The Highway”, a good uptempo road song, and “Wide Open Spaces” is a strong ballad that I really enjoyed.
But, whilst I enjoyed tracks like “Going Back To Memphis”, many of the tracks were more soul than Country for my ears.

New Englander ROD PICOTT made it to Nashville via Colorado, and has certainly paid his dues in the business. When he arrived in Nashville In 1998 he signed a deal with the management company who also managed Alison Krauss. He initially worked as the driver of Krauss's merchandise truck, but was called upon to fill in when an opening act was needed, which led to a series of support slots with Krauss. Picott finally released his own debut album in 2001.
His latest album, “Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail”, features 11 tracks, all self penned (a couple alongside people like Slaid Cleaves).
As with many singer songwriters, the music is carefully crafted, with little consideration to commercial success. However, I really enjoyed “Mobile Home”, and the more uptempo “Dreams”.

Texas based KIMMIE RHODES is one of the most popular singer songwriters on the Americana scene, and is certainly no stranger to UK audiences. But for her latest release “Covers”, she has put her pen down, and chosen to record 15 of other people’s songs.
She has chosen some iconic writers, like Lennon & McCartney, Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Rodney Crowell & Bono.
Ok, so, it’s not all Country, but she certainly does the songs in her own way.
I was particularly interested in what she’d do with Mark Knopfler’s “Cannibals”, in which she’s joined by Marcia Ball.  Well, It’s not for the linedancers, but quite a catchy arrangement all the same.
She also has guest appearances from Rodney Crowell & Delbert McClinton.
Some of the songs, notably Leon Russell’s “Bluebird”, The Beatles’ ”Yesterday”  and Bono’s “Stuck In A Moment” really work, but sadly not all songs work. She does a fair job on “Little Help From My Friends”, but, to be honest, her “friends” didn’t help much.
Interesting album. I prefer to hear Kimmie doing her own stuff though.

DREW HOLCOMB, as well as being a notable figure on the Americana scene, has a Scottish connection. His bio proudly describes him as a Tennessee born, French speaking, bourbon drinker ... with a Masters degree in divinity from the University of St Andrews.  Even whilst in Fife, he showed musical interest, by writing his dissertation on “Springsteen and American Redemptive Imagination”.
These days he tours widely with his band, The Neighbors.
They released their first album in 2005. Now, their sixth album, “Good Light” has just been released.
There’a a good mix of singer songwriter type numbers, and some more commercial tracks.
The title track does stand out, with some really neat harmonica in the intro. Good song too.
I especially enjoyed his homesick song, “Tennessee ”, and the rather light, bouncy “I Love You I Do”.
Some of the more acoustic numbers are quite appealing too, notably, “What Would I Do Without You” .
Quite an enjoyable album.  

Our final album this time around, comes from Cincinatti, but THE TILLERS will have a date at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry next month, so thought it worthwhile having a listen .
“Hand On The Plow”  is a blend of Appalachian folk music and bluegrass.
The whole album has a real live feel to it, as it was recorded live to tape. No editing, or technically enhancements. Just real music. Some of the tracks are real old timey, like “Treehouse”, whilst others are a bit more commercial sounding.
The opening track, “Old Westside” has a catchy beat, as does “Tescumseh On The Battlefield”, whilst “Cant Be True” is quite a slow number. I liked the racey, but still old timey “500 Miles”.
They’ll certainly bring a different sound to the Opry.

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