Search This Blog

Wednesday 14 April 2021

April 2021

We're delighted to say that there has been an April issue of Country Music & Dance In Scotland magazine published. Included were 11 pages of reviews, combining the reviews listed under both December 2020 April 2021 entries below.

MANSON GRANT has been a mainstay of The Dynamos, and indeed the Scottish music scene for half a century. He joined The Dynamos when he was just 20 years old, and over the decades has performed a variety of music all across the Country and beyond. 
His latest album “Still Kickin’ ”(Pan Records) , recorded in lockdown at Studio-D in Wick, is a real Classic Country album, with 13 songs that will take you back to when Country was Country. He starts off with a couple of Vince Gill numbers, “I Never Really Knew You” and “Don’t Come Crying To Me”, before going way back to Bill Anderson’s “The Tips Of My Fingers”, and even further back to Hank Williams “Mansion On The Hill”. 
Webb Pierce is remembered with “There Stands The Glass” and “Back Street Affair”, whilst Buck Owens, who Manson devoted a whole album to a few years back, is remembered on “There Goes My Love”.  You can relive Mel Tillis’ “Arms Of A Fool”, Willie’s “I’ve Loved You All Over The World”, and even Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cotton Jenny” too.
There’s also a nice timely, incidental, tribute to Des O’Connor with a good version of “Careless Hands”, although I think Manson’s version will have been more inspired by the Country versions from Slim Whitman, Dottie West and Jerry Lee Lewis.  The song was co-written by Bob Hilliard, who also wrote “From The Candy Store On The Corner”, which also features on the album. 
I love the intensity of “Have You Seen This Man” which I tracked down to album tracks from Skeeter Davis and Ernest Tubb, but was never a hit. Manson really found a bit of treasure with this sad tale of a man whose life was destroyed by the bottle. 
Through the wonders of modern technology, the album features some great Nashville and Irish musicians and backing singers like Aubrey Haynie, Steve Hinson, Eamon McLoughlin, Marcia Ramirez, Kelly Smiley, Crawford Bell and, of course, former Orcadian Phil Anderson, alongside fellow Dynamos from closer to home, Robert Cameron, Brandon McPhee and ex Chicken Picker Chis Boxall. 
When I’ve seen Manson (and the Dynamos) perform, he’s never failed to entertain the crowd. This album, where he gets solo billing, not only proves that he’s “Still Kickin’”, but that these timeless tunes have still plenty of life in them too. 
An absolute winner! 

DEAN OWENS has quite a busy year lined up, with three EP’s and a full album in the schedule. 
“The Desert Trilogy” EPs are the prelude to his upcoming album, “Sinner’s Shrine”, recorded with desert noir icons Calexico at Wavelab Studio, Tucson, just before the pandemic struck. The songs on  the EPs, which will be released periodically over the spring & summer, each include a track from “Sinner’s Shrine” plus songs from the album sessions, and songs recorded long distance with Calexico’s John Convertino, and other special guests. 
The first single release ahead of EP1 was “New Mexico”, a song he originally recorded on his first solo album, “The Droma Tapes”, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. According to Dean, “The original recording was very lo fi, made with bassist Kevin McGuire in a tiny cottage in the Highlands on  DAT tape. The Droma Tapes is like the black and white version, and I always thought New Mexico should have the full Technicolor treatment. And now it has!”
EP1, subtitled “The Burning Heart”, also includes the haunting whistling instrumental, “Here Comes Paul Newman”, “Riverline” and the lovely ballad “Tombstone Rose”. 
EP2, subtitled “Sand And Blood”, released on 7th May, features Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno on the smoking, sultry version “The Land Of The Hummingbird”, with a much more upbeat version on “She Was A Raven”. Other tracks include the adventurous “Dolina”, and the slow burning “Ashes And Dust”. 
The final party of the trilogy, “Ghosts” is set for a 8th July release features Grant Lee Phillips on the opening track, “The Hopeless Ghosts”. Other numbers include the simple ballads “Mother Road” and 
“Even When I’m Gone”, before he closes with “The End”, a rather morbid finale, which reminded me of Cash’s “Hurt”. 
The songs were all inspired by Dean’s love of the great American Southwest - the desert states of California, New Mexico and Arizona. There are big production numbers like New Mexico and Land of the Hummingbird (sung partly in Spanish), quiet reflections like Tombstone Rose, sad love songs and a Morricone inspired whistling instrumental (Here Comes Paul Newman). Riverline, The Hopeless Ghosts, and Mother Road reflect on the displacement of people and the dislocation of lives on the road, while in Dolina the singer is looking for snakes and watching the desert burn.   
The Desert Trilogy EPs and Sinner’s Shrine are the latest stop on a lifetime’s journey - from the post industrial heartlands of Scotland to the untrammelled wide-open vistas of the American Southwest - for troubadour and musical adventurer, Dean Owens, as he surrenders to the intoxicating sounds of the south west. 
The EPs will be released digitally worldwide, and as limited edition CDs at  

MICHAEL McMILLAN has tasted a fair bit of success in recent years, but is far from being a newcomer to the music scene. The Glasgow born Singer Songwriter has over 30 years experience, playing his music all over the world including Brazil and the USA, having started his musical journey by playing Bagpipes in a local pipe band. He then learned to play drums. Michael ran away from home at the age of 16 to London and played with many famous and infamous musicians of that era. 
Returning to his home town he started initially writing lyrics and then putting them to music. He has always been influenced by the great story tellers, initially UK bands such as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and then the great American songwriters, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson, James Taylor, Crosby Still and Nash, there are far too many to mention. 
He has just released his 6th solo album, “Whisky”, the follow up to “Cross Country”, which was nominated for Album of the Year by UK Country Music Radio. He has had significant success for the Hotdisc charts in recent times. 
In the past couple of years, he has also played across the UK and the USA (New York, Nashville, The Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival and at The Mandalay Bay Hotel Las Vegas at The Nashville Hit Songwriters event), and is looking forward to getting out to perform again soon.
In the meantime, “Whisky” is a collection of 15 songs, inspired by people Michael has met on his travels. Needless to say, there are some sorry stories along the way.
The opening title track offers caution that “man takes a drink, but the drink takes one too. But when the drink takes the man, there’s little he can do”.
“You Don’t Know Jack” is an interesting story, which develops as a conversation between a barmaid and customer, and discussing the relationships with one’s favourite dram. 
But Michael tells of other issues facing folk, not just drink. 
A few of the songs are just lovely love ballads, like “Song For You” and “I Love You”, or songs of losing someone, like “Until We Meet Again” , and lost souls, like on “In His Eyes”, ”Tell Me Why” and “Unwanted”.
“Covers”, one of his Hotdisc single hits, really appealed to me. He offers reasons to sing his own songs, because “Garth & Johnny don’t need the cash”, although he manages to encompass a good many hit song titles into his lyrics. Very clever!
His songs are like individual movies that take the listener right there to that place and time. He has been compared to Jason Isbell, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and Guy Clark. He writes “real” stories about “real” people and “real” life. 
This is an interesting view of life and different people’s issues, all connected by Michael’s detailed writing, and effective delivery.

JOHN HINSHELWOOD has been part of the Scottish music scene for many years, having featured in bands like Honest Sam & The Dealers and The City Sinners. In recent years, John has played and recorded as leader of The John Hinshelwood Band.
For his new CD “Called Back”, his 6th solo album, John has come up with a project which is a departure from previous records both stylistically and with regard to personnel.
Although John has composed the music, the words are by 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, and the main aim was to try to match the poems to a variety of American musical styles ranging from old time and bluegrass, through to jazz and soul, with detours via folk, Celtic and Americana. The title of the CD (and of the closing track) is the inscription on Dickinson’s gravestone, and the words of her final letter to her cousins shortly before her death in 1886.
Both the title track, and the opening track “Let It Breathe” are both instrumentals, which have a lovely celtic feel to them. 
There are several numbers which still have John’s Country / Americana stamp on them. “The Sun” is a lovely laid back lazy west coast feeling number, with a long intro, and some lovely steel guitar and harmonies on it. “Beauty & The Truth” has a bit of an old time /Appalachian feel to it, but with a celtic tinge. “Judgement Day”, is more of a jaunty bluegrass number, with some lovely fiddle and harmony vocals from the very talented Laura-Beth Salter, who also plays mandolin on several tracks.  I really liked “Hunger”, which may have a more soulful arrangement to it, but fits in nicely with today’s Nashville sound. This track is one of three which feature harmonies by Austin,TX singer songwriter Barbara Nesbitt. 
“The Wind” is a gentle breeze, again featuring some lovely lap steel and harmonies from Cathryn Craig who recently relocated from Nashville to Ireland. Certainly a stand out track! 
Contributors include familiar names such as Tim Black, Ed McGlone, and Frank McHugh,  all members of John’s live line up, alongside veteran LA session percussionist Steve Forman and West Highlands based Mairi Orr. 
The album also benefits greatly from an infusion of some exciting young musicians based in Glasgow. From the folk scene there are contributions from two multi award winners, Australian born fiddler Jeri Foreman, and BBC Young musician of the year David Bowden (double bass), as well as tenor sax player James Steele, a protégé, of Tommy Smith, and trumpeter Alex Sharples of critically acclaimed big band Fat-Suit. 
It’s a really interesting project, and an extremely enjoyable listen. It’s not just a collection of songs – it’s a labour of love, and the end result is something to treasure. The CD should be available within the next few weeks. 

Back in our September issue, we reviewed RUBY RENDALL’s “No More Broken Promises” CD, which recreated her 1988 cassette only album of the same name.  On that album was a cover of  “From a Distance”, which Ruby released as a charity single on her birthday in early March. Ruby wanted to contribute something to a Charity that was close to her heart.
CLAN is a Cancer Support Group established in 1983 by doctors, patients and friends to offer help to people in the North and North East of Scotland. It relies solely on charitable donations to be there for everyone who needs support in the event of developing cancer or have family with cancer.
“I have had many family members use their invaluable service in the past - we need it to be there in the present and future, “Ruby said, “that’s why I am supporting CLAN in the one way I can - through my Music.
Please donate as much as you can when downloading the Single. The minimum amount is £2:50 for the download and £4.00 for the CD but if you want to give more you can”.
The Single has a B side, “Ingaaryds Lament”. It’s solo piano piece taken from Ruby’s latest Work - the Celtic Musical - The Viking Bride - A piece telling the story of a betrothal of a young Danish Princess to the King of Orkney. She loves the young Viking Sweyn and steals away in the night to be with him. The music is full of longing and an element of finality for the wedding that is to come on the next day (or is it? !!)
The Soundtrack for the Viking Bride is Classic Celtic Rock and the full recording will be out in the near future. Watch this space.
In the meantime, you can support CLAN by ordering “From A Distance” from

JASON RINGENBERG has been one of the most versatile hi- energy alternative Country music performers over the past forty years. The Illinois native moved to Nashville back in 1981, and soon after formed Jason & The Scorchers, who produced a sound like no other. But their blend of Country and Punk rock (Cowpunk) found itself an audience across the world. He wouldn’t appeal to the purists, and was just too far removed for the safe Nashville establishment.  His sound was the forerunner of today’s Americana genre. He has developed that sound over the years, and even diversed into a children’s character called Farmer Jason. 
To date he has released 23 albums, 13 with the Scorchers, 4 as Farmer Jason, and six solo credits. 
His latest album “Rhinestoned” (Courageous Chicken Music) covers all the influences gathered over the years, with a really strong Country feel to this album, with an edgy sound, that echoes back to the punk era, but sounds more fitting these days. 
At the same time, I’m thinking just how serious we should take Jason, and indeed, is he having a “go” at Country music, with lyrics like “ I heard old Hank, and I got deranged”? 
There’s two songs which give the album its title. “Nashville Without Rhinestones”, is a particularly strong political statement about how corrupt the town has become, and how the music which built the town is being left behind. Strong stuff! 
“Stoned On Rhinestones” is a much more light hearted fun number, sounding like a modern day Hank himself. 
He does his own take on an old Hank Williams classic, “You Win Again”. It’s rocky. It’s brashy. It’s fresh. It may not appeal to the purists, but it’s not that really that far removed from the original. 
Other covers he does includes a soup-ed up version of the gospel number “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today”. It’s starts off quite mellow, and you’re thinking this is a bit out of character, but it’s not long before he really rocks it up. I did find it a little repetitive, if I’m honest. 
Then there’s “Time Warp”, originally a song by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. It’s a catchy, downhome, even danceable number, which is quite infectious. It comes over as something between Tom Dooley and Ghostbusters! 
Stand out track for me is a duet with Kristi Rose on The Carter Family’s “The Storms Are On The Ocean”, which has a lovely celtic feel to it. I recall seeing Kristi singing in a Music City bar on Broadway many years ago. She impressed me then, and impresses me again on this recording.  
Kristi also provides harmonies on the opening track “Before Love And War”, and closing number, “Window Town”, both upbeat Country rockers. 
“The Freedom Riders Weren’t Free”, inspired by the young black and white activists who challenged segregated bus systems across the South back in the 60’s. The song was written right before last summer’s unrest. He manages another dig at Country music stars here, with the line, “where superstars take selfies”!
Taking his history lesson farther back, there’s “I Rode With Crazy Horse”. 
Other tracks include the country sounding “My Highway Song” and the more rockier “Keep That Promise”. 
I’ve listened to quite a few of Jason’s albums. I have to say that “Rhinestoned” is the one that has really caught my attention from the first listen. 
It’s not traditional. It’s not mainstream. It’s just Jason! 
Be brave. Give it a listen! 

Louisiana native LAINEY WILSON has fast become one of Nashville’s most buzzed about newcomers thanks to a fiery live show and her prolific songwriting. Wilson’s on-stage swagger combined with her memorable storytelling makes the singer a mainstay on countless artist to watch lists. 
Her debut album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” was released in the UK back in February, and made quite an immediate impact. Her hi-energy production sound, mixed with her gritty southern twang makes quite an impession,  The title track, which closes the 12 track collection, is one of the gentler tracks on the whole album, alongside “Dirty Looks”, “Rolling Stone” and the album’s lead single 
“Things A Man Oughta Know”, a song which  reflects honesty and self-conviction. “It’s really a song about having good character and a song about treating people the way that you want to be treated -- something that we all should know,” she explains. “It’s about standing up for what’s right. I would like for people to hear that through my music too.”
She can rock it up too, most notably with the really upbeat opener, “Neon Diamonds”, “LA”, “Small Town Girl” and the guitar-driven “WWDD” -- aka What Would Dolly Do. Wilson says she always looks to Dolly Parton when she’s at a crossroads and unsure how to proceed. “She handles everything with grace, but she also does it with some grit too,” she notes. 
In between, she offers some of the most radio friendly sounds on “Sunday Best” and the flowing “Keeping Bars In Business”.
Wilson describes her music as bell-bottom country. “Country with a flare,” she explains. “Fresh, but also familiar.” Each song blends vivid country storytelling with strong female characters as heard on the deeply confessional title track “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin.’” It’s no surprise that Wilson’s music is culled from her own life and the way she was raised with strong family values. 

LOGAN MIZE is a singer/songwriter from Clearwater, Kansas, who has deep musical roots to his family tree. His great uncle was Billy Mize, largely known for crafting and evolving the legendary Bakersfield sound. There’s no sign of that influence in Logan’s sound however. 
In 2010, several years after moving to Nashville, Logan signed a publishing & record deal, and has recently released his fourth album, “Still That Kid”. In between he has done a lot of touring, including support for Leann Rimes UK tour back in 2013. In 2016, Mize made waves when he booked a solo acoustic tour via social media and travelled more than 20 thousand miles in less than two months in a 1989 Chevy station wagon named "Glenn" running his own sound and lighting performing 3-hour acoustic shows for fans across the States. He’s been back here for Country2 Country in 2019. 
He is yet to make his mark on the Country charts stateside, however. Maybe “Still The Kid” will be his breakthrough album. 
 “Who Didn’t” a single released from the album, is quite a catchy number, which I really did quite like. “Hometown” is also quite appealing.
But, in the main, his sound is just bland Nashville pop. The sound that is getting lots of radio plays on so-called Country radio stations, but there’s very little Country about it. If that’s your kinda Country, then he’ll appeal to you. 

Southern Californian based RICK SHEA released his 12th album, “Love & Desperation” (Tres Pescadores label) back in February.  His music is a mix of Country, Blues, Americana, Latin, and even a touch of rockabilly. 
As well as his own work, he has worked with Chris Gaffney, Dave Alvin, Katy Moffatt and Wanda Jackson. On this album, he’s working with drummer Shawn Nourse and keyboardist Skip Edwards (both Dwight Yoakam) and bassist Jeff Turnes (Mavis Staples), as well as long time collaborator, Dave Hall. 
The album kicks off with “Blues Stop Knockin’ At My Door”, which really sucked me in. Billed as being the track with rockabilly influence, I just enjoyed it for its catchy old time Bakersfield Country feel. 
The other track which really appealed to me is “Nashville Blues”, which could be a swipe at Music City’s commercialism, but comes over more of a realisation that it just wouldn’t be his scene. 
As you tell from these two titles, that blues certainly feature in this album, and there are a few tracks which are a bit more blues leaning, including “Blues At Midnight”, “(Down At The Bar At) Gypsy Sally’s”, “The World’s Gone Crazy”   and “Big Rain Is Comin’ Mama”. But Rick’s blues style has echoes of old time Country stars like Jimmie Rogers. 
The title track is a haunting story song, which manages another jibe at Nashville. I quite liked it. I kinda grew on me. “She Sang Of The Earth” is straight Country, with some lovely steel licks, provided by the singer songwriter himself. 
He can turn a mean ballad too, on songs like “A Tenderhearted Love”. He also has a soft instrumental ballad on “Mystic Canyon”. The Latin Tex-Mex sound comes along on tracks like “Juanita (Why Are You So Mean?)” and “Texas Lawyer” which are quite a pair of toe tappers . 
I really quite liked this album. A really good listen.

Lockdown has affected musicians all over the world, but DAVE SHERIFF continues to keep busy releasing new albums. To be fair, his latest release, “Love Songs & Ballads” (Stomp) is a compilation of some of Dave’s most popular songs over the years. 
As the title suggests, it’s love songs & ballads- 18 of them!
Amongst them are some vocal collaborations, that remain some of the singer songwriters most cherished memories. That includes “I Couldn’t Find The Words To Say Goodbye”, which features Porter Wagoner and The Jordanaires. The Jordanaires also feature on “I’ve Got The Love Of A Good Woman” and “Your Special Day”. Closer to home, Carole Gordon features on “Turn Back Time” and “End In Tears” with Lisa Stanley. 
Other titles you may recognise include “Waltz Of A Lifetime”, “ My New Found Friend”, “She Who Must Be Obeyed”, and, of course “We’ve Got Memories”. 
It’s a good collection of songs from Dave’s back catalogue, which newer fans may not yet have in their collection.

ANTHONY McBRIEN latest releases is a 12 track album called “From Now On” (Sharpe Music”.
It features a number of good solid Country covers as well as three self penned numbers. 
Although this is a stone Country album, the title track is actually a Pasek & Paul composition that Hugh Jackman performed in “The Greatest Showman”. The arrangement is very different, and fits nicely into the rest of the album here. 
With the covers you’ll find the likes of “Let Your Love Flow”, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and “The River”, as well as a Don Williams medley and a Hank Williams medley, which also features “American Legends Of Country” mates Tracey McAuley and Joe Moore. 
A bit more up to date are the opening track, “The Dollar” which comes from the pen of Jamey Johnson, and there’s the lesser known Randy Travis hit “Old Pair Of Shoes”.
His own songs include “My Little Boy And Me”, inspired by his own personal father-son conversations.  “When This Is All Over” is a Covid inspired song, and Anthony’s take on the prolonged, ever changing, situation. 
Anthony has a strong Country style, which I really enjoyed. But he also manages a token Irish number, with “Little Piece Of Ireland”, which tells of the ex-pat community, who may never have visited the Emerald Isle, but still have the gene that holds such a strong bond. 
I really enjoyed the album. Antony has a great Country voice, and I enjoyed the song selection. 

No comments:

Post a Comment