We’ll kick off this time with some new releases from the Heart Of Texas label. The label have brought several acts over for the Caithness Country Music Festival in recent years, and thanks to Tracey Pitcox for updating me on some of his label’s newer releases.
Ray Price was a huge influence on many of today’s stars, and CURTIS POTTER has a very timely tribute with his new album, “Songs Of The Cherokee Cowboy” on Heart of Texas Records. Price charted over 100 hits on the Country charts, and Curtis has selected just 11 for this album.
He has avoided the most obvious numbers like “For The Good Times” and “City Lights”, but does cover “If She Could See Me Now”, “Sittin’ and Thinkin’”, and “Walk Me To The Door”.
There are a number of Willie Nelson songs (Ray Price gave Willie his start),including “Nightlife” and “Healing Hands Of Time”. Willie also duets on the opening and title track “Songs Of The Cherokee Cowboy”, which is a song about the songs that made Ray Price such a star.
Curtis doesn’t have the greatest vocals in the world, but he handles these songs well. It’s a great wee tribute to Ray Price.
Our next new Heart Of Texas release is from NORMA JEAN. The Oklahoma born singer, known affectionately as Pretty Miss Norma Jean, first came to Country fans attention on The Porter Wagoner TV Show (before Dolly) back in the 60’s.
Now she’s back with a new album, “Aged To Perfection”, which applies to the songs on the 12 track collection, as well as the lady herself. Since the hit singles dried up, Norma Jean has been performing in Branson, but recently moved to Brady,Texas.
She includes reworkings of two of her old hits, “I Cried All The Way To The Bank”, and “A Game Of Triangles”, which teams her up with fellow Heart Of Texas labelmates Justin Trevino (who produced the album) and Amber Digby.
She also covers a number of classic Country songs like “My Baby’s Gone”, “Satin Sheets”, “Today I Started Lovin’ You Again” and “Rose Garden”.
But the most interesting track for fans on this side of the Atlantic, will no doubt be the old Dr Hook number “A Couple More Years”, on which she duets with a certain Daniel O’Donnell. Not a bad version either.
Norma Jean is pure Country. Great to hear such a Country voice, with such splendid arrangements that you’d only hear out of Texas.
JOHNNY BUSH has forever been associated with Texas Country music, He had played with Ray Price and Willie Nelson back in the 60’s before launching a solo career which netted him 25 chart hits. Now, at the age of 78, he releases “Reflections”, a 14 track album of largely new material, and I have to say that he sounds much younger.
There are a few covers, like Jack Greene’s “Statue Of a Fool”, Dickey Lee’s “She Thinks I Still Care” and Willie Nelson’s “A Moment Isn’t Very Long”, and draws in Jim Lauderdale as co-writer on “All The Rage In Paris”, one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Producer Justin Trevino contributed “Neon Nightmare”, whilst Johnny wrote three of the songs.
I really enjoyed the traditional sound, and arrangements on this album.
BOBBY LEWIS is also on the Heart Of Texas label with a new album , “Here I Am Again”, but Bobby’s musical career goes back to the 1960’s when he charted with hits like “How Long has it Been” and “From Heaven To Heartache”.
Now the Kentucky born singer has moved down Texas way to record his new collection. The album kicks off with his latest single, “Alice In Wonderland”, and weaves through the George Jones influenced “We Make a Great Country Song”, the Bill Anderson influenced “Shutters & Boards”, to a cover of Ernie Ashworth’s classic “Talk Back Trembling Lips”. All the way, its good Country music, perhaps more of a slightly dated Nashville sound than a full Texas swing sound, but a good listen nevertheless.
Bobby wrote four of the tracks, including “World Of Love”, which is a duet with Diane McCall, a real strong country partnership, that just sounds so natural.
First class Country music.
Our next Heart of Texas offering is from DARRELL McCALL, the father of the Texan McCalls dynasty. “Country From The Heart” is apparently his first album for 3 years, but of course, has been busy supporting his family’s musical careers, so has not been idle.
He wrote, or co wrote seven of the tracks, including the opening track “Cold Long Neck Beer”, with daughter Guyanne, who duets on the closing track “Just Ask Me”, which I really enjoyed. More about Guyanne coming up.
In between, it’s good ol’ Texan music all the way. As well as the original tracks, there are covers of “Invitation To The Blues” (Roger Miller), and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Take Me as I Am”.
“Florence Jean” is given a magical Country treatment, and there’s a neat tribute to a songwriter friend called “Jug”, which works well.
If you like the “Tru-Country” Texan sound, this is another for you!
And, as promised, our final Heart of Texas artist is newbie GUYANNE McCALL, the daughter of the afore mentioned Darrel. Guyanne has, up til now, been more of a songwriter, having written for her parents, Amber Digby, Dottsy, Tony Booth and Kimberley Murray.
Now Guyanne is in the spotlight with her first album, “In The Genes”. She certainly has that true Country Texas style, that wont disappoint.
She has written, or co-written all, but one track, on the album. The one she didn’t write, is “Just Ask Me”, written by dad, Darrell (and is also on his album). She also has a cracking duet with her brother Cody, on “One Tear At A Time”.
The opening track, “The Fall” is certainly a good number to open the album, and I’d also recommend “Yesterday’s News”
“I’m Leavin’ You Today” is a strong ballad, and I just love the steel guitar opening on “Will You Ever Know”. “Weak At The Knees” is a delicate ballad, which has borrowed more than a little influence from “I’m Not Lisa”. In contrast, she rocks it up a bit on “Meet Me In Memphis”, before closing with a nice ballad in “I’ve Never Been Loved So Much”.
With quite a detailed sleeve note testimony from none other than Heather Myles, Guyanne is making quite an impression on this album.
She’ll make an impression on you too!
Still in Texas. DAN SEALS was one of the biggest Country stars of the 80’s & 90’s. Sadly he passed away in 2009. Now Humphead have given him the “Definitive Collection” treatment, with a 40 track 2CD collection being released on 17th February.
Most of the big hits he had are on CD1, including “Bop”, “Wild Side Of Me”, “Everything That Glitters Is Not Gold”, “You Still Move Me”, “One Friend” and “My Old Yellow Car”. There’s also the fabulous duet he had with Marie Osmond on “Meet Me In Montana”.
Great to hear all these songs again, but I do feel that not including his huge hit, “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”, makes this a somewhat incomplete collection. Of course, he was known as England Dan (alongside John Ford Coley), when he had that hit, but he has released Dan Seals versions of the song in latter years.
Nevertheless, a good collection to remember Dan by.
DAVID LEASK is an accomplished singer songwriter from the Toronto area, but originally hails from Edinburgh. His first claim to fame was for taking top honours on the BBC National Rock School. That was 30 years ago. Since making the transatlantic trip, and basing himself in Canada, David has released three highly acclaimed albums, and won numerous accolades for his songs.
“Underneath” is his fourth album, and features a mix of celtic, country, folk and rock sounds that blend together nicely.
Leask co-wrote 11 of the album's 13 tracks. Songs such as the title track "Underneath", “Photosynthesis” and “One Second Look” shed refreshingly mature perspectives on personal relationships. Others like “Freedom by the Barrel”, “Ready to Buy” and “Breathing” go even deeper to tackle and examine social conditions such as war mongering, rampant consumerism and the struggle for peace amidst chaos.
Some of the tracks are a shade pop or rock (notably “Photosythesis” and “Ready To Buy”), but there is plenty to shout about this emigrant. “Stronger Back”, one of the songs that he didn’t write, caught my attention. It has a nice folksy, yet gutsy feel to it. “Highway Home”, another song with a soft celtic lilt to it, really stood out for me. It’s the sort of song fellow exScot Canadian, Johnny Reid would have a huge hit on.
There’s some nice fiddle in the opening of “Burdens & Blessings”, which also caught me attention.
I also liked to bouncy “One Second Look”, with its catchy instrumentation, and “All My Love”, which has quite a crossover appeal.
The album closes with a Darrell Scott & Beth Neilsen Chapman song, “This Time Round”, which has a simple piano cello and whistle arrangement, which really shows off David’s vocals and the songs simplistic beauty. It’s a lovely version.
David is another talent that has had to move from Scotland to pursue his career. But we can still enjoy his music. “Underneath” is available from the usual download sites or www.davidleask.com
JACE EVERETT should not be an unknown name to readers. He wrote and sang “Bad Things”, the theme to TV’s “True Blood”, and was here a couple of times for the CMA’s New From Nashville showcases at Celtic Connections.
He’s back for Celtic Connections on February 2nd at Oran Mor, and has a new album “Tera Rosa” released on Humphead, to tie in with the visit.
Jace has never been your typical Nashville act. He still isn’t.
This album really stretches Country music’s boundaries.
“Pennsylvania” has quite an acoustic arrangement that works well, and “Pretty Good Plan”, which closes the album, is the most Country track.
Otherwise, this album just didn’t appeal to my at all.
SUSAN CATTANEO is a singer songwriter in the mould of Gretchen Peters or Kim Richey. She’s a New Jersey girl, but based these days ion the Boston area, having got there via Arizona and Nashville, honing her craft along the way.
She has a nice voice, which she uses to full effect on her new album, “Haunted Heart” (Jersey Girl Music). She delivers a variety of styles, from Country to folk and rock.
Stand out tracks for me included the catchy “Lorelei” , they slower “Queen Of The Dancehall” and the old timey “How A Cowboy Says Goodbye”, where there’s also a wee yodel in there – something you don’t hear too often these days.
This is Susan’s 3rd album. It’s a pleasant album. A nice listen.
Glasgow can be quite an iconic city to play. Especially if you’re from Dallas, Texas, and are playing The Hydro one night, and The Arches the next! But that’s exactly what The O’s did last month. Furthermore, their new album, “Thunderdog” has been released on Glasgow based, student run label, Electric Honey Records
The O’s are duo, Taylor Young and John Pedigo, who have been likened to The Louvin Brothers and Mumford & Son. They’ve been together since 2008, and this is their third album.
They have an interesting sound. On some tracks, the instrumentation has quite an acoustic, almost bluegrass feel, especially on “You Are The Light”, “Cicerone” and “Levee Breaks”.
“Running Games” has some nice harmony vocals, quite Eagles-ish, but with a more bluegrassy backing., Quite different. Whilst “Lighten The Load” has more of a mainstream sound, but works as well.
The O’s have quite a different sound. Not mainstream Country by any means, but worth a listen.
DAVE CLEMO is a sixty something British singer songwriter, who has been around the scene for a while. Born in Cornwall, but moved to London at an early age. He’s played in folk, rock and pop bands, before retiring to Somerset in the 1990’s, when he started to develop his songwriting.
His latest solo album, “Hard Times” features eleven original songs.
The songs are a bit hard to categorise. They are Dave Clemo songs!
I liked “I Aint Quittin” for it’s message, “Any Road” for it’s outlaw/Texan feel; and “I’m To Busy Drinking For Thinking” for it’s simple arrangement.
There’s a good strumming guitar on “I Fought The Battle (You Won The War), whilst “I Used To Be A Preacher” has quite a bluesy feel.
It’s a interesting album. www.daveclemo.co.uk
Finally this time around, a 5 track EP from a new young lady on the scene. KINSEY ROSE hails from Louisville, Kentucky, but is based in Nashville these days. She is a much in demand demo singer, sings the national anthem at the Nashville Predators Ice Hockey games, and has a regular Tuesday night gig at a Music City Honky Tonk called Rippy’s.
She caught the eye of Ken MacLeod when he was over in Tennessee last year, and Ken brought her to my attention.
She certainly has a good modern sound.
The first oif the tracks is a good radio friendly ballad called “Broken”, which we should have heard before now. “Typical Man” is a bit of a cheating song. Really Country- maybe just too Country for US radio playthese days .
“Street Of Maytown” is a strong, well produced ballad.
But it’s “Get Yer Redneck On” which stands out for me. The Gretchen Wilson influence lives on. It’s a real bright and breezy number, which Kinsey handles well.
I also enjoyed the lilting melody on “Morning Will Come”. Kinsey has been around Nashville for a few years now, honing her craft. Her day will come soon, I’m sure. The 5 track CD is available from all the usual download outlets, and check out her videos on You Tube.