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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

December 2014

In the run up to Christmas, we’ve a bumper bundle of great music to tell you about in this issue.
Let’s start off with the homegrown releases.

JACQUI SHARKEY grew up in Glasgow, but is based in West Donegal these days. After great reviews for her last album “A New Dawn”, Jacqui is back with “Love And Other Things”, which was produced by Manus Lunny from Capercaille.
Jacqui’s rich warm vocals are often compared to Anne Murray, but Jacqui makes no concessions on this album. There’s no Anne Murray songs. There are four that she has written herself. “My Perfect Storm” is a beautiful song (co-written with Ian Smith), which instantly caught my attention.  The pairing also wrote “Remember Who You Are”, which had quite a folky feel to it.  Other originals include “Pretty Words”, which was a single for Jacqui some months back.  
There are also covers of the Nanci Griffith/Tom Russell hit “Outbound Plane” , the James Taylor/Carole King classic “You’ve Got A Friend”, Mary Chapin’s’ “I Was a Bird” and the traditional “The Water Is Wide”.  One interesting cover was “Tell These Hands”, written by Australian singer Sara Storer. It’s quite a light upbeat number, which showed a different side to Jacqui.
Jacqui cut her musical roots while at University in Glasgow.  She’s another wonderful Scottish talent which we’ve let go home to Ireland.
She’s a lovely singer, and “Love And Other Things” is a lovely album to have in your collection.

Someone else who has taken the same path as Jacqui is LISA McHUGH. Lisa grew up in Glasgow, but moved over to Donegal to pursue her musical career, and it has certainly paid off for her. She has quickly become one of the busiest and most popular entertainers on the Irish Country scene. And she has spread her wings lately, by branching out into TV presentation, with her own series on Irish TV.
No wonder it’s taken 2 ½ years to get time to release her third major album, “A Life That’s Good” (Sharpe Music).
The album features a bright mix of Country, old & new, a little bit of pop, and even a couple of Irish tunes.
There are three of Lisa’s recent singles here, “Hey I’m A Woman”, “Applejack” and the current radio hit “Hillbilly Girl”. There’s covers of Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s In Love With The Boy” , Shania’s “Any Man Of Mine” and even Roy Acuff’s classic “Night Train To Memphis”, (athough, very much based on Dolly Parton’s version) which is one of the stand out tracks.
The title track comes from the Nashville TV series soundtrack, written by Ashley Monroe & Sarah Siskind, and there’s also songs from Kasey Musgraves, John Legend, and even Taylor Swift !
Lisa co-wrote “Hey, I’m a Woman” and also wrote “Left To Love”, a beautiful ballad that stands out on a largely uptempo album. I hope it proves to be a winner, and encourages Lisa to further her writing.
The two Irish numbers are the rousing “Ireland” written by New Jersey born Americana artist Greg Trooper, and the ever popular “Home To Donegal”, which she does an exceedingly warm version of.
It’s been a while coming, but well worth the wait. Another winner from Lisa McHugh!

One of the first Country albums that you should seek out in 2015 is from a young Glasgow guy called DANIEL MEADE.  His first album, “As Good As Bad Can Be”, got rave reviews since it’s release in 2013.  That led to several impressive gigs with the likes of Sturgill Simpson and most recently, The Old Crow Medicine Show. Daniel headed for Nashville back at the start of the year, and came back with a superb album, “Keep Right Away” (From The Top Records), which is released January 19th.
All the tracks are self penned, with a couple of co-writes.  Daniel’s style is old style Country with a superb modern approach. He has been likened to Hank Williams, Jerry Lee, Justin Townes Earle and The Old Crow Medicine Show. I’d throw in BR549 and Junior Brown for good measure. That should give you an idea of what to expect from Daniel.
The album kicks off with the uptempo radio single “Long Gone Wrong”, which has already received Radio 2 national airplay.
In the main, the album is upbeat, with tracks like the title track, “Rising River Blues”, “Trying” and  “Livin’ On Tootsie Time”.
“Not My Heart Again”, another feel good number which bridges classic Country honky tonk with a bluegrass beat, features some smart harmonies from Shelby Colvin. There’s also a duet with singer songwriter Diana Jones, “Help Me Tonight”, which is one the slowest songs on the album. Their voices work well together and really shows another side of Daniel.
“Sometimes A Fool’s The Last To Know”, is another ballad which stands out. Pure Country.
There’s a false start to “Sing It Loud”, which features Joshua Hedley. It really ads to the live atmosphere that comes over on the album. It’s a rowdy homage to the way Country music was once loved.
Daniel may be turning the clock back to a time when Country was Country. But I’m all for that. It’s already a strong contender for my Album of the Year 2015.  A stunning album.

MARTHA L HEALY is a Glasgow singer songwriter who is going to catch our attention, following the release of her album “Better Days”, which was recorded in Nashville.
As an advance to the album, Martha has the “Better Days EP (Unplugged) doing the rounds.   It features 5 tracks. There’s quite a variety of material, which really shows this little lady’s vocal talent .
“Enough” is a nice acoustic opener, whilst the closing track, “Healin’ Wind is even more simply arranged.  “Shame” is a strong painful ballad, made all the more effective by some neat harmonica. “13 Hours”, another ballad, has a strong Country feel to it.
But just to show her variety, Martha hits the bottle on ”Vodka”, a song written by Carrie Newcomer. There are several songs on the same theme, but Martha really delivers on this uptempo morning after post mortem. Great song, some really nice instrumentation, and really catchy.
I was really impressed with Martha’s vocal style. We’re gonna hear a lot more of her.
Her album release party was at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on St.Andrews night, and we’ll review it fully in the next issue.

DEAN OWENS is one of Scotland’s most respected singer songwriters and modern Country troubadours. He found his feet playing with The Felsons, but is very much established as a solo artist these days.
His latest release, which came out just in time for Remembrance Day, is a 4 track EP called “No Man’s Land”. The lead track, which is supported by a You Tube video, “Closer To You”, was inspired by the story of a soldier returning from the front writing to his loved one about how it gets harder to be away from home the closer you get to returning, Dean has written a song that poignantly describes the emotions of those at war and those they love.
There are three further war themed songs and with a stunning cover featuring the original painting ‘Sea Of Red’ by Philip Braham. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Neilson Hubbard, ‘Closer To Home’ is taken from the forthcoming album, ‘Into The Sea’.

Moving across the Atlantic, June 7th 2014 was the end of an era. That was the date of GEORGE STRAIT’s final concert. Now the soundtrack to that momentous event in Arlington, Texas is released on “Live From AT & T Stadium : The Cowboy Rides Away”.
The 20 track collection features many of Strait’s hits from the past 30 years, with guests appearing on many of the tracks, including Vince Gill, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill, and, of course, Alan Jackson is on hand for “Murder On Music Row”.
There’s a sentimental “I’ll Always Remember You”, looking back at his career in song, and a star studded “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”.
It’s a great send off for George Strait fans.

There’s no questioning TIM McGRAW’s credentials in Country music. He has been one of Country music’s biggest names consistently over the past 25 years. His new album, “Sundown Heaven Town” (Decca/Big Machine) is quite a shift in direction however.
To my ears, Tim has found a softer, more down home country sound, that I wasn’t familiar with.
Amongst the tracks that really caught my attention include “City Lights”, “Shotgun Rider”, “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools” and  “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s”.
The album has 13 tracks, with an additional five tracks on the deluxe version.
This album quite surprised me. One of my favourite Tim McGraw albums for some time.

With hits like “I Hope You Dance” and “Never Again, Again”, LEE ANN WOMACK was one of Nashville’s sweethearts in the late nineties, and early 2000’s.  Incredibly, it’s been seven years since we last heard from Womack, but her new album, “The Way I’m Living” (Sugar Hill) was well worth the wait.
Her first album was really Country, but she did blend into the Nashville music machine after that. Now, she’s back with the most Country album you could imagine.  She has recorded songs written by Neil Young, Hayes Carll, Bruce Robison and Mindy Smith amongst others, but given them a real authentic rootsy, even bluegrass feel, and she sounds so much at home on this recording.
The title track has quite a southern blues feel to it, but works quite well.
The opening track, “Fly” is very soft and delicate, as is “Same Kind Of Different”, which has some lovely fiddle work from Aubrie Haynie and Hank Singer.
Her Country credentials really took over on the third track in. “Chances Are” was written by Hayes Carll, and features some fabulous steel guitar from Paul Franklin. It’s the sound that you associate with a hot Vince Gill ballad. Boy, can Franklin make a record!
The steel also features on the catchy “Sleeping With The Devil”, which is my personal favourite.  I also enjoyed the album’s closing track, “When I Come Around”, which despite its’ celtic feel, was written by Mexican born (Nashville based) Mando Saenz.
Indeed, I really loved this album. Certainly one of my album’s of the year. Highly recommended.

LADY ANTEBELLUM have set something of a standard for groups in Nashville, since they formed eight years ago. The male/female pop vocal styled trio created a sound that acts on both sides of the Atlantic have strived to copy.
Their latest album “747” was released here to coincide with a London date, and features much the same sound that they created with their signature song “Need You Now”.
That’s best demonstrated by “Lie With Me”, which is the UK single from the album.
Some of the other songs, notably “Bartender” and “Sounded Good At The Time”, which are well produced, are aimed more at pop fans.  
“One Great Mystery” is probably my favourite cut on the album, certainly the most Country,
“Down South” and “Just A Girl” both started off really down home Country, but quickly morphed into the same sound that the rest of the album had.    
No doubt this album will continue Lady A’s domination of the Country group market.

THE SWON BROTHERS are a new duo from Oklahoma, who are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Carrie Underwood, who grew up right down the street from them. Whilst Carrie won American Idol, Zach & Colton came through the US version of The Voice last year, being mentored by Blake Shelton.
Now their self titled debut album has arrived and is available here digitally, and already have a CMA Vocal Duo nomination to the credit.
Their sound is a cross between The Eagles and the many boybands that blur the lines between Country and pop these days.  “Chasing You Around” and  “Same Old Highway”  are definitely inspired by The Eagles, with some really strong harmonies.
Other tracks, like “Songs That Tell It All”, “This Side Of Heaven” and “Pray For You” are strong modern Country ballads, which I really enjoyed.
The album also includes the single “Later On” and ballads “Breaking” and “Pretty Beautiful” , which would find themselves as at home on pop as well as Country radio.
It’s a good strong debut album, and one that should appeal to Country listeners, as well as more mainstream audiences.

“Painkiller” (Humphead) is the sixth album from LITTLE BIG TOWN, the latest inductees into the Grand Ole Opry. The quartet first hit the charts in 2002, and have had considerable chart success since.
They have a modern sound, but still manage to maintain that Country feel to their music. This album continues that pattern.  The two guy/two girl line up share the vocals, giving a nice variety.
Many of the tracks are quite pop or rocky, but there are some songs that stand out.
“Live Forever” and “Silver & Gold” both have some mixed harmonies, in a haunting Everly’s style.
“Day Drinking”, the single from the album, is a bit different. It features some neat whistle sounds (no credit on the album to suggest how they came up with it), but it works. They do mix styles quite randomly.
Just to confuse me, the title track is one of the most Country sounding tracks on the album, but has quite a reggae feel to it, at the same time. This is certainly not a straight Country album!
“Girl Crush” is a soft ballad, which is probably my favourite cut on the album.

“The Big Revival” is the new album from KENNY CHESNEY (Sony). He’s another artist who has been at the top in America since he first charted over 20 years ago. All of his 14 previous album’s have been certified gold or higher by the RIAA. He’s also won the CMA’s Entertainer of The Year award 4 times.  He also gets his albums released here in Britain, but remains largely unknown to UK fans.
His music of late has tended to have a “gulf coast sound”, but this album moves away from that.
In fact one of the remaining “gulf coast sounds” on the album is “Wild Child”, which features Grace Potter.
This album has more of a crowd participation sound, which, perhaps, reflects his “live” status. Best examples of this are “American Kids” (his 25th No1 Country hit), “Beer Can Chicken”, “Rock Bottom”, and “Til It’s Gone”, which has also been released as a single in the UK.
He does slow it down on tracks like “Don’t It”, which almost has a gospel overtone, and the reflective “If This Bus Could Talk”, which reminded me of an Alabama ballad. It’s the stand out track for me.    
Quite a listenable album.

“A Little Bit Of Ireland in Nashville”, is how our next artist has been described. BERNADETTE, originally from Donegal, has been in Music City for the last twenty years, and has rubbed shoulders with many of Music City’s stars. With two highly rated albums to her credit, she has released her third album, “Not The Same Me”, and I have to say, it’s her best yet.
Her previous albums have been totally Country, but this album does have more of a “homeland” feel to it.
As an emigrant herself, she has featured a couple of songs of early emigrants, like “Isle Of Hope” and “New York Harbour”, written by Scotsman John McKenna. She also features “Camden County Poor”, John Farry’s “Dear Ireland” and Ron Hynes’ “Sonny”, whilst Maura O’Connell joins her on “Rose Of Allendale”.
But this isn’t just an Irish album. Bernadette has some good Country songs on here too.  And they’re not well known covers. She starts off with “Love With A Broken Heart”, a lovely ballad, which is one of Bernadette’s own particular favourites.  I particularly liked the original song, “I Know I Love You”, which sounded so like a Don Williams song to me. She has plans to release this song, as a single and video. Her version of “Tramp On The Street” is wonderful, and gospel influenced “In The Shadows Of Your Wings” is such a strong song.
The only cover I recognised instantly, was Terri Clark’s “Gypsy Boots”, which worked well here.
But the track that really showed such thought and originality was Dolly’s “Nickels & Dimes”, It’s quite a poppy upbeat number, but she manages to slip in a catchy little Irish fiddle jig in the middle. It’s really different, and works really well.
With 16 tracks, it’s a really good value for money.
I really enjoyed this album. Bernadette at her best.

Irish duo FOSTER & ALLEN will be celebrating their 40th year on the road next year, and show no sign of slowing down. They consistently release easy listening album’s each year, which are always big sellers.
I’m always amazed at the range of songs they pick up on. There’s always some Country, some pop, a touch of Irish, but they always deliver a set of songs that fans know and love, and you think they must have recorded these before.
Their new album “Gold & Silver Days” (DMG) has 20 tracks and the songs range from “Try A Little Kindness” and “Working Man”, to “Daydream Believer” and “North To Alaska”. On the Irish side, there’s “The Boys Of Killybegs”, “Green Hills Of Sligo” and “A Hug”,
They are masters of easy listening music, and I cant fault them.

Omagh’s LEE MATTHEWS is one of Ireland ’s Young breed. He’s already made a name for himself with songs like “Sadie’s Got Her New Dress On” and “There’s Irish In Our Eyes”, but his new album, “A Little Bitty Country” (Sharpe Music) shows Lee as an all round entertainer.
Like Derek Ryan, Lee has quite a musical cv covering his 26 years. He started singing at the age of 8, and played in many bands, including The Irish Tenors, a duo with Pete Docherty, and an X Factor group called Open All Areas.
He covers modern Country hits like Alan Jackson’s “Little Bitty”, Joe Nichols’ “Brokenheartsville” and Brad Paisley’s “Mud On The Tyres”, alongside pop covers of “Love Shine A Light” and Lonestar’s “Not a Day Goes By”.
Lee wrote four of the songs, including “That Country Girl”, “Don’t Shut Me Out” and “Mirror On The Wall”.
It’s a really well produced album, which will certainly find lots of fans on the booming Irish Country scene. A real winner, and a name for the future!

Another young Irishman making good music these days is ALASTAIR COYLES, from Ballymoney. Alastair is celebrating his 10th year in the business, with his fourth album, “I’m Over Getting Over You”.
The album is a good mix of good Country and a few 50’s & 60’s pop covers for good measure.
Amongst the stand out tracks are “Mind Of A Child”, a cover of Ray Griff’s “Pretty In Blue” and Patty Cavanagh’s “Wild Old World”. Sean Murray wrote the upbeat title track, and he does an interesting version of Derek Ryan’s “God’s Plan”.  Alastair has a good solid Country voice, ideal for delivering these songs.
The pop cover’s include “Bye Bye Love”, “Ave Maria”, “I’m Into Something Good”, and “Spirit In The Sky”.
Alastair has produced a good mix of material, which should win him more fans on both sides of the Irish Sea.


Earlier this year, Country music remembered Ernest Tubb on what would have been his 100th birthday, and then it September, the 30th Anniversary of his passing was marked.  Perhaps some of today’s generation will be unfamiliar with Tubb, but when you mention his hits like “Waltz Across Texas” and “Walking The Floor Over You”, then his mark on today’s Country music is truly appreciated.
He was known as “The Texas Troubadour”, and was the main influence on many Texan artists, as well as many beyond the Lone Star State.  To honour Ernest, the wonderful artists at Heart Of Texas Records got together to bring us “Thanks A Lot Texas Troubadour : A Tribute to Ernest Tubb”.
The album features covers of 14 ET numbers, from folks like Tony Booth, Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Norma Jean and Curtis Potter”. There’s Amber Digby & Justin Trevino” dueting on “Mr & Mrs Used To Be”, Dottsy’s “Waltz Across Texas” and Georgette Jones says “Thanks A Lot”. Georgette’s Dad, George contributes “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin”, and they even have Dolly Parton singing “Slipping Around”.
The album closes with, the recently departed, George Hamilton IV with “May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You”.
It’s a superb tribute to Ernest Tubb - pure Country, as they only do down in Texas!

Another tribute worthy of note is “Remember Me”, the Buddy Holly Country Tribute by FRIZZELL & FRIENDS (Nashville America Records) . The project is recorded in association with The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, and has been put together by the talented David Frizzell, with a stellar line up which includes Merle Haggard, Jimmy Fortune (from The Statlers), T Graham Brown, Helen Cornelius, and Sonny Curtis.
Each of the 21 tracks are introduced by Frizzell, with information about Buddy’s recording of the song. All the biggies like “Peggy Sue”, “Oh Boy”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “It’s So Easy” and “Rave On” are here, alongside, perhaps, not so well known songs, as “Maria Elana” and “Mailman Bring Me No More Blues”. They’re all given superb country treatments. There’s also the inclusion of “Walk Right Back”, in memory of Phil Everly. The song was written by Sonny Curtis, who played with Buddy before The Crickets.
It’s all great stuff, but the stand out track for me, is “Remember Me”. There’s two version’s. Merle Haggard’s superb version (including Stacey Houston’s harmonies) opens the collection, and a version from David Frizzell, Jimmy Fortune & Helen Cornelius closes the CD.
But this is more than a CD. There’s also a 60 minute long DVD showing the team talking about Buddy, and behind the scenes footage of the recording of the album. All interesting stuff, but my lasting image will be just how frail Merle Haggard looked whilst recording “Remember Me” and “That’ll Be The Day”. After all the Haggard tributes we’ve heard lately, it’s great to see Merle taking part in someone else’s tribute.
Buddy Holly was such an important contributor to popular music. It’s great to hear some real Country music in tribute to him.

Country music in America these days is quite mainstream, and covers a much wider spectrum than it did 20 or 30 years ago. But the boundaries have really been stretched by the release of “Nashville Outlaws” (Decca/Big Machine). Here we have today’s country music names recording an album of covers from glam heavy rock band Motley Crue.
Being a Country boy, I have no idea of the music covered here. What does come over is that bands like Rascall Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and Eli Young Band adapt quite easily to this style of music,
There are a few tracks which actually do sound quite Country, but how close they sound to the original, I wouldn’t know. The tracks that caught my ear, are mainly ballads, like “Home Sweet Home”, from Justin Moore & Vince Neil, “Afraid” by Aaron Lewis, “Looks That Kill”, by Lauren Jenkins, and the catchy “Same Ol’Situation” from Big & Rich.
Other acts included in the project include Leann Rimes, The Mavericks, Gretchen Wilson, and Darius Rucker, who has the most Country track on the album in “Time For Change”.
A strange compilation, but, it actually wasn’t as scary a listen as I thought it might be.

THE DOOBIE BROTHERS are best known as being a West Coast rock band, most popular back in the 1970’s & 80’s with hits like “Listen To The Music” and “Long Train Running”. They had a sound likened to the rockier side of The Eagles, with some close harmonies.
Their highest placing in the UK was No.29, back in 1975 with a number called “Take Me In Your Arms”, and are certainly not as well recognised as The Eagles, although I’m sure some of the tracks on their new album, “Southbound” (Arista), will sound familiar.
For this album, The Doobies have teamed up with Nashville’s current crop of names to join them on some refreshing remakes of their classic hits. Amongst the Country contingent, are The Zack Brown Band, Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley.
I’m not too sure who this album is aimed at. Is it likely to make long time Doobies fans turn to Country, or are they expecting today’s young Country fans to appreciate 80’s west Coast rock music.
I can’t see it working either way. I don’t really see the point at all.

Occasionally, along comes an album from an unknown artist, who really blows you away.
That’s how I felt about JAMES CAROTHERS, a McNairy County, Tennessee native, whose “Honky Tonk Land” is the real deal for me.
He now lives in New Mexico, where Country music is more in line with the Texan sound that that of Nashville.  Having said that, he did head back to Music City to record the album, with musicians like Eddie Bayers, Gordon Mote and Wanda Vick.
The 8 track CD kicks off with “New Country Singers”, which places him very much in the traditional mould, by taking a little swipe at today’s Nashville’s hitmakers.  The album also features his very Country single, “I Must Be Alive”, and the catchy “Have Another Round”. The closing track, “Where Did We Come From” is a slower track than the rest of the album, but still fits in nicely.
There’s a bit of Waylon in his style, and a whole lot of Dale Watson.
He wrote all eight of the tracks, and there’s not a bad one between them.
This was a superb introduction to James Carothers. A real Country talent for the future!

THE STRAY BIRDS are an interesting group, formed in Pennsylvania in 2010, and appeared at Celtic Connections in early 2014. The acoustic/roots/bluegrass trio consist of Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charles Muench, have just released their second full album, “Best Medicine” (Yep Roc), and, as I say, it makes an interesting listen.
The album not only offers quite modern tracks like “San Antonio”, but also old timey arrangements on “Pallett” and “Who’s Gonna Shoe”.
There are uptempo numbers like “Adelaide” and “The Bells” and slower ballads like “Never For Nothing” and “Stolen Love”.
Male led tracks, especially “Feathers and Bone” sound a bit more contemporary than the tracks which feature Maya on lead vocal. But together they do provide some nice harmonies.
My favourite tracks include “Simple Man”, and “Black Hills”.
As I say, an interesting album. They have a nice sound, which will enhance their appeal.

JIM KEAVEY’s music is described as “Americana, sprinkled with a hint of 60’s garage rock, Tex-Mex and a sense of humour”.  His new album, Out Of Time”, certainly has evidence of it all.
The North Dakota raised singer songwriter does have the most melodic vocal style, but like many artists can develop songs to suit their style, and Jim certainly does that.
The humorous side of Keavey comes out in titles like “Lucy Aint Got No Arms”, which is quite a catchy little number.
I have to say though, that it’s David Barclay Gomez on the Tex Mex accordion that really makes this album. It’s especially evident on tracks like  ”Eugene To Yuma” and “Ridin’ Boots”.
An interesting outing.
THE EARLY MAYS are an American female trio of musicians. Ellen Gozion, from Pennsylvania, Judith Avers from Kansas and Emily Pinkerton from Indiana first got together at a Christmas Eve concert in a Pittsburgh church. They all had leanings towards the traditional music of The Appalachians, and the Early Mays formed soon after.
They did have a holiday album released in 2012, and now follow it up with a beautiful laid back self titled acoustic album release.
They excel with their three part harmonies, fiddle, banjo and guitar. Individually they wrote 7 of the album’s 13 tracks, which also features traditional numbers like AP Carter’s “Little Darlin’ Pal Of Mine”, “Lonesome John” and “The Blackest Crows”.  There’s also “I’m Sorry Wyoming”, written by Abbie Gardner from Red Molly. It’s one of my favourite tracks.
Other stand out tracks, include the very Country sounding “Old Stone Wall” and the very simply arranged “Take My Time”.
It’s a nice easy listening, worth checking out, if you enjoy the more folksy Appalachian sound.

Finally, BOB CHEEVERS is one of these guys, who, when you listen to his music, makes you wonder why he’s not up there are at the top.  He has written songs for Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and Elvis had one of his songs on his “to do” list, before he died. His style is a dead ringer for Willie Nelson.
He is a regular visitor to our shores, and indeed, it was thanks to his English guitarist during his 2012 European tour, that this album found its’ title. He had a bumper sticker on his guitar which read “On Earth As It Is In Austin”, and that’s the title of Bob’s new album (Private Angel label).
As a singer songwriter, Bob has written all 15 tracks, and performs them with the simple sound of his guitar, alongside some esteemed Texan musicians.
The likeness to Willie is quite uncanny, especially on tracks like “The Sound Of A Door”, which opens the album, “Made In Mississippi”, and “Falling On Easy Street”.
But it all comes to a head on his full on Willie tribute’s “You Sound So Much Like Willie” and “Blue Eyes Always On My Mind”, as well as the title cut, which is half spoken.
He does have his own sound, on the catchy “My First Rodeo”, and the raunchy sounding “Snake Oil Man”.
All things considered. If you like Willie Nelson, you’ll love Bob Cheevers.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Oct 2014

Despite Nashville’s obsession with making Country music into pop these days, there are a few acts who really stand up for the traditional sounds. One of these is OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW, who have really popularised the old timey jug band sound. The group, who have been recording since 1998 were discovered busking outside a North Carolina shop. They are responsible for the huge success of “Wagon Wheel”, for which they received a Platinum Disc.
They are touring here this month, with a Glasgow date included, and their latest album, “Remedy” has been released to coincide with the visit.
Much of the album is uptempo fast paced bluegrass style numbers. There are some more old timey numbers like “Doc’s Day” and “Sweet Home”.
A couple of the slower, and more mainstream tracks, “Dearly Departed Friend” and “Firewater”, have an uncanny Nitty Gritty Dirt Band feel to them.
“Wagon Wheel” was a co-write between frontman Ketch Secor  and the legendary Bob Dylan, and there’s another Dylan co-write on this album. “Sweet Amarillo” features some neat accordion, and I can hear some of those who covered “Wagon Wheel” already working on this song.
This album has already been in the Country Top 5 Albums in the USA, which just goes to show that real Country can sell up there alongside the Nashville non Country stuff.  Although it’s unashamedly dated, they have a sound that is so refreshing to hear, in today’s overproduced Country music scene.

DONNA ULISSE burst onto the Nashville scene back in 1991, with a highly acclaimed album on Atlantic Records. But, unfortunately her music failed to make much of an impact on the charts, and the label dropped her from the roster. To be honest, her music was just too Country for the charts. She has released six albums since, and the latest “Showing My Roots” really bridges her native bluegrass and traditional Country music.
The title track is a heartfelt thanks for folks like Loretta, Merle and Bonnie and, of course Dolly.
She then goes on to do some quite interesting bluegrass covers of Country classics like Loretta’s “Fist City”, and “Somebody Somewhere”,  Tammy’s “You’re  Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”, Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow” and Dolly’s “In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad”.
There are a few straight bluegrass covers too, such as “Howe Mountain Girls Can Love” (Stanley Brothers) and “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus” (Louvins), as well as a couple of Ricky Skaggs numbers.
She rounds it all off with Sam Bush joining in on Leadbelly’s “Take This Hammer”.
This may be an album of covers, but Donna has chosen wisely.  She takes a unique approach to each song, and performs them beautifully.
It’s a lovely album, and well worth a place in your collection.

The success of the long lost Johnny Cash “Out Amongst The Stars” album, has prompted a lot of new interest in Johnny Cash’s songs. The latest project, is “Look Again To The Wind” (Sony Masterworks), a re-creation of Johnny’s 1964 album, “Bitter Tears: Ballads Of The American Indian”. It was an album which really brought the plight of the native Indian to the masses, and followed a similar, less successful, album from Peter La Farge a year earlier in 1963.
That album, it is suggested “was among the closest to the artist’s heart”. That maybe would suggest to true Cash fans, that it is sacred, and should be left alone. But a small number of influential names like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Gillian Welch have got together to honour the album, with producer Joe Henry, and this is the result.
Bitter Tears’ biggest hit was “Ballad Of Ira Hayes”, which is covered here by Kris Kristofferson, and the talkie “The Talking Leaves” is narrated by Nancy Blake. Nancy’s husband Norman Blake, who originally played in June Carter’s band delivers an effective “Drums”, one of the best tracks on the CD.
There’s some new life injected into the songs, with Californian indie folk duo, The Milk Carton Kids, contributing to a couple of tracks, and Rhiannon Giddens (from the wonderful Carolina Chocolate Drops), not only performing “The Vanishing Race”, but writing additional lyrics to bring it up to date.  
The original album only had 8 tracks, so a couple of different versions are included here. The new album also includes the title track, which, rather strangely did not appear on the 1964 release. Peter La Farge had written 5 of the tracks, but “Look Again To The Wind” was actually included on his own “Sings Of The Indian” a year earlier. Bill Miller sings it here.
It’s an interesting album. Whether it fulfils its purpose, whether it interferes with sacred tradition, or upholds it, will depend on the individual.

Since bursting onto the Country scene back in 1999, BRAD PAISLEY has been one of Country music’s most consistent hitmakers, notching up 22 Number One’s to date. More recently his music had added sound effects and gimmicks (he had Eric Idle on his last outing), and he has more of that on his new album, “Moonshine In The Trunk” (Sony Music).
He still has the noisy tuneless choir that has become part of his sound on recent albums. It is getting rather boring now. Much of his material is sounding very samey because of it.
Having said that, there are some good songs here.
He delivers strong ballads, especially on “Perfect Storm”, “American Flag On The Moon” and “Shattered Glass”. I was rather puzzled by “4WP”, which it rather strangely states on the album “featuring Brad Paisley”. It’s his album- of course he’s on it. Don’t know if it’s just another gimmick to detract from the tuneless instrumentation that spoilt an otherwise good song.
“Cover Girl”, “High Life” and “You Shouldn’t Have To” all  sound quite good, but they all sound the same to me.  
For me, the stand out tracks were “Gone Green”, which was quite catchy, without the inane over instrumentation that spoils the album, and “Country Nation”, which is an great anthem to Country radio, and Country fans.
Then, there’s another gimmick, a hidden extra track. It’s an acoustic version of “Me & Jesus”, which it was well worth listening through the rest of the album to discover. It’s simple & superb.
If you enjoy Brad Paisley, then you’ll love this album. With 15 tracks, it’s great value, but just doesn’t work for me.

Humphead have just issued another couple of classic collections.
The first is from JOHNNY RODGRIGUEZ, who, many will recall from his Caithness Festival visit a couple of years ago. “The Definitive Collection” captures Johnny’s Mercury Years, which covers most of the 70’s when he had the biggest half of hits, including his six Number one’s.
In fact, checking his hits history, the first 15 tracks on this 2 CD collection, are his first 15 chart hits – in the same order they came. Songs include “Riding My Thumb To Mexico”, “Pass Me By If You’re Only Passing Through” and “Love Put A Song In My Heart”.
Other songs, making up the 49 track package, include “It Took Us All Night Long To Say Goodbye”, “Invitation To The Blues” and “Lyin’ Eyes”.
His material isn’t too readily available these days, so this is a great collection to catch up on Johnny Rodriguez material.

Humphead’s other new collection comes from MARTY ROBBINS. “20th Century Drifter ; The MCA Years” had me puzzled. Surely, I thought, Marty was with Columbia Records for most, if not all of his career. But a quick check into the record books confirmed that Marty did leave Columbia for MCA for a three year spell, back around 1973. Modern day fans consider this to be Marty’s “lost years”, so this collection will be especially welcomed by them.
It wasn’t his most successful period, charting 8 songs, but only three made the top ten. But he did have some great songs during that time, and they’re all captured here on this 37 track, 2CD collection.
A must for Marty Robbins fans.

Country music in the UK has often been seen as an older person’s music. (Of course, we all know that’s not true!) These days, some young blood is starting to emerge into our music. Up here we have Raintown, Ireland has guys like Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan, and down south, twin sisters Catherine & Lizzy WARD THOMAS have really made their mark with their debut album, “From Where I Stand”(WTW Music).
At 20 years, the girls have already developed a sound that rivals anything coming out of Nashville.
Most of the album is quite upbeat. A few tracks, notably “Guest List”, are a shade poppy, but no more than anything that gets called Country these days.
“Footnotes (Happy Ending)” and “Take That Train” are a bit more acoustic, and really lets their vocals be heard to full effect. They’re two of my favourite tracks.
The title track, “From Where I Stand”, is a beautiful ballad. Again, their vocals are given priority on this song. “Try” is another ballad, but with a bit heavier production.
All of the songs are written by the girls, except a cover of Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia”, which with quite a simple piano led musical arrangement is quite effective.
No doubt the song will feature when the Ward Thomas visit Glasgow on November 22nd, as part of a lengthy tour with The Shires, another English duo who have got a lot of attention this year.
The tour, and this album, are both worth checking out.

DAVE SHERRIFF, one of the hardest working and longest serving performers on the UK Country scene, is back with a new album, “Let’s Dance”. Since becoming a main part of the scene back in the 70’s , Dave has done everything in Country music, from touring with big American names, recording with The Jordanaires, getting into the Guinness Book Of Records, and being at the centre of the booming line dance scene.
There’s 20 tracks on this new collection, with a wide variety of styles.
“It’s Party Time”, which kicks off the album, and the slower “Around The Fire”, both have quite an Irish feel to them. A few other tracks, like “There’s Still A Mighty Welcome At The Door” is similarly influenced.
“Beer Belly Blues” is quite a fun sounding number, in an old timey Country sort of way.  
“Holiday Romance”, “Ooh La La” and “Costa Fiesta” are quite continental, whilst there are a few “dance” numbers, like “King Of The Jive” and “Funky Cha Cha Baby”, which, may not appeal to diehard Country fans, but will fill any party floor.
There a few slower songs, like “I Miss You So”, which is very influenced by Charlie Landsborough (complete with Pete Brazil on guitar),  “I Love You To The Moon And Back” and “All That I Am”.
And there’s a Scottish influence too. “Highway Number Nine” is inspired by our notorious A9 lonesome highway. He manages a few local place names enroute, from Stirling, Inverness and Brora.
As we’ve come to expect from Dave, a good mix of styles, and with 20 tracks, it’s great value for money.

Talking of Scottish influences, we have a couple of home grown albums to review this time around.

FIRST CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE have an interesting sound on their self titled debut album. The album is predominately the work of Yorick Cormack, the main songwriter of former Glasgow alt-country band The Endrick Brothers.
The other band members are John Carson, Paul Reza and Gordy Turner.
It’s quite a rocky sound that the quartet have brought together. Having said that, the opening track, “My One Track Mind” has a definite Steve Earle feel about it.
“Postcards (From Randy Newman)”, may have a strange title, but has a nice west coast Country feel to it (like Randy Newman, I guess). There are some nice harmonies on offer with “Second Hand Love”, and “Wheels” is quite laid back, in an Eagles sort of way.
The album was produced by Chris Gordon, and recorded in a Glasgow Southside flat, but sounds as good as anything coming out of a custom built studio.
There’s definitely Country influences running through the album, and it’s quite a nice listen, but don’t expect to hear First Charge Of The Light Brigade at your local Country music club.

Fifer JANEY KIRK has been a long time favourite on the Scottish social club and cabaret scene, but has always had the ambition to further her career. Her recent albums, “Sweetheart Darling Of Mine” and “Don’t Colour Me Blue” have established her as a firm favourite on the Country concert circuit and exposure on various Showcase TV programmes, and on concert tours like “Ladies Of Country” and the forthcoming Derek Ryan Scottish tour.
For her new album, “Streets Of Loneliness” (Premier Records), she has teamed up with Jerry Donahue, who was a huge part of the folk music scene in the 1970/80′s with Fairport Convention and Fotheringay. The album has a line up of high profile players and is all self penned songs leaning towards a more modern country genre.
The title track is a really strong uptempo song, and has a great video on You Tube to support it. It’s really radio friendly, and should get her some good radio play.
“Love Triangle” is a catchy uptempo song on an old Country love theme. It works really well.
“Apple” and “Black Widow Spider” are, perhaps, a shade more pop, but still quite listenable. “Count Me Out”, is quite different again, and really brings out the raunchiness in Janey’s voice.
I really enjoyed the catchy “Leave Me Alone”, about someone who thinks too much of themselves.
She can also deliver a neat ballad. “Here We Are” is quite a delicate sounding song, which suits Janey’s voice just as well. But my favourite is “Try Again”, another ballad, which features some really nice instrumentation, thanks to Jerry Donahue, and a really lovely delivery from the singer.
Then to close the album, something of a 4½ minute anthem. In Runrig style, she delivers a danceable uptempo version of “Wild Mountain Thyme”, which slows right down in the middle.
You can tell that Janey has put a lot of effort into the album. It’s an album that really picks up on her versatility and energy.  She has her own sound, and delivers it well.

LAURA KENNY is a Glasgow girl, who got great reviews for her self written album “Drive” a few years ago. After that album, she decided to travel the world, and got as far as Hong Kong, where she has settled.
Recently she has got back into music, performing around venues like “The Wanch”. She has released an emotional single called “Fallen Soldier”, following a visit to the Death Railway on the Thailand/Burma border, where allied soldiers were captured by the Japanese. Laura found a headstone in the cemetery nearby of a soldier named 'J.D. Kenny, age 25, which as she says in the song, “the same last name as me, and not much older”.  Who wouldn’t be spooked at that?
The event inspired Laura to write this beautiful song, which is available for download on ITunes.
Hopefully, we’ll hear more from Laura before too long.

More Scottish influence in a new album called “North Star” from KYLE CAREY (Americelta Records) who was actually born in Alaska, although her influences have crossed North America and Europe.  She has a unique Gaelic Americana sound. There’s a Gaelic walking song, and a Gaelic version of “Down To The River To Pray” (from Oh Brother). But there are also Country influenced numbers like the bouncy opener “June Day”, and the Appalachian infused “Nora O’Kane”. There’s also a superb version of Kate Wolf’s “Across The Great Divide”.
Recorded at The Gorbals Sound studio in Glasgow, and mixed in Philadelphia, this is a lovely album to listen to. Not a straight Country album, but enough of a mix for me to enjoy.

Whilst Country music is a huge force across Ireland, many of the artists we hear cover a rather narrow part of the musical spectrum. But there are artists who are working outside of this safe part of the spectrum, and are as equally talented and entertaining.
POLLY BARRETT, from Kinsale, went to school in Cork, where she got her musical grounding. Her first album received superb reviews when it was released in 2012, and the follow up, “Probably Me”, will further increase her popularity.
The singer songwriter has a bright, fresh sounding album, which, whilst having some Country influences, is probably better labelled as folk-pop.
Nevertheless, it’s a very enjoyable listen. “Lay Me Down”, “Hasn’t Met You” and “Who Knows” are the most Country flavoured tracks, but I also enjoyed “The Greater Good”, and “Watch Out Jack”.

LISA STANLEY is one of the most recognisable faces on the Irish Country music scene, thanks to her co-hosting The Phil Mack and Keep It Country TV shows and touring on this side of the Irish Sea with Nathan Carter.
Her new duets album features a variety of guests, from new names like Sean McAloon, to the legendary Philomena Begley and Sandy Kelly. Dave Sheriff and Glenn Rogers also feature, and she keeps it in the family by including dad Fintan Stanley, and her aunt, Deirdre McDaniel.
Most of the tracks are strong Country numbers. The stand out songs for me are “Love You All Over Again”, which is performed with songwriter John Farry, and the John Hogan duet “I’ll Be Home Soon”.  
The Dave Sheriff duet, “End In Tears” also stands out, if a little sad and sentimental.
Most of the songs are new to me, but there are a few covers, including a lovely version of “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” with Philomena Begley.
“Clogerhead”, the track that features Lisa’s dad on accordion, shows Lisa in a different light to what we’ve grown to expect. The song, about a fishing village, where her dad came from ,in County Louth, on Ireland’s east coast, was recorded live, and is much more of an Irish song than Country, but Lisa’s sounds so much at home with it. It’s a lovely track.
In fact, the whole album is quite a gem.

BRENDAN QUINN is something of a legend in Irish Country music. He’s been part of the scene since he was a teenager, and that wasn’t yesterday! He has covered many styles in his time, from Irish Country to American, and more recently has developed a more folksy style to some of his songs.
His latest album, “Feels Like Home” continues that trend.
The title track has been covered by several Irish artists in recent years, but Brendan has taken it back closer to it’s Randy Newman origins. From there he takes on Dougie MacLean’s “Caledonia”, and songs written by Ben Sands and Eric Bogle, amongst others.
But he hasn’t lost that Country touch. He does a great versions of “Satisfied Mind”, and “The Long Black Veil” , as well Richard Thompson’s “From Galway To Graceland”, which is very different to  the version by The Indians, which most folk will recognise.
Brendan is certainly not your run of the mill Irish Country singer. He’s done all that. These days, you can feel the emotion that he puts into his music.
An interesting album.

Another Irish album comes from new duo SWEET HARMONY. The Emerald Isle doers seen to breed an endless stream of Country music talent. Myrtle & Malcolm have played in several bands through the years, but last year, got the chance to sing together and they formed the duo. To mark the duo’s first year together on the road, they have released this new album, “You Can Get My Number”. Recorded at Hillside studio, the album is a great party set of mainly uptempo numbers.
Most of the songs are covers, like “I Heard The Bluebirds Sing”, “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You”, and “Driving Me Out Of My Mind”, but there are two songs written by friend Tracey Grant- the title track, and their theme song.
There are a couple of slower numbers, like “Lay Down Beside Me” and “Today I Started Loving You Again”, as well Irish classic “Lovely Leitrim”.
The album is well produced, and a lovely easy listen. A worthy addition to the Irish scene.

Canadian singer songwriter, and  two time East Coast Music Award winner, CATHERINE McLELLAN was certainly raised into music. Her father, Gene, wrote the gospel classic “Put Your Hand In The Hand” and Anne Murray’s huge hit “Snowbird”. Catherine included a very different version of the latter on her last album “Silhouette”.
Now her new album, “The Raven’s Sun” has arrived, and offers a much more distinct direction than her first offering.  She has a definitive folksy acoustic feel to her songs, but with a definitive leaning towards Country music.
The title track, which kicks off the album, is a lovely, delicate song, with some nice harmonies from producer/guitarist Chris Gauthier. It’s a lovely song, which sets the mood for the album.
“Tell Me Luella” and “Beneath The Lindens” are in a similar vein, as is “Rushing Winding Wind”, which is probably my favourite track.
“Gone Too Soon” and “Don’t Call Me A Stranger” are a shade more uptempo, but still work well.
“Jack’s Song” is quite a pop number, not out of place, but not exactly like the other tracks.
Catherine has a lovely voice. She writes good songs, and has produced a lovely easy on the ear album for your enjoyment.

When Alabama sisters, Laura & Lydia Rogers released their first full album as THE SECRET SISTERS, I was quite captivated by the sound they created. They recorded the album “live” and “acoustic” in the studio, and really showed a delicate fifties style harmony.
As the publicity sheet that accompanied their new album, “Put Your Needle Down” says, they’ve certainly come a long way since that 2010 highly acclaimed album.
From the first few notes, you could tell that their sound had endured a massive makeover. Much heavier backings, and less harmonies evident throughout the album.
“Iuka”, has quite an infectious, haunting southern sound, which stood out on the album, which is much more rock/pop than before. Exceptions are the softer ”Let There Be Lonely”, and “Lonely Island” which, I suppose do have quite an Everly’s sound to them.
I also quite enjoyed “Black & Blue”, but it is more 50/60’s Pop than Country. For me, “River Jordan” was my favourite track. A pacey gospel number.
They have created an unusual sound, and I’m sure there’s a market for them. But after their first album, this one left me rather disappointed.

If you enjoyed the Old Crow Medicine Show, then THE HOT SEATS may be right up your street too.
Their sound is even more authentic and old timey that OCMS, a sound that has built up quite a following over here with regular tours and festival spots at Celtic Connections, Speyfest, Summertyne and The Shetland Folk Festival.
The Hot Seats are a five piece band from Virginia. Their latest album is “Grandad’s Favourite”, and, as on previous outings, it’s a high energy old timey bluegrass fiddle fun experience.  
There are instrumentals like “Snakewinder”, “Grandad’s Favourite” and “Boneparte Crossing The Alps”. Other songs have carefully crafted lyrics.
One of the most interesting songs, simply because it’s an old Faron Young hit, is “Live Fast,Love Hard, Die Young”. Boy, do they make it sound their own!

Next to Texas, where we find ADLER & HEARNE, a duo who have a very easy listening sound riding between bluegrass and jazz. Their album, “Second Nature” (Spring Hollow Records), was produced by Lloyd Maines, a legend, himself in Texas music.
They couple wrote, or co-wrote, the whole album, which kicks off with the ear catching title track, which certainly got me interested. It’s light, homesome, and really shows the pair’s vocals to best effect. It’s followed nicely by “Pine Woods Breeze”, a beautiful steel guitar laced soft ballad.
“Salty Town” offers some lovely harmonies, and with some neat accordion, has a laid back TexMex feel to it.
“Hard, Hard Line” has a real rural feel to it, again with some beautiful harmonies between lines that are almost spoken. I really liked this track.
“Texas’ll Have To Do” ups the tempo, in a style I remember producer Lloyd Maines playing with The Maines Brothers.
Then, they turn things right round, with “The Kiss” and “Addicted To You”,  which  I’d call lounge jazz, which they sound just as at home with. “Soups On” is more of a bluesy number. Then you have the hauntingly different “The Night Mare”.
This is a wonderfully eclectic Texas record. I love their sound.

KENNY BUTTERILL is a real Canadian troubadour. His latest album, “Troubadour Tales” is a good mix of songs from the road. Travelling around, Kenny has been inspired to write songs like “Flying With Buddha”, “Pajaro Dunes” and “Woman With A Canoe”.
He kicks off with the catchy “Good Thing That Couldn’t Happen Here”, before getting into the star studded “Gaia Blues”, which features Glasgow’s own Donovan Leach, although it has to be said, it’s Zoe Muth’s harmonies, and some neat harmonica which really stand out.
Donovan, who also helped mix this track about Mankind's relationship with Mother Earth, remarked, "I really love this important 'green' song of Kenny's dealing with such an urgent matter ... it was a great collaboration with him."
Other world-renowned guests including Cindy Cashdollar, Audrey Auld, John Lee Sanders, Linda McRae, David Grier and Washboard Hank.  Of note, this album marks the last recording of the late Sarah Elizabeth Campbell who adds rich harmony to "Greatest Love Story Never Told."
 "Hocus Pocus," Butterill's personal tribute to JJ Cale, was recorded just three weeks before Cale's passing. It’s quite a haunting track.
“True North” takes him home, whilst, my favourite track, has to be the bouncy “Dead End Of The Dirt Road”.
The album was recorded in ten studios over the past year, and the songs cover as diverse a path.
One for the singer songwriter fans.

Finally, JIM PHOTOGLO was a pop/soft rock artist back in the 1980’s before heading for Nashville as a songwriter. Amongst his biggest credits was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishing In The Dark”. He released two solo Country albums, before forming novelty bluegrass/Country band Run C&W in the early 1990’s.
Now Photoglo is back with quite a folksy Country sound, evident on his new album, “Halls Of My Heart”. The album kicks off with the catchy “Try Me Tomorrow”. Later, “Brown Eyed Boy”, which refers to the similar Buddy Holly hit, also demonstrates a catchy story delivery.
“Shadows & Light” and “The Hours” are much more of a ballad, whilst “The Brothers Medley” has a bit more of a soul feel to it.
The back to back tracks that struck a chord with me were “My Father’s Son”, where he wants “to be the father, his father never was”. Quite a statement. That’s followed by “What Do I Tell My Son”, so I guess he has fatherhood on his mind, whilst writing this album. I love both these songs.
Despite his background, I detected a significant John Denver influence throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Something Of Me”.
I really enjoyed this album. Lovely laid back easy listening folk-country.

Monday, 4 August 2014

August 2014

It’s turning out to be a busy summer for CD releases, especially from the ladies.
You have to hand it to MIRANDA LAMBERT. She is, by far, Country music’s leading lady these days, having just been named the ACM Female Vocalist for the 5th straight year.
Her latest album, “Platinum” has been released here in the UK, and certainly makes for an interesting, and for me, a rather disturbing listen.
She has a superb Country voice, when she wants.
The album kicks off with the superb “Girls”. “Pricilla” is an uptempo homage to Elvis’s other half, and works well. “Automatic” is a likeable piece of nostalgia (from a 30 year old !), which has also been released as a radio single here.
Sometimes it’s amazing just what inspires a songwriter. Here, Miranda gets her inspiration for one of the songs from the “Bathroom Sink”. Not a bad song either.  
“Babies Making Babies” is another really strong song, which I really enjoyed.
“Another Sunday In The South” which closes the album is a clever little tribute to 80’s Country band Shenandoah. She was only a kid when they were around. They must’ve made an impression. I wonder how many of her fans remember them today.    
“Hard Staying Sober” is a strong Country hurtin’ and drinkin’ song, which I really liked.
She has several guests on the album. Little Big Town join in on the very listenable ballad, “Smokin’ And Drinkin”. There’s also a rather average pop duet with Carrie Underwood.
Then there’s a track with the wonderful Time Jumpers. “All That’s Left” is fabulous. Great music, and a style that Miranda sounds so suited to. It’s an old Tom T Hall song, and she does it real justice here.
“Little Red Wagon” is quite catchy and different. Unfortunately she uses a word that I didn’t appreciate hearing on a Country album.  Indeed there a couple of tracks with swear words in the title, which at least gives the listener warning. Both are great little numbers – the most Country tracks on the album. Just why she had to reduce herself, and Country music, to this level, I’m afraid I cant get my head around.
There are 16 tracks on the album, which is great value. The CD booklet also has some great photos of Miranda. It’s a superb album, if only she’d watch her language.

There’s no question about GENE WATSON’s Country credentials. But, if there’s any doubt, his latest album, “My Heroes Have Always Been Country”, features some of the greatest Country songs ever written.
He honours the likes of Dottie West, Eddy Arnold, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and George Jones.  Yet, all of these songs sound so natural for Gene Watson.
He kicks off with “Here Comes My Baby Back Again”, and quite a few standards follow, like “Long Black Veil”, “Make The World Go Away” and “Walk Through This World With Me”.
But not all the songs are as well known, or obvious choices.
“Slide Off Your Satin Sheets” was a Johnny Paycheck hit, whilst “I Forget You Every Day” isn’t one of Merle Haggard’s most obvious hits to cover.
But, whatever songs Gene records, he just oozes Country.
This album proves that Gene Watson is one of Country Music’s Heroes !

WILLIE NELSON appears to be on a mission to record as much material as he can, now that he’s in his 80’s. “Band Of Brothers” (Sony/Legacy) is his third new release in the 14 months since he became an octogenarian. He certainly ain’t slowing down, that’s for sure.
Having said that this is his first album of predominately new material in nearly two decades. He co-wrote, with producer Buddy Cannon, nine of the album’s 14 tracks.
Many of the songs are classic Willie : slow and emotional. It’s the sound that Willie has made his fortune on.
The title track , “Band Of Brothers” is a superb, which although self penned, just has that Ed Bruce written “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies” feel all over it.
I really liked “Guitar In The Corner”, with it’s simple backing. Really straightforward Willie.
“The Wall” the advance single in the States, is the sort of song that Willie’s been doing for years. It works for him, so why change.
He raises a chuckle or two on “Wives & Girlfriends”, where he rates them, up to No.11, with the cheeky line “I love my wives, I love my girlfriend, may they never meet”. Only Willie could get away with that.
Quite ironic, that the next track, is a ballad called “I Thought I Left You”!
Then there’s “Used To Her”, an uptempo ditty with some nice Texas fiddle. The sentiments are quite negative about an ex, but, like “Wives” is quite humourous”.
The remainder of the tracks include a cover of Vince Gill’s “When You Come Around”, which is so different to Vince’s version- Willie has made it his own. There’s also a tribute to “The Songwriters”, written by Canadian Gordie Sampson, and legendary songwriter Bill Anderson, and Billy Joe Shaver’s “Hard To Be An Outlaw”.  Shaver also contributed “The Git Go”, a duet with Jamey Johnson.
Willie can be an acquired taste. But he wouldn’t be here today, if there weren’t enough fans for this type of Country music. It’s another winner from the hard working Willie Nelson.

When the line up for this year’s Southern Fried Festival was published, and there were two performances from a Dale Watson inspired Englishman, AGS CONNOLLY, I just had to check him out.
And boy, I’m really glad I did.
150% Pure Country.
Ags is from West Oxfordshire, and has attempted song writing for years, but only started taking it seriously after attending a workshop with Nashville based Darrell Scott. Now, his debut album, “How About Now” (Drumfire) has been released to great reviews.
Produced by Dean Owens, the album features musicians like Stuart Nisbet and Jim McDermott, who have played on records by the likes of Justin Currie, The Proclaimers & Deacon Blue.
All the material is written by Ags, and is totally Country.
Kicking off with the traditional “When Country was Proud”, a song that really marks the spot.
It just gets more Country, track by track, with “That’s The Last Time”, “I’m Not Someone You Want To Know” and “A Good Memory For Pain” standing out for me.
He livens it up on “The Dim & Distant Past”, which has a rockabilly beat, but with a sound that pre dates rock’n’roll. Real vintage.
He definitely has a Dale Watson influence, but I hear a few other influences, a bit of David Allan Coe, Johnny Paycheck, and even Johnny Cash and Hank Snow.
On a couple of the slower songs, especially “She Doesn’t Need Anyone Anymore” and “How About Now”, dare I say, I hear a bit of Raymond Froggatt too.
He does a tribute to Texan singer James Hand, which, as he points out, “If you’ve never seen James Hand, I don’t expect you to understand”, but no doubt you’ll seek out his music, after hearing this.
This is vintage Country. It sounds nothing like today’s Nashville sound.
It’s the real deal.

Every so often the record label’s release a big promotion Country compilation, which turns out to be a big seller. For Country fans, they find that they already have many of the tracks, but these albums are aimed at the general public, who may have heard of a few tracks, but discover a number of other artists they hadn’t heard before.
LEGENDS OF COUNTRY, is a 3CD set released by Sony, which features 60 tracks, including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, Kenny Rogers “Ruby” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” amongst others. But there’s also Brooks & Dunn (Cowgirls Don’t Cry), Alabama’s “Song Of The South”, Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett’s “Five O Clock Somewhere” and David Allan Coe (She Used To Love Me a Lot).
A good collection for someone who doesn’t have a lot of Country music in their collection,. But if you’re reading this, you’ll probably have most of the tracks already.

Now onto our homegrown artist of the month. HEATHER DICKSON from Fife, caught the ear of Texan songwriter Terri Sharp, who asked her to record some of her songs. The result is “Eventually”, an 11 track album, recorded in Nashville with producer Rick Durrett.
The album has a nice mix to it. It kick’s off with “Right Where I Wanna Be”, an uptempo number, which should earn her some good radio airplay. It’s followed by “Perfect Common Stone”, a nice ballad, which, personally, stood out for me.
The title track, “Eventually” is a soft ballad, which really suits Heather’s vocals.
There’s a nice Celtic feel to “Right Out Of The Blue” and “Look Out My Window” thanks to the pipes of David Goodman.
“If You Only Knew” has a good modern Country sound, Heather’s vocals are quite raunchy on this one.
“You Cant Blame The Train” is a good catchy number, originally a Country hit for Don McLean. It’s one of the stand out tracks.
“That’s Love” has a different feel to it again. It’s an uptempo number, with quite a catchy summer feel to it. And the album ends with “Smokin’ Gun” another uptempo number.
A really good, well produced album.

Next up, a new from Nashville name, CASSADEE POPE. The young 23 year old was the winner of the US version of “The Voice”, where she was mentored by Blake Shelton.
Now her debut album, “Frame By Frame” (Decca) has been released here following a whistle stop showcase in London recently.
As I expected, it is fairly Nashville pop, but the girl has a really good voice, and I really enjoyed the songs she’s chosen. She has also co-written five of the 11 tracks. The lead single here in the UK, “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart” was too pop for me, but the album does feature some great tracks.
Track 1 is “Good Times”, a superb opener, which really hits the spot.
“You Hear a Song”, one of her own songs, which she wrote with Nathan Chapman, is a superb ballad that impressed me a lot. A slightly more gentle ballad is “One Song Away”, which I also liked.
Another track which I enjoyed was “Easier To Lie”, but the track that really stood out for me is “11” (which is confusing, as it’s actually track 10). Again, co-written, Cassadee recalls her painful childhood in an emotional delivery, with a simple musical arrangement.
She’s a pretty girl, and has lots of pictures throughout the CD booklet. I don’t like to comparisons, but she’s not unlike a certainly Shania Twain, and, her music, like Shania, perhaps leans more to the pop side, whilst still appealing to Country fans.
Well worth a listen.

JIMMY BUFFETT is quite a cult figure in music. He’s been around since the 70’s, had less than a handful of Top 40 Country chart hits, but his music is still enjoyed wherever it’s played.  I remember there were specialist magazines devoted to his gulf coast sound, long before Kenny Chesney made it mainstream.
Of course, being featured on an Alan Jackson hit did his career no harm at all.
Humphead have just released “The Jimmy Buffett Collection : Sun ,Sea And Margaritas”. It’s a double CD featuring 40 tracks. I suspect that only the most hardened Buffett fan will be familiar with all the tracks.
It does include the recognisable one’s like “Margaritaville”, “Changes In Latitude, Changes In Attitude”, “Livingston Saturday Night”, “Boat Drinks” and “Come Monday”.  There’s also few that were hits for others like “Stars On The Water”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Stars Fell On Alabama”.  One of Buffett’s great talents was writing songs that just twisted words from famous sayings. There are a few here, like “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”, “I Heard I Was In Town” and my favourite “If The Phone Doesn’t Ring It’s Me”.
Great to hear all these great songs, and a lot of Jimmy Buffett stuff I hadn’t heard before.
A superb collection.

ZOE MUTH is one of the most Country voices around these days. She first made her name up in America’s northwest, where she was labelled “Seattle’s Emmylou”. She played bars and cafes, as a young pre-school teacher on minimum wage, to pay for her 2009 debut album, which earned rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now her third album, “World Of Strangers” has just been released here (Signature Sounds), ahead of a tour in the autumn.
This album marks a slight change of direction for Zoe. For, on New Years Day 2013, she uprooted herself from Seattle to Austin, Texas, the home of pure Texan honky tonk music.
She certainly sounds as if she’s settled in quite easily.
All but one of the ten songs are self penned. The exception is a cover of Ronnie Laine’s “April Fool”, which is given a really neat Texan arrangement, including tex mex accordion.
The variety of the songs vary from the steel guitar laden “Mama Needs A Margarita” to the uptempo rockin’ “Too Shiny” , “Make Me Change My Mind”, and the soft slow “Annabelle”, which features some rather un-honky-tonk  arrangements with cello, piano and violin (courtesy of Dixie Chick Martie McGuire, no less).
Bruce Robison is featured on the slow & beautiful “Somebody I Know”, one of the two five minute plus masterpieces on the album. I was also smitten by “Waltz Of  The Wayward Wind”, with its old west feel.
The beauty of Zoe Muth, however, is her heavily accented, sweet vocals. Pure Country!

KATIE McGARRY is a new name to me, but I certainly enjoyed her album “Waiting On”. I believe this is the second album from the singer songwriter from Prince Edward Island.
The press release with the album suggests that Katie is Country/Americana with a dash of folk & pop to wash it down. Her influences range from Patsy Cline to Sheryl Crowe, and The Dixie Chicks to Fleetwood Mac.
The eight track album, all written by Katie kicks off with the catchy mid tempo “Lover For The Night”, which sounds really radio friendly. “Til I’m Already Gone”, “Go Easy” and “Why I Keep Hanging Around” are a bit slower, but really shows Katie’s vocal range.
The closing “It Shall Be Done” is again, quite catchy and radio friendly.
But the one that really knocked me out was “One Of Those Things”, a really catchy Country song that easy gets into your head.
As I say, Katie McGarry is new to me, but I’m really enjoying her music, and hope to hear more, Certainly one worth checking out.

Florida based TOM SHED is a Grammy nominated singer songwriter, who injects humour and social beliefs into his music. His latest album, “Mama’s Going Out” (Curly Maple Music) certainly covers a lot of ground.
Tom, maybe doesn’t have the best voice around, and the production is a bit basic, but that just adds to his authentic style.
The opening track is an uptempo homage to single mums, whilst he sings of the Native Indian in “Congratulations Standing Bear”. He tells of the murder of a game warden in “Plumes”, and about relationships in “Scream & Shout”.
The banjo influenced “Tomorrow” has quite a neat look at the future, in a rather optimistic way. He also lets rip on “Banjo goes NASCAR”, which is a superb little instrumental.
But the stand out track has to be “It Don’t Mean Your Country”. He wont get mainstream US “country radio” plays with this song which pokes at today’s country stars, with lines like they’re “all hat and no horse” and “You’ve got to be Country music, not just duet”.
But he certainly gets my vote.

KRIS DELMHORST grew up in Brooklyn NY, but her musical home is in Boston MA where she cut her teeth on open mics, bar gigs, and subway busking before embarking on her life as an internationally touring songwriter.
Delmhorst now lives in the hills of western Massachusetts with her husband, songwriter Jeffrey Foucault, with whom she occasionally performs as part of the collective Redbird. She has released six albums on respected indie label Signature Sounds.
Her latest album, “Blood Test” has just been released, her first of original music since 2008′s critically acclaimed album “Shotgun Singer”. A prolific writer and constant collaborator, Delmhorst continues to share her unique perspective in this new work. The album describes a moment of reckoning and centering in the songwriter’s life, and in society as a whole.
The title track to the album is one of the more uptempo offerings on the 12 track album. “We Deliver” also has quite an infectious beat to it.  “Temporary Sun” has quite a full sound, whilst “Bright Green World” is a much more commercial sounding uptempo number.
“Homeless” is a much slower song, but Kris delivers it well, as she does on “92nd Street”, for which she has a video available for checking out online.
I liked “Little Frame”, quite a simple song, with some nice piano and steel guitar mixed together. But more impressively, showed her vocals at her best. “My Ohio” also stood out.
An interesting listen. Certainly one if you enjoy female singer songwriters.

RED MOLLY are a New York based folk/Americana trio consisting of Molly Venter, Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner. They formed ten years ago, and boast some beautiful harmonies.
Their latest CD, “The Red Album” is released at the end of August, in advance of an October tour which includes a date at Glasgow’s CCA on 23rd.
Whilst several of the tracks are quite folksy, there are quite a few songs which are well suited to Country Radio.
“You Don’t Have The Heart For It”, written and sung by Abbey, is a beautiful Country song, laced with some really wonderful steel guitar of Adam Ollendorff.
“My Baby Loves Me”, written by Molly, wouldn’t be out of place on Country radio either. It’s quite an uptempo catchy number.
There are a couple of covers, the most notable being Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound”, which really suits their harmonies.
A really nice listen.

Next up, a new CD from MICHAEL-ANN, a young lady from Kansas, who certainly packs a full sound into her first full album called “Heavy Load”.
She has written all but one of the tracks, and certainly impressed me with the range of material. It’s a real feel good mix in the main. Definitely Country, with bluegrass, folk, blues and rock overtones throughout.
The album kicks off with the downhome fiddle foot tapper, “Any Day”, which certainly lures you into the rest of the album. Later on, “Bumble Bee” keep the feet tapping.
Tracks like “Never Mind” and “Trail Of My Tears” continue to keep me interested, with their  open road drivin’ beats.
The title track, “Heavy Load”, has a more serious tone, with lines like “Seems to me I’m in need of healing… Well You Got to Help A Troubled Soul”. The song is very much in the style of Linda Ronstadt.
“Mama’s Sleepin”, starts off bluesy, and turns into a rip roarin’ modern bluegrass number.
“Hard To Breathe”, “Bring It On Home” and “I Would” are slower Country ballads, and she sounds at home with this style of song, as she is with the more uptempo numbers.
Altogether, this was a delightful album to listen to, and will enjoy listening it to more in the near future.

Our final review this time around, is from JANE KRAMER, an Oregon based, but North Carolina raised, singer-songwriter. Her album, “Break & Bloom” is not due for release until September, but I’m delighted to be able to review this for you this month.
Jane has an amazing voice, one that blends the Appalachian bluegrass style of Carolina, to the Americana hotbed in the north west.
The Appalachian style is best evident on tracks like “Nobody’s Woman Tonight”, “Hold My Whiskey” and ”Mourning Dove”.
She sounds more like a singer songwriter on “Georgia”, “That Muddy Waters” and “One Precious Life”.  Then she goes all gypsy style on “Any Way You Like, Child”.
An interesting voice. Not mainstream, by any means, but if you like your music a little different, Jane is worth checking out.

Monday, 2 June 2014

June 2014

It’s now over a decade since JOHNNY CASH passed away, but his influence on Country music is as strong as ever. With the record labels releasing a number of current Nashville artists product in the UK, with heavy promotion, and little results, along comes Cash with an album he recorded thirty years ago, and enters the UK album chart at No.4 (& No.1 in the US).
Cash talks, for sure.
Now whether this “lost” album was deemed not good enough for release back in the 80’s, or whether it was down simply to the Nashville labels at the time aggressively looking for more Garth Brooks clones, I guess we’ll never know. But I’m sure glad that “Out Among The Stars” (Sony) was found, polished up, and released thirty years late.
Cash covered many era’s in music, from rockabilly through to the rather morbid album’s late in his career. It may depend on when you first heard him, which determines which era you associate Cash with.  For me, I often recall his “The Baron” album, which was from the early 80’s, so was quite excited to hear about this new album, being from the same timespan.
I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the album.
The title track opens the album. It’s a great story song, in a style that only Cash can deliver. “I Used To Love Her A Lot”, is quite a haunting story about lost love. There’s also a rather boring Elvis Costello mix of this song.
I didn’t rate every track, but there are more high points than low’s.
“Call Your Mother”, is a lovely song about a couple splitting up, but trying to keep the in-laws on side. In the opposite direction, “Tennessee”, opens with the line, “Mamma guess you heard, I got married in Tennessee”, but both do try to emphasise the importance of family values.
I really loved “If I Told You Who It Was”, about helping out his favourite Country singer fix a flat tire. I do appreciate that the humour may be lost on today’s Country generation, who wont know who Minnie Pearl is, but it appealed to my sense of humour.
There are two duet’s with June Carter, including a racey version of “Baby Ride Easy”, which doesn’t quite match the evergreen Carlene Carter/Dave Edmunds version of the song. Waylon Jenning’s also joins in on a superb version of “I’m Movin’ On”.
I’m not sure about the message in “I Drove Her Out Of My Mind”. It’s about a guy’s wife leaving him, but agrees to one last date in his new Cadillac, like she always wanted. But the plan is to drive her over the cliff. It’s supposed to be humourous, especially when the Cadillac dealer is going to lose out too, but perhaps too many people have lost lives that way, so I’m thinking that it’s rather insensitive.
Plenty to talk about this new Cash album. Plenty good stuff to listen too as well.
I really enjoyed it. Cash at his best ? Probably not, but I love this era of his career.
And to still be able to dominate the charts ten years after his death (when today’s names can’t come close) is some achievement.
Cash is King, so they say. Johnny proves it!

Keeping with the Cash clan, and daughter ROSANNE, who is back in Scotland for Perth’s Southern Fried Festival next month, has released “The River & The Thread” (Decca/Blue Note).
Some of Rosanne’s previous album’s have been quite dark and slow, but, I really think this album is worthy of the accolades it has been receiving.
She wrote all eleven songs with her husband Jon Leventhal, who produced and arranged the project.
The production is superb, and is a tapestry of America’s South in music.
“Modern Blue” is a good uptempo number, which sounds like an early Mary Chapin Carpenter type of song. In contrast “The Long Way Home” is quite slow and haunting.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of “World Of Strange Design”, whilst “When The Master Calls The Roll” is probably my favourite track.
“50,000 Watts”, with its’ wonderful harmonies from Cory Chisel, is an anthem for WSM Radio, the Grand Ole Opry station, which was once the voice of the south, and refers to the train whistle, which the radio station used as a time signal in the bygone days.
This album really shows off Rosanne’s vocals to perfection.
I loved this album. Catch her at Southern Fried.

Rosanne’s childhood was spent with step sister CARLENE CARTER, who like Rosanne, was a bit of a rebel musically.  Carlene involved herself in the rock and pop scene, then come out with a string of punchy, catchy, pop country numbers. But, I guess, she never lost the heritage of her upbringing.
Her new album, “Carter Girl” (Rounder), is her most stunning album to date. It’s not just a Carter Family album, but a three generation Carter Family album honouring the original Carter Family (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle); June's (Tall Lover Man) and Aunt Helen's 'Poor Old Heartsick Me'; then two of her own: 'Me and the Wildwood Rose' and a new song about Johnny & June’s passing called 'Lonesome Valley 2003.”
Carlene shares writing credit on "Lonesome" with her great uncle A.P. Carter, and the track features vocals by Vince Gill. It’s an absolutely stunning song that stands out on an altogether stunning album.  
Other guest artists on the CD are Willie Nelson on the beautiful "Troublesome Waters," Kris Kristofferson on "Blackjack David," and Elizabeth Cook steps in as an honorary Carter Girl singing harmonies on six of the twelve songs.
Family is represented by cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett (daughter of Anita Carter), and Carlene's husband Joe Breen, each heard on two songs.
The late Cowboy Jack Clement played acoustic guitar on 'Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow,' a track which features archive recordings from Helen, Anita, June and Johnny, singing background on the chorus.
Other tracks include “Give Me The Roses (While I Live)”, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” and “Gold Watch & Chain”.
Carlene has covered a lot of ground in her musical career, but has come home and come up with the most exceptional album of her life.
No Country collection is complete without this one.

Our home grown album this month is from JOHN HINSHELWOOD, who has been part of the scene for many years, through bands like Honest Sam & The Dealers and The City Sinners, as well as a solo act.
Like his previous albums, most of the songs on his latest album “Lowering The Tone”, are self penned, and the musicians on the albums are the same team that you’ll see joining John on stage at a live gig. They include steelie Malcolm McMaster, guitarist Tim Black, Ed McGlone on bass, Frank McHugh on drums, and harmony vocalist Kathy Stewart.
Gram Parsons still has a major influence on John’s music, most evident on this album on “A Few Shallow Moments”.
“American Lifestyle” is a fun sounding number, with strong harmony (I’d actually say duet) vocals from, Kathy Stewart. It also features some neat banjo. Kathy is also quite evident on the album’s opening track, “Radio Angel”.
“What’s Left Is What’s Right”, is also an uptempo catchy number.
In contrast, a few tracks like the 71/2 minute epic “A Poet’s Life” is quite a strong ballad. The same can be said for “Look Back In Anger”, one of John’s older songs which fits nicely into this collection.
A few of the tracks have quite basic arrangements, such as “Little Rowdy”, which only features John on acoustic guitar and Iain Barbour on lap steel.
Two of the songs are not from John’s pen. They include an interesting version of “Crying In The Rain”, and a cover of a Pure Prairie League song, “The Cost Of Doing Business”. Great to see hear it recreated here.
A good album from one of Scotland’s leading singer songwriters.
Well worth checking out.
John will be talking about the album on Celtic Music Radio and Dunoon Community Radio on Sunday 8th June between 12-2pm.

Irish acts are a plenty these days, but there’s nobody as Country as JOE MOORE.  A popular visitor across here many years ago (I remember him at the Dumfries Festival), he has more recently been a contestant on TG4’s Glor Tire, and I’m really pleased to see this new album, “The Scania Man”.
Sounding as Country as ever, Joe is one of the few acts that still puts the effective talkie line into his songs.
The title track suggests that the album is targeted at the Truckers, and, yes there are a couple of truckers songs, but there’s a lot more than that.
Merle Haggard’s “Diana” is a stand out track. There are also covers of Clint Black’s “Better Man” and Vince Gill’s “Billy Paul”; two duets with Chris Logue (Logue &McCool) , and a stunning version of “The Old Rugged Cross”.
Probably the track that will get the most airplay for Joe is “Randy Travis in My Heart”, a superb tribute to the American singer, who hasn’t been in the best of health lately.
Joe has such a warm vocal style. As Country as they come, and so laid back and effortless.  A real delight to listen to.

American Country groups are plentiful these days. But THE ELI YOUNG BAND do stand out from the pack.
They are four musicians who met at university in North Texas, and are still playing together 11 years later. The band takes name from two of the band members, Mike Eli and James Young, whilst supported by Jon Jones and Chris Thompson.
They had released three critically acclaimed albums prior to their debut Republic label release, which produced two number one’s including “Crazy Girl”, which Billboard named as No.1 Song of the year back in 2011.
Now, their new album, “10,000 Towns” gets a UK release.
The album features 11 songs, in which the quartet were involved in the writing of over half of them.
“Got A Little Drunk Last Night”, already a hit in the USA, kicks off the album in a good uptempo style, but, for me it’s the ballads that they really excel at.
“Angel Like You” stands out, with it’s strong melody and superb harmonies. “Your Last Broken Heart”, “Prayer For The Road” and “What Does” are also strong ballads that really impressed me.
“A Lot Like Love” is a more uptempo number, but works well. There’s some good harmonies, which I liked.
“Dust” another of the uptempo tracks was released as a radio single here in the UK.
The Eli Young have a pleasant easy listening sound, which should appeal to crossover listeners over here.

JENNIFER NETTLES was one half of the successful Sugarland duo, and has now launched her debut album, “That Girl” (Decca), released back in April in the UK.
The album is already a huge hit in America, although, I have to say, the album does nothing for me.
From the opening track “Falling”, through the title track, through to “Thank You”,  I had to force myself not to switch off. Her vocals, once a delight to listen to on Sugarland hits like “Baby Girl” is just too harsh for my old ears.
A few of the tracks were a little less painful to listen to. Particularly, the ballad “This Angel”. She did a not too bad job on this track, but rather unimpressive nonetheless.  On “Jealousy”, the voice wasn’t too bad, but the song is pure pop. Not Country at all.
“Know You Wanna Know” is a fast paced fun number, but again, little to do with Country music.
Stand out track for me has to be “This One’s For You”, a ballad which she delivered the big voice, without straining too much.
Sorry, I’ll give “That Girl” a miss.

JERROD NIEMAN isn’t the most recognisable Country star in the UK – yet.  But that may change with the release of “High Noon”, his third US album, and his first for the UK market.
From Kansas, Jerrod cut his teeth on a signed autographed Tracy Lawrence guitar, which his mum won in a competition. He has written songs for Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy and Jamey Johnson.
He’s one of these guys who must have thought a career in Country music would never happen. He was originally signed to the Mercury label in 2001, before moving to a small label which only released one single before closing its doors.
Now with the Sony stable, he has built up quite a career in the past four years, with Number one’s on both the albums and singles chart.
This album finds Jerrod in a modern Country style, with songs like “We Know How To Rock”, “Day Drinkin” and the haunting “Lucky #7” really appealing to Country fans.   Other tracks, like the hit single “Drink To That All Night”, “Donkey” and “Come On”, are more pop than Country.
There are some nice ballads, especially “I Cant Give In Anymore” and “Refill”.
It’s quite a listenable album. Some of the tracks leave me lukewarm, but there are songs which I really did enjoy.

The latest “Definitive Collection” from the Humphead label is from BILLY RAY CYRUS.
Now many folks may think that Billy Ray had “Achy Breaky Heart” and that was that. Others may remember a few of the follow up’s like “Could’ve Been Me”, “She’s Not Crying Anymore” and “Wher’m I Gonna Live”, which quite a few of our local bands covered.
But Billy Ray had quite a few other notable recordings, such as “Some Gave All”, “Busy Man”, “In The Heart Of A Woman”, “Storm In The Heartland”, “Trail Of Tears” and “Tenntucky”.  He also covered a few classics in his time, like “Harper Valley PTA”, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and “Sing Me Back Home”
Here’s a great chance to get all them together in one package. Two CD’s with no less that 40 tracks.
Great value. And a chance to heart the real Billy Ray !

GAIL DAVIES is one of the biggest pioneers in Nashville. She was one of the first women to produce her own music. She’s a prolific songwriter and performer in her own right.
Her recording projects have shown a wide scope, from a live bluegrass album from Nashville’s Station Inn, a tribute to the legendary Webb Pierce, and last year, a mainstream collaboration with Nashville’s finest on her late brothers’ songs.
Now Gail is back, with a completely new direction again. “Since I Don’t Have You” teams her up with renowned jazz legend Benny Golson.
I’m not a jazz fan, by any means, but Gail has found a niche that works well for her. The album sounds really refreshing and vibrant.
She has written three of the songs, including the catchy opener “Love Aint Easy”, and the moody ballad “You’re Movin’ On”.
Her late brother Ron also wrote three of the songs, including the catchy “Cry On My Shoulder” and the emotive ballads “The Way It Used To Be”, “Since I Don’t Have You”.
It’s different. And proves the versatility that is Gail Davies. She’s quite a performer.

Our next album comes from an American 4 piece Bar band who call themselves MASSY FERGUSON. They’re from Washington state, which has an ever growing impressive live music scene. The group are led by Ethan Anderson, and the band wrote the whole album.
“Victory & Ruins” is, I believe, their third full album, and is released here to coincide with a tour down south this summer.
Despite their location, the album is hard driving Southern Rock, in the main.
Stand out tracks include the catchy “Flexed Arm Hang” and “Compromised Intentions”.
They do show there mellow side on several tracks, notably “Everything’s Done” “Bring Something Back” and “Apartment Downtown”.
Highlight of the album has to be “The Hard Way”, in which the band are joined by fellow Seattle singer Zoe Muth, who has one of the most interesting vocal styles in today’s music.
I found this was a surprisingly good listen. Worth checking out.

Next up, the sixth album from singer songwriter BRIGITTE DEMEYER, who has certainly found herself deep rooted in America’s south since moving from the West Coast to Nashville in 2010.
“Savannah Road” is a quaint acoustic trip into the southern states.
Brigitte has quite a gravelly, jazzy voice, which works well on the songs on the album.
Many of the numbers are quiet acoustic ballads, notably “Please Believe Me” , “Big Man’s Shoes” and “Honey Hush”.
“Say You Will Be Mine” is a catchy little number which stands out on the album.
Not everyone’s taste, but, if you enjoy old timey, jazzy, acoustic sets, give her a listen.

Finally, I don’t usually review singles here, but “Lay Down Beside Me” from Keith & Shannon is well worth a mention.
Keith Macleod started his musical career after leaving school, by playing for Maggie & Tennessee Express. Now some 23 years later, Keith, best known for playing these days with Manson Grant & The Dynamos and Slange Ava, has teamed up with Maggie’s 17 year old daughter, Shannon Petrie for a cover of the Don Williams classic.
The pairing goes back to last year’s Caithness Festival when Shannon did a guest spot with Slange Ava. Now, we hear Shannon on CD for the first time. Keith, of course, is an old hand in the studio, having recorded a solo album of his dad’s songs on “In My Father’s Words”, as well as recording with Manson & Slange Ava.
Their voices blend nicely together, and they’ve chosen a good song for this duet release. Available on ITunes.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Apr 2014

This month, we’ll kick off with a lady who will be playing in Scotland this month. It’s 25 years since SUZY BOGGUSS launched her career with a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Somewhere Between”. Now she revisits The Hag’s musical library with “Lucky” (Proper), a 12 track collection of Merle’s hits.
According to Suzy, she and husband/co-producer Doug Crider didn’t set out to do an album of Haggard songs. They were working on doing an album blending Country and Blues, and these great Merle hits just kept coming into their thoughts. Eventually they realised that what they really had in mind was this album. It’s not a Merle tribute. Suzy has definitely not set out to cover the songs in The Hag’s style. She has stamped her own arrangements, her own mark on these songs, in much the same way as she did with “Somewhere Between”, quarter of a century ago.
There is certainly a bluesy guitar feel coming over on the songs, which range from the quick paced “Lets Chase Each Other Around The Room Tonight” and “The Running Kind”, through slower “Silver Wings” and “Sing Me Back Home”. “The Bottle Let Me Down” has a particularly bluesy feel to it, but it works well.
“If We Make It Through December”, has a more catchy feel to it, and really captures the positivity that the song has lost in other covers.
I was particularly impressed with her treatment of “Going Where the Lonely Go”. It’s a song that I was never that keen on from Merle, but Suzy really gives it some emotion. I also really enjoyed her version of “You Don’t Have Very Far To Go”, which is probably the least well known song on the album. Suzy cites Emmylou & Linda Ronstadt as inspirations on this one.
There’s quite an impressive array of backing vocalists like recent Celtic Connections visitors Gretchen Peters and Beth Nielsen Chapman, as well as Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall Stewart and Matraca Berg.
I love Suzy Bogguss voice. I always have. And I’m loving listening to her deliver such tasteful versions of some of the greatest Country songs out there. “Lucky” me.
Suzy is appearing at The Northern Nashville Caithness Country Festival at Easter and at St Andrews In The Square, in Glasgow on April 11th for The Fallen Angels Club.

I’m always amazed at the wealth of Country music talent which comes out of The Faroe Islands. HALLUR JOENSON has been one of the main players on the scene there for the past few years, and has built up many contacts internationally, and has brought some of them together for his new “Stars & Legends” album.
The 13 track collection kicks off with “Send Me A Letter Amanda”, featuring Hallur with The Bellamy Brothers. Very much in the Bellamy’s style, the song is a great introduction to the album.
There are two duets with the wonderful Dawn Sears, both written by producer Jakup Zachariassen. Dawn is a member of the highly acclaimed Nashville jam band The Time Jumpers. She has a stunning voice, which lends itself well to torch songs like “My Sweetest Hello”, and “Tonight I’m Coming Home”.
Fellow Time Jumper Vince Gill, and Sonya Isaacs provide some lovely harmony on the old styled “My Door Is Always Open”.
On one of his earlier albums, Hallur recorded a version of Charley Pryde’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” in his native Faroese. On this album, he does a duet with the man himself, on that song, and “Crystal Chandeliers”.
Bobby Bare met Hallur when he played in The Faroes in 2011. The pair duet here on “Somewhere To Go”.  There’s also duets with The Gaither’s  Woody Wright (who wrote four songs for the album), Tania Hancheroff, David Peterson, and even guitarist James Burton.
But the highlight for Hallur is dueting with Kris Kristofferson on “Nobody Wins”. He’s even kept in the little bit of chat at the end of the song.
But it’s not just Nashville legends that Hallur has recorded with. There’s a duet with Norwegian outlaw Gunner Thomas, and Icelandic songbird Yohanna. The latter joins Hallur on a beautiful ballad, “Separate Ways”, which is probably the most modern sounding track on the album, and should be getting radio play on pop as well Country stations.
Hallur has delivered a wide ranging package of duets, which cover the spectrum of Country music. All well sung, well produced, and well played on my CD system.
Another great album from The Faroe Islands !

DON WILLIAMS remains one of the most popular Country entertainers on this side of the Atlantic. Now approaching his 75th birthday, he’s embarking on his farewell UK tour next month (He’ll be at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on May 11th) and has released his latest album, “Reflections” (Sugar Hill) to coincide with the tour.
I have to say that Don is sounding as good as ever. His long time producer Garth Fundis is at the helm, but the arrangements just sound so fresh.
He has quite a wide array of material, from Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” (also released as a single), Jesse Winchester’s “If I Were Free” to Guy Clark’s “Talk Is Cheap” and Steve Wariner/Tony Arata’s “The Answer”.  He even does a superb version of Merle Haggatd’s “Sing Me Back Home”.
This is vintage Don. Just relaxing, listenable Country music. Such a pleasure.

 RONNIE MILSAP was one of the most influential singers of the 70’s & 80’s. He had mass crossover appeal between Country, pop and blues. Now, at the age of 71, Ronnie is back with a new album, “Summer Number 17” (Sony).
Although a very easy on the ear album, I have to admit that it’s not particularly “Country”. It includes covers some classic pop & soul numbers, like “Tears On My Pillow”, “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted”, “Mack The Knife” and “Personality”.
There are two duets with Mandy Barnett, including The Stylistic’s old “You Make Me Feel Brand New”.
He also reworks one of his old classics, “Lost In The Fifties Tonight”, and the title track is a new song, but fits well into the nostalgic feel of the 12 track collection.
It’s a nice nostalgic album, for pop fans. I fear Country fans wont be as convinced.

It’s 20 years since we all discovered CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH through his amazing song “What Colour Is The Wind”. 27 albums later, the genial giant returns to his Merseyside roots, to the famous Cavern, and the music that put that venue, and put the city of Liverpool on the map. “Here,There And Everywhere” is an album of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison compositions.
There are a number of classic Beatles numbers like the title track,“Yesterday”, “Penny Lane”, “Long And Winding Road” and “Ticket To Ride”, alongside some lesser known songs.
It’s amazing just how well Charlie’s vocal style suits these songs , most notably on “And I Lover Her”, “Imagine” and “Crippled Inside”, which features some neat steel guitar.
There are a couple of interesting medleys, including a neat transition from a slow “For No One” into “Here Comes The Sun”.
Although known, and respected for his own writing, I guess after all this time, Charlie felt it was time to honour his hometown heroes. It’s something that he’s featured in his live concerts for a while now. On record, he does it with taste and thoughtfulness. It comes over as a Charlie album, rather than a Beatles tribute.
Nice work Charlie.

DEREK RYAN has really established himself as one of the new young stars of the Irish Country scene. His latest album, “Country Soul” (Sharpe Music) features 14 tracks and is a real mix of original songs, with a few recognisable Country and Irish covers.
The title track is quite a poppy number aimed at the dancers back in Ireland. The same could be said about “Dancing In The Moonlight”. “Welcome Home”, a homecoming song written for last year’s Gathering is really catchy, and I like it a lot.
I was really impressed with the slower, and more Country, “Leave A Light On For Me”, whilst “To Be A Man” is a slower ballad, which he delivers with quite a bit of emotion.
There are covers of Bob McDill’s “Turn Out The Light Love Me Tonight”, Vince Gill’s “Turn Me Loose” and Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind”.
Keeping the Irish end up, is the really catchy “Better Times a Coming”, “The Long Way Home”  and the traditional “Raggle Taggle Gypsy”.
He is getting a big push on the UK mainland this year, with the release of the catchy “100 Numbers” on St.Patricks Day.
Derek delivers a good mix of styles, and will certainly keep you entertained with this new album.

Way back in the late 1990’s a young Irishman called MICHAEL ENGLISH was being tipped as the new Daniel O’Donnell.  He kinda disappeared from the scene, but is now back with a good toe tappin album called “Country Roots”.
The album features a number of his own songs, including the lead single, “The Band Is Back In Town”, a superb showband styled number which does rather emphasise that Michael is back. His other songs include the gentle “Cheers To All”, the sentimental “Mama’s Footsteps”, and the rather poppy “High Five”
The album does lean quite heavily towards the Irish Country style, with lovely ballads like “Eileen” and “Until You’ve Walked In My Shoes”, and uptempo fun numbers like “Locklin’s Bar”.
He also features some interesting covers, including “Simple Things”, which comes from the pen of Paisley’s Paolo Nutini, although could’ve come from any writer in Ireland, such is the arrangement. He takes on a different sound for the classic Hank Thompson song “I Dreamed Of An Old Love Affair”. Just not a sound you’d expect to hear in 2014.  He also covers “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.
And just in case you don’t remember Michael, he gives an updated version of his popular song “Nearest To Perfect”.
A superb array of styles, but then, that’s what Irish artists thrive at. Michael is one of the best. Good to hear him back.

The music business can work in mysterious ways. Some artists are a flash in the pan. Others are slow burners. Texan born ERIC PASLEY looks like he’s a slow burner.
His first single, “Never Really Wanted” was released in 2011, but it’s taken him three years to get his self titled debut album out (Humphead). In the meantime, he’s been writing hits for others like Jake Owen, Love And Theft and Eli Young. He wrote all 11 songs on the album, some with others like Jessi Alexander, Walt Aldridge and Rob Crosby.
The album  has quite a modern sound, especially on the likes of “Less Than Whole” and the hits “Never Really Wanted” and “Friday Night”.
But there are some old fashioned Country high spots too. I really liked “Country Side Of Heaven”, with its homespun appeal. There was also some neat instrumentation on “Here Comes Love”, which caught my attention.
“She Don’t Love You” is a beautiful ballad, as is “Deep as It Is Wide”.
One of the best albums to come from a major Nashville label for some time. Watch the name.

Another new name out of Nashville is JON PARDI. He is a native Californian, but doesn’t have much Bakersfield influence, although he does mention it in the words of the title track of his album “Write You A Song” (Humphead).
Pardi is another songwriter who has written, or co-written all the tracks on the album.
Most of it is modern Country radio pop, but there are some nice songs that stand out.
“That Man” is quite a pleasant ballad, whilst there’s some neat fiddle intro on “Love You From Here”. I also liked “Trash A Hotel Room”, if not its’ sentiments.
Not a bad album, but just a shade to Nashville pop for me.

  Our third Humphead release this time around is from Missouri born DAVID NAIL. David is another who was around for a while before getting an album out. His first single was released in 2002, but his debut album “I’m About To Come Alive” wasn’t released until 2009. Now his third album, “I’m A Fire” has just been released both in the USA & Europe.
The album features a good mix of modern Country sounds, which I found quite listenable. Four of the songs were co-written by Nail, with Shane MacAnally, Bob Dipiero, Scooter Carusoe and Neil Thrasher amongst the others putting pen to paper.
“Kiss You Tonight” is a good radio song, and I also enjoyed the more sensitive “The Secret”. “Whatever She’s Got”, is a catchy number, ideal for radio.
But it’s the tracks that feature some good harmonies that stand out for me. Little Big Town join in on “When They’re Gone”, and Lee Ann Womack duets out a stunningly fresh version of “Galveston. But whose are the female harmonies on “Brand New Day”?. Unfortunately the sleevenotes don’t tell us, but they blend with David’s vocals beautifully.
I really enjoyed this album. It didn’t knock me out, but pleasant it was.

Arizona born DIERKS BENTLEY has been part of Capitol Nashville’s roster for the past decade, and his new album “Riser” is his eighth for the label, who have released it here, to coincide with his recent c2c Festival appearances in Dublin and London.
On previous albums, Dierks has given token appreciation to bluegrass music. That is sorely missing from this outing, with the rather unimpressive “Not Enough Bourbon In Kentucky” being the closest he gets this time around.
Much of the album did little for me. It was too pop for me. Many of the songs just sounded so repetitive.
The exception was “Damn These”, which closes the album. It, at least, paid homage to Nashville and Country music. Still didn’t sound very Country though.
“Say You Do” is one of the most enjoyable tracks. It’s laid back easy on the ear feel, appealed to me. The title track is an Ok ballad
“I Hold On”, an uptempo number, has also been released as a single in the UK, in the hope of getting some pop radio airplay.
He’s done more appealing albums, but I guess, if you’ve enjoyed his previous outings, then you should give this a listen too.

Rhett Akins was one of the most interesting artists to emerge from the Nashville Country scene in the 90’s with hits like “Don’t Get Me Started” and “That Aint My Truck”. Now his son, THOMAS RHETT has followed in his father’s footsteps with the release of his debut album, “It Goes Like This”(Decca).
In fact, Thomas isn’t that new to the scene. As a songwriter, he’s already had songs recorded by Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line.
Despite his father’s musical pedigree, young Thomas was raised on Rock & R&B as well as Country. And it shows in this album.
Kicking off with “Whatcha Got In That Cup”, with it’s driving rocky/r&b beat, didn’t fill me with any enthusiasm for the rest of the album.
Country music is a wide spectrum, and seems to get wider every day. This album really stretches the boundaries. Most of the tracks are not what I’d consider to be Country, but there are some flashes of Country inspiration.
“Something To Do With My Hands”, is still quite rocky, but with a lot more of a Country edge. “In A Minute”, is quite a pleasant ballad, as is “Take You Home”. “Sorry For Partying” is certainly a morning after Country song. It does get a little repetitive however
The stand out track would be “Beer With Jesus”- definitely Country! He can do it when he wants.
The track that killed the album off for me was “Front Porch Junkies”. I was hoping for something downhome front porch swing, but it couldn’t be farther away from that. It’s just pure R&B. This has no place in Country music. A miss for me.

SARA EVANS has been around Country music since 1997, and is best known for hits like “Suds In The Bucket”, “No Place That Far” and “Three Chords & The Truth”.  Her 7th album, “Slow Me Down” has just been released here (Sony), and I have to say I’m a shade disappointed by it.
Despite her pedigree in the business, this album just doesn’t stand out from all the other Nashville pop-country girls out there.
It’s a well produced pop Country album, but I listened well into the album, before anything really caught my attention.
She is joined by pop singer Gavin DeGraw on “Not Over You” and Isaac Slade from rock band The Frey, on “Cant Stop Loving You”.
“If I Run” is a good strong ballad, but still rather pop idol material.
“Good Love Is Hard To Find”, which is track 8, was the first song that caught my attention. It’s the sort of ballad that we’ve grown to love Sara for. For a more uptempo number, I really enjoyed “Revival”. To have started the album with this track, rather that close it, could have made such a difference.
But it’s “Better Off”, with its harmonies from Vince Gill that really stand out. It has quite a Celtic feel to it, and works really well.
A few real golden touches saved the album.

Our home grown offering this month comes from Perth based RED PINE TIMBER COMPANY, which emerged five years ago from the embers of the band Southpaw.
Now they have released their debut album, “Different Lonesome” on their own Red Pine Record label.
They have, at one stage featured 11 band members, but eight have settled into the current line up for this album, recorded in The Fair City’s Clearwater Studios.
With so many musicians, playing everything from banjo and harmonica to saxophone, it’s reasonable to expect quite an array of musical styles on offer.
All the songs were written by front man Gavin JD Munro.
The title track is a 6 ½ minute epic, featuring song great harmonica, and beautiful harmonies between Gavin and Katie Burgoyne.
Indeed the harmonies work well throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Dark Clouds” and ballads, like “Save My Soul” and the stand out track “Speaking Of Your Name”. Their voices certainly give an air of Gram & Emmylou.
Other tracks, like “Bad Taste”, “The Way I Was” and “Sermon On The Street” are more uptempo, whilst “No Direction” is a soft ballad that showcases Katie’s vocals.
Altogether, a very interesting album.

Some musical acts are hard to categorise, but you can just tell that when you receive an album in the post from a band called THE JIGANTICS, that they’re going provide an interesting listen. The album is called “Daisy Roots” (Rawtone)
This English outfit are described as “Nu-folk”, but take in Country, Blues, Jazz, Rock and several other influences. From the opening track, “Swimming Song”, I was writing them off as a fun folk group. But I’m glad I kept listening for the eclectic mix that was to develop.
“The Valley” is a soft ballad, as are their versions of “Lakes Of Pontchatrain” and “Black Mountain Lullaby”.
Then how can you resist as title like “Bad Liver And A Broken Heart”. Yes, it’s the most Country track on the album. A good beat, and a song that works really well. “Hold On”, is also quite Country, more of a ballad.
I was also quite impressed with “Keys To Your Door”, with it’s lovely accordion backing.
Not all Country, but enough to merit a listen if you get the chance.

Next up is a guy called PETER MULVEY, who hails from Milwaukee. Whilst studying theatre, he played in several bands there. But it wasn’t until he travelled to Dublin in 1989, that he got into music, as a street singer.
He went back to America, where he has recorded several albums. His latest, “Silver Ladder” (Signature Sound) was released here to coincide with a tour of Ireland and England last month.
According to the publicity, Peter has been through a rather turbulent stretch in his personal life of late, and decided to write his way out of it. The result is the twelve songs on this collection, which was produced by Americana legend Chuck Prophet.
The album has quite a variety of styles.
“You Don’t Have To Tell Me” is quite a foot tapper that stood out as the most Country track on the album.
“Where Did You Go” is quite a slow number, but the added vocals of Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins adds some magic. It certainly is one of the album’s highlights.
Some of the tracks, like “Back In The Wind” and “Sympathies” are quite poppy, but if you like singer songwriters, then Peter Mulvey is worth checking out.

AMELIA WHITE was raised on the Boston folk scene, and bought her first guitar when she was only 10 years old. Her first band played rock music, then twelve years ago found herself in Nashville, and found a growing fan base for her original songs.
Her new album, “Old Postcard” (White-Wolf Records) offers the listener an interesting insight into her life.
“Goodbye Today”, with it’s infectious steel chords really caught my attention, whilst the album’s title track recalls her rather less than memorable childhood. As you would expect from the title, “Get Your Cowboy On” is the strongest Country song on the album. Amelia hasn’t a particularly strong voice, but she uses her smokey vocals to best effect on this track.
There are still shades of her rock upbringing, especially on “Mary’s Getting Better” and “River Of My Dreams”.
I like her voice. She’s a bit different. Worth checking out.

ROBBY HECHT is a native Tennessean, but travelled to Wisconsin, San Francisco and Paris, before returning to Nashville to hone his craft. Known for his quiet vulnerable ballads, Hecht has been named as “one of American Songwriter’s favourite Nashville artists”.
His new self titled album has been released here (Old Man Henry Records) prior to a UK tour this summer, which will include at least one Scottish date (July 3rd at The Byre @ Inchyra, Glencarse,Perthshire).
Whilst many of the songs are naturally quite slow, “Papa’s Down The Road Dead”, despite it’s title, is quite a jolly little tune.
“Soon I Was Sleeping” is quite a pleasant ballad, and features the duet talents of Canadian Rose Cousins, who has a really pleasing voice.
“New York City” is a different tribute to the Big Apple. With its’ haunting melody, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album.
The other tracks are all soft ballads, “The Sea & The Shore” being the stand out track.

Making their third tour to Europe (but not Scotland) next month, are four guys from Portland, Maine, calling themselves TUMBLING BONES. They have quite an exciting mix of folk, country and bluegrass on offer, as featured on their album “Loving A Fool”, which will be available in time for their visit. (May 5th release date).
They play bluegrass at amazing speed on tracks like “Bound To Ride” and “Money Is For Spending”, then slow it down completely on the very Country title track. They come up with some old time harmony singing on “Shady Green Pastures”, and some authentic old time recording on “A Voice From On High”.
Most of the tracks are originals, but they do find space on the 13 track album, for a fresh new version of The Louvin’s classic, “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby”.
Great stuff. I really enjoyed this album’s energy.

And, finally, I’ve kept the best for last this time around.
RHONDA VINCENT has been around the bluegrass scene since she was a mere youngster in the 70’s. She’s grown to become the leading light for women in bluegrass music. Recently, especially through duets with Gene Watson, she’s proved herself to be a fine Country stylist too.
For her new album, “Only Me”, she’s bridging the gap, by featuring a bluegrass side and a Country side. The instrumentation is a bit different. It’s fiddles and banjo’s on the first five tracks, and some stunning steel guitar on the remaining tracks.
She does a great job on the Country covers like “Once A Day”, “Beneath Still Waters”  and “Bright Lights And Country Music”, but it’s the bluegrass versions of songs like “I Need Somebody Bad Tonight”, “I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Hear Nothing At All” and the old Melba Montgomery/George Jones hit “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds”,
(which she duets with Daryl Singletary) that really stand out.
She even gets old Willie Nelson in to duet on the title track.
It’s a stunning album- great arrangements, great vocals, great songs. I just loved it, and can’t take it off the CD player.
It’s so early in the year, but this is my album of the year!