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Saturday 28 September 2019

Oct 2019

It’s VINCE GILL month, with two albums to review in this edition.
The legendary singer, songwriter and guitar player is one of Country music’s most esteemed entertainers :  respected for his modesty, admired for his talent. One night he can be heard jamming with The Time Jumpers at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsay Bar on a weeknight. Next stop, he’s touring around the world’s biggest stages with The Eagles.
“Okie” is his new release. It’s an album which is really close to home for Vince, an “Okie”, himself, having been born in Norman, some 20 miles from Oklahoma City.
Some of Vince’s best music has come from ballads, and this album is full of them.
He starts with “I Don’t Wanna Ride The Rails No More”, a lovely ballad about changing perspectives on life. Change features on several tracks, including “The Price Of Regret” and “What Choice Will You Make”.
"Forever Changed." Is about abuse, and he nearly didn't record it. But many years ago when he performed it live, a band member who heard it ran off the stage in tears, and told him that it was her story. She asked, "How did you know?" And he didn't, but he knows people aren't always kind or fair-minded, or right or true.
“That Old Man Of Mine” is a bit different from the rest of the album. The subject matter diverts Vince from his down home modest real life, to the story of an abusive father, and doing time for serving due justice.
Vince’s modesty comes to the fore on “An Honest Man”, with its line “Let Them Cowboys Be The Heroes, I’ll Just Be an Honest Man”. With some lovely steel guitar from Paul Franklin, it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.
“The Red Words” is something of a spiritual religious number, which really strikes a chord.
Vince holds family close. He's sung about his father in "The Key To Life." He's sung about his brother in "Go Rest High On That Mountain". He’s sung about daughter Jenny (“Jenny Dreamed Of Trains”), and on this album, has “When My Amy Prays”, and “A Letter To My Mama”, the later co-written with Dean Dillon.
But the stand out tracks are Vince’s tributes to a couple of musical heroes. “Nothin’ Like a Guy Clark Song” speaks for itself, whilst the guy who put “Okie’s” on the map, is honoured on the instantly appealing “A World Without Haggard”. “Black & White” also honours Guy & Merle.
Some of Vince’s biggest hits have been killer ballads. This album really takes up where they left off. There’s some great songs on here, that I wont stop listening to for a long long time.
A stunning album.

From brand new Vince, Humphead take us back to the start of his Nashville career in 1984, with the release of “Oklahoma Borderline”, a 2 CD set, featuring 35 tracks.
At that time, his label RCA, were trying to make him a pop star. I recall him popping “secretly” into the press room at the Wembley Festival. The label flew him in to get him on Radio 1, they didn’t want him doing the Country Festival.
Some of the songs during that time, all featured here, included the upbeat “Victim Of Life’s Circumstances”, “Turn Me Loose”, “Lucy Dee” and “Everybody’s Sweetheart” which were more rockabilly than Country.
But Vince showed just how he could deliver a killer ballad, even back then. I fondly remember “Half A Chance”, which I still play regularly, “The Radio”, “I’ve Been Hearing Things About You” and “If It Weren’t For Him”, which was a duet with Rosanne Cash. How beautifully their voices blended together- why haven’t they done more together over the years?
I had forgotten about “Til The Best Comes Along” – superb Country, with some great steel guitar from Jaydee Maness, and “Oh Carolina”, with lovely harmonies from Emmylou Harris.
Vince’s career never really took off until he moved over to MCA in 1989, but as this collection shows, he did some wonderful stuff in his early career, which shouldn’t be forgotten.
He recorded 3 albums for RCA, and for this collection, there’s a bonus of several tracks, where Vince has added harmonies, on other people’s records.  Included is Pam Tillis’ “It Isn’t Just Raining”, Tammy Wynette’s “I Wasn’t Meant To Live My Life Along” and Sara Evans “No Place That Far”. Interestingly, when this song, which was nominated for CMA Vocal Event of The Year, was originally released in the UK, they stripped Vince’s vocals from the record. There’s also a guest spot on Brad Paisley “Bigger Fish To Fry”. I’m sure there’s a few more “guest” tracks they could’ve unearthed- Baillie & The Boys comes to mind.
As with all of Humphead’s classic collections, there’s an excellent CD booklet written by Alan Cackett.
Two great albums from one of the greatest guys in Country music, from both ends of his career. Both are superb, and both are must haves for any Country music collection!

Someone else whose career is in a reflective mood is CRYSTAL GAYLE. It’s over 40 years since she became a household name with hits like “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and “When I Dream”.
She has just released her first new album in 16 years, “You Don’t Know Me” (Southpaw), which includes 15 tracks, mostly covers of Country classics.  Now, I’m often critical of artists who fill their albums with such tried and tested songs, but Crystal has such a beautiful, and unique vocal style, that she has plenty to offer, even the most over recorded numbers.
The album kicks off with the bouncy Gordon Lightfoot song “Ribbon Of Darkness”, which really gets the tempo going.  But it’s the next track- Hank’s “You Win Again”, which really made its mark. I wasn’t expecting Crystal to make a song that’s been around for so long, so much her own. Then she did the same on “Please Help Me I’m Falling”.  And “There Goes My Everything”, “Crying Time” and “Walking After Midnight”.  Not to mention, the title track, an old Eddy Arnold hit.
Imagine her taking on Lefty Frizzell & Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
One of her early albums was “We Must Believe In Magic”, and Crystal proves here that she has the magic touch on any songs she may touch.
A few of the songs aren’t as well known, but Crystal still makes her mark on George Jones’ “Just One More” and George Strait’s “I’ve Seen That Look On Me A Thousand Times”.
There’s also family connections, as she records brother, Jay Lee Webb’s “You Were Never Mind”, which is one of my favourite tracks.  She also teams up with her sisters, Loretta Lynn and Peggy Sue Wright on Dolly’s “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”. This is the first record the three sisters have ever made together. It probably has more of a Loretta sound, than a Crystal one, but it’s a real event which should’ve happened long ago.
There’s a bonus track of Crystal’s first single from way back in 1970, “I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out Of My Eyes”, a song written by sister Loretta, who wrote a lot of Crystal’s early songs. The track does sound quite dated, but interesting to compare her voice and the productions.
Overall, a wonderful album. Classic Country from one of Country’s Classiest ladies.

TOBY KEITH has been at the top in Country music since he first set the charts alight back in 1993. He has sold over 40 million albums in the US alone. He has amassed a list of 32 No.1 songs, and indeed has topped the charts every year for 20 straight years. What is more surprising is that he has had his own record label, Show Dog Nashville, since 2005.
Now his “Greatest Hits- The Show Dog Years” gets a UK release later this month, featuring a string of smash hits that are instantly recognisable, like the fun, party numbers, “Red Solo Cup”, “Beers Ago”, and “Trailerhood”. I particularly liked the latter.  It’s the type of songs, Toby has made very much his own, over the years.
There are patriotic numbers like “Made In America” and “American Ride”, and other upbeat numbers like “God Love Her” and “High Maintenance Woman”.
There are ballads too, like “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)”, “Hope On The Rocks”, “She Never Cried In Front Of Me” and “Love Me If You Can”.
The album features four new(er) songs, including the hit single from earlier this year, “That’s Country Bro”, an anthem paying tribute to the legends of Country music. The cynical side of me considers it just a list of names from a Country’s Who’s Who, but he delivers the directory well.
“Don’t Let The Old Man In”, is a softer ballad, which is featured in the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Mule”. There’s also quite a funky feel to “Back in the 405”, and an alternative remix of “American Ride”.
Toby is an individual, with an individual sound. It’s well captured on this hits collection. There’s not another performer like him.

The child of an American military family, MICHAELA ANNE was raised on the road, living in places as widespread as Washington, California & Italy. She puts her lack of roots, and the questions that raised in her mind, as the driver behind her songwriting.
She first came to the notice of Country music critics in 2014, when The Village Voice hailed her debut offering, “Ease My Mind” as “one of the year’s best Country Albums”. Now her third album, “Desert Dove” (Yep Roc) has just been released in the UK.
She was a new name to me, but one that I was really impressed with, on the strength of this album.
In the main, it is an upbeat, well produced, and a really good listen.
The album kicks off slowly, with “By Own Design”, which is quite a ballad, compared to the rest of the album. 
 “I’m Not The Fire” is a good, uptempo radio friendly number, which I really liked. Other upbeat numbers include “Run Away With Me”, and the catchy “I Wanted Your Opinion”.
“Two Fools” has a real old time Country feel to it, with some honky tonk piano mixed with steel, giving it a really classic feel to it.  “Tattered,Torn And Blue (And Crazy)” also has quite a retro feel to it.
“Child Of The Wind” is one of these “driving” songs, one that’s great to listen to, whilst tearing down a wide open road. One of the stand out tracks for me.
The title track is one of the softer ballads on the album, having quite an atmospheric feeling to it.
“One Heart” is a powerful song, delivered with a strong, soaring vocal, and driving guitar.
The closing track, “Be Easy” is the most simplistic solo ballad- very much Michaela on her own.
Recorded “on location” in San Clemente, California, the album was produced by recent UK visitor Sam Outlaw, and Delta Spirit’s Kelly Winrich.
I really enjoyed this album. A lady to listen out for.

Anyone who comes from a place called Monkey’s Eyebrow (a real place, near Paducah, Kentucky) must be interesting. And KELSEY WALDON fits the bill. After moving to Nashville, she earned a college degree, spent three years bartending at The Nashville Palace, took up touring with her music, and her persistence led her to the Grand Ole Opry stage. She’s toured with the likes of Jamey Johnson and Tyler Childers, as well as her new boss.
She is the first new artist signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records label, in 15 years. “White Noise, White Lines” gets it’s UK release this month.
It kick’s off with “Anyhow”, which really demonstrates her deep southern accent, mixed with a driving beat. It certainly captures the listener’s attention.
The title track is a smouldering personal number which was inspired by a pivotal weekend in August 2017, noting that she had just turned 30, fallen in love, there was a stunning solar eclipse, and she befriended members of a Chickasaw tribe (whose chants were recorded on her phone, and featured here).
“Kentucky 1988” recaptures her early childhood. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s preceded by a voicemail from her father, just to add a personal touch.
Still in Kentucky, “Black Patch” is a real old time Country number, which recalls a historic battle there.
“Lived And Let Go” is Kelsey’s protest song, inspired by Dylan & Guthrie.
“Very Old Barton” is a rip roaring old style outlaw /hillbilly number, with a strong Waylon feeling to the arrangement. Not that her voice is anything like Waylon’s.
“Run Away” is a slower number, a traditional Country weeper, laced with steel guitar, which really worked well.
“Sunday’s Children” is quite a bluesy, which didn’t appeal to me much, whilst the closing ballad” My Epitaph” was originally written by Ola Belle Reed, but obviously very personal to Kelsey.
But overall, this is a really impressive album. Her southern drawl may not find universal appeal, but her vocal styling really suits the songs on this collection.
Well worth a listen !

DAVE GUNNING is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has amassed a ton of awards including ECMA’s & Juno’s, in a 23 year musical career, which has seen him record a dozen album’s.
His 13th album, “Up Against The Sky” (Wee House Of Music), like his previous outings, rides the line between East Coast Folk, Country and Celtic music.
I’ve enjoyed several of his earlier albums, so was pleased to get hold of this latest release.
“All That’s Yet To Come”, a co-write with Ray Stewart, one of the most positive songs on the album. It’s quite a catchy anthem of hope.
Although his main influences were Stan Rogers and John Allen Cameron, I identified a distinct Ian Tyson influence on the farming anthems, “Celebrate The Crop”, and “Horse For Sale”.
Away from the farms, he hits the seas, with the “The Loyal Fisherman”, an interesting story song, which he describes as a mini-movie in 4 ½ minutes.
“Ferris Wheel” is a song that took Dave back in time, and asked what happened to his favourite fair attraction, and other memories that raised.
“In The Time I Was Away”, is an upbeat, bouncy little number, about being away from home, and missing out. “Circle Of Boots” takes Dave back a few years, when he toured Canada with George Canyon. Apparently they had a ritual each night where the band and crew would all link arms for a prayer, and he remembers staring at the ground, seeing the circle of boots. An interesting tale from the road.
Dave’s protest song comes along in the form of “Wish I Was Wrong”. Dave is active in a group opposed to the release of treated effluent from a pulp mill, which threatens a local fishery. He certainly raised the profile for the cause on this mournful, but defiant number.
The album winds up with “Beyond The Day”, a song written with Glasgow singer songwriter Paul McKenna. It’s a really nice number.
The whole album is a really nice listen. Country, with folk and celtic influences.

CHARLEY CROCKETT is something of a legend down in Texas. Born in San Benito, he moved to Dallas, and more recently Austin, via New Orleans, California and Paris, France along the way.  He was raised in a trailer park in Los Fresnos, taught himself guitar, got in trouble with the law, and more recently health issues, which lead to him having open heart surgery earlier this year. He’s certainly done a lot of living in his 35 years.
His music style was originally the blues, but veering through American Roots music, has brought him to his sixth album, “The Valley” (Thirty Tigers), which has certainly a lot of Country music on offer. Not, today’s Country music, but real, authentic, traditional Country music, of the Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Webb Pierce style, following on from his 2017 release “Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee”.
The album opens up with the handclapping, foot tappin’ “Borrowed Time”. It’s a really catchy skiffle type number, which has the listener instantly realising that this album is going to so different to anything else out there.
The title track is the story of his life. There’s a bit of Kristofferson in there, but with a bit more of a Country arrangement, including steel, that you’d get from Kris.
Also boasting some impressive steel guitar is “10,000 Acres (of lonesome)”. From the title alone, you know this is just got to be a killer Country song, and it is!
Slowing things down, “Change Yo’ Mind”, is a traditional Country song, whilst “Motel Time Again” was written by Crockett, alongside Bobby Bare and others. It’s real Country music.
“Big Gold Mine”, “The Way I’m Livin’ (Santa Rosa)”and  “River Of Sorrow” are all good upbeat numbers, which I really enjoyed. 
“If Not The Fool”, is a classic Country crooner number, influenced by bluesy overtones.
There are a few tracks that didn’t work for me, including the bluesy skiffle song “7 Come 11”, one of the few songs not written by Crockett himself.
Another cover is the Buck Owens/Harlan Howard hit, “Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)”. I’ve got to say, that, for a song that’s had so many covers, including The Mavericks, this is a totally different version of the song. Crockett has made it his own.
Crockett doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but that just adds to the authenticity of the songs here. His music is steeped in Country & Blues, when it was much closer linked than it is today. A real fifties feel to the album, which is quite an achievement for a 35 year old.
He was over here on tour last month, and included a Glasgow gig. If you missed him, make sure you grab this album, which is released here on November 22nd.

DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS have been a regular fixture on the Americana side of the Country scene for some years now. The Memphis native has released a dozen albums, which have charted in various musical charts.
This month, his 13th album, “Dragons” (Thirty Tigers) gets a UK release, and is a really catchy collection of songs, which should get airplay on a number of different radio outlets.
The album kicks off with the very commercial sounding “Family”, complete with fashionable Nashville styled chants. It certainly caught my attention.
“End Of The World”, also has quite a mainstream beat, which should fit nicely into modern Country radio formats.
The title track features Sean McConnell and Zach Williams of The Lone Bellow. I has a real Country story song feel to it, complete with spoken lines. I really liked it.
There are a couple of songs, which feature Drew’s good lady Ellie. They include the smouldering, yet infectious “But I’ll Never Forget The Way You Make Me Feel” and “See The World”, which namechecks the legendary Shel Silverstein, which got my attention. This one is quite a poppy easy listening number, but it really works.
“You Want What You Cant Have”, one of two songs co-written with the award winning Lori McKenna, also features vocals from his co-writer. It has a slight reggae beat, but is also one of the most Country feeling songs on the album.
“Maybe”, which features Highwomen singer songwriter Natalie Hemby, is a touch more rocky.
If you like the west coast Eagles sound, check out “Make It Look So Easy”. It’s another written with Lori McKenna.
On a slower note, “You Never Leave My Heart” is more of a ballad, whilst “Bittersweet” is also on the slow side.
I’ve always enjoyed Drew’s previous albums, but this one really stands out for me. Definitely worth a listen !

SILVER LAKE 66 is a duo featuring Maria Francis & Jeff Overbo. Their musical paths came together many years back in Minneapolis, before heading to Southern California, and latterly in the North Western state of Oregon.
They recorded an album in 2016 called “Let Go Or Be Dragged”, and now release the follow up “Ragged Heart” in the UK this month.
They offer a unique sound, which blends old time Country, folk & blues, together with really neat vocals which harmonise together beautifully.
The album, which was recorded in Portland, kicks off with Jeff’s “Blue Earth County”, which is a really strong Country anthem, which had me hooked in the first few seconds.
That was followed by the catchy, upbeat title track, this time lead by Maria.
“Broken” has a bit more of a bluesy feel to it, but really suits the duet vocal styling.
“Faded Tattoos”, led vocally by Maria, is a bit more contemporary in its sound.
“Tender”, as you would expect, is more of a ballad. Maria’s vocals sound much more vulnerable this time, and really Country, at the same time.  I could probably say the same about “Broken Dreams & Cigarettes”.
“Hard Thing To Do” has a stunning steel guitar intro, thanks to Brian Daste. On this one, Maria’s vocals are more aligned to the blues. But it works well.
“Check Out To Cash” and “Such A Mess” are Jeff’s turn to slow down the tempo.
He’s more uptempo again on “Like A River”.
I wasn’t familiar with Silver Lake 66”, but was really impressed with this album. Real down home Country, with some blues and a folksy feel at the same time.
It was really quite a refreshing listen!

 RYAN BROOKS is offering a bright fresh sound from the English Midlands. The 24 year old Nottingham based singer songwriter has just released his debut album, “VICE (is where the devil finds his darlings)”.
Citing The Dead South and Johnny Cash amongst his influences, he was certainly going to have an interesting sound. Ryan wrote all the songs, and produced the album in his home studio, playing all the instruments, with the exception of Dan Booth’s violin on a number of tracks.
The title track, hidden deep in the album (track 8) is a mid tempo number, which defies all genre labels.
It all kicks off with the lively foot-tappin’ “Own Sweet Way”, which is almost a HoeDown. It’s really catchy. “Arlene”, is a bouncy little number, which you can’t help liking.
“Dear Departed” is a really upbeat number which stand out for me, as does “City Lights”.
“Find A Way”, another of the album’s upbeat numbers, features Ken Bonsall & Dan Booth (from a band called Ferocious Dog).
“She” is a softer ballad, with almost a continental feel to it, whilst “Red Light Alley” has a mystical mid tempo, haunting feel to it, until it comes to the catchy chorus.
And it all closes down with “Come Over”, which allows Ryan to wear his heart on his sleeve.
It’s an interesting- not like anything else you’ll hear on the UK Country scene today!

Growing up, ED DUPAS was a well travelled child. Born in Houston, he was raised in Manitoba, before his family moved to Detroit, whilst Ed was a teenager. There’s a lot of musical influences made an impression of Dupas over the years.
His third album, “The Lonesome Side Of Town” (Road Trip Songs) get released here in late October, and is certainly worth listening out for.  I have enjoyed his previous outings, but this album really caught my attention from track 1.
The album opens with the title track. It’s a strong, upbeat, stone Country song, given a bit of a personality by Ed’s “Sean Connery” style vocals, especially when he sings about “the lone-shum side of town”. I really liked that. The album was off to a real winner!
By contrast, “Lonely” is a bit more of a ballad, as is “The Things I Miss” and “On MY Way”. “It Tears The Heart Right Out Of Me” is a real Country heartbreaker, whilst “Just For Two” is, perhaps, just a little more lighter. Both are equally pleasing on the ear.
“It All Sounds Like Leaving” is a mid tempo song, which really emphasises just how Country this record is. I’ve got to say, Justin Schipper’s steel licks really helps there.
But it’s the more upbeat tracks which really impressed me most, including “Both Hands On The Wheel”
“State Of The Nation” is a real rocker, with a bit of American patriotism included.
Whilst Ed Dupas music is directed more towards Americana fans, I consider this to be one of the strongest traditional Country music albums of the year. Highly recommended.

Our Irish album this time around comes from singer songwriter TONY McLOUGHLIN, who recently performed at the Millport Country Festival.  Tony’s career stretches back to the days of Donovan, back in the 70’s, and has also involved sharing stages with The Everly Brothers, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle, Janis Ian and Lee Roy Parnell, to name just a few.
For his latest album, “True Native”, (Fuego label), which is released later this month, Tony went back to Nashville (where he recorded his 2006 album, “Tall Black Horse”), and took with him, fellow Irishman Phillip Donnelly, as producer.
As you’ll guess from seeing who he’s worked with in the past, Tony isn’t a mainstream Irish, or even Country artist. He does have much more of a rugged Country rock / Americana influence running through the album.
Having said that, there are some really nice Country numbers standing out on the album.
“The Colour Of Spring” and “Treeline” both have a really nice bounce to them, and is quite different to anything else on the album.  “If You Were A Bluebird”, written by Butch Hancock, is another of the album’s highlights for me.
On these three tracks especially, lovely harmonies from Californian singer songwriter Jean Anne Chapman Tarleton, really adds to the sound.
“Here Come The Wind” has quite a Bobby Bare sound to it, keeping it sounding Country, but blending in with the rockier feel through the rest of the album.
The opening track is a hard drivin’ “Blood On Blood”, which was originally going to be the title track.  “True Native” is a song which takes the listener to the old west. It’s quite a haunting, atmospheric number.
“Mercury”, which closes the album is quite a slow number, but enhanced greatly by the Dylan-esque harmonica.
An interesting album. Worth a listen.

Golspie based COLORADO were, without doubt, the most successful Country music band that Scotland has ever produced, having won the BCMA Group Of The Year award right through the 1980’s. They appeared regularly at the Wembley Festival, as well as huge events across Europe and beyond.  Geordie is still going strong, despite several attempts to retire, and the fan base just keeps going, thru the generations.
For some time now, younger fans, many who weren’t around in the 80’s, have been asking for the old Colorado albums, and now several of the old vinyl albums have been digitised and made available through the usual download and streaming services.
They include, “Tennessee Inspiration”, which includes their original version of “The Green Fields Of France”, which featured legendary Nashville steelie Lloyd Green, as well as such favourites as “Tennessee Whiskey & Texas Women” (which featured Davy Duff on lead vocals), “Boogie Grass Saturday Night” and the Stewart Ross song “A Part Of Me Will Stay With You”.
Their first album, “Colorado Sing Country Music”, which featured the Cajun classic “Thibodeaux And His Cajun Band” is also available, as is the self titled album, “Colorado”, with “All My Cloudy Days Are Gone”.
“Exclusive”, which the original album cover was a mock up of a newspaper called “The Colorado Times”, featured the catchy “Crazy Celtic Music”, which featured Tommy Collins, “Makin’ Friends” with George Hamilton IV, and their stunning version of “The Dark Island”.
And “Still Rollin”, an early retrospective look back at their career at that point, with songs like “We’ve Got Something To Say”, “Stories We Could Tell” and “Saving The Best For Last” completes the list.
I’ve still got all these albums on their original vinyl, but its pure nostalgia to hear them in today’s digital glory.

These days BRANDON McPHEE is flying the musical flag for the Far North. Like Colorado, he has successfully blended his local roots with Country music. His new EP teams him up with Foster & Allen, no less, as they perform a really impressive version of the Skipinnish number, “Walking On The Waves”. The song has been covered a fair bit recently, but I have to say that Brandon, Mick & Tony have a real winner on their hands with this version. The second track is Brandon’s own version of “Old Town Road”, the recent No.1 UK Pop hit for Billy Ray Cyrus & rapper Lil Nas X. No rapping on Brandon’s version thankfully!
The EP is completed with the powerful “Take These Wings”, and the accordion tune “The Bluebird”, written by Will Starr. A good mix of Country and Scottish on one CD.

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