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Thursday 6 October 2022

Oct 2022

 A new album from GENE WATSON is always a welcome listen, and his 34th offering, “Outside The Box”, has arrived after a five year wait since “My Gospel Roots”, but well worth the wait. 
Gene released his first album back in 1969, and is still producing some of the purest Country music around. 
The album kicks off with “If I Had Any Pride Left At All”, a slow, traditional ballad, typical of the sound we’d expect from Gene.
“I’m Holding Your Memory” is a straight Gene Watson Country song. Just great to listen to. 
“Who Do You Think You Are” is another classic sounding Gene Watson number, which I just loved. “It Looked Good On Paper” is a real sad one, about a marriage break up, and is followed by “Loneliness Is Eating Me Alive”.
“If She Knew” is slightly more uptempo to any of the other tracks. I stands out on an album, otherwise dominated by killer ballads. “Lie To Me” is a bit more bluesy, and again, different to the rest of the album. 
There are a couple of Country music anthems, which honour the traditions of our music, including the lovely steel laden “Some Fools”, which talks of listening to sad Country songs, and “They Played It”, which honours the musicians who are always in the shadow of the singers. A great song of appreciation.
There are a couple of “duets” on the album, including “Wonderful Future”, with Willie Nelson. It is, to be fair, a very Willie sounding song, but Gene’s magic is evident. The same applies to the Rhonda Vincent duet, “I’ve Got One Of Those Too”, which starts off with Gene, but Rhonda dominates the song. It’s is pure classy Country though, so I don’t mind too much. This pairing just sound so good together.  
It’s another classic Country offering from Gene Watson, who can always be relied upon to Keep it Country.

Formed on Winchester Street in the small mountain town of Castlewood, Virginia (population: 2,045), 49 WINCHESTER started as a group of neighbourhood teenage friends. In 2014 they independently released their eponymous debut, followed two more DIY recording projects. 
Since their formation, there have been hundreds of shows and thousands of miles between the starting line in Castlewood and where 49 Winchester stands today as a rapidly rising band. Now their latest offering “Fortune Favors The Bold” is released on New West Records, a label recognised for talents like Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Dwight Yoakam and Kris Kristofferson. 
The six man band have developed a “unique brand of tear-in-your-beer alt-country, sticky barroom floor rock-n-roll, and high-octane Appalachian folk”, to quote their website. They look like a group Southern rockers (aka Skynyrd), but their sound, whilst having a Southern Country rock edge to it, is much more mellow and relaxing. 
The title track is one of the more pop styled tracks on the album, The 10 track collection begins with some superb harmonies on “Annabel”, which was one of the advance singles from the album. “Man’s Best Friend” is the track that really gets the album into gear. It sounds right out of a Kris Kristofferson or James Gardner movie, and is a stand out track for me. 
“Russell County Line” is a real soft, down home ballad which I really liked, whilst “Damn Darlin”, has a real “tear in my beer” barroom ballad, which stands out.
The closing track “Last Call” is a bit more rocky, but with a real Country feel to it, and even some Jerry Lee inspired piano licks, for good measure. 
All the tracks were written by the band’s frontman Isaac Gibson. 
It’s refreshing to hear a band doing their own thing, and not trying to sound like every other band coming out of Nashville. I thoroughly enjoyed this album.

Texan WADE BOWEN has been making music down in the Lone Star State for over 20 years, and has 12 previous albums, prior to his recent release “Somewhere Between The Secret And The Truth”. His music is a good mix of Texan Red Dirt and Classic Country ballads. 
The title track closes the album. It’s a gentle honky tonk ballad, something that this album excels at. 
It all kicks off with “Everything Has Your Memory”, probably the most modern sounding arrangement across the whole album.  “If You Don’t Miss Me” is much in the same category. 
In between, I really got into a few of the killer ballads, like “Burning Both Ends Of The Bar” , “It’s Gonna Hurt”  and the two duets – “A Beautiful World”, which features singer songwriter Lori McKenna, and “A Guitar, A Singer & A Song” featuring Vince Gill. Wade’s voice certainly suits these type of ballads. 
Whilst I really enjoyed these ballads, he really rocked it up on “She’s Driving Me Crazy”, which has a really good Texan bar beat to it. I really liked it.
Other upbeat numbers include “Honky Tonk Roll”, “Say Goodbye” 
Elsewhere, I also quite enjoyed “The Secret To This Town”, a modern day homesick song. 
I hadn’t really appreciated Wade’s music up til now, but I’m really enjoying this album.

I was quite impressed with LAURA BENITEZ AND THE HEARTACHE on their last album, “With All Its Thorns” back in 2018, and now they’re back with a new collection, “California Centuries” (Copperhead Records).
Lead singer and songwriter Laura Benitez, has been making her mark on stage and screen since 2000. She spent several years appearing in soap operas and commercials in Los Angeles before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004, diving into the region’s rich Americana and Roots music scenes. Taking her musical cues from the Bakersfield sound, and her lyric inspiration from her favorite songwriters Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, Laura began writing songs in 2008, and later she began developing the band. 
They have come up with a sound which features strong lyrics from Laura, but equally strong instrumentation from the band, especially a strong steel guitar influence, in the same way as Gram Parson had been developing in his sound. 
The opening track was slightly rocky for me, but I was quickly in my comfort zone, as I listened to tracks like “A Love Like Yours”, “Plaid Shirt” and the honky tonk ballad, “Are You Using Your Heart”, which I really loved. 
There are a few songs which other musicians may appreciate, notably “All Songs”, which uses some nice harmonies, and the catchy “I’m With The Band”
“The Shot” has quite a bouncy feel, but she really steps up a gear with the bluegrass infused “God Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise”- a really catchy number. 
“Gaslight (We Shouldn’t Talk About It)” is quite topical, as it deals with human tragedies, or the way that individually we don’t deal with it.  “Invisible” and “Bad Things” have an equally air of denial.
I really like this lady’s sound. The album is a real good listen. The Bakersfield Sound lives on with Laura Benitez And The Heartache!

JIM LAUDERDALE  is one of these guys who has been all around Country music for over 35 years, without steering himself down the mainstream path. His early influences centred around Ralph Stanley and bluegrass. He played George Jones in a play at The Ryman based on Tammy Wynette’s life. As a songwriter, he has written for George Strait, Elvis Costello, Vince Gill and The Dixie Chicks. 
And as a solo performer, he has recorded 35 albums- the latest of which, “Game Changer”, was released recently on his own Sky Crunch label. 
The title track, written by Lauderdale, defies it’s title, as it’s a style that the artist has been performing for years, but then, after 35 years & 35 album’s, why change, just for a song title. 
The album’s opener, “That Kind Of Life (That Kind Of Day)”, is a catchy upbeat number, which gets the feet tapping from the start, and features Kenny Vaughn and Chris Scruggs on guitars. Other upbeat numbers include the pre album single, “Friends Again”, “Lightning  Love”, “Hoggin’ My Mind” and “I’ve Heard Of That”.
“Keep It Real” is a big more mid tempo, as is “Let’s Make Some Memories”, 
“We’ve All We’ve Got” was co written with Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris. It’s a really gentle pleasant listen. 
Russ Pahl’s  steel guitar makes a big difference on several of the tracks, which really stand out for me. “Wishbone”, was co-written with Australian singer adam Harvey. This one has a real traditional Country sound, which echoes of George Jones, no less. 
It’s Craig Hinson’s steel that adds the magic ingredient to “Our Happy Hour”, a slower ballad, which also benefits from some lovely harmonies from Lillie Mae Rische. I really had to check it wasn’t Emmylou doing the harmonies- they were just so perfect! 
Another highlight is the closing ballad, “I’ll Keep My Heart Open For You”, another real traditional Country sounding song. 
Jim Lauderdale has, once again turned out a masterpiece of an album. I loved it.

North Carolina 6 piece band TOWN MOUNTAIN may be a new name to readers, but with the release of their new album “Lines in the Levee”. they will sure to win many new fans. Their sound, whilst modern in approach, is steeped in the traditions of Southern Appalachian string bands across genres to classic country and old school rock and roll. Their influences scan the across the musical scene The Band and Grateful Dead to Bill Monroe, Townes Van Zandt, Chuck Berry and John Hartford. I also detected a bit of Mellencamp in the mix as well.
The 11 track album licks off with the title track, which has some lively fiddle licks from the outset, mixed with rather more rocky vocals.  “Comeback Kid” is much more of a ballad, as are tracks like “Rene” and “Unsung  Heroes”. “Lean Into The Blue”, which closes the album, shows a lot of tenderness.
“Distant Line” is a bit more mid tempo, as is “Seasons Don’t Change” and “Big Decisions” which really stood out for the harmonies. 
They really rockabilly it up on “Firebound Road”, taking me back to the sounds of Johnnie Allen & Dave Edmunds. The fiddle really adds something to the mix here, and is certainly one of the stand out tracks on the album. There’s even some steel on the upbeat “American Family”. 
In 2022, Town Mountain are different, although many of their influences are rekindled from previous generations, Nevertheless, they breathe a strong blast of fresh air onto the Country music scene. 
“Lines in the Levee” is available across digital platforms, on compact disc, and standard black vinyl. An extremely limited to 100 Coke Bottle Clear vinyl edition will be available at Independent Retailers in North Carolina while a limited to 1,000 Translucent Orange vinyl edition will be available at Independent Retailers worldwide. A limited to 500 Translucent Yellow vinyl edition was available on pre-order. All limited colour vinyl editions will be autographed by the members of Town Mountain.

Raised in Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky,  KELSEY WALDON released her 4th  album in August, “No Regular Dog” , produced by Shooter Jennings.
The album is rooted in deep self-reflection and features her most personal songwriting to date. With these eleven songs, including “Season’s Ending,” a tribute to Waldon’s mentor John Prine, and “Simple as Love,” the first love song she’s written, Waldon solidifies her position as one of music’s most authentic voices—turning the harsh truths of loss, self-doubt and sacrifice into songs that soothe and brighten the soul, all delivered in a strong southern accent. 
The title track, which opens, and closes the album is a smouldering number which slowly ignites the album. It’s the third track in, “Tall and Mighty”, before I really started to warm to the album. Her drawl really suited this number. The same applied to “Backwater Blues”
“You Can Never Tell” really had a traditional Country feel to it, and the chorus really had me hooked. “Peace Alone (Reap What You Sow)” was equally Country, whilst  “Simple As Love” is a really soft ballad, as is the Prine tribute. 
In addition to Waldon (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Jennings (piano, organ, synths), No Regular Dog also features Waldon’s touring band—Nate Felty (drums), Alec Newnam (bass) and Brett Resnick (pedal steel), alongside special guests Doug Pettibone (dobro, guitar) and Aubrey Richmond (fiddle), as well as background vocals from Kyshona Armstrong, Mickie Conley, Maureen Murphy and Kristen Rogers.  
This album is quite a slow burner, but the more I listen to it, the more it’s growing on me. 

Billed as “The Godfather Of Americana”, Lubbock, Texas born DELBERT MCCLINTON has had a very colourful career over the past 60 years, mainly in Blues music as a singer-songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, and pianist, but he has dabbled in Country music over the years. His highest-charting single was "Tell Me About It", a 1992 duet with Tanya Tucker, which reached number 4 on the Country chart. He has recorded 6 albums, which charted on the Country charts. 
Now, at the age of 81, he’s back with a belter of an album , “Outdated Emotion” (Thirty Tigers), which sees him “reunited with his youth”. He celebrates his coming-of-age musical heroes and performs the country, jazz, blues, and swing tunes that have inspired his career the most. Co-produced with Kevin McKendree at The Rock House in Franklin, TN, the tracklist includes a Ray Charles tribute, Hank Williams' country classics complete with steel guitar and fiddle, and Little Richard’s 1956 rock and roll ballad “Long Tall Sally.” The 16-song collection marks a return to McClinton’s roots and offers listeners a backstage pass to some of the most significant musical moments in American history.
The collection kicks off with “Stagger Lee”, a traditional song first recorded 100 years ago, and been covered by everyone from James Brown and The Righteous Brothers through to “The Grateful Dead” and Charley Pride. McClinton’s version certainly is quite bluesy, but with a Country influence, none the less. 
Many of the tracks are more bluesy, but Country fans should listen out for Hank Williams numbers, “Settin’ The Woods On Fire”, “Jambalaya” and “Move It On Over”, and “Money Honey” which has a real old time Country feel, with some catchy fiddle & steel. 
But the stand out track is one of Delbert’s own songs, reworked to fit in this album. “Two Step Too” is a catchy country number with some neat fiddle. Harmonies add to the mix.
It’s a really interesting album, from a true American musical legend.

We’re off to Ireland next for a new album from SABRINA FALLON.
Over the last few years the Galway lass has been charting an impressive rise to prominence on the Irish country music scene, with several singles, which now appear on her album, ”My Country Favourites”.
Despite the title, it’s not another collection of the same old tried & tested covers. Yes, there are songs that you’ll recognise, like Pussycat’s “Mississippi” and Phil Everly’s “When Will I Be Loved”, made famous, of course, by Linda Ronstadt. There’s more than a fair share of traditional Irish sounds too, including the rousing “Old Maid In The Garrett” and “Waxie’s Dargle”.
She’s called on a few friends that she’s made in the business, to join her on the album. Shane Moore duets on two tracks, namely “Candlelight And Wine” and “If Teardrops were Pennies”, as well as PJ Murrihy joining in on Finbar Furey’s “The Taxi’s Waiting”. The catchy “Good To Be Back Home” features Sina Theil.
For Country fans, there’s two David Ball songs, “Louisiana Melody” (my favourite track on the album) and “You Go And You’re Gone”.  There’s also a lovely waltz, “We Waltz With Love”, which Sabrina wrote for her parents. “Music In Your Heart”, a bouncy anthem, was released earlier as a charity single for an Arts project in her native Galway. 
It’s a very pleasant, easy on the ear, album, which is very much aimed at the Irish Country market, which continues to produce an endless stream of new talent.  
A cousin of country royalty in Mike Denver, Sabrina is more than a performer, having already hosted her own Spotlight TV series. 

With a career span of some 47 years FOSTER & ALLEN have been family favourites for generations. They are eternal providers of easy listening classic songs, and their new album, “We’ll Meet Again” is no different. 
The title track, which opens the 14 track collection, is the Vera Lynn wartime anthem, but you’ll also find “Cotton Fields Back Home”, whose originals also go back to the 40’s (Leadbelly) before Johnny Cash or the Beach Boys got their hands on the song.
They also cover Hank Thompson’s “Who Left The Door To Heaven Open”. 
But the Irish element is especially strong on this album, with “Mullinger Fleadh”, “Kitty Kiernan” and “Grace” all featured alongside Derek Ryan’s “Hold On To Your Hat”, “An Irish Heart”, and a lovely accordion instrumental, “Silver River Waltz”.
I always marvel at the selections on their albums, and find myself asking if they haven’t recorded certain songs before. (Have they never recorded “The Cliffs Of Dooneen” on any of their 40-odd previous albums?) 
Foster & Allen have not been in the business for so long without knowing just what their audience wants to hear, and they have an amazing knack at finding songs that will work for them and their fans. They do it so well.  

The latest in Humphead Records archive releases features North Carolina born DONNA FARGO, who had 38 Country chart hits between 1972 & 1991. Her first four hits were No.1’s, including CMA Single Of The Year, “Happiest Girl In The Whole USA”, “Funny Face”, “Supermom” and “You Were Always There”, which are all featured on the 2 CD- 50 track, “Funny Face- The Universal Recordings”. 
As the Universal roster now includes labels such as ABC Dot & Mercury, this collection features many of her early hits, as well as tracks from her “Winners” album in the early 90’s, which featured a duet with Billy Joe Royal on “Members Only”.  She did record for Warner Brothers for a few years, which are overlooked here, but as she only had one chart topper in that time, we can safely say that this collection covers the major part of her career. 
Some of the songs are not so serious numbers like “Daddy Dumplin’”, “Hot Diggity Dog”, “Rotten Little Song” and “2 Sweet 2 Be 4 Gotten”, but there are more serious songs too, like “I’ll Try A Little Harder”, “Just A Friend Of Mine”, “Only The Strong”, “Whatever I Say”.
What I hadn’t appreciated is just how prolific a songwriter Donna Fargo was. She’s credited with writing no less that 44 of the 50 songs on here (although it was The Gibb Brothers who wrote “Words”).  
As, with all the wonderful Humphead collections, Alan Cackett offers a full insight into Donna’s career in the 12 page booklet that comes with the CD. 
Donna Fargo is one of these artists who did so much for Country music 50 years ago, and particularly,Women in Country, yet is largely forgotten these days. This collection is a nice reminder of her music.
When I first got into Canadian Country music, it was for its diversity- from the folksy East Coast influences, to the cowboy sound from out west, and bands like Prairie Oyster and The Goods in between. These days, the Canadian Country scene tends to sound just like Nashville pop. 
But then along comes BOBBY DOVE, who totally restores my faith in Canadian Country music. Bobby has built a following across Canada and beyond, with a sound that is unmistakably Country, but with a real edge to it, in a way that rekindles memories of what kd lang could have been. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Bobby has become known as one of the country’s most dedicated troubadours, crooning live audiences with heart-worn originals, and paying tribute to the golden age of Country music. 
Bobby Dove’s new album, “Hopeless Romantic”, offers eleven new original Americana/Country songs on subjects such as unrequited love, being on the road, a haunted hotel and a hard-rocking pallbearer. Co-produced with Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo) and Tim Vesely (Rheostatics) at The Woodshed studio in Toronto, the record includes some of the finest in Canadian Country musicians.
The title track, which opens the album, is a quirky little number, laced with some superb steel, which really got me hooked from the start. “Gas Station Blues” has a bit more drive, with a bit of attitude. 
“Chance In Hell”, which also features Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy is so traditional Country, with lots of steel, twangy guitars, and even some honky tonk piano in the mix, that I was now totally hooked. 
“Like It Or Not, I Love You” has an old western movie feel to it, which is really effective.
“Sometimes It’s A Lonely Road”, and “My World’s Getting Smaller” are sensitive ballads which really show the vulnerability of Dove’s voice, which is a real credit. The latter sounds like a modern day Kitty Wells, in much the same way as Laura Cantrell.
“Golden Years” is a really simple arrangement, with just Dove and a guitar. It’s really effective, in a raw sort of way. 
Then the closing track, “New Endings, New Beginnings”, is another ballad, but more polished, with lots of steel appeal. 
I’m really loving this album, especially the instrumentation. It’s Pure Country! 
The Dove is currently perched in western Manitoba, supporting the launch of  “Hopeless Romantic”, as well as releasing The Bobby Dove Show, a virtual variety show, featuring Bobby’s new songs, and interviews with renowned roots/Country singer-songwriters from across Canada. Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, the show can be streamed on Bobby’s social-media as well as on

Moving south to Asheville, North Carolina, and a new collection from AMANDA ANNE PLATT & THE HONEYCUTTERS, who we have reviewed in these pages before. This new Post-Pandemic release is a 2CD set called “The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”. 
The album was initially formed as a collection of singles released in the past couple of years. As the bandleader points out, the two CD#s represent different sides of their creative process, with “The Devil” including the more manic, upbeat and outgoing, whilst “The Deep Blue Sea” being more reclusive, contemplative, and understated. 
Both discs offer ten tracks, all penned by Platt, and recorded in Arden NC. 
I’ve enjoyed their previous albums, and this listen continued that. 
“The Devil”, as pointed out has some upbeat numbers on it. The title track of this disc, is a good uptempo number which is really radio friendly. “Dallas”, on the other hand, is more of a ballad, and indeed more Country. 
Other highlights “Great Confession” is a strong song which stood out for me, whilst “Eurydice” is a much more gentler number.
On “The Deep Blue Sea” album, as described, has more reflective songs, with the stand out tracks being “Another Winter Gone”, “”Reverie” and “This Night”. 
Altogether quite a nice listen.  

RUSTY TINDER is best known as a pianist, but found Country music, as he travelled around, and found his way to California.  
Fate took Rusty on tour with his friend Doug Cameron’s alt-country band Stranger Neighbor for six months, where he realized this sound’s melodic nature was perfect to play on the piano and also fit the way he was feeling. After a big move to LA, Rusty played the piano in the country-rock outfit Von Cotton for eight years, covering the likes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and George Strait. He was officially hooked on country.
Now Rusty is centre stage with his second album, “Alchemy Road” just released, featuring 12 self penned tracks. It’s not a polished Nashville sound, but is still a very pleasant listen. 
The title track is a slow atmospheric ballad placed half way through the album. The CD opener, “Moonlight Kissed”  has a very quiet beginning, but builds into a catchy little number, which was enough to catch my interest. 
“Tululah” is a mid tempo, western influenced haunting number, which grew nicely. 
“No Longer In The Gray”, “On Top Of The World”  and “Stay” are pleasant ballads, as is “My Name”. 
“Without You” is a shade more rocky, whilst “Let Me Be Found” has quite a celtic/ folky feel to it, and my favourite track on, what is quite a listenable album.
Rusty credits his son as the reason for making his own music the priority this time around. “I’ve thought, What kind of legacy do I want to leave for me and for my son?” he says about the new chapter in his career. “What do I want to put out into this world, and what is it going to take?”
“Alchemy Road” is the answer he came up with. 
A really nice listen. 

Gary Van Miert is a local cult figure around New York.  Known for looking as if he stole his clothing from Ernest Tubbs closet, the singer-songwriter, musician and all around entertainer honed his skills playing the nightclubs of New Jersey, Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. THE SENSATIONAL COUNTRY BLUES WONDERS started as a vehicle for Van Miert to start performing and take advantage of the vibrant art and music scene in Jersey City. The band’s name is an homage to all the great groups from the golden age of Country & gospel. The band was designed to replicate the original instrumental lineup of acoustic rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar and upright acoustic bass used on the first rock and roll records made by Elvis at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.
Following on from the release of “The World Will Break Your Heart” during the early months of the pandemic, now comes the follow up in the form of “The Adventures Of A Psychedelic Cowboy”. This is a 10 track album, which is described as “deeply introspective, trippy, whimsical and spiritual”. Influences mentioned include Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks & The Beatles. 
But despite all that, Van Miert has conjured up a sound that blends the swinging 60’s with Country music, and a whole lot more. 
“The Psychedelic Cowboy Song”, which I guess counts as the title track, does have a certain western feel to it, but not in the way Roy Rogers or even Chris Ledoux would ever have done. It could be a modern day movie theme though.
Many of the songs, like the opener, “There’s a Hole In The Fabric Of My Reality” and “Breathe”, are bit more 60’s pop, but that’s not true of the whole album. 
“I’m Beginning To Live In The Light” starts with some neat fiddle and steel, and develops into a catchy foot tapping Country song, which I really enjoyed. “I’m A Caterpillar” also has a real Country feel to it, whilst “Memphis On My Mind” has a good Rock’n’Roll beat to it. 
“Life Is So Freaking Beautiful” is much more of a ballad, perhaps more pop than Country, but still very appealing.
The album closes out with the catchy “God Is Gonna Take Me Home”. 
Althogether, Gary and The Sensational Country Blues Wonders, have a fresh, different and vibrant sound, which crosses musical genres. It’s a good listen!

Next, we have a very pleasant album from THE SIDEMEN, a duo featuring Long Island raised Nick Justice and Blues guitarist Feter Martin Homer. They’re both based out in California now, and a year after deciding to weave together the threads of their individual careers, they have produced their first self titled album, which is now released.
The album kicks off with “Come Dance With Me”, a gentle , lilting melody, with some nice mandolin.
“Meet The Train” is a simple, gentle melody, which was written by Justice, as was “Virginia”, “Secret Soul”, and “Let’s Get Out Of Here”, which has a really nice melody, and some neat harmonies. 
The pair collaborated on “Lady of The Roses”, a western influenced number, which they wrote at The Tucson Folk Festival. 
It’s one of my favourite tracks on the album. “Light As An Angel”, the other song the pair wrote together is a catchy little number, and one of the most Country tracks on the 10 track collection.
Four of tracks, including “Early Sunday” and “Arise” were written by Fetter. Being the bluesy influence in the duo, this comes out in his songs. 
It’s a nice, relaxing listen. Not a Nashville sound, but pleasant, none the less.

Finally this time around, a couple of home grown albums. The first, from Glasgow sextet JAMES EDWYN & THE BORROWED BAND. They are back with their third album, “Highlights Of The Low Nights” following their highly admired album “High Fences”, which we reviewed in the February 2018 magazine.  
As before, their music is a mix of alt-country, indie/folk rock and roots orientated Americana.
The album kicks off with a soft Eagles-ish number called “Gasoline”, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. 
The tracks which will appeal most to Country fans include “Stargazer”, which has a Country rock edge to it, and “Buy Me a Ticket”, which a bit softer, but more uptempo. This is my favourite track on the album. Both tracks benefit from some lovely harmonies from Emma Joyce, who certainly makes her mark on the record. You can even hear a Gram & Emmylou sound going on at times. 
“Never In Her Eyes” is one of the softest tracks on the album, with some simple guitar instrumentation, which really appealed to me.
“Blue” has some nice harmonica leading into a soft ballad, and “Sometimes We Fade” is also a pleasant listen. 
Live, the band continue to move from strength to strength, stepping up to a number of festival main stages and cementing their growing reputation as a formidable live act. Recent highlights have included Celtic Connections and the UK Americana Music Association festival in London. 
It’s not all Country, but a pleasant listen for Country fans, and others. 

'CANYONS & HIGHLANDS' (Black Dust Records) is a new transatlantic music collaboration assembled by Scottish musician/visual artist NORRIE MCCULLOCH and featuring multi instrumentalist Dave McGowan (Teenage Fanclub/Belle & Sebastian), Nashville based live sound engineer Iain Thomson (Molly Tuttle), Stuart Kidd (The Pearlfishers), and fiddle player Christian Sedelmyer (Jerry Douglas band), amongst others. 
The album started out as recordings captured inside a VW campervan in rural Stirlingshire, which then spread wings over the Atlantic to involve inspiring musicians across the USA. 
Words and lines from old postcards gathered on earlier trips to America, inspired many of the songs on this album, which was solely written by McCulloch. 
The whole album has quite a celtic folksy feel to it, but has been split into Canyons and Highlands sides (there are vinyl versions available of the album). I was more attracted to the “Canyon” tracks. 
The 11 track collection begins with “Pushing On / Wolves”, which has strong harmonies from Lavinia Blackwall, blended with a very simple musical arrangement. It was very nice track to open the collection.  “Hurry Up Angel” is a catchy number, as was “Other Side Of The World”. “Took It To Heart” was a bit slower, but worked equally well. 
“Down From The Mountain” has an air of missing loved ones and loved places, a theme that runs through the album, noting titles like “She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “Drifting Apart”. 
What I really enjoyed most was Norrie’s Scottish brogue, not trying to sound like something he’s not.  
 The album was mastered at West West Side Music in upstate NY by Grammy award-winning mastering engineer Alan Douches.
The project was made possible through funding from Creative Scotland.
A very interesting and pleasant listen. 

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