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Sunday 7 June 2015

June 2015

There’s no denying that REBA MCENTIRE is one of Country Music’s leading female entertainers. She’s been at the top of her game since first bursting onto the charts back in the 1970’s. Incredibly, “Love Somebody” (Decca/Nashville Icon) is her first new release for four years.
The album sees Reba continue the sound that has made her career through the years.
The opening track, and first US single, from the album is “Going Out Like That”, a feisty upbeat female number, which certainly gets her noticed. “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” is another with a rockin’ Country beat, which Reba does so well. 
 “Until They Don’t Love You” has more of a pop sound that Country, but Reba has always been that bit more pop than Country to me. (Apart from her first few albums). The title track, actually has more of a rap feel to it – with a Country accent, if you like. Interesting mix.
There are several ballads, which would fit into pop as well as Country radio formats, such as “Promise Me Love”, and “I’ll Go On”.
There’s also a power ballad, “Enough”, which teams Reba with Jennifer Nettles.
“She Got Drunk Last Night”, “Just Like Them Horses”, “Love Land”, I felt had much more of a natural Country ballad sound.  There’s also a rather repetitive “Pray For Peace”, which was written by the icon herself.
For me, my favourite track is the very last one. “More Than Just Her Last Name” has the vintage sound that her early career was built on. It’s a nice bouncy song, co-written by c2c visitor Brandy Clark (one of three contributions from her).
Great to have Reba back with new music. If you’re a fan, you’ll want this new album.

DARIUS RUCKER has built up quite a following in recent years in American Country music. The former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman turned to Country in 2008, and quickly hit the charts with songs like “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, “Alright” and “Wagon Wheel”. He was even inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member in 2012.
Personally, I hadn’t convinced myself of Darius’ Country credentials until this new album, “Southern Style” (Humphead) found its way onto my CD player.
WOW! What a surprise I was in for.
The album opens with “Homegrown Honey”, a pop number which had previously been released as a single. This song, like much of his previous material did nothing for me.
But then “Good For A Good Time” followed, and what a great song it is. A fun, party number that really set the scene. And it just got better. “Baby I’m Right”, is a really catchy duet with the highly underated Mallary Hope. It’s the type of duet that Country was big on thirty years ago. Great to hear this style coming back, and hopefully kicks starts Mallary’s career (She was signed to MCA in 2009, but only got two singles released). The song has also been released as a single here in the UK.
The title track, “Southern Style” was another winner. A great title track, really captures the homespun feel of the south, and surely a future single.
I also enjoyed the laid back “High On Life” and “So I Sang” and the catchy “You, Me & My Guitar” and “Half Full Dixie Cup”.
A real pleasant surprise. An album that I’m really loving listening to.
Check it out.

ALLISON MOORER has been around the Country scene since the late 1990’s, after following her sister Shelby Lynne to Nashville. “Down To Believing” is her ninth album, and is available on Proper Records. It’s also her first new album for five years.
She has covered a wide musical range during her career. But I have to say, I quite like where she is on this outing.
Allison has teamed up with Kenny Greenberg, who produced her first two albums. In some ways, she’s returned to her roots, but moved ahead at the same time. She wrote 12 of the 13 songs. The exception is a wonderful cover of John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”.
The title track is a soft ballad, which Allison really delivers a strong, yet delicate vocal performance.
There’s certainly a rocky edge to many of the songs, but it’s a style that really suits Allison’s voice. Stand out tracks for my include “I Lost My Crystal Ball”, but it’s the softer ballads that really impressed me. “Blood”, is such a beautiful song.
“If I Were Stronger” and “Gonna Get It Wrong”, which closes the album, are also nice soft ballads, which she delivers well.
I’ve enjoyed some, but not all of her previous work, but this album did really impress me. Not stone Country, but if you like your music with a bit of an edge, this is for you.

Humphead’s latest “Definitive Collection” features a real legendary Country star, who stood out for his individuality. ROGER MILLER grew up in Oklahoma and began his musical career as a songwriter in the late 1950s, penning such hits as "Billy Bayou" and "Home" for Jim Reeves and "Invitation to the Blues" for Ray Price. The most notable hits of his recording career were novelty numbers like “Dang Me”, “Kansas City Star”, “England Swings” and “Do Wacka Do”, whilst his biggest success was “King Of The Road”, which has been often recorded and, indeed, parodied by others, including The Proclaimers.
This 2 CD collection features 50 of Miller’s songs, some which will be lesser known than others. You’ll probably recognise “Walking In The Sunshine”, “Engine,Engine Number Nine”, “Husbands And Wives”, “Tall Tall Trees” and “Old Toy Trains”, but others, like “You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd” or “My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died” may not be familiar to you, but worth checking out, just for the titles.
It’s 23 years since Country music lost the talent of Roger Miller. Thanks to Humphead for the memories.

Humphead have also released an interesting compilation called “Country Songs Of Faith”, which features 25 tracks from some of today’s biggest Country stars, and some who aren’t as well known in Country circles.
There’s no particular qualification for the material here. It’s basically a set of popular Country singers and songs, with a loose faith theme. The seriousness of the message varies from “Bless The Broken Road” from Rascall Flatts and Johnny Cash’ “Daddy Sang Bass”, to Craig Morgan’;s “What I Love About Sundays”. It’s a lovely song, but hardly a song of faith.
There’s Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel”, Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train”, Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” and Leann Rimes, “Ten Thousand Angels Cried”, to name just a few.
My favourite tracks would be the Kenny Chesney/Randy Travis duet on “Baptism”, or Brad Paisley & Dolly’s “When I Get To Where I’m Going”. 
It is a modern set of songs, which are aimed at the modern Country fan, rather than bible stores.   
George Jones is teamed up with Vestal Goodman for a sacred version of “Angel Band”, which is so traditional, it almost feels out of place on this “Faith” album.
At the other extreme, there’s “The Duck Dynasty Song” from Amanda Ryan !!
It’s a nice listen, not too serious. A chance to feel the faith without going to church.

STEVE WARINER is one of the nicest guys in Country music. He was a popular artist on the Nashville charts, notching up almost 50 Country hits from the late 70’s right through to the mid nineties, ten of them hitting the Number One spot.
He started off on RCA, where I, personally think he did his best stuff. But it was his years at MCA in the second half of the 80’s which were certainly his most successful.
Now Humphead have captured these years with the release of “Heart Trouble: The Best Of The MCA Years”. The double CD set features 40 of his hits from the period including chart toppers like “Some Fools Never Learn”, “You Can Dream On Me” and “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, a duet he recorded with Glen Campbell.
I really enjoyed Steve Wariner’s music back then, and I really enjoyed reliving the 80’s with this collection.

Next up, we have , not one, but two CD’s from Duke Boy and Northern Nashville Festival compere GEORGE MALCOLM.
The first CD, “Inspiration” is mainly original songs written by George. You may recognise some of the songs. The opening track, “Broken Hearts And Broken Dreams”, was the title track to one of the Dukes old vinyl albums. The songs on this album, vary from the pleading “Lost Love” and the self pity of “Lightning Wont Strike Me Down”, to the bright & breezy “Room Full Of Roses” and “Goodbye Norma Jean”.
One track that really caught the ear was “Country Music”, another Dukes number from way back. It’s a fun number, but George has added to the arrangement, with some non Country instruments like sax. Surprisingly, it works really well.
The one track that George didn’t write is “Bright Lights Of Dallas”, which was written for The Dukes by Tam White.
The CD cover features various members of his family, who he cites as being his inspirations.
The second CD, “ A Man This Lonely”, features covers of Country hits like “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes”, “Blackboard Of My Heart”, “Pop A Top” and “Seven Spanish Angels”.
The title track is a cover of a Brooks & Dunn song. He also covers Buck Owens, George Jones and The Statlers numbers.
Both albums were self recorded by George in his Caithness backroom. He does a really good job at delivering the songs, whether his own, or covers of others.
Check them out.

Irish born NORMAN BORLAND has been a popular name on the Scottish scene for some years. We lost him for a wee while, when he moved to Australia, but he’s back in Scotland, with a new album, “I’m Just Me”.
The album, recorded at Glasgow’s Stealth Studios, features a good mix of 16 tracks.
Songs vary from “classics” like “Ashes Of Love”, “Ring Of Fire” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again”, to newer covers like “Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Wagon Wheel”. There’s a little Irish influence on “Home To Donegal” and Derek Ryan’s “Life Is A River”.
The title track is an old Charley Pryde number, It’s a song that suits Norman to a tee.
I really enjoyed this album. Norman is in fine voice, and the production is first class.  Make sure you pick up a copy when he play’s near you, or get a copy direct from

Another home grown offering comes from Glasgow based sextet JAMES EDWYN & THE BORROWED BAND, who were formed in 2013.  The group features Edwyn, alongside Emma Joyce, Scott Keenan, Ronnie Gilmour, Ross McLaughlin and Neil McDonald.
Their debut album, “The Tower” features 12 songs written by the frontman.
McDonald & Gilmour produced the album, at the band’s own “The Cell” studio and at New College Lanarkshire. There was also a session recorded in the Czech Republic, with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, with Roddy Hart guesting on the vocals on “The Last Waltz”.
The album kicks off with an uptempo guitar strumming number, “A New Arrival”, which certainly stirred my interest in the album. It’s followed by the quirky “On Meeting The Man In The Suit”, which kept the tempo up.
“Progress” has quite an upbeat feel to it, with some nice harmonies in the mix. Probably my favourite track on the album. There are a number of slower, more haunting songs, with the harmonies adding nice touches to songs like “Something Cold”
“Epilogue”, is, as you would expect, the closing track to the album. It’s quite an anthem, with a chorus and handclaps from the college students. 
They don’t claim to be Country. In fact their bio labels them “a mix of alt country and folk rock roots-orientated Americana”.  Whatever, it’s not a bad listen.

Next we have something definitely Country.
Caithness visitor JUSTIN TREVINO’s latest album is a little self-indulgence in the form of a tribute to his boyhood hero Johnny Bush. Bush is something of a legend in Texas, but is probably best known outside of the lone star state for writing Willie Nelson’s hit “Whiskey River”. He played, with Willie, in Ray Price’s band.
In later year’s Justin played in Johnny Bush’s band, and heavily influenced the young Trevino, who, in turn is helping influence Texas honky tonk music worldwide.
“Justin Trevino sings Johnny Bush”(Heart Of Texas), is by no means, Justin’s first acknowledgment of his musical hero, but here, he devotes a full album to Bush. Not that they are all written by Bush. Some of the songs are written by big name Nashville writers like Larry Kingston, Harlan Howard, Dallas Frazier and Glenn Sutton. Johnny Bush only wrote two of the songs: the slower, steel guitar laden, “Conscience Turn Your Back”, and, of course, “Whiskey River”. 
Indeed, the first track, is written by Justin himself, recalling “One Night At A Johnny Bush Dance”, which really kicks the album off in true Texas honky tonk style. The whole album has, as you would expect, a real Texas feel to it.
Justin produced the album himself, with musicians like Jake Hooker, Jim Loessberg and Jade Jack (Stone) adding to the sound.
He proved himself at the Caithness Festival, to be an extremely talented, and respected musician. This album is great testament to that.

Another Heart Of Texas artist that we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing over here yet, is KAYE TOLSON. Her album, “Share My World” is a very enjoyable listen. Perhaps a bit more gospel than the usual honky tonk fayre from Heart Of Texas, Kaye has a lovely voice, with some great musical accompaniment, from the likes of Justin Trevino, Jake Hooker, Randy Lindley and Hank Singer.
The album kicks off with a swinging version of the old Ray Price hit, “I’ll Be There”, followed by Ian Tyson’s classic, “Someday Soon”. Her version of this song, is heavily laced with some beautiful steel guitar licks courtesy of Jim Loessberg.
Her gospel offerings include “He Picked Me Up”, “Jesus Hears, He Cares, He Can”, “Once Upon A Hill” and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”. I really enjoyed these songs.
But she can do a great Country song too. She ups the tempo on Billy Sherrill’s “Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home”, and slows it down on Highway 101’s “The Blame”, Rhonda Vincent’s (Carl Jackson) “I’m Not Over You” and Charley Pryde’s “Old Love Turned Memory”.
The album was produced by Justin Trevino, who duets with Kaye on “I’ll Share My World With You”.
I was really impressed with this album. I look forward to hearing more from Kaye in the future.

Bakersfield is suddenly becoming cool again. Alabama born GRANT LANGSTON moved out west and found himself playing, what he says, is “the roots music that Nashville didn’t want”. He’s had five albums released, and his latest “Hope You’re Happy Now” (Californian Roots Union) will further his career. This is my first listen to him, but apparently this album does indicate a shift away from a hard edged telecaster Country sound, that he was his stock & trade.
According to the press release, this album is “chock full of booze, broken dreams and busted marriages- but this record is dark, moody and veers into downright sombre”.
I can’t say that would be my description of an album, which I really quite enjoyed listening too.
Like the album cover, I detected a bit of a nostalgic sound. Some of it, not particularly Country sounding, but other tracks certainly were.
There’s quite a honky tonk feel to the album from the steel influenced opener, “Drive” to the closing “Me And Margaret”.
“The Trigger” is quite a simple, “me & my guitar” type arrangement, which is really effective. ”Me And The Missus” is similar.
 “I Work Too Hard” is much more uptempo. It’s much more of a honky tonk type song, which I really liked. “The Nonsense” is also quite a breezy track.
“The Only One” is a very soft ballad that really suited his style.
It’s certainly a different sound. But I really liked it, for being different.

KEITH SHAW is a singer songwriter from Berkshire who has just released “Ghosts” (Silver Heart), the follow up album  to last year’s “Dreams”. Keith is no newcomer to the scene. He’s played in various bands over the years, most notably, “Country Network”, which began as a six piece, and ended as a duo.
This album features eight tracks, all self penned. Most are soft ballads.
“We Will Be There” is the most uptempo track, whilst “I Wont Be Coming Home” is a mid tempo number.
“The Wine Goes Down” stands out for me. It has a bit of a stronger arrangement. “Daniel” also quite a good story to it.
A nice easy on the ear album.

Sarah Ogan Gunning sang lead with Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie back in the 1930’s. In the 60’s she performed with Pete Seeger at Newport. Now Sarah’s memory is recalled in a new album from SUE MASSEK, who has performed traditional music for the past half century as a solo act, and as a banjo player with The Reel World String Band.
“Precious Memories” (Strictly Country (NL) is based on a musical theatre production scripted by the legendary folk singer songwriter Si Kahn, which has played venues around Appalachia and the South in recent years.
It features an array of traditional sounding songs, many, but not all, from Sarah Ogan Gunning. Many are based on the mining industry in Kentucky. Some of the songs are familiar. The opening track, “Down On The Picket Line” is perhaps better known in post “Oh Brother” days as “Down To The River To Pray”, and there’s Sue’s gender changed “Girl Of Constant Sorrow”, another “Oh Brother” favourite, but you’d never recognise the traditional version here.  The title track is the old gospel classic.  There are a few bonus track’s featuring Si Kahn and her brother Jim Garland.
Obviously, George Clooney’s “Oh Brother” film has inspired a lot of interest in the traditional music of Appalachia, but Sue, Si, and Alice Gerrard, who also guests on the album, have taken the music right back to it’s roots.
A few years ago, Kathy Mattea’s “Coal” album covered a lot of the same ground, though not the same songs. But Sue has really stretched back to capture a real authentic sound of the era.  
A hauntingly beautiful album, it has to be said.

Another old timey album comes from JOHN McCUTCHEON, an American folk singer, who is best known for “Christmas In The Trenches”, the inspirational story about the World War One truce. His 37th album, is “Joe Hill’s Last Will” (Appalsongs), an album devoted to the music, and memory of a Swedish-American labour activist  and writer, who was killed by firing squad 100 years ago this year.  It’s not a particularly Country album, but you’ll recognise a few songs, or at least tunes. “It’s A Long Way To The Soup Line”, is the same tune as “Tipperary”, and there’s “Casey Jones”.

DAN WEBER is a songwriter from Rochester, New York, who now calls Vancouver home.
“What I’m Lookin’ For” (Highway 142) is his second release, and features a good mix of self written material.
The title track has an old west feel to it, which leads nicely into “Do You Ride Horses” and “Cowboy Style”.  “I Deal With Crazy All Day” and the Waylon sounding “Leaving Texas” are both good catchy upbeat song.
“Pretty Good Tonight”, has a good upbeat Country feel to it, whilst “Ain’t Done Ramblin’ Yet” is a bouncy bluegrass influenced number, whilst “Oh Woody” has a traditional Woody Guthrie style. “Separate Ways” is a very slow and sensitive ballad.

It’s an interesting listen. I enjoyed it.   

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