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Saturday 4 April 2020

April 2020

Young Bishopbriggs based singer songwriter KATEE KROSS has been making a name for herself over the past few years, with some notable support gigs and festival appearances.
Now comes her 4th album, “Show Your Hand”, which I think is her strongest yet. The variety of styles which Katee shows here, really is quite impressive.
With a whole album of original material, Katee has produced a 10 track offering, which will appeal to Country fans, but will find equal appeal to wider audiences too.
The title track kicks off the album. It was also the track selected as a single to promote the album. It is a particularly strong song, having quite a haunting “old west” feel to it. A really good, upbeat number to get the party started.  Do check out the video for this track.
That’s followed by “Two Outlaws”, which is much slower ballad, which really works for me.
The tempo lifts again, on “Diamonds In The Dust”, quite a catchy number.
“Dancing With My Past” is a strong ballad, which really showcases Katee’s sensitive side. It has to be one of my favourite tracks on the album.
By contrast, “Bumblebee” has a bright and breezy feel to it. It’s equally as effective, but completely different to the preceding number.
“Still The People Talk” has more of an edgy, rockier feel to it, but, again works for her. It’s a powerful song, well delivered.
“Please Stay” has quite a vintage feel to it, especially with the self harmonies, which I really liked.
“Never Meant To Be Forever” is another quite upbeat, catchy numbers, which I’m sure will get radio plays. Another of my favourite tracks.
“What Will Be” has quite a Country vibe to it, despite the instrumentation being a bit on the rocky side. It just emphasises how Katee can cover different styles, even within the same song. 
The album rounds off with “Keep On Keepin’On”, which is another of the more upbeat rockier numbers, but whether it’s upbeat or slow and sensitive, Katee Kross delivers.
She puts on a very strong performance throughout the album, covering different styles, which defy genre boundaries – if you need to label the music, let’s just say it’s “Katee Kross”.
Say No more!

DEAN OWENS has been a leading light on the Scottish & Americana scene for the past 20 years, and before that, as part of The Felsons.
“The Man From Leith (The Best Of Dean Owens)” (Eel Pie Records) has just been released, which is a great catch up on his career, if you’ve missed any of it. It features 17 self penned original tracks, scanned from seven different albums from 2001’s “The Droma Tapes” through to “Southern Wind”, released in 2018.
Dean’s appeal to me has centred around the inspiration that his homeland has played in his music. That’s evident from the biographical “Man From Leith” (about his dad) , which opens the album, through “Dora”,  ”My Town” and “Closer To Home”, to “Raining In Glasgow”, an appreciative tribute from a songwriter from Edinburgh.
But he isn’t afraid to tell of other places too, whether it be “New Mexico”, or on “Southern Wind” (one of two co-writes with Will Kimbrough, which feature on the album – the other being “The Last Song”).
Some of the stand out songs for me include “Whisky Hearts” and “Strangers Again”, which features Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart.
“Elvis Was My Brother” has always been one of my favourite tracks, and is featured here, as Dean recalls his childhood, and one of his main influences.  Johnny Cash was also an important influence, leading to his involvement in the “Cashback In Fife” Festival last month. Dean recorded “Cash Back – The Songs I Learned From Johnny” back in 2012, and features “The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin” here.
Dean has been involved in several other projects in recent years, including Buffalo Blood, Redwood Mountain, and a Hank Williams tribute, which don’t feature in this collection. But it does cover a good selection of songs from his 7 solo albums. The album is complimented by sleeve notes by author Irvine Welsh.
As well as CD and digital versions of the album, there’s also a 10 track LP version available.
This is a great catch up collection of one of Scotland’s Americana troubadours”!

BRANDON McPHEE has really established himself on the Scottish & Country music scene in recent years. The accordion champion has really came on leaps and bounds singing Country music, as well appealing to traditional Scottish dance band fans.
His latest album, “The Brandon McPhee Experience” (Pan Records) encompasses both sides of Brandon. Alongside a number of traditional ceilidh tunes (which he really does well), there is a good mix of Country songs. His latest single “I’m Gonna Find A Way” is a really catchy number, which was first recorded by an American Country band, The Remingtons, who had a handful of chart hits in the early 90’s. This wasn’t one of them, so well done to Brandon for unearthing a hidden gem and quickly making his own.
The album also includes “Walking On The Waves” the catchy Skippinish number which features Foster & Allen.
“Good Ole Boy” is one of the other highlights on the album, another that I wasn’t familiar with, and there’s also “Ties That Bind” an old Don Williams/Brook Benton song, which Brandon does his own way, and certainly not copying the previous versions.
Better recognised will be Highway 101’s “Barely Beating Broken Heart” and a couple of big ballads “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and “Hallelujah”.
A big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, Brandon has included his version of “Old Town Road”, the hit Billy Ray had last year with rapper Lil Nas X.
With the exception of “Waves”, which was recorded in Co.Westmeath, the album was recorded in Wick at Studio-D, with addition recording from Phil Anderson, steelie Steve Hinson and fiddler Aubrey Heaney in Nashville.
A superb album giving the listener the complete Brandon McPhee Experience!

From the far north of Scotland to the south of England - From down Brighton way, come a band called THE DIABLOS. They have been a lively part of the UK Country scene for the past fifteen years or so, playing original Country music. They’ve even had a song featured in a BAFTA winning movie “Beast”.
Now their fifth album has arrived, “Leaving Santa Rosa” (Wrong Guy Records) and it’s a real winner.
Although billed as Country rock, I think it’s more Country than rock, with a bit more of a tex mex feel to it.
The band’s current line up features lead vocalist Chris Nieto, Danny and Terry O’Loughlin, Adrian Marshall and Geoff Ansall.
The 13 track collection kicks off and closes with the catchy “The Ballad Of Johnny & Mary”. It opens with Part 2 and closes with a shorter Reprise. Both versions are superb. The title track has quite an Eagles feel to it, albeit, with a bit more energy on offer here.
“I Love This Band”, “Blonde Ambition” and “I Aint Too Old” are a bit more on the rocky side, “Don’t Ask Why” is perhaps a bit vintage pop, but still have a Country edge to it.  “Doing Alright” has a real old time rock’n’roll feel to it, and “Boogie Town Blues” speaks for itself.
There’s also a bit of rock’n’roll on “When I’m Gone”, which features duet vocals from Cat McKenna.
“Nature Of The Beast” is a softer ballad which stood out on an otherwise hi energy album.
“Still My Girl” is also a bit different, starting out with some sounds of Brighton’s seafront before launching into a mid tempo number, which is quite catchy.
This is a very enjoyable album – a little bit different, but not so that it wont appeal to Country fans.
I really liked it.

“Long Story Short” (Mole Lodge Records) is the new album from 77 year old Cornish born, Welsh based ANDREW HAWKEY.
As with many musicians and songwriters, Andrew has called many places home, from the metropolis of London, to the romance of Brittany, but has settled now in Powys. His involvement in music is just as varied as his movements.
Whilst working in a range of careers, from suit & tie, to agriculture, sales, catering and estate agency, he also found time to open for the then pop chart toppers Racing Cars (They Shoot Horses Don’t They- I even remember that one! ) to co-running a small recording studio where he produced everything from punk, to Welsh choirs. He also composed a body of incidental music for the launch of Welsh TV station S4C.  He’s worked with a range of blues artists, Texan Jerry DecCicca, zydeco star Cory Ledet, and Nashville singer songwriter Gail Davies.
This new album, a mainly acoustic affair, is the follow up to the acclaimed 2015 release, “What Did I Come Up Here For”.
His musical heritage is steeped in the blues, which comes over on tracks like “Jones On Me”
But there is more than enough elsewhere on the album to interest Country fans.
The opening track, “Dear Friend” is a pleasant opener, which invited me into the album.
That’s followed by the “Country-rock bar room nugget”, “Golden Heart (on A Rusty Chair)”, which is certainly the stand out track for me. Certainly David Trothon’s pedal steel added to the songs appeal.
“A Little More” is also a pleasant number, with some nice harmonies from Bel Merriman & Penny Jounert.
Most of the album is soft folksy ballads, like “The Painter” and “The Spirit” and there’s also the almost narrated “Stony Land” 6 minute epic tale.
All but two of the tracks were self penned. The exceptions include the folksy “You Knew”, and the slow “The Believer”.
It’s a nice listen. And has been a long time in the making.

Heading Stateside now, and one of my favourite duo’s at present is DARIN & BROOKE ALDRIDGE. The couple from the Appalachian areas of North Carolina have been making beautiful music together since 2005, both previously having been building separate musical careers. 
Their latest album, “Inner Journey” (Rounder) is something of a masterpiece. It’s such a beautiful album, featuring some brilliant banjo, mandolin and stunning vocals from Brooke. The songs are mainly covers, although not obvious one’s, and the duo give them a fresh original overhaul.
The exception is “Someone’s Everything”, which is one of my favourite tracks. It was written by Brooke as a meditation about preserving your home in your heart. Her mother’s inspiring words, “Always remember, you’re someone’s everything,” echo in the singer’s ears along life’s journey.
The album kicks off with “I Found Love”, a song written by Earl and Randy Scruggs and Vince Gill. It’s a superb bluegrass number fusing the traditional with a modern bluegrass sound.
“Tear Stained Letter” was written by Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, and covered Cajun style by Joel Sonnier. Now it gets a fresh bluegrass treatment, and it really works well.
“When You Love Someone” is a gorgeous ballad, which was written by Gretchen Peters and Bryan Adams. Peters also contributed “End Of A Long Hard Day”, with its echoes of Dolly’s “Wild Flowers”, is another of my favourite tracks.
“This Flower”, written by Australian Kasey Chambers, has a really neat homespun bluegrass feel to it, which I really liked. “Sweet Companion” really lets the couple’s harmonies come to the fore on a song written by Jon Randell, Jessi Alexander and Sally Barris.
Most readers will be familiar with the next two songs, Nanci Griffiths’ “Trouble In The Fields” and the much recorded “Teach Your Children”. The latter again highlight the couple’s close harmonies, as does “Everytime You Leave”, which takes us back to another legendary bluegrass duo, The Louvins.
Their international search for songs took them to Sweden for Scandinavian duo First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou”, before closing out with Doc Watson’s “Your Long Journey”.
This album takes us on quite a musical journey. Every song offers a different side to Darin & Brooke. It’s the kind of album, I’ll just keep playing over and over again.
Highly recommended .

Chapel Hill, NC based GLENN JONES comes up with an interesting collection on his third album, “Ready For The Good Times” (Good Guys Music). His early musical influence couldn’t be farther from where he is now. His older brother was playing in punk bands like The Hickoids, The Ideals and Big Foot Chester, when Glenn was only 6 years old. Not surprisingly, young Glenn followed his brother into the music scene, playing his first playing gig when he was just 13 years old and it never left him. In between times, he supported his family by earning a law degree at 40, working up from the mailroom to Senior VP/General Counsel.
But now he’s doing what he loves – music! Acoustic music, which covers everything from folk and pop across to Country and soul. This album has a gentle James Taylor/ Dan Seals feel to it- relaxing and heartfelt.
The 11 track, totally self penned, album starts with the fiddle infused “Ripples In The Pond”, a mid tempo number which really sets the scene, with some lovely harmonies.
That’s followed by the fun filled “My Baby Makes Pie”, which is a bit different. Joe McPhail’s keyboard skills really add something to this track, reminding me a bit of Mary Chapin’s “I Feel Lucky”. Really catchy.
But it’s “I’ve Got A Voice” which really won me over. I was really impressed with the female vocal by Rebecca Newton. The Goodloves add their vocals to the more bluesy “Lets Make Some Good Old Days”. “A Great New Pyriamid” also features some stunning harmony vocals from Rebecca. There’s some stunning instrumentation on this track too, worthy of note.
“Wish You Could See Me Now” is a very personal song, about fighting demons, and Glenn has fought more than his share.
“Heartland” is a particularly appealing ballad. Other ballads include “I’m Not Francesca”.
“No Fool Like An Old Fool” is a bouncy fun number, which kinda reminded me of Dr Hook in their prime.
If you need a Country justification for this album’s inclusion in these pages, then it has to be “Bury My Heart On Music Row”. There’s some lovely steel intro, and references to Nashville’s business area, and the hard task it is to make the break there. I just loved this track. The title track of the album, which closes the album, covers a lot of the same territory, the long hard struggle to make the break.
This could be album which really does it for Glenn Jones. It’s a really strong album, and one that I’m really enjoying playing.

I remember the name CLAUDIA NYGAARD from an album she released in the UK on Round Tower Records way back in 2001. That album got great reviews, and was even named one of the Top 12 Albums of the year by Country Music Round Up.
Her last album, “Let The Storm Roll In” was a No.1 record on the Cashbox Roots Country Chart, and a Top 10 on the Folk charts.
But her latest album, “Lucky Girl” (Bet The Ranch Records) will really get Claudia noticed, I’m sure of that.
Featuring 13 self written songs, she has teamed up with Neilson Hubbard on production, to bring us one outstanding album.
The title track, which opens the album, is a quirky number with rockabilly overtones, which looks back at the trials which were faced by her ancestors, compared to her own life today. The song won the Tumbleweed Music Festival Song competition, and deserved to.
By contrast, “Oklahoma” is a powerful ballad, which relates the great drives of the American west to life’s stages of grief. Claudia really delivers on this song. One of my favourite songs on the album.
A similar comparison of roadlife with personal life is found in the upbeat “Ol’ Buick”, which is really catchy.
“Me Too” also makes its mark. The title takes its name from the campaign to raise the issue of sexual exploitation within the workplace. She calls this her “Payback” song. The language is a little risqué, but I think realistic, however there is a “clean” version for radio play. 
“The Codependents National Anthem” is another song with a statement. It has a great honky tonk feel to it, and could’ve been called “It’s not your drinkin’ problem, it’s mine”, until she decides to turn it around. 
Other gutsy, upbeat numbers include “Like A Moth”, “Stitches” and “Or Not”.
“A Little Bit Embarrassed”, is a lovely ballad, which features some lovely ukulele.
Some of the other softer ballads include “The Hero”, “I Wonder” and “What I Don’t Like About You”.
There’s not much I don’t like about this album. In fact, I’m really impressed by it. I find myself listening to it a fair bit.
You should too.

STEEP CANYON RANGERS are an American bluegrass band based in Asheville North Carolina. Though formed in 2000, the band has become widely known since 2009 for collaborating with actor/banjoist Steve Martin (who they played in Glasgow with last month). In 2013, the Steep Canyon Rangers' solo album “Nobody Knows You” won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Altogether, they have recorded 9 solo albums plus two collaborative albums with Steve Martin.
Their latest offering, “Be Still Moses” is certainly different.  They have blended their unique bluegrass style with the classical instrumentation of The Ashville Symphony. And to add more to the mix, one of the tracks features soulful R&B trio Boys II Men !
The album kicks off in a very orchestral tone on “Easy To Love”, and continues on to a lesser extent on “Radio”. But the bluegrass kicks in, gently at first on “Be Still Moses” (the Boys II Men track) and “Call The Captain”.
The banjo and fiddles really come into their own, by the time we get to “Let Me Out Of This Town”.
“Between Midnight And The Dawn” stretches the boundaries farther, by sounding more soulful and bluesy. They do offer some wonderful harmonies on this track, it has to be said.
Toward the end of the album, they get a bit more downhome, with “Farmers & Pharoahs” and “The Mountain’s Gonna Sing”, the stand out track in my eyes.
And it’s a real rip-roaring “Orange Blossom Special” style finale with “Auden’s Train”.
A truly fascinating album. It certainly is different!

LETITIA VANSANT certainly made her mark with her debut album, “Gut It To The Studs”, which got great reviews and saw her tour the UK. And she’s back in support of her new album, “Circadian” this month.
“My last album introduced me to the world of songwriters” she says, “I gained a greater respect for the craft, but more importantly I learned a reverence for the creative force that moves through art. I stopped trying to ‘steer’ and rather tried to do greater justice to the songs that force their way out of me.”
With a few such compositions in hand, VanSant approached Nashville-based producer Neilson Hubbard whose production work struck her as lush, inviting soundscapes that never lose their intimate, down-to-earth nature and rock-solid grooves.
“I fussed a lot about making my last recordings painstakingly perfect, but this time I just wanted the songs to speak for themselves. My motto for this recording process was ‘if the groove is good, you can’t go wrong.’” 
This approach was a perfect fit for Hubbard, who encourages his artists to trust their first instincts. He assembled an all-star cast of session players including Will Kimbrough, Michael Rinne and Juan Solorzano. Hubbard sat in on drums. They holed up with engineer Dylan Alldredge at Skinny Elephant, the studio that Hubbard created out of an old garage. Harmony vocals were later added by her friends Mia Rose Lynn and long-time collaborator David McKindley-Ward. 
The 9 track album is made up of mainly deep, sensitive ballads.
The title track was inspired by light pollution, but the message, is that by keeping things simple, man of our problems could be resolved. 
“Most Of Our Dreams Don’t Come True” deals with the disappointments in life, from pregnancies, to careers.
“Tin Man”, may be a familiar title to Miranda Lambert, but it’s a completely different song. Letitia’s song here is a self written song inspired by an NPR podcast, and puts herself in the position of a lonely man, and his vulnerability. It’s certainly one of the album’s stand out tracks for me.
One of the tracks which really appealed to me was “Something Real”, a song inspired by fans mourning Jimmy La Fave at the Kerryville Folk Festival. It has a really catchy melody, which strong harmonies.
Letitia has a really nice vocal style which suits her songs here

Boston born EILEEN ROSE is a singer-songwriter who is known for her eclectic Americana music. She has released five solo studio albums and toured Europe and the US extensively with her band The Holy Wreck. She is also a member of the band The Silver Threads.
Her latest album, “Muscle Shoals” (Holy Wreckords) is released this month, and she’s also here to promote it. It is certainly an eclectic mix, recorded, in the famous studios in the Alabama town which the album is titled after.
In a throwback to the era of vinyl, there is an A side and a B side to this collection, on separate CD’s.
Side A is the “new” 9 track album, which kicks off with “She’s Gone”. Eileen’s vocals are certainly an acquired taste. Some tracks really suit her style, whilst she comes across rather strained on other tracks. This opening track falls into the latter category.
However, “He’s So Red” is more uptempo and more suited to her voice. Other upbeat songs include “Get Up”, which is quite poppy, the really fun sounding “On Shady Hill” and “A Little Too Loud”.
The tempo is slowed down on “Matte Kudasai”, which is one the tracks she didn’t write. Originally a King Crimson number, it’s a portrayal of the personification of the Japanese people who were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps during World War II. The other one she didn’t write fully is “The Auld Triangle”, although she did write an additional verse. It’s an old Irish folk number, which Eileen delivers a capella, and certainly stops the album in its tracks. 
Other slow numbers include the appealing “Am I Really So Bad” and “Hush, Shhh”.
Side B features 10 of her most beloved tracks over her 20 year recording career, re-recorded in the deep south studio.  Of the stand out tracks “Good Man” features some neat harmonica, which really caught my attention.  “Stagger Home” and “Sad Ride Home” are quite likeable ballads.
By contrast, “Walk The Jetty”, “Trying to Lose You” and “Queen Of The Fake Smile” both come over a bit rocky, yet at the same time, are quite commercial. To that end, stand out track on the package for me is “Old Time Reckoning”. This one features the fabulous Joshua Hedley on harmonies, and is really radio friendly.
I haven’t heard the original recordings to compare, but these re recorded tracks certainly sound fresh and worth checking out if you have her earlier material.

THE DANBERRYS are the husband & wife duo of Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry, who were high school sweethearts. They went their separate ways but their paths crossed at a gig in Cookeville,TN in 2006, and they were married a few months later.
Now, their third full length album, “Shine” (Singular Recordings) is out here on May 8th. The album marks a change from their previous acoustic sound to a much fuller sound ecompassing modern Country, alongside rock and blues influences. Recorded in Boston over a three day period, the album features 12 self penned songs, three of them alongside bluegrass writer Jon Weisberger.
The first single from the album, “The Mountain” which features Nashville singer songwriter Darrell Scott, is quite a bluesy number. 
The title track opens up the album. It’s quite a soft rock number, but with a distinct southern influence.
Similar numbers include “The Road” and “Maddie’s Glow”.
I really liked “Never Gone” and ”The Coal’s Glow”. Dorothy’s vocals come over as quite Country on both tracks.
“Rain”, which closes the album, is probably one of the closest tracks to their acoustic sound. It has quite a haunting folksy feel to it.
Other softer ballads include “Holding The Bag”, “The River Is Wide” and “Francis”.
All the fusions come together on “Loves Conquers War”. There’s a bit of blues, folk and Country, and it comes out sounding gospel. And it was incredibly catchy at the same time.
This is an incredibly diverse collection of material – The Danberrys are impossible to pigeon hole, but I think Country fans should enjoy their sound. Worth checking them out!

NORMA MACDONALD may be a new name to you and me, but she will release her fifth album, “Old Future” (Noyse Records)  here later this month. The Cape Breton born singer songwriter is a staple of the Halifax music scene, but, on this album, she takes the trip south, musically, through Appalachia towards Tennessee.
As the title suggests, there’s an air of nostalgia running through the album, with titles like “Golden Age” and “Some Days”. 
The album kicks off with the catchy mid tempo “Temperamental Year”, which serves as a welcoming introduction to the album. It certainly had me staying tuned for more.
“Trick of Light” inspiration is steeped in the insomniac hours of early morning , whilst on the lead single, “One Man Band”, one of the slower tracks on the album, she promises: “I’m here to tell you / Everything’s gonna be alright”. From “Wonder Of The Summer”, she conjures up images of sun-drenched beach days.
The Country influence runs through “Your Wedding Day” and “Some Days” especially. She really shines on these numbers.
As a song-writer, Norma manages to avoid cliché while still making every song feel familiar. MacDonald co-produced the album with Dale Murray; their musical kinship sounds effortless here, with no distance between MacDonald’s unmistakable vocals and Murray’s signature pedal steel and guitar chops.

Finally this time around, a charity single from Glasgow singer songwriter RAYMIE WILSON. “Gone” was inspired by Raymie’s mother in her last few months, when she was suffering from dementia. Although she played piano much of her life, she hadn’t in years, but one night, seeing Raymie working on his MacBook with a plug in keyboard, she asked if she could have a play. At that point. Raymie saw the power of music in front of his eyes.
The single is available on all the digital stores and streaming sites and at
All royalties from the single will be donated to a Scottish dementia charity.

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