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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.

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