It’s great to be able to feature so many homegrown artists amongst our reviews this time around. But we’re starting off the new year, with a look back at some of the best British Country tracks of the past year. Each month, DJ’s around Europe are serviced with The Hotdisc, which Jackie Blair tells you about in each edition of CMDS. At the end of each year Silver Heart Records make the “Best Of British & Irish Country” available for sale to Country fans at a great price.
The 2014 collection features 18 tracks, from well established names like Charlie Boston, Gary Curtis and Mexican Joe Walker.
There are plenty Scottish Connections, with Megan Adams, a talented youngster from Stirling, who got a lot of attention for her version of The Dixie Chick’s “Travelling Soldier”. Such an appropriate song, given Megan’s role in The Poppy Girls group, who performed on the Festival Of Remembrance in 2013. You may recall Megan stealing the show by running off to meet her Dad, who had come back from military service to surprise her! Young Megan does a great version of the song, and I love the pipes on it too.
Another Stirling connection is Kathryn Anderson, who, although lives in the South Of England now, is originally from the city. Her original song, “The Road Less Travelled” is featured on this compilation, and you’ll read more about Kathryn farther down the page.
From The Borders, George Inglis brings us “A Horse Called Bob”, which is a really catchy number.
Then we have Dave Sherriff and his road anthem, “Highway Number Nine”, about the road to The Highlands. There’s also Sam Hollyman’s “Where I Wanna Be”, which is not a bad song, and we’re glad that Sam wants to be in Scotland, but his notion that “there’s only two weeks of summer up in Scotland”, didn’t win him any favours from me!
There are two tracks each from Tony Clarke and Mim Grey, plus a slow ballad from The Diablos, a western influenced instrumental, “Trail Of Tears”, from Rob Allen, and tracks from Atlanta, and The Hicksville Band.
My own highlights would include the really well titled “Bright Side of Life” from Hayley Oliver, and the Texas influenced Ian Highland/Frank Jennings collaboration on “Pride”.
But altogether, a great package of homegrown Country music, which shows just how good we can do it over here.
Buying this CD would be a great way of supporting our own British Country music artists.
You’ll can buy the whole album, or individual tracks from ITunes, or if you want a physical CD, check out www.hotdisc.co.uk/shop1.htm
In the last issue we introduced you to Glasgow singer songwriter MARTHA L HEALY, with her Acoustic EP. Well, she launched her full Nashville recorded CD “Better Days” at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on St. Andrews Night, and what a superb album it is.
The title track kicks it all off with some lovely Cajun accordion. It’s a good time uptempo fun song to get things started with.
“The Lovin’ Kind”, which follows, is a very interesting track. The intro has quite an “eastern” feel to it, but once into the song, Martha delivers a great vocal performance like one of the 60’s pop divas.
“Enough”, “13 Hours”, “House Of Love” and “Shame,Shame,Shame” are sensitive ballads which Martha proves she can handle as well as the fun infused “Too Much Vodka”, which comes from the pen of Wendy Newcomer.
“Burtonport” stands out for being different. The song digs into Martha’s Irish heritage, but also comes over with an old southern Texas feel to it. It’s about the village where Martha’s Nana grew up in Co. Donegal in Ireland. It's the story of how she passed on a strong sense of identity and roots down through the generations. A real personal song that really works.
Martha has a lot of soul in her voice, which she uses to best effect across the album. With simple musical arrangements, and boosted by Rory Hoffman’s accordion, this is an exceptionally strong debut album.
You must give her a listen.
From Scotland’s Far North, comes one of our longest surviving bands. THE DYNAMOS who go back to the early 1960’s, and their latest outing is a look back at their history in the aptly titled “50 Years And More” (Pan Records). The band have seen more than a few changes in line up over the years, with only drummer Robert Cameron lasting the course. Robert’s shares some great memories in the extremely fascinating CD booklet.
There were many vocalists throughout the past 50+ years, and this album features eight singers from the past to the present- Anne Duff, Geordie Jack, Brian Henderson, Heather Mackay, David Shearer, Manson Grant, and the newer breed of Keith Macleod and Brandon McPhee.
The Dynamos are known for their versatility, and the ability to change styles from Country to Pop to Scottish with ease. Where else would you find “Loch Lomond” and “Beer Barrel Polka” alongside “I Knew The Bride” , “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “Farewell Party”. It’s a format that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do for many years to come.
I really enjoyed reading about the Dynamo’s half century, and the songs that have meant so much to them, and their fans. There’s also a DVD which shares even more memories.
Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of the death of Jim Reeves, who, to this day, remains one of Country music’s favourite singers. Elgin’s IAN GREIG has marked the event by sharing some of his memories of Gentleman Jim, on “Jim Reeves Remembered” (Pan Records).
The album kicks off with a “Tribute To Jim Reeves”, the old Larry Cunningham hit, and closes with Ian’s own self penned tribute, and in between ten of Jim’s songs that struck a chord with Ian.
Many tribute albums to Jim have concentrated on his vast array of hits, but Ian has avoided the most obvious covers, although he does cover “I Love You Because”, the first Jim Reeves song he heard on the jukebox. That was certainly sixpence well spent!
Elsewhere, there’s “I’m Gonna Change Everything”, “Across The Bridge”, “This World Is Not My Home” and “You Kept Me Awake Last Night”.
As Ian says on the CD sleeve notes, he has tried to pay tribute to his hero, not by mocking his voice, but by singing his songs. Having said that, Ian’s voice certainly suits these songs to a tee.
The album was recorded in Wick, with additional recording in Nashville by Phil Anderson, including Hank Singer on fiddle, and vocal harmonies by Marcia Ramirez, a Nashville singer songwriter, who has also appeared on dozens of CD’s from Nashville stars like Rodney Crowell, Hank Williams Jr and Billy Dean,
Ian has come up with a wonderful tribute to his hero. Jim would’ve been proud, I’m sure.
KATHRYN ANDERSON, although based in the south of England, was born in Stirling. She is a singer songwriter and has just recently spent a month in Nashville working on new songs, and picking up some local gigs like Tootsie’s. In the meantime, we can listen to “The Road Less Travelled” a six track CD recorded on a previous visit to Music City.
The EP features a couple of tracks that have already been sent to radio, including “Write a Letter” and “Just Another Country Song”. Both are catchy numbers, which have won her many fans. “Wrong Side Of The Radio” is also one that I think would work at radio.
The title track is a good upbeat number to kick off the CD, but the one that really impressed me was “Guitar For Sale”. Don’t know if it’s based on a personal experience, but it’s about having to leave her beloved guitar behind, because the airline won’t let her carry it on board. Only a songwriter could come up with such a traumatic problem, and then sing about it. Great song.
Really enjoyed this CD, and look forward to hear more before long.
Check her out @ www.kathrynandersonmusic.com
Another Scottish release is from the GLG BAND, from The Borders. George L Goodfellow has been playing music since the late sixties, originally in a folk band, but most recently collaborating on writing songs with American based musicians. “Distractions” is his 5th album, and features 14 tracks all written, or co-written by George.
The album features a nice selection of songs, most notably the opening track, “I Miss You Already”, “When I Walk” and “Tell Me”.
“Ava’s Song”, “What Is It I’ve Done Wrong” and “Ah’m Thinkin” are a bit more uptempo, and “These Four Walls” stands out for being really traditional Country.
“Old Home Movies” is quite a catchy number, which is possibly the one most likely to pick up airplay.
There are also two songs, which feature Hawick songstress Lois Niblo, “No Dignity”, which is a duet, and “Are You Sure”, which she leads.
It’s a really pleasant listen, and worth checking out.
TRISHA YEARWOOD is one of my favourite singers. It’s incredible to think that it’s 24 years since caught our attention with “She’s In Love With The Boy”, after which she notched up an impressive list of hits and sales of 15 million albums worldwide.
She has been a bit quiet on the charts in recent years, concentrating on her Cookery TV show in America, publishing cook books, getting a few acting roles, and, of course, fulfilling her role as Mrs Garth Brooks!.
But Ms Yearwood is back, with a new album, or perhaps we should say half a new album, in “Prizefighter” (RCA). For some reason, the label have released 6 new songs, and packaged them with 10 previously released numbers. Now, on one hand, familiarity sells, but for Trisha’s long time fans, six new songs after a seven year hiatus, is not great value, especially if you have most of the previously released hits.
Having said that, it was good to hear songs like “Walkaway Joe”, “How Do I Live” (much better than Leann’s version), and “The Song Remembers When” again. But I’ve got several hits albums already with these hits.
Of the new songs, the album kicks off with a duet with Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first American Idol TV show. The song, whilst having the Yearwood stamp on it, is a bit more poppy than we’re used to from Trisha. It’s a good solid radio friendly hit, which should get her back on radio.
The other new songs are mainly ballads, including the soft “I Remember You”, and “The End Of The World”, (not the Skeeter Davis hit).
“Your Husband’s Cheatin’ On Us”, is a haunting bluesy number, in “Ode To Billy Joe” style, which came from Matraca Berg’s pen. It’s an interesting track, but, didn’t really appeal to me.
She really rocks it up on “You Cant Trust The Weatherman”. It’s not her usual style, but she does a good job with this track.
However, the one that’s getting a lot of attention is “Met Him In A Motel Room”, co-written by Rory Feek (Joey & Rory). It’s a beautifully crafted song, and Trisha delivers it with style. Great job.
It’s a really good album. Great if you don’t have a lot of Trish’s music, but if you’re a fan, you might just feel a little short changed.
Since WILLIE NELSON turned 80, he has showed no sign of slowing down with his CD releases.
“December Day” (Sony) is Vol.1 of Willie’s Stash, a planned series of archive recordings, that may never have been released before.
This particular 18 track CD features his sister, Bobbie, on keyboards, and indeed, shares the credits.
Willie has covered a whole spectrum of musical styles, and quite a few of his albums, like the legendary “Stardust” album, was more jazz, than Country. This album, falls into the same category.
The simple arrangements, the laid back styles, not to mention songs like Irving Berlin’s “Alexanders Ragtime Band” , “What’ll I Do” and “Always” ; Al Johnson’s “Anniversary Song” , and even “Mona Lisa”, emphasis that. But there are also a number of Willie’s own compositions, including “Who’ll Buy The Memories” and “My Own Peculiar Way”.
Willie’s voice is unique, and, if you’re a fan of the man, it’s a must for your collection, but it’s not the most Country sounding album he has released.
Staying over to Texas, we have a really refreshing new sound from KIMMIE RHODES. Her latest album, released here in March, to coincide with a tour of Ireland & England is called “Cowgirl Boudoir” (Sunbird Records).
An accomplished singer-songwriter, Kimmie has 14 previous albums to her credit, and has had her songs recorded by Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd and Trisha Yearwood, to name just three.
This album features a variety of styles, including some mainstream Country tracks.
There’s some outstanding steel licks on “Lover Killing Time”, which Kimmie delivers vocally in a traditional honky tonk styling.
“Trouble Is” and “Yes” also sound traditional Country. Other tracks, like “None Of Us Are Innocent” and “The Sky Fell Down” owe more to a sixties pop influence.
“Me Again”, is a soft bouncy number, whilst “Don’t Leave Me Like This” is a very pretty arrangements, which really sparkles.
It’s an interesting album. One I really enjoyed listening too.
So many of today’s Country musicians, especially those down in Texas cite RAY PRICE as their biggest influence. Ray was a huge Country star from as back as the 1940’s right through until his death in 2013.
His music ranged from Western Swing right across to polished ballads. He worked until late in his career, and had been working on a new album before he died.
That album, “Beauty Is … The Final Sessions” has now been released (AmeriMonte label), as a fitting tribute, It features two songs featuring Vince Gill, and one duet with Martina McBride.
The album is mostly stringed ballads. Ray was certainly still in fine voice right until the end. The songs are not exactly my cup of tea, but I can appreciate a golden voice when I hear it.
You’ll recognise a few of the standards, like “Beautiful Dreamer”, “I Wish I was Eighteen Again”, “Among My Souvenirs”, and “I Believe”.
How sadly appropriate is “No More Songs To Sing”.
A legend… sadly missed.
Humphead Records keep coming up with classic reissues, and their latest is an absolute beauty. FARON YOUNG was one of Country music’s leading figures back in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. He notched up 89 Country chart hits over a 36 year period, with Number One’s like “Live Fast Love Hard Die Young”, “Hello Walls” and “Four In The Morning”.
“Wine Me Up : The Best Of The Mercury Years” covers Young’s career from the mid sixties (he was with Capitol previously) . Included are three duets with Margie Singleton. It’s a double CD, with 50 tracks.
There hasn’t been a lot of Faron Young music on the market in recent times. This is a great reminder of his music.
To Canada next, and a self released CD from CHRIS CULGIN, who hails from the Peterborough, Ontario area. His album, “It’s Only Time”, is a real feel good album, with, largely upbeat songs about various aspects of rural life.
He doesn’t have a Nashville sound. But it’s a real Country sound, with a bit of rural rock thrown in. Not too unlike John Cougar Mellencamp or Neil Young. As well as playing clubs around Ontario, he’s one of the impressive band of musicians you hear playing around Toronto’s subway stations.
It all kicks off with “You Were Always Dancing”, which has some nice memories about “playing a 78”. The song kind of sums up what music is all about.
“Hell’s A Box House” is really fast paced, whilst “Clutter” has a much softer beat.
“Car Crash” has a nice catchy feel to it, which I quite liked.
“Ex” is a cracker. It tells about how TV soaps do reflect small village life, as he talks about romantic problems, with lines like, “You Ex is the mother of your best friend’s kid”, “she used to be yours, then she was mine, and I hear our friend Mike is waiting in line”. It’s got a good beat, and some nice steel & fiddle too. I really liked “Never Learned To Read” too- a good upbeat radio friendly number.
There’s an interesting instrumental in “Cowgirl Song”. It’s not too many instrumentals you hear today, that entertain you, rather than just a musician playing around to fill a spot on an album.
Then there’s the hidden track. The final track, “Caught Myself in A Wind”, is a rather slow atmospheric number, which runs to over 5 minutes. If you let the CD run, after over 2 ½ minutes of dead air, Chris is back with a belter of a Country song, “The Less I Know”. There’s lots of fiddle & steel, a great Country beat, and my favourite track on the album. But why hide it, Chris ?
Loved the album, nevertheless.
ANNIE KEATING is one of these American singer songwriters who find themselves popular with European audiences. She has toured Scotland several times, and played the Glasgow Americana Festival.
Her new album, “Make Believing” is completely self written, and co produced with Jason Mercer, who also plays bass, double bass, banjo, and guitar on the album.
“Coney Island” kicks off the album, and is a nice introduction to the 11 track collection. The addition of Trina Hamlin’s harmonica really adds something to one of the stand out tracks on the album.
“Sink Or Swim” is a little more upbeat, and features a bit more instrumentation, but still works well. “Know How To Fall” is another quick paced track, whilst “Sunny Dirt Road” is an easy listening trip off the beaten track, and “Still Broken” is a very fragile song.
But the song that stands out for me is “One Good Morning”, with it’s catchy banjo and fiddle. It’s really bright & breezy.
It’s a nice album. Worth checking her out.
THE MULLIGAN BROTHERS got great reviews for their first album , released in 2013. Now the Mobile, Alabama, based quartet are back with a new album, “Via Portland”. They have quite a laid back soft southern sound, not unlike the likes of Jackson Browne, or even, it has been suggested our own Sutherland Brothers & Quiver!
The vocals from Ross Newell are certainly radio friendly, and he also wrote most of the songs on the 11 track collection.
The collection kicks off with a rather haunting, and sensitive “Wait For Me”, which is followed by the slightly more mainstream, “City Full Of Streets”, which isn’t unlike some of the more recent Tim McGraw tracks. “I Don’t Want To Know”, is a bit more uptempo, as is “So Are You”.
“The Road That Leads Me Home” is quite a nice melodic track, but the track that really worked for me, was the more uptempo “Louise”.
An interesting album, and the fact that it’s released here, would suggest that their working on playing over here. Look out for them.
Finally, Memphis born, Nashville based singer songwriter, DREW HOLCOMB was over here for the recent Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, and to tie in with the visit, his latest album, “Medicine” was given a UK release (Magnolia Music).
The album, all written by Drew, was recorded over an eight day period, in East Nashville. The songs cover topics as diverse as loyalty, hardship, marriage, alienation and faith.
From the gentle opener “American Beauty”, the album rises to an almost rowdy atmosphere on “Shine Like Lightning” (courtesy of his band, The Neighbors).
Elsewhere, “You’ll Always Be My Girl” with its’ minimal keyboard arrangement was just beautiful.
The outstanding track, though, was “I’ve Got You”, which features some nice harmonies from “Neighbor”, wife Ellie. There’s some nice whistles on it too.
In the main, it’s an album of ballads, which are quite listenable. The exception would be the rather rocky “The Last Thing We Do”, which, in my opinion, didn’t fit in with the rest of the album. But then, you can’t satisfy everyone.