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Sunday 29 November 2015

Dec 2015

In the run up to Christmas, there’s loads of new releases to tell you about this time around. We’ll start off with our own home grown talents.
JACQUI SHARKEY is a Glasgow girl making a name for herself across in Ireland. Her third album, “Shine” has just been released, and is a mix of self penned & original numbers, and a few chosen covers.
The West Donegal based singer songwriter has one of the most beautiful voices around, with more than a canny resemblance to that of Anne Murray. That’s quite evident on the opening track, a beautiful ballad called “You’re The Reason”, one of three self penned songs on the album.  But Jacqui’s much more than an Anne Murray soundalike, as a listen to this album demonstrates.
Long time songwriting buddy Ian Smith, from Kilmarnock, co-wrote another beautiful ballad called “I’ll Be Missing You” with the Scots born singer.
But she proves that she can rock it up too, with the catchy “Let The Sun Shine On Me”, from which the album title comes.  There’s a bit of blues thrown into the mix, but works really well. There’s also some neat fiddle from multi talented Rob Hajacos, who has appeared on everyone from Alan Jackson to Glen Campbell albums.
Ian Smith also teamed up with Irish songwriter Jody Gallagher to contribute the upbeat “Arabica Blues”. It’s quite a different sound for Jacqui, but works well.
Another Irish songwriter Shunie Crampsey wrote the gorgeous “Take Me To Paris”, a song that Jacqui had released as a single a while back.  He also contributed “In Chicago”, another really beautiful song that suits Jacqui’s romantic vocals to a tee.
There’s also an original song from the New England songwriting duo of Marla Rubenstein & Fran Beaudet, called “Still Hoping”.
The covers on the album cover a wide range of styles from the bluegrassy “Lonesome Standard Time”, previously recorded by Kathy Mattea, The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive” (written by Jim Capaldi , Paul Carrack and Peter Vale), Patty Loveless “Blame It On Your Heart”, Allison Moorer’s “A Soft Place To Fall” and she also does Shania’s “Dance With The One”. 
To round it all off, she does a stunning version of the traditional Irish song, “Carrickfergus”, which runs to over 6 minutes.
Recorded in Errigal Studios in Donegal, Jacqui co-produced the album with Seamus McGhee, and features notable musicians like Ray McLoughlin, Des Sheerin and Jonathan Owens.
Jacqui has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and has really crafted her music on this album. Just the right balance of old & new, fast and slow. An absolutely stunning album, one that will definitely put a “Shine” to your CD collection.

Another Glasgow girl, who now calls Ireland home, is LISA McHUGH. She has never looked back since moving to Enniskillen to pursue her Irish Country music career a few years back. With total respect to the legends of the scene from generations ahead of her, Lisa found her place, and is now firmly establishing her own mark on the Irish Country music scene.
Her latest album. “Wildfire” is certainly proof of that. When talking with Lisa prior to the album release, she promised, ”some modern, some classics, and some fun”. She sure has provided that.
Several tracks have already been pushed out as singles, including the catchy CD opener, “Mean”, and her cover of Aussie group The McClymonts’ “Favourite Boyfriend Of The Year”, which she debuted on the glitzy Irish TV Country Awards Show.  There’s also the duet with Nathan Carter on “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, as they recreate the old Kenny & Dolly hit.
The classics include “57 Chevrolet”, Shania’s early hit “Dance With The One” and Carlene Carter’s “Every Little Thing”.  She gives new life to “Livin’ in These Troubled Times”, which Crystal Gayle had a hit with, way back in the early 80’s before Lisa was born. (I suspect Lisa’s version will be more likely to have been inspired by Maura O’Connell’s later version). Then there’s Dylan’s “Banks Of The Ohio”, most famously a hit for Olivia Newton John. Lisa has stripped the arrangement right back and it comes out as a beautifully haunting folk ballad, a style which I really think Lisa excels in.
Another song that picks up on the same style is the Victoria Shaw song “Never Alone”, which I first heard The Rankin Family do a few years ago. I never thought anyone could deliver such a stunning version as they did, but Lisa certainly comes close.
The fun comes over in “Bring On The Good Times”, written by Donegal singer songwriters Jody Gallagher & Mickey Joe Harte, and also on “Wildfire” which is the title track to the album.
There is a “hidden” track, an acoustic cover of Ed Sheerin’s “Thinking Out Loud, which Lisa delivers well.
It’s another winner from Lisa McHugh. Her fame is certainly spreading like “Wildfire”.

THE MAIRS FAMILY BAND are Scotland’s premier bluegrass band. Previously known as New Redwing, the group consists Mum & Dad Louise & Alan, and daughter Hazel, with the addition of Danny Hart.
Over the years, their family harmonies and neat picking on traditional bluegrass instruments, including dobro, double bass, banjo & acoustic guitar have won them much admiration at both home and abroad.
Their new album, simply called “Live !”, gives the game away. Yes, recorded live, at both The Moniaive Bluegrass Festival, and at The Meeting Place, Rutherglen, where the group host monthly acoustic evenings.
The album features 9 tracks, a mix of classics like “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” and “Jimmy Brown The Newsboy”, and newer covers like Alecia Nugent’s “The First Mistake” and Peter Rowan’s “You Taught Me How To Lose”, alongside an instrumental and gospel numbers. There’s even one of their own songs, “No Words”.
And it all rounds off with Hazel’s rousing version of “Rocky Top”.
The Mairs Family Band are well worth catching live every month at The Meeting Place, or wherever they play. This album really catches the live feel of the band.
Superb stuff !

JOHNNY CORRIGAN is a Glasgow born singer songwriter, who certainly made impressions with his last album, “Inchfad Drive”. As the publicity sent out with his latest album, “Down The Line” points out, the previous release was essentially a rock album, yet it was nominated at the UK Country Music awards. Similarly, despite containing not one word of Gaelic, it was Album of the week on Radio Nan Gaidheal.
“Down The Line” is no more Country than his last offering, but there is obviously an appeal amongst Country fans for Johnny Corrigan’s music.
The title track is a slow, sensitive number, which I really quite enjoyed. Indeed most of the songs are quite slow, including “If I Had” and “One Way Train”.
The more uptempo songs, including “Hallie-Luiah” sound quite Country, with some nice steel in the mix. This was certainly my stand out track.
“Stay Young”, which closes the album, features some lovely harmony from Irish songstress Heidi Talbot.
The musicians include top notch players like Alan Thomson, John McCusker and Stuart Nesbit, and was recorded at Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow (not to be confused with Castle Campbell in Dollar, also known as the Castle of Doom).
It’s a nice listenable album, although not one for the hardest core Country fan.

Moving on to a recent visitor to our shores next.
BARBARA NESBITT is originally from Georgia, but her pursuit of music took her on a trail from Virginia, to San Diego, and most recently to Austin Texas. Scotland also figures in her musical journey having returned here in October for several dates across the country, in support of her latest album, “Almost Home”.
This is her third album, and the follow up to “The Bees”, which introduced her to Scottish fans four years ago.  This album really delivers Barbara’s strong, but delicate vocals, dressed with some absolutely stunning arrangements, thanks to players like Kim Deschamps on pedal steel & dobro, and Dennis Caplinger on Fiddle and Banjo.
Indeed, the title track, is heavily steel laden. A beautiful song that really invites the listener in for more.
Most of the songs are self penned ballads, and I really enjoyed “Graceless”, which really shows off her voice against the most simple backing.
The one is a bit different, is the more upbeat “Never Been in Love”, with some really quirky lyrics, and some superb fiddle & banjo. Stand out track for me.
All the songs are written by Barbara, except her catchy cover of Kasey Chambers’ “Sweetest Waste Of Time”, which is a duet with drummer Bill Coombes. They do a really neat version of it here.
It’s a lovely album from a lovely lady. If you missed her on tour, get a copy of the album. You won’t want to miss her next time!

Around 15 years ago, I picked up an album by a Texan singer STEPHANIE URBINA JONES, and really enjoyed her music. Now her 5th album “Fiery Angel” has just been released.
In that time Stephanie has transformed herself into the Queen Of Tex Mex, with a mix of Latin and American Country  music.
To be fair, there were influences of this back on that first album, and this latest album shows that there is much more to her than the Latin sound.
The opening track, definitely, has more salsa that steel. It’s a really catchy number called “Vamanos”, and that style is also strong on “Revolution” and “I Wanna Dance With You”, which really had that Mavericks feel to it.
But there is more to this girl than the tex mex image.
The title track is much more of a ballad, with gospel overtones, complete with choir.
“Life’s Too Short” is a good upbeat contemporary song, which wouldn’t be out of place on a mainstream Nashville album. “Hold Me Until The Lonelies Are Gone” and Run Out Of Road” are also upbeat, whilst “Rose In The Wreckage” and “The Resurrection Of My Heart” are delicate ballads. There’s also a sensitive cover of Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night”.
“He Reminds Of Texas”, stands out for me, as the strongest Country song. This song is a re-recording of the same song I had on that first album. It’s obviously been a good song for her over the years.
Stephanie wrote 10 of the 12 tracks on the album, which was recorded in Franklin Tennessee with a mix of Nashville and Texan players.
It’s a really bright and breezy album. A breath of fresh air, and well worth checking out.
Stephanie, apparently was over here in the summer playing at an Americana music event in Perthshire. Hopefully she’ll come back before long, and not keep her visit a secret next time.

ASHLEY MONROE is one of the more Country artists in Nashville these days. The Knoxville born singer has released a couple of previous albums, which really won over those who heard them. She is also one of the Pistol Annies supergroup, which also features 6 times CMA Female Vocalist of The Year Miranda Lambert.
Ashley’s career stalled at first. Her first album, and tracks from it, escaped rather than being released with proper promotion. Her second album, “Like A Rose” was released in 2013 and included songs like “You Aint Dolly (And You Aint Porter), a duet with Blake Shelton, which did well on European Country charts, more so than in her homeland.
But the release of “The Blade”, her new album, shot right to No.1 in the US Country chart, and Ashley Monroe has finally taken her place on the American Country scene. It has now been released here, ahead of her Country2Country Festival appearance in Glasgow next March.
The album, produced by Vince Gill, features 13 songs, all co-written by Monroe, with heavyweights like Jessie Alexander, Matraca Berg, Gill and recent CMA Awards sensation Chris Stapelton (who is also coming to c2c).
Listening through the album, I found the “The Blade” a pleasant listen. The lead off track, and previous single, “On To Something Good” is quite a poppy number. The title track is a beautiful ballad, which Ashley delivered well. The Vince Gill co-write “Weight Of The Load” is, again a really nice song, but didn’t really set the album alight for me.
“The Winning Streak” is an uptempo, piano backed number, which livened up the album a bit. 
It was track number 9 before the album really caught my attention. “Has Anyone Ever Told You” is a really beautiful ballad. What a difference the steel guitar makes to a ballad like this.
That’s followed by “Dixie”, a catchy bluesy number which really suited her southern accent. Really loved this track.
Paul Franklin’s steel guitar is back to the fore on “If The Devil Don’t Want Me”. The album is now getting better by the track. A real Country song, co-written with Jessie Alexander and Chris Stapleton. A real Country ballad.
Then Allison Krauss (who can make any song sound great) and Dan Tyminski add their vocals to the lovely “Mayflowers”. Another lovely song, even if the melody has a distinctive likeness to Merle’s “If We Make It Thru December”.
And, so quickly, we’re up to the last track. And the album is still getting better with each track. “I’m Good At Leavin’” is a superb old time fiddle laced Country song.
It’s hard to believe that it’s the same singer which ends the album as we heard start it 45 minutes earlier. I guess she’s covering all bases. The first eight tracks for US Country radio, and her label, and the final five fantastic tracks for herself, her producer and real Country fans.
The early tracks on the album, are pleasant and listenable, but if it’s real Country music you like, go straight to track 9 without delay.

GEORGE STRAIT is one of Country music’s most consistent hitmakers. He may have hung up his traveling shoes, but he is still making records, and his latest CD, “Cold Beer Conversations” continues the trend that has sold over 100 million albums.
There’s not much to say about the man and his music that hasn’t been said in reviews for his 28 previous studio albums.  There’s good uptempo numbers like the Western Swing flavoured “It Takes All Kinds” and the kinda rocky “Rock Paper Scissors”, mid tempo tracks like “It Was Love”, and ballads like “Something Going Down”, “Take Me To Texas” and “Everything I See”. I really liked the closing ballad, “Even When I Cant Feel It”.
I’m sure that George has recorded a good few drinking and honky tonk songs over the years, but there does seem to be more than a few here, including the title track, “Goin’ Goin’Gone”, “Stop And Drink” and “Cheaper Than A Shrink”.
Strait co-wrote three of the tracks with other songs coming from the likes of Keith Gattis, Brandy Clark, Jamey Johnson, Dean Dillon and Bill Anderson.
Another top notch album from Country music’s biggest star.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m starting to really like TOBY KEITH’s music. His latest album, “35mph Town” has a great set of upbeat songs.
From the opening track, “Drunk Americans”, to slower numbers like “What She Left Behind”, this is a really enjoyable album.
“Drunk Americans”, written by Brandy Clark, Bob DiPiero and Shane McAnally, is an anthem for equality. Don’t think it may be treated as such down in the bible belt. It’s the only track Keith didn’t co-write.
The title track is one of these hometown songs, where big city issues spread into the rural areas.
There is a gulf coast feel to a couple of numbers, including “Rum Is The Reason”, which could’ve been a Jimmy Buffett song, and “Sailboat For Sale”, which features Buffett himself.
“Haggard, Hank & Her”, is a true tear in your beer honky tonk song. Toby really makes his mark with this song for me.
“Beautiful Stranger”, which closes the album, is a rare Toby Keith ballad. He really delivers it with emotion, and is a fitting finale to the album.
I really enjoyed this album. He eventually got to me !

One of the most successful Irish acts of all time are FOSTER & ALLEN, who are celebrating 40 years in the business, with the aptly titled “Celebration” CD.
Yes, it was back in 1975 when Mick Foster and Tony Allen got together, but it was a spell in the 1980’s when they had half a dozen UK Chart hits with songs like “A Bunch Of Thyme”, “After All These Years” (which gets an appropriate rerun here) and “Maggie”, which really set them up for a long and lengthy career. Indeed “Maggie” became a No.1 hit in New Zealand. Their regular album releases continue to sell, totalling over 22 million to date.
They set the standard for Irish acts, which remains today. Country songs included, but with Irish and old popular pop songs added for good measure.
This album features 20 tracks, ranging from Jim Reeves “Welcome To My World” and Isla Grant’s “Mothers Chair”, to The Beach Boys “Sloop John B” and Ralph McTell’s “Streets Of London”. For the Irish side, he covers Joe Dolan’s “Make Me An Island”, and comes up to date with Derek Ryan’s “God’s Plan”, as well as titles like “Eileen McManus”, “Boyle in The County Roscommon” and “Noreen Bawn”.
There’s also “We Owe It All To You”, the lads’ thank you to the fans.
After 40 years, we’ve all become accustomed to what to expect from a Foster & Allen CD. And they never disappoint!

Compared to Foster & Allen, DEREK RYAN is quite a newcomer to the scene, but has quickly established himself as a writer and performer on the Irish Country scene.
His latest album, “One Good Night” offers quite a mix of styles. “Bendigo”, one of his own songs was an early single from the album. It’s more of a fun number.
The old Simon & Garfunkel song, “Cecilia” has proved to be a popular linedance hit in recent times, so Derek covering this song, will be aimed at his dancefloor fans. In contrast, he also covers the old PP Arnold/Rod Stewart song, “First Cut Is The Deepest” (written by Cat Stevens).
“Firefly” is a song Derek has covered from a Dublin band called Tupelo, and made his own. It is a rather poppy sounding number. He’s also recorded the well covered “Someday You’ll Love Me”
There are quite a few real Country songs on the album too. Roly Daniels, no less, joins him on “Wrong Side Of Sober”, whilst “Diamond Rings & Old Bar Stools” really stands out for me. It’s a Tim McGraw song, and there’s some nice female harmonies which really give the song something.
 “Waltz With A Hero” and “Making Memories Of Us” are pleasant ballads that was a really nice listen.
Six of the 15 tracks were written by Derek himself, including the title track and “Break Your Heart”, a bouncy little number, with a distinctive Irish feel to it.
It’s another winner from one of Ireland’s new breed.

ALLY HARRON and MARIAN CURRY have been gaining a lot of attention in their native Ireland over the past few years, and their new album, “Perfect Harmony” is finally available.
The one thing that stands out for me is their love of old style traditional Country music, and a knack of making it sounding fresh for today’s market. The album contains a mix of duets and solo numbers.
Ally is obviously a Buck Owens fan, covering “Aint Gonna Kick Ole Buck” and “This Old Heart”. He also does a truly wonderful version of Vernon Oxford’s “This Woman Is Mine”, and a beautiful song called “Marian’s Rose”, not to mention “Thirty Days In Twenty Years”
Meanwhile, Marian takes control of “I Cry Every Time I Leave Ireland”, a song written by Leona Williams (ex Mrs Haggard) and Micheal Cummins.
The title track was written by Eugene Cunningham, on which they duet. They also duet on George & Tammy’s “Size Seven Round” and “Two Storey House”, as well as the opening track, “It’s An Old Love Thing”.
There’s a true traditional Country sound on Carl Jackson’s old “The Pieces Are Coming Together”.
A good solid Country album, with the emphasis on traditional Country. I really enjoyed my listen to it.

Humphead Records have released another trio of classic best of’s which would be great Christmas presents.
I was a shade puzzled at “The Essential Collection” by ALLISON MOORER, given that I still play the same label’s “Ultimate Collection” by her. But, on closer consideration, I found that this latest release is a 35 track collection 2 CD set, compared to the previous release, which was way back in 2008, was a single CD with just 18 tracks.
Now if you have that “Ultimate Collection”, then all the same tracks are covered here (Plus twice as many). The album covers her MCA label years from 1998-2005. She was just too Country for Nashville, and only charted 4 hits in that time. Wikipedia cites  Moorer as an “alternative Country singer”.
Alternative ??  
Let’s just say, she’s a million times more Country than some of the big names out there today. 
I had a great time listening to these songs again, like “Long Black Train”, “Alabama Song”, “The One That Got Away” , “I Found A Letter”, “The Hardest Part”, “A Soft Place To Fall” and “Send Down An Angel”.
As with many of Humphead’s releases, there’s some very detailed sleevenotes (8 pages of them) from Maverick’s Alan Cackett. I’m slightly disappointed that, after Alan tells us in some detail about a duet both Allison and Sheryl Crowe recorded with Kid Rock on a song called “Picture”, that the song isn’t included. Allisons’ version was much superior, but Crowe being the bigger name, got the more airplay.  However, “an Essential Collection” is just slightly mis-titled by it’s omission here.  Small gripe, which can always be rectified in her next compilation in another 8 years time.

PATTY LOVELESS is a rare breed. A true Country singer that Nashville did embrace. She is a cousin of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle and followed them down from Kentucky to Nashville to pursue her career. Her career actually began guesting on the Wilburn Brothers TV series, and touring with them, when she was just 14 years old. Her first hits appeared in 1985, with “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”, which kicks of Humphead’s “Honky Tonk Angel- The MCA Years”, a 50 track 2 CD collection, which covers her career up to 1992, when she switched to the Epic label.
Her MCA career contributed 19 of her total of 44 Country chart hits, and they’re all included here, including the two number one’s she had “Chains” and “Timber I’m Falling In Love With You”.
Other songs it was good to hear again included “If My Heart Had Windows”, Blue Side Of Town” and “God Will”. It’s great to have these titles on CD. I still have the original albums on vinyl.
Again, there’s lengthy sleevenotes from Alan Cacket, which make for an interesting read.
A great compilation.                        

The third Humphead compilation is from BOBBIE GENTRY. She was never one of the most successful artists. Apart from her 1967 smash, “Ode To Billie Joe”, she only had a handful of hits, mostly duets with Glen Campbell.
But Humphead have found 50 tracks worthy of inclusion on “Southern Gothic : The Definitive Collection”, which makes for interesting listening. There’s quite a few songs, you’ll recognise as hits for others, like “Fancy” (later done by Reba), “Here,There & Everywhere” (Beatles), “My Elusive Dreams” (George & Tammy). “Louisiana Man” (Doug Kershaw), “Son Of A Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield) and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” (BJ Thomas).
Bobbie’s vocal style suited some of these songs. Others, less so. She had a raunchy Southern drawl, which really comes over on the more soulful songs like “Mississippi Delta”, “Chickasaw Country Child” and “In The Ghetto”.
There are track’s where her vocals are more melodic, like on “Papa’s Medicine Show”, “Where’s The Playground Johnny” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, but then she sounds quite pop on these tracks.
Then there’s 8 duets with Glen Campbell, including “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Gentle On My Mind” and “Scarborough Fair”.
There’s a lot of unheard music here. It’s an interesting listen.

JANE KRAMER is an American singer, born in Pennsylvania in 1980.  “Carnival Of Hopes”, which will be released on January 8th, is the follow up to her acclaimed “Break & Bloom”.
After 4 years on the west coast, the songstress returned to North Carolina this past summer.
On this outing Jane sounds really refreshing. Country, with a bluegrass feel, and more than a dash of homestyle Appalachia.
Her vocals are particularly strong, from the opening “Half way Gone”, and the catchy title track, to the slower ballads like “Good Woman”, “Highways, Rivers & Scars” and “Truck Stop Stars”.
I really enjoyed the pacey “Your Ever-green Heart”, and the even more upbeat bluegrass track, “My Dusty Wings”.
All the songs are her own writing, except “Down South”, which was written by Tom Petty. Her arrangement really fits into the album nicely.
This is a really refreshing album. Great vocals, and superb arrangements. Already one of next year’s best albums, for sure.

Big cities and old timey bluegrass music isn’t the most obvious connection, but when the city is Toronto, one of the most diverse cultural metropolis on the planet, then anything is possible.  SLOCAN RAMBLERS are a quartet from the Canadian city’s West End, from where these guys take us on a superb bluegrass trip on their new album, “Coffee Creek”.
From the fast paced opening instrumentals like the title track, and “The Back 40”, and songs like “Groundhog” and “Steamline Cannonball” to the more laid back “Elk River” and “Lone Pine”, they keep the listener interested with feet tapping tunes and good melodies.
“Rambling Sailor” is a catchy folk story song, which stood out for me.
I really enjoyed this journey into the world of Slocan Ramblers. Good old bluegrass.             

My first listen to BROOKSIE WELLS had me hooked. She has a lovely bluegrass feel to her “North East Rising Sun” album, which impressed me throughout.
Although I was unfamiliar with the name, it would appear that Brooksie is no new newcomer to the music business. She was born in the South, to parents who fought for civil and equal rights. She moved to New York in the 70’s where the booming folk scene was a great influence on her. Bobby Darin discovered her, which led to a songwriting contract. She later worked with John Lennon’s band Elephant’s Memory and as a singer with Kid Creole & The Coconuts.
But, glad to say that Brooksie has returned to her southern roots with this new album.
The album kicks off with “North East Rising Sun”, which describes her musical journey between the south and north east. It’s a really catchy mid-tempo track which really worked. “Nothing Changes” and “Save The Day” are in the same category.
“You Cant Fix Crazy” is a bit more uptempo, and quite catchy, whilst “Holdin’ His Heart” and the slow fiddle infused “If Someday Ever Comes” are softer, but no less appealing. A couple of tracks, mainly “No Notion” and “Shame Houses” were a shade pop sounding to me.
There’s also a humorous “Who Needs A Man” fun number to close the album.
It’s a really nice album.  Really enjoyed it.

HAPPY TRAUM may be a legendary folk music singer, born in The Bronx, and famous for collaborations with Bob Dylan, but his latest album, “Just For The Love Of It”, his first new CD in a decade, is a lovely listen for acoustic Country listeners.
If you like simple guitar arrangements, and easy listening vocals, then, this is worth a listen.
You’ll recognise “High Muddy Water” (John Herald), the traditional “Water Is Wide”, Lead Belly’s “In The Pines”, PeeWee King’s “Tennessee Waltz” and the wonderful “Spanish Is A Loving Tongue”.
I really liked the more uptempo “Church Street Blues” and the traditional “Deep Blue”.
It’s an interesting listen. One I enjoyed very much. Nice easy listen.

The press info supporting BEN ROGERS new album, “The Bloodred Yonder”, claims he is a “classic story teller with a voice smoke-damaged velvet soaked in Tennessee whiskey”. That’s quite a vision, but, I can certainly hear where these words came from.
No, it’s not the smoothest voice I’ve heard, but he can certainly deliver a good story song.
The album kicks off with the catchy “Wild Roses”. A couple of tracks, mainly “No Notion” and “Shame Houses” were a shade pop sounding to me.  There’s a really good beat throughout the album, a  bit rocky at times, but it works, especially on tracks like “Wanted”, “Panhandler” and “Don’t Buy Me Roses”.
He did slow it down on tracks like “Goodbye Rosa Lee”, “Sinners” and “Darling Please”, but it was the more upbeat tracks which appealed most to me.
Although quite rocky in places, Ben made the songs, especially the uptempo ones, sound quite Country.   Ben was over here touring Scotland recently in support of the album.  Hope he makes it back soon.

There is something really refreshing about raw Country music. And THE WARDEN is really refreshing.
He is Ward Richmond, from Dallas, who has been playing local bars & clubs, including as part of a group called “Boys Named Sue”.
His music, certainly on his self titled album, is hi-energy and unrefined, but really works.
The 12 track CD, in which he wrote all the songs, kicks off with a lively “Deny,Deny,Deny”, with its’ racing guitar arrangement. He keeps the tempo up throughout the album, especially on tracks like “Salvation”, “Sun Goes Down” and “Interstate”
He does slow the tempo with “Little Darlin’”, which adds trumpet and trombone into the mix. “Dark Clouds” has a neat Country arrangement.
“Bullets” is an interesting number. The intro is quite strange, but leads into a beautiful steel laden Country song, with duet vocals from Madison King, who has been rated one of Dallas top female vocalists. I’d certainly like to hear more from her.
As for The Warden, this was certainly an interesting album.  Not mainstream, by any means, but interesting all the same.

Finally, New England raised ROD PICOT is coming to Celtic Connections, and will release his 7th album, “Fortune” before his Strathclyde Suite gig with Kimmie Rhodes.
Rod is now a regular visitor to these shores. He come a long way since giving up his job as a sheet rock hanger 15 years ago, to move to Nashville and pursue his career as a singer songwriter.
Having said that, he’s more Americana than modern Music City.
The album features 12 self penned numbers (3 co-writes), and vary from slow ballads like “Jeremiah” and “Drunken Barber’s Hand”, to early Steve Earle inspired mid tempo songs like “Elbow Grease”.
“Until I’m Satisfied” also has an interesting beat, almost industrial, you could say.
“I Was Not Worth Your Love” is quite upbeat, and stands out.
Rod has built up quite a following over the years. This album can only build on that fan base.

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