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Monday, 5 August 2019

Aug 2019

DOMINIC KIRWAN celebrates his 30 years as a recording artist, with “Time Of My Life” (Rosette), a 12 track collection of easy listening, generally Country tracks, which is just the sort of music he has been so successful with, over the years.
There are covers from the likes of Kenny Rogers (Lady), Glen Campbell (Southern Nights & Wichita Lineman) and George Strait (The Chair).
He covers Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, and “The Older I Get”, a lovely ballad, which stands out on the album for me.  He even takes on Aaron Tippin’s “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” and The Hag’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
Veering away from the Country, “Once In A Lifetime” has quite a soulful feel to it, as does the duet with son Barry, on “The Long Goodbye”, a song written by Paul Brady, Ronan Keating and Kix Brooks.
He also offers an interesting arrangement to Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. 
The title track, the old Green Day hit, is given a vibrant celtic feel, and it really works well.
After 30 years Dominic really knows his audience, and knows just what songs will work. This collection continues the trend. A good mix of known, and slightly lesser known numbers, some strong ballads, together with more upbeat numbers.
It’s another winner from Dominic.

Philomena Begley’s son AIDAN QUINN was well received when he released his album “Overworked & Underpaid”, which instantly established him as part of the Irish Country scene.
It seems incredible that it’s taken Aidan 6 years to follow up with new music.
But it’s certainly been worth the wait. “Home Away From Home” (H & H Music) is a superb album in every way. I really like Aidan’s voice. He can sound so Country one minute, and then his Irish side really comes through on the more Celtic influenced numbers. The production is first class throughout, with no less than three producers, Brian Kerrigan, Dave Arkins and Stephen Smyth being involved in the album.
The album kicks off with “Friend Of Mine”, which was originally featured on the Nashville TV series, although is well suited to the Irish audiences. The next two tracks are Country classics. Firstly, there’s the catchy “Life Of A Poor Boy”, which takes us back to Stonewall Jackson days. That’s followed by the Merle Haggard ballad “What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana”, which has been a popular song for Irish artists to record of late.  Other Country covers include Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord”, Waylon & Willie’s “Good Hearted Woman”, Gene Watson’s “Circus That You Call The Rodeo” and “May The Wind Be Always At Your Back”, which takes us back to Miki & Griff days.
The Irish side is covered by The Murphy’s “Tallulah”, “Josie’s Country Tavern” and the Sean Keane written title track.
He does really spirited versions of “Grace”, “Flying Home From Aherlow” and “Lovely Leitrim” too. There’s a seven song “Country & Irish medley, and it’s all rounded off with a duet with mum Philomena, on Tom Paxton’s classic “Last Thing On My Mind”,
This is a really strong album. Aidan has a great voice, suiting both stone Country and traditional Irish songs.

Not to be outdone, mum PHILOMENA BEGLEY has a “new” release in the form of a double CD, which has a bit of history attached to it.
“Jive Time”, (H & H Music) is on CD1, which is a collection of 10 fast paced medley’s, is a project which has been in the making for 20 years. Recording began on the CD, but changes in record label resulted in the recordings been lost, and forgotten about until now. Recently discovered and completed, the recordings are all fresh, and newly recorded for the project.
There’s a mix of Country & pop songs in the mix, where you have Buddy, Hank & The Beatles in one set, and Shakin Stevens, Johnny Cash and John Fogerty in another. Medley number 2 features “Blanket On The Ground”, “Queen Of The Silver Dollar”, “Ramblin Man” and “Truck Drivin’ Woman”, four of Philomena’s biggest hits, rolled into one recording.
CD 2 is even more of a historic memory. It’s a live set, recorded at The Whitehall Theatre, Dundee, back in 1990 (were you there?). It was originally a TV show, and later made available on DVD, and is now included in the CD package.
Included are songs like the afore mentioned “Queen Of The Silver Dollar” and “Truck Driving Woman”, alongside “Sentimental Ol’ You”, “Route 65 To Nashville” , “One Drink Is One Too Many” and even “The Dark Island”.
And the package is completed by the addition of four more Philomena classics including “Red Is The Rose” and “The Way Old Friends Do”.
It’s testament to Philomena’s longevity, that recordings she made years ago, can be repackaged these days, and still sounds so great. There’s a lot of great music on this double CD collection.
Staying in Ireland, and an Anglo-Irish quartet who call themselves KEYWEST.
Their publicity cites them as being a fusion of rock, pop & folk, but there are certainly tracks on their album, “Ordinary Superhero” (Marshall Records) which will appeal.
All songs were written by lead vocalist Andy Glover and Andrew Kavanagh, and the album was produced by the pair too.
Their story began busking on the cold Irish streets, just to eat and pay the rent, but were soon blocking streets as crowds gathered to hear them play. On the back of these humble beginnings the band sold 150,000 physical CD’s.
They’ve now grown, and play venues all over the UK and Europe, as well as Ireland.
Their new album is certainly going to gain them even more exposure, I’m sure.
The album kicks off with the upbeat “Somebody To Love”, which is really difficult to label. It may well appeal to Country fans, who like their music a bit more edgy. The same could be said of “C’est La Vie”.
“What Are You Waiting For”, a song about young love, could’ve come right out of today’s Nashville scene. Indeed, it’s more Country than a lot of what’s coming out of Nashville these days. The most obvious Country sounding track is “I’m Not Me Without You”
“Wear Your Love” and “Blood Sweat And Tears” are more of a ballad.
“Ordinary Superhero”, the title track, starts off slow, but builds up to be a bit of a repetitive pop number.
“How Did We Get Here?” is a radio friendly pop-rock number, which could really be a chart hit for them.
It’s an interesting album. I could see Keywest appealing to the Country2Country crowd.

RUNAWAY JUNE is an American All-girl trio country music group consisting of vocalists Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland, and Jennifer Wayne (John Wayne’s grand daughter). Two of the girls are from California, the other from Florida, and they met in Nashville a few years back where they wrote their debut single.
Three years down the road, and their debut album, “Blue Roses” (Wheelhouse Records) has been released. It follows on from their Country2Country appearance in London this past March (they didn’t get to Glasgow), and touring the US dates of Carrie Underwood’s tour.
The album features the radio friendly hit “Buy My Own Drinks”, which has really got a good share of radio airplay, giving the girls some precious exposure.
The girls’ biggest selling point is their flawless harmonies, which stands them apart from many of the pop flavoured female vocalists and bands coming out of Nashville these days.
Whilst album opener, “Head Over Heels” is quite poppy, as is “I Knew The Way” and “Trouble With This Town”, I do quite like their sound.
“Got Me Where You Want Me” is a beautiful ballad. It’s one of the songs on the record, which wasn’t written by any of the girls. “We Were Rich” is another, which has a lot of traditional Country values in its lyrics, and has a catchy arrangement, which I really liked. “I Am Too” is a lovely mid tempo number which really appealed to me.
One track which will be recognised is a cover of Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast As You”. Having female harmonies deliver the song is an interesting listen. It really works!
But it’s the title track, and album closure, which stands out for me though. It’s a lovely, haunting ballad, and well worthy of its status as a title track.
These girls have a good modern sound, but as I say, their harmonies place them above many of the other female vocals coming out of Nashville these days. Well worth a listen.

Although ALICE HOWE hails from Boston, she headed west to Bakersfield, California to pursue her musical career, and to record her debut album, “Visions” (Know Howe Music), where she teamed up with FREEBO, whose credits include Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and Crosby,Stills & Nash.
She’s been compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but to my ears, she’s got her own, fresh vocal style, which I really liked from the first listen.
The album features five originals, and five iconic covers.
The covers include Taj Mahal’s “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes”, Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice,It’s Alright” and  Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me”, which are given her own style, not radically changed, but definitely not a straight cover either.
Most of the originals are collaborations with her producer, although “What We Got Is Gold” is a solo write. It’s a simple, homely ballad, which I really quite liked.
The album kicks off with “Twilight”, a gentle, lilting ballad, which has quite a folksy-country feel to it.  It really captures the listener’s attention for what is to follow. In much the same style, “You Just Never Know”, stood out for me. It has a really strong Country appeal.
“Still On My Mind” is a much slower, delicate number, whilst “Getaway Car” is different to anything else on the album, capturing a more upbeat bluesy style.
Throughout, Alice demonstrates a really pleasant vocal styling, which I really liked.
A superb album. One of my favourites of the year so far!

One of the most interesting collaborations of the year, has to be “Hawks With Good Intentions” (Western Seeds Record Company), which sees the Anglo-American union of US duo I SEE HAWKS IN LA and Liverpool’s “THE GOOD INTENTIONS.
They first met a number of years ago at a house party in the chaparral foothills in Sierra Madre, California, and have shared gigs on both sides of the Atlantic regularly since.
The two outfits began some long distance writing, and the result is this new album, which boasts some really neat harmonies and playing.
Peter Davies from the Merseyside end, leads the vocals on five of the ten tracks. They include the opening track, “Blue Heaven”, a breezy mid tempo number which is a nice welcome to the album. Also lead by Peter is the slower “Rambling Girl”, “Flying Now” and “Epiphany On Town Hal Square”.
Rob Waller from The Hawks, also leads vocals on five tracks, one ,“Rolling The Boxcars”, shared with Peter.
Many of Rob’s tracks, like “Things Like This” and “Steel Rails” have a modern, yet, western feel. I also liked “Will You Watch Over Me From Above”, which is a bit slower.
Victoria Jacobs from LA leads the vocals on the haunting “Hills On Fire”, one of only two tracks which were written from the LA side.
This album was a really nice listen. I really enjoyed listening, and can highly recommend both bands.

Once upon a time RACHEL HARRINGTON was touted as the hardest working girl in Americana music, due to her endless touring schedule. But over the last decade, music has given way to horses, health and family life back home in Washington State. That said, she has made touring visits back to the UK a few times over the past couple of years.
And now comes a new album, “Hush The Wild Horses” (Skinny Dennis), her first solo studio album since 2011.
And with the new album, comes a variety of styles, from slow, atmospheric singer-songwriter ballads to upbeat numbers.
Horses feature in both the opening title track, and the closing “If Wishes Were Horses”, which is a beautiful melodic ballad, which I really enjoyed.
Rachel is something of an open book. Last year, after her UK tour, she posted on Facebook, in great detail, the finances of her tour, and quite an eye opener it was. At the same time, she hasn’t hid her battle with the bottle, and is very proud to share her “Dry since March 2018” status.  One of the stand out tracks, and most Country, is “Drinking About You”.
Other vices are covered in the album, from the haunting “Child Of God”, which deals with child abuse, and “Save Yourself” about her brothers woes.
“Mekong Delta” covers the effects of war on individuals, in this case Rachel’s grandparents, and “The Barn”, influenced by her mother’s school sweetheart, who was killed in Vietnam.
“Drop Zone” is pure rock’n’roll, again influenced by war times.
Other tracks include the soulful “I Meant To Go To Memphis”, “Susannah” (inspired by Guy Clark’s wife) and “Get Out While You Can”.
Rachel’s songs are very personal, and even more so on this album.
Release date is September 6th.

TIM GRIMM is an accomplished folk singer-songwriter from Indiana, who has shared his music with a love of travel, farming and acting. Having moved to Chicago and California, he’s back in rural Indiana, which is reflected in his music.
20 years ago he recorded an album called “Heartland” which tracked his move from Hollywood back to Southern Indiana.
His 12th solo studio album, “Heartland Again” (Vault Records) revisits that original theme. His sons, Jackson & Connor were 5 & 7 years old when the first album came out. Now they’re in the band, and Jackson helped Dad produce the effort.
In an album of mainly original songs, two traditional numbers find their way into the mix, The Carter Family’s “Carter Blues”, and the soulful “Sowin’ On The Mountain” which he learned from Rambling Jack Elliott.
The album kicks off with the atmospheric love song, “Staying In Love”. Other ballads include “Better Days” and “Pumpkin The Cat”.
But it’s the bluegrass inspired upbeat tracks which really appealed to me. “This Old Man” is a tribute to his 86 year old grandad, “She Remembers” is all about a farmers widow, and
I love driving songs, so “Too Hard Drivin’” was right up my street, as was “Down The Road”.
“80 Acres” is his nod to Johnny Cash. A song originally a ballad, is given a fresh upbeat tempo this time around. It really works. It may be in Cash’s style, but Tim has his own sound.
Although billed as a folk singer, there’s plenty on this album, which will appeal to Country fans.
Tim also tours with his music, taking fans with him. Last year, he brought a party of 14 fans on a trip around Scotland, from Edinburgh to Skye and Inverness, and he’s planning to do it again in 2020.

ALICE WALLACE is a Californian Country singer-songwriter, who started playing guitar at the age of 10, and by the time she reached her final year in High school, was performing her own songs at the local Borders bookstore. 
In 2017, she won the Female Vocalist Of the Year Award at the California Country Awards, and after four albums, her talent is about to be appreciated on this side of the Atlantic.
“Into The Blue” (JTM Music) was recently released, ahead of a UK wide tour in October, which includes a date in Edinburgh.
The album starts off with “The Lonely Talking”, a slow, soulful ballad, which, I have to admit didn’t appeal to me, but the album certainly grew on me as I listened on. The title track, “The Blue” is one which certainly caught my attention. With its simple arrangement, Alice is able to demonstrate her vocals, which can sound vulnerable at points, and powerful at the same time. There’s also some neat harmonies from her family, including her father, mother & brother.
There’s a haunting western feel to a couple of tracks, including “Desert Rose”, “Echo Canyon” and “Santa Ana Winds”. “Top Of The World” and “For Califia” both shine through as the most Country tracks on the album.
“When She Cries” has a bluesy, soulful feel to it, but it really works well for her. One of the album’s stand out tracks. “The Same Old Song” is another soulful number. But both have enough Country in them to appeal to Country fans.
“Motorcycle Ride” is a bright and breezy number which I really liked.
The album certainly grew on me over time. I’m sure it will on you too.

BROOKSIE WELLS grew up in the Deep South with parents who fought for Civil Rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. She moved to New York City in the 1970s, where the thriving folk music scene heavily influenced her music. 
Bobby Darin discovered Brooksie at the age of 19, and she wrote for years for Chappell Music, with several of her songs used in recordings and movie soundtracks.
She later recorded with John Lennon's band Elephant's Memory and as a singer with Kid Creole and The Coconuts. 
Over her last couple of albums, Brooksie has returned to her southern roots and her new album, “In My Pocket” (Down Home Diva Records) brings us a fresh, downhome, country influenced collection of songs, all but one self penned.
The exception is Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me on The Water”, sung from a woman’s perspective.
The album kicks off with “Love On”, a mid tempo, song inspired by the fight for civil rights, whilst “Elijay” celebrates the strong community of women in the Georgia mountains.
“Maybe Not” is a gentle lilting song about drowning our sorrows. Other down home ballads include  “Willow Rose” and “Honeysuckle”.
“Rappahannock County”, has a quaint, old English folksy feel to it, which really worked for me.
“Bell Buckle” stood out for me. It has a real old timey, fun, bluegrassy feel, as it tells the feelings of a hungover bride to be on the way to the church.
“Captain John” is the story of a sailor’s life, and a woman considering his life.
The title track, which closes the album is another simple down home ballad.
I really enjoyed this album. Simple arrangements, lovely melodies, and a really nice voice.
Recorded in Falls Church, Virginia and Sparta, Illinois, this album is certainly worth a listen.

SI KAHN is a very recognisable name in the folk music world, especially with regards to civil rights and protest songs. He has been recording since the 70’s, and in 1994 recorded the first of several albums for Strictly Country Records, a bluegrass label based in The Netherlands.
This year, as he celebrates his 75th Birthday, he releases a new album for the label, “It’s a Dog’s Life” with a top notch German bluegrass band called The Lapping Brothers.
The album features 13 tracks, all written by Kahn, with three of the songs lead vocally by the writer. The musicianship of the band is superb. Together, they blend into something that is pure magic.
The album kicks off with “Government On Horseback”, a song that goes back to Ronald Reagan’s era, but is just as relevant today. It’s a fast paced banjo led bluegrass number, which really sets the album off & running. “Goin’ Goin’ Gone” is another one that points it’s lyrics towards the White House. There’s also a political point being made on “Hard Times”.
The album title track is another upbeat fun number, as is “Old Country Store”.
 “Gulf Of Mexico” is a medium paced number telling the story of Vietnamese montagnards, who sided with the US during the war there, ending up fishing for shrimp in the Gulf.
Poverty is covered in a couple of numbers, “Baltimore Blues” and “One Dollar Bill”, whilst “Hudson River New York Upstate Waltz”, talks of working class life and factories closing.
Slower still is “Rats In A Maze”, a song about health and safety in working places. 
There’s also a love song, a mid tempo, soft ballad, that’s a bit different to other tracks on the album.
“44 Years” was a song written for a reunion of the band which played on Si’s first album, but now serves to mark the timespan of his career to date.
I really enjoyed the album, as a listen- great songs, with a great band, and all the more amazing that the album blends life & politics across cultures.

Finally this time around, CHRIS RAWLINS is a folk and roots influenced singer-songwriter based in Chicago, IL distinguished by vivid lyrics, rich vocals and unique finger-style guitar playing. After years spent honing his craft in Chicago’s folk and singer-songwriter circles, his debut album, "Bring on the Rain", has just been released here.
It’s an easy listening album of original self penned songs, mostly performed in a gentle James Taylor fashion.
The album kicks off with “Gravity Or Something”, which is one of the more upbeat numbers on the album. It works as a welcoming introduction to what is still to come. Other upbeat numbers include “Almost Anytime”
“Bring On The Rain”, by contrast, is much more of a dark ballad, and the weather theme continues on “Leaves”, and “Cold Night”, which is a shade more mid tempo. 
“Don’t Forget” is the song which makes best use of his finger style picking. It’s quite catchy, whilst sounding like a real lazy summer day sound.
By contrast, “You & Your Heart”, makes good use of Brian Wilkie’s steel guitar, which totally transformed his sound.
It’s a pleasant, nice easy listening album. Worth a listen.

25 Years ago, George Jones produced one of the most iconic songs in Country music history. “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” paid tribute to the real legendary pioneers of Country music, and pondered the question just which stars would tomorrow’s Country performers look up as their heroes.
On hearing Mo Pitney’s more recent version of the song, Canadian Country singer LISA BROKOP realised that there weren't any females mentioned in the song!! So Lisa, got to thinking that it would be fun to rewrite it with the legendary ladies in it. And then came up with a feminine twist to the title – “Who’s Gonna Fill Their HEELS!!"
“I was getting ready to head to Calgary the next day to do a Legendary Ladies of Country Show at the Bow Valley Music Club,” Lisa recalled, “and this idea kept turning in my mind. So I came up with the chorus in the car on the way to the airport and then I wrote the rest of it on the plane. Writing a song on the plane was a rare thing in itself! I never do that!! I usually take a nap or read a book or something. But by the time I landed in Calgary I had it done. And then I decided I would sing it for the folks at the show. Me and the band did a quick little rehearsal of it and we did it for an encore at the end of the night. Everybody loved it”!
“Then two days later I made a recording of it on my phone..back in the kitchen”, Lisa laughs, “posted it on my FB page and before I knew it I had 1000's of views and people really seemed to be connecting with it! So now I'm thinking, well maybe I should record it for real in the studio..? By the end of the week I had a completed full band track of the song and it was ready to go. So I sent it out to radio, posted it on FB and there you have it”.
Next stop was the video, which Lisa shot on her iPhone, featuring some of Nashville’s most iconic buildings and inside The Country Music Hall Of Fame.
It could be argued that the woman of Country, like Loretta, Patsy, Tammy, Dolly and Mother Maybelle Carter, who are all mentioned in the song, faced bigger challenges than their male counterparts in breaking into the business.  But what really makes the song stand out, is Lisa herself.
Whilst everyone that heard George Jones original, considered him to be one of the legends himself, Lisa has more conviction when looking up to her i
dols. She’s been in the business for almost 30 years, with 8 albums to her credit, including releases for several of Nashville’s big record labels. In recent years, Lisa has been touring in a “Legendary Ladies Of Country Music” show. It seems so fitting that Lisa is the one to deliver such a stunning tribute to the pioneering women of Country.
Be sure to check out the video on You Tube. 

Monday, 3 June 2019

June 2019

We’ll start off with North Lanarkshire based HAZEL CUMMING, who recently launched her second album at the Fenwick Hotel in Ayrshire.
“Best Friends” was recorded at Hillside studio in Co.Down, and features acclaimed musicians such as Gerard Dornan, Stephen Smyth, Stevie Kirk and Charlie Arkins, with Carrie Benn, adding some backing vocals.
There are twelve tracks on the album, including three self penned originals.
The title track is a lovely lilting ballad, which honours the bond between mother and daughter. It’s a song that I’m sure will become a Mothers Day favourite in the future.  If “My Best Friend” was about her mum, “Here’s to Happy Years” is directed at her husband. It’s a good upbeat happy song, as is “Fake It With A Smile”. 
Of the covers, Dolly’s “Cracker Jack” stands out. It’s a song which was hidden away on a 1974 album. Dolly’s got a number of covers which get covered regularly, but good to see one of her lesser known songs getting some recognition.
Other covers include “Suds In The Bucket”, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”, “How Blue” and “Home To Aherlow”
And there’s a strong ballad performance on Derek Ryan’s “Gods Plan”.
Hazel is certainly influenced by the Country’n’Irish sound, and this album will no doubt get the recognition it deserves in Ireland. I hope the Scottish audiences pick up on this album too.
It’s a happy, upbeat album, which is certainly worth a listen.

DALE WATSON is a real troubadour for traditional Country music, and the founder of the Ameripolitan movement, which supports original music in the honky tonk, western swing, outlaw and rockabilly genres.
Born in Alabama, Dale is now, very much part of the Austin, Texas scene, having travelled via North Carolina, Houston, Los Angeles, Nashville and Baltimore on the way.
He has been regular visitor to the UK, even recording an album, “Live in London” back in 2002, and is back for a date in Glasgow this month.
His latest album, “Call My Lucky” is a superb collection of stone Country, recorded at Sam Phillips studio in Memphis.
The album kicks off with the bouncy title track, which really sets the tone for the album. It’s also his latest single release.
One of the stand out tracks for me, is the simple ballad “Johnny & June”, a duet with Celine Lee.
There’s also a Cash influence on “The Dumb Song”, “You Weren’t Supposed To Feel This Good” and “Run Away”. Dale certainly suits the Cash style, quite naturally.
“Mamma’s Smile” is a lovely old style Country ballad, which really stood out for me.
“Restless” is a good upbeat number, as is “Inside View” and “Who Needs This Man”.
Trucking songs have become something of a trademark for Dale, and this album continues the trend, with “David Buxkemper”, with a steady driving beat.  Still on the road, “Tupelo Mississippi and a 57 Fairlane” captures his love of vintage cars.
This album is just so Country. A brilliant album of real Country music!
If there’s any tickets left for his Saint Lukes gig, grab them now!

JIM LAUDERDALE is one of the most respected musicians and writers in Nashville these days. He has collaborated with a vast array of names, from Ralph Stanley, Buddy Miller, Nick Lowe,  and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. As a writer, his songs have been recorded by George Strait, Mark Chesnut, Vince Gill and The Dixie Chicks.
The North Carolinian has been making records since 1986, and releases his 32nd album, “In Another World” (Yep Roc) on June 23rd.
Co-produced by Jay Weaver and David Leonard, the 12 track record is a mix of solo tracks and collaborations with co-writers such as the legendary Melba Montgomery, Buddy Cannon, and emerging Americana star Logan Ledger.
Lauderdale is considered something of a free spirit, when it comes to music. He doesn’t record music to fit any particular genres (although he did a “Bluegrass” offering a few years ago). That philosophy continues throughout this album.
The opening track “Some Horses Run Free”, is a good upbeat number to get you interested. Horses get a second mention in “The Graceland Horses”, which has more of a cantor pace to it.
“The Secrets Of The Pyramids”, the first single from the album, features harmonies from Third Man Country singer songwriter Lillie Mae and her brother Frank Rische. Check out the video, which also features Elizabeth Cook.
 “Listen” is one of the prettiest songs on the album. It has a really simple, laid back feel, which really appealed to me, as did “For Keeps”, and “I’ll Forgive You If You Don’t”, which are probably the most Country tracks on the album. I also liked the title track, which has a gentle lilt.
There’s a nice steel guitar intro to “One Away”, one of the slower numbers on the album. “When You Cant Have What Your Heart Wants” is a bit more mid tempo.
Despite some lavish steel, “One Away” has a rather dated 60’s Beatles-esque feel to it. And the closing song, “Are You Trying To Make A Song Out Of Us”, has a sound that has come straight out of the soul-funk era. 
But, as I say, Jim Lauderdale is not someone you can box into a genre. He has his own style, and for his fans, this will be another winner!

Humphead Records have a knack of coming up with really imaginative compilations. The first of two this month comes from The Southern Gentleman, SONNY JAMES. “The Capitol Hits 1963-1972” features 50 tracks across 2 CD’s, and includes some magical music. My collection was extremely limited of Sonny’s material, so this was most welcome.
The period covered by this collection features music from his second stint at Capitol, which explains why his biggest hit, “Young Love” is not included. But you will find another 20 No.1 Country hits, 16 of which were consecutive chart toppers for him.
Fans from the 60’s & 70’s will recall his hits like “You’re The Only World I Know”, “Take Good Care Of Her” and “Born To Be With You”. He also had Country hits with covers of pop songs like “Only The Lonely” and “It’s Just Matter Of Time” and two Seekers numbers, “I’ll Never Find Another You” and an uptempo “A World Of Our Own”.
I really enjoyed listening to old forgotten hits like “Ask Marie”, “Behind The Tear” and “I’m Getting Gray From Being Blue”, not to mention “On The Fingers Of One Hand”, which was the B’side on “Take Good Care Of Her”.
It’s music from another era. But it’s from an era, when the music was made to last, and this package is testament to that.
A real pleasure to listen to.

Humphead’s other new release is from BOBBY GOLDSBORO, best known for his UK hits “Honey” and “Hello Summertime”, which was used for a Coca Cola TV ad.  “With Pen In Hand- The Definitive Hits Collection” has 50 tracks across 2CD’s. The material stretches from his first US pop hit, “See The Funny Little Clown” from 1964, (although the version here is a 1991 re-recording), through to “I’m A Drifter”, “Muddy Mississippi Line” and “Watching Scotty Grow”, which were Country hits around the late 60’s/early 70’s.
But a lot of Bobby’s hits were more pop orientated, and that’s reflected throughout this album. The happy easy listening pop sound was popular during this era, and it’s easy to see how Bobby was such a successful part of it.
The title of this collection also serves to point out that Goldsboro was an accomplished songwriter, as well as a singer. No less than 36 of the tracks here were self penned. But Bobby also wrote for others, including Vikki Carr, Brenda Lee, John Denver and Della Reese.  
Whilst I realise that Goldsboro was probably one of these singer-songwriters whose Country music credentials were achieved by accident less than ambition. His main market would have been Top 40 pop, but with a crossover appeal across genres.
It’s all just a bit too pop for me though!

MARY DUFF has established herself on the Irish & International Country music scene over the past 32 years, having recorded her first album back in 1987. She is recognised for her continual touring with Daniel O’Donnell over that time, but has also developed her own solo career, both as a recording and touring artist.
I reckon her new album is her 16th studio solo album, not counting a number of duet albums with Daniel, compilations and live collections.
“Turn Back The Years” (Rosette) is a collection of newly recorded Country classics. Whilst Mary has recorded her fair share of original material in the past, the live audiences, especially with Daniel, appreciate more of the easy listening evergreens, and that’s just what Mary offers on this new collection.
Included are instantly recognisable numbers like “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”, “What I’ve Got In Mind”, “Blue Bayou” and “Snowbird”, alongside Emmylou’s “Beneath Still Waters” and Mary Chapin’s “Down At The Twist & Shout”. As you can tell she’s covering the spectrum with the material here. The title track is an old Hank Williams number, and she also includes Patsy’s “A Poor Man’s Roses”. Leo Sayers’ “When I Need You” also gets the Mary Duff treatment, and Daniel joins Mary on “Crying Time”.
The most interesting cover, to my ears, is her version of The Hag’s “Sing Me Back Home”. It’s a song which has been recorded so many times in recent years, but Mary has stripped it right back, with a beautiful slowed down version led by Steve Milne’s piano, and enhanced by some really effective strings.
It’s an extremely well produced set of easy listening Country songs, performed in a style, which Mary has excelled at over the years.
Another winner!

Since appearing as a contestant on TG4’s Glor Tire TV series back in 2016, OLIVIA DOUGLAS has quickly found recognition as one of Ireland’s brightest new stars. Her popularity has spread across the Irish Sea, with a string of festivals and weekends, as well as the recent Nathan Carter tour, as part of her schedule.
Her second album, “Forever Country” was released last year, and gave her two Irish Country chart topping hits, with her cover of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” and Brian Warfield’s  foot tappin’ “Leaving Tipperary”.
The Co. Offaly lass has quite a mixed bag on the album, ranging from Bill Anderson’s “Bright Lights And Country Music” and Ronnie Milsap’s “Back On My Mnd”, to Lacy J Dalton’s “Hillbilly Girl With The Blues” and Tammy’s “Stand By Your Man”.
There’s a couple of real old time classics, in “Jambalaya” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, as well as a couple of Rhonda Vincent covers in “What Else Could I Do” and  “Teardrops Over You”, which are my favourite tracks on the whole album.
When Olivia plays live she plays accordion, so it’s no surprise to hear a couple of celtic/Scottish numbers, “Will You Go Lassie Go” and “The Mason’s Apron”.
Throughout the album, Olivia has a fresh, well produced sound which should appeal to the Country as well as Irish fans.
I really enjoyed the album, which was produced by Des Sheerin, and the The Sheerin Family are heavily involved on the musician’s side of the album.
Since the release of the album, Olivia has also released two upbeat happy singles in “A Hug Or Two” and “I’m Off To Lisdoonvarna In The Morning”, which, perhaps, have a bit more Irish influence, than the album has generally. But a good listen all the same. 

A couple of years ago, we reviewed an album by SPOOK HANDY, a New Jersey singer songwriter, who has been heavily influenced by American folk music legends Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Following on from his 2016 album with the similar title, “Songs of Pete, Woody & Me, Volume II” was released last month to coincide with, what would’ve been Seeger’s 100th birthday. The album is subtitled “Dedicated To The Proposition” (Akashic Records).
Like the original release, Spook covers not only Pete & Woody covers, but songs that he has written himself, very much in the style his heroes would’ve done.
In case you’re not familiar with Pete & Woody. Seeger was popular on American radio, as far back at the 1940’s but is best known for his part in the protest song movement in the 60’s, with songs like “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “If I Had A Hammer” and “We Shall Overcome”.  Guthrie is best known for songs like “This Land Is Our Land”, “Worried Man Blues”, “Jesse James” and “Cumberland Gap”.
As you see, both had an immense influence on American Folk Culture, and Spook is keeping it going through these albums, and tours across the US & Canada.
This album kicks off with the bluesy “Pete Seeger’s Life”, and includes covers like Woody’s “Mister Charlie Lindbergh” and Pete’s “If I Had A Hammer”, “Letter To Eve” and “Old Devil Time”.  Spook added a verse and chorus to Pete’s “The Farmer Is The Man (The Farmer is the One)”, which delivers the same message, we hear from our own farmers today. I guess across the years and different cultures. The message hasn’t got through.
Pete’s own songs include “Better Way”, “Do It In The Name Of Love” and the catchy “Always Have A Song To Sing”, which stood out for me. 
And the whole project rounds of with a live version of “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”.
Purely as a listener, it’s a very enjoyable album. But it’s a lot more than that. There has been several albums of late of American Folk Songs, some by Country singers, but Spook, with his connections to Pete & Woody, just makes this album sound a lot more real and authentic.

Getting noticed in the ever growing music scene is important to success. Having a catchy name certainly helps. Next up, we have a five piece band from Nova Scotia, who took their name from a local street musician, who inspired them.
With the release of “Hanging On”, PRETTY ARCHIE showcase a genre-bending mix of folk, bluegrass, country, gospel, rock and vintage soul, all underpinning the band’s East Coast roots, that’s absolutely impossible to pigeonhole.
It all kicks off with a superb Country gospel number, “Aint No Saving Me”, which had me hooked right from the acapella intro.
Most of the tracks are upbeat energy fuelled numbers, from the Country flavoured “Stay The Same” and “This Old Town” to the haunting “You Better Run”, there’s plenty to enjoy on this album.
There’s soul-drenched tracks like “Summer Love” and “Sometimes”, a cautionary tale cleverly disguised as a rip it up party tune like “Night Life”, or the breezy “Holding Out” – a song that’s essentially the band’s mission statement.
The band are: Brian Cathcart (lead vocals, guitar), Matt McNeil (mandolin/guitar), Colin Gillis (harmonica, bass, vocals), Redmond MacDougall, (banjo/percussion/vocals) and Scott MacLean (guitar/mandolin).
The album was recorded in Sydney, Nova Scotia at Soundpark Studios and co-produced by Pretty Archie and Jamie Foulds.
Since their 2013 debut, “Steel City”, the band have built an ever-larger following on the East Coast and across Canada and landed a gig last Summer at Denmark's Tonder Festival, and in support of the new album, the band will be touring the UK and European this year. They’ll be worth catching.

When moving away from Canada to pursue a musical career, Cardiff wouldn’t automatically top the destination list, but that’s exactly the journey taken by our next act. He got a few guys together, and DAREN EEDENS AND THE SLIM PICKIN’S was born.
Their music is hi-energy bluegrass and banjo playing, and it all comes together on this self titled album.
The 10 track album, recorded in Cardiff, kicks off with “31”, the slowest song on the album, with soft instrumentation, and harmonies, where the pace really picks up half way through.
That pace continues to gain momentum as the record goes on. “Forget Me Nots” is a catchy, fiddle led, little number, which stood out for me. It shows echoes of the rockabilly era, with introduction of the telecaster.
Then by the third track, “Don’t Trust”, we’re into full force, with Dave Grubb’s fiddle challenging for a part in Charlie Daniels’ Devil Went Down To Georgia. That fiddle is Hot!
We certainly needed a “Rye Whiskey” after that, although the pace doesn’t slow down much, until we get to “Well Well Well”, one of the songs which Daren relates to the pain of a personal struggle. “Whiskey And Bars” is another of the more haunting numbers, which shows a darker side.
The album concludes with “Hit The Ground Running”, which probably has the most traditional Country influence of all. It’s a ballad, which builds up to a rousing chorus finale with The J Birds.
An interesting album. Another which doesn’t mark the cross in any particular genre.

Finally, THE MOUNTAIN FIREWORK COMPANY are an Anglo-Irish outfit, whose music has been described as “Alternative Bluegrass with a dark treacle folk centre”!   Their fourth album, “The Beggar’s Prayer”, released at the end of April has 14 tracks.
The five piece band are made up by Gareth McGahan, who is the songwriter of the band, Grant Allardyce, Brian Powell, Simon Russell and Mike Simmonds.
They certainly have an interesting sound, which has folk and bluegrass overtones on one hand, but with a contemporary sound on the other. I’ve often asked what the difference is between a violinist and a fiddle player (the answer is usually “the fee” ! ), but you can certainly detect Mike’s violin sound here, more distinguished than a fiddle sound.
The title track sounds like it’s from an old movie soundtrack, but with some neat harmonies, sung round the one microphone. It’s quite atmospheric.
“Like A Fire” kicks off the album in a progressive folksy style. It’s upbeat and gets the album off to a good start.
The tempo slows for an interesting little instrumental, “The Fish & The Crow”, before feeding straight into the more upbeat “Refugee” and mid tempo “Ready To Run”.
“The Gravedigger’s Lament” starts off with chants, which sound like it’s right out of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”.
Robin Williamson contributes the lyrics to the melodic “At The Golden Gate”. “A Long Time Ago” is quite a jaunty folky number.
The more traditional fayre, includes the banjo led “If Only”, an upbeat bluegrass belter, which stood out for me.
“Hello Stranger” is also quite a fresh upbeat number, as is “How Long”.
Another interesting album, which denies all genre boundary walls, which is always good to hear.

Friday, 5 April 2019

April 2019

The Country2Country Festival has certainly made its impact on Country music’s popularity in the UK and Europe, and this year heads down under to conquer Australia. To the more traditional Country fan, much of the c2c sound is just too pop, but the promoters do try to spread the musical styles around.
Humphead Records have been big supporters of the festival, which was held in Glasgow, Dublin & London last month. The label released “Country To Country Vol 4” just in time for the festival. A 2CD package, offering 40 tracks, is a good collector’s item for festival goers, and a good introduction to the modern Country scene for those not quite convinced yet.
Not only does the collection include artists who were appearing at this year’s event, like Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Dustin Lynch and Ashley McBryde, but also previous visitors like Marty Stuart, Sugarland, Lukas Nelson and Maren Morris.
The album features some brand new music, like Cam’s “Diane”, Old Dominion’s “Make It Sweet”, new trio Runaway June’s “Buy My Own Drinks” and “I Believe In You” from Ward Thomas.
It’s an interesting selection. There’s a lot of different tracks on here, although Mo Pitney’s “I Met Merle Haggard Today” is my favourite track.

One of the names who appeared at this year’s Country2Country was CARLY PEARCE, a Kentucky native, who took the Dollywood route into Country music. She got a deal with Sony Music in 2012, which didn’t produce anything at the time. Featuring on a song by Texan Dirt band, The Josh Abbott Band, led to her debut single, and album, “Every Little Thing” being picked up by Big Machine Records.
Her early exposure to music was in bluegrass bands, before she even hit her teens, and she also worked on bluegrass compilations whilst in Dollywood.
But there’s very little of that early bluegrass influence on this album (although, I believe did feature in her set at c2c), which includes 8 songs co-written by the 28 year old singer, many with her producer busbee, who has also worked with Maren Morris and Lady Antebellum, as well as Pink, Gwen Stefanni and Kelly Clarkson. Other writers featured include Shane McAnally, Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey and Allison Veltz.
It is a Country pop album, but I do actually quite like her voice, which shines through above.
The hit singles from the album including the opening track, “Hide The Wine”, which does have a very Maren Morris “My Church” sound, and the softer title track which is a smouldering ballad. The latter hit No.1 of the US Airplay chart.
It is the ballads which I preferred, notably “If My Name was Whiskey”, “You Know Where To Find Me” and “I Need A Ride Home”, which was the stand out track for me.
Having said, I really liked the mid tempo “Catch Fire”. Not particularly Country, but quite catchy and infectious.
The whole album is quite pop Country, as I said, but there was just enough to keep this Country boy interested.

MARTY STUART has built up a career of respect amongst his Country music peers, having “done his time” working and learning from Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash. HumpHead Records latest classic release is Marty’s “The Definitive Collection Vol 2”, a 3CD collection featuring no less than 65 tracks, stretching back to “One More Ride”, a duet with Cash from 1993, and “The Whiskey Aint Workin’ (with Travis Tritt) from 1991, as well as a couple of cuts from the Hillbilly Rock album in the late eighties.
It has to be pointed out that you wont find “Hillbilly Rock”, “Tempted”, “Western Girls” or “Honky Tonk Crowd” on this collection- they were all included on the 44 track Volume 1.
But you will find a wide variety of Stuart’s classic album cuts, from “Sundown In Nashville”, “A Satisfied Mind”, “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome”, “Hey Porter”, “Tear The Woodpile Down” and “Half A Heart”.
There are collaborations with The Old Crow Medicine Show, Loretta Lynn, BB King, Mavis Staples and Del McCoury, which really shows the versatility of the guy.
There are some newly released archive material, such as a 15 year old Marty doing mandolin on a live version of “Rawhide”. The track originally came from a “Live From Vanderbilt” recording in 1974. From the same era comes “Mystery Train/ Tiger Man”. The playing is superb, but Marty’s vocals have thankfully improved over time.
Another instrumental is “Marty Stuart Visits The Moon”, first heard on his “Loves & Luck” album in 1994.
There are some genuinely new 2019 recordings, the highlight being the old timey “Homesick”.
To top it all, the package comes in a small CD sized hardback booklet, which includes some amazing pictures, mainly black & white from a great career. Marty personally put this album together, both musically and photographically.
It includes some incredible moments from Country music history.
A must have!

The phrase “Too Country”, to describe a singer who sticks to their traditional roots, is not a new term. Back in the 90’s, a guy from Kentucky called MARTY BROWN got high acclaim from the traditional Country music fans.  I loved his music, and have continued to play his him over the years. His label, MCA, stuck by him for 3 albums, and released 6 singles, but only 1 charted, reaching a high of just No.74!
But Marty wasn’t a quitter!
He has kept going over the years, with the odd recorded project. He also wrote hit songs for the likes of Tracy Byrd and Trace Adkins. He even entered America’s Got Talent back in 2013, and got to the top 10, with his version of Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” getting 11 Million You Tube hits!
Now, Marty’s been back in the studio, and his latest album, “American Highway” (Plowboy Records), is released in May, marking his welcome return to the recording scene, and hopefully, radio.
I have to say that Marty’s traditional roots, have given way a little. There is definitely a bit more blues in his music, notably on “When The Blues Come Around” and “Casino Winnebago”.
The album kicks off with the drivin’ “American Highway”, followed by “Better Than It’s Ever Been”, which is a rather Country rock number. Again, it has a good driving beat to it.
There’s quite a soul feeling to “Umbrella Lovers”, the lead single from the album. It kinda reminded me of Ronnie Milsap in his heyday! It’s soulful, country, and has enough crossover potential to really get him on the charts.
“Shakin’ All Over The World” is quite different to anything else on the album. It’s quite upbeat and quite poppy, whilst “Right Out Of Left Field” has a bit of a rockabilly feel to it. It works really well.
“Kentucky Blues” is one of the stand out tracks for me. Inspired by Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain”, it conjures up memories of Milsap again, with a dash of Kristofferson and Tom T Hall, all rolled into one.
“Velvet Chains” is another really strong song, written about his daughter growing up, and not being his little girl anymore.
Great to hear Marty Brown back on the scene. Let’s give him some attention this time around!

I often consider TOM RUSSELL to be one of music’s real storytellers. As well as having recorded 35 albums, he has published six books, including a detective novel, and collection of songwriter quotes. His art is on display in several major galleries worldwide.
As a songwriter, he has written for Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith, kd lang, Tom Paxton and Ian Tyson, amongst others.
His music covers a range of genres. Sounding quite rocky at times, he also creates an image of the wild west, or a tex-mex tavern, or of places around the world.
His latest album, “October In The Railroad Earth” has 10 originals, and one cover. The different styles are still evident, with the common link, being observant stories. The title track opens the album. The lively train song reminds me of just how much his style is like that of Johnny Cash.
His stories range from performing a small gig in “T Bone Steak and Spanish Wine”, and appreciating the poetry of Robert Graves in “Red Oak Texas”.
The album also includes “Small Engine Repair”, an older song he had never recorded. The song was originally written about the man who fixed his lawn mower in El Paso, but was picked up for the 2006 Irish film of the same name, about an aspiring Country singer, played by Scottish actor Iain Glen.
“Isadore Gonzalez”, has a strong Mexican feel to it, yet he talks of playing for the folks of “old England”, and drinking “strong English beer”. Gonzalez was a Mexican vaquero who was touring England in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, back in the 1880’s. He died in a horse accident, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Bristol. And now immortalised in song here.
“When The Road Gets Tough” is another inspired after being stuck in English traffic, somewhere north of London.
The Bakersfield Sound of the 50’s & 60’s, inspired “Highway 46”, a lovely number which recalls some of the areas big names, like Buck, Merle & Spade Cooley.
“Back Streets Of Love” is a nice ballad. It’s also his Anti- GPS song, believing his heart is a better guide than a satellite system.
He rocks it up a bit on “Hand Raised Wolverines”, a song inspired after touring in Canada.
“Pass Me The Gun, Billy” is a cowboy song. His own Wild West adventure, chasing poachers who were shooting at his brothers cattle.
He rounds off the collection with another train song. The first song he learned to play on guitar was “Wreck Of The Old ‘97”, and is included here.
It’s another classic Tom Russell collection of stories put to music, and really enjoyable it was.

NORMAN BORLAND has been a popular name on both sides of the Irish Sea for many years. Originally from Donegal, Norman headed for Scottish shores way back in the 70’s seeking work. His musical journey developed here, through working with Steve James and Toe The Line, whilst developing a name for himself at the same time.  He is now back on the Emerald Isle, and finally making inroads into his native land’s rich musical scene.
His latest album (his 5th, if my sums are right), “Even The Man In The Moon Is Crying” was recorded in Letterkenny, with respected Irish musicians like Jonathan Owens, Brian Kerrigan, Declan O’Hare, Al McQuilken, Mike Cleveland, Richard Nelson, James Blennerhassett and Danny Sheerin.
One thing that makes Norman really stand out from the Irish crowd, is that his music is 100% traditional Country. A huge Haggard fan, the album includes “Working Man Blues” and “The Fugitive”.
The title track is a cover of a Mark Collie song from the 90’s. It was Collie’s biggest hit, and Norman does it real justice. He also does a good cover of Lee Greenwood’s “Dixie Road”.
He does Dolly’s “Gypsy Joe & Me”, although probably owing more to Ray Lynam’s version rather than the original. His version of “If Hollywood Don’t Need You”, is a bit more upbeat than Don Williams’ original. On the ballads side, his cover of the Glen Campbell/Steve Wariner song “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” is superb, as is Collin Raye’s “Angel Of No Mercy”.
The more unusual songs for Norman to record include the popular line dance number , “My Veronica”, which has  been a really successful song for him, and The Derailers’ “The Right Place”.
Country through and through. It’s a superb album.
Available through

DAVE SHERIFF is one of the UK’s most regular recording acts, and one of the most accomplished performers in the country. Over the years he has embraced the traditional Country scene, the line dance network, and has set his sights on Ireland over the past couple of albums. Many Irish acts have recorded Dave’s songs, and, for his new album, “Donegal Time”, he went to Ireland’s 4th biggest county, to record his latest album (Stomp Records).
Dave has developed a happy beat, which suits the dancers of all persuasions. The album’s title track kicks off the album in that way. There’s also “Yur Never Too Old To Jive”, Fordson Major”, “Play It Again”, and the celtic influenced “Galway Boy”.
But Dave also gives us sentimental ballads, like “Come What May”, “The Next Dance With You”, the really traditional “Don’t Be A Stranger”, which is the stand out track for me.
There’s also a fitting tribute to Gary Perkins on “We’ll Always Have Our Memories”.
Dave has been recording and performing for longer than many of us care to imagine. He knows his audience, and knows just how to deliver his music to the audience.

JASON RINGENBERG is one of the most individual characters in the music business. He found success back in the 80’s with Jason & The Scorchers, a band which mixed Punk rock and Country, has had a chain of solo albums, and more recently developed Farmer Jason, a character aimed at children through music & TV.
His last solo album was released 15 years ago, and the last Scorchers album in 2010. Jason had resigned himself to working on his farm, and do the occasional Farmer Jason gig.
Then, out of the blue, he was commissioned to be Artist in Residence at Sequoia National Park in Southern California. He spend a month there, in a mountain cabin, exploring the park and performing for visitors, and writing.
The result is “Standing Tall”   (Courageous Chicken Music), an eclectic mix of music, and he’s still mixing high energy rock music alongside gentler Country overtones. Included are 7 self written numbers and four inspiring covers.
Although the album kicks off with the title track,   I’ll start with “Here In The Sequoias”, a gentle ballad, with some neat mandolin, and harmonies from Kathy Livingston and Beth Koehler, which really sets the tone for the album.
He captures several heroes throughout the album, including John The Baptist, (John The Baptist Was a Real Humdinger) and John Muir (John Muir Stood Here). Both recapture Jason’s earlier punk roots, as does “God Bless The Ramones”.
“I’m Walking Home”, is a song from the perspective of a disillusioned Conferderate soldier. Completely different to anything else on the album, it has a good lively beat, which lends itself well to the topic.
The covers are just as diverse. “Hobo Bills Last Ride”, an old Jimmie Rodgers song, is given a delicate arrangement, so different to the punk flavoured numbers. Even more diverse is a cover of Jean Shepard’s “Many Happy Hangovers To You”. I can’t imagine what Jean would think of it. The punk overtones are there, but the song remains Country based. A really interesting selection.
And to round it off, he does a gentle version of Dylan’s “Farewell Angelina”.
This is an interesting album. One that you certainly have to listen with an open mind, I certainly enjoyed it.

AMBER CROSS is a well travelled young woman. Born in Maine, studied in New Mexico, lived all over California (where she still resides), and recorded this album in Austin. She first caught the attention of music critics six years ago with the release of her first album. Now, her third album, “Savage On The Downhill”, has arrived, just in time for a short UK tour, which includes dates in Aberdeen and Edinburgh this month.
Amber had attended a Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada in 2015, and it made such an impression on her, she wondered if her music would fit into the western music scene. Through Chuck Hawthorne, and Ray Bonneville, who ended up producing the album, Amber found herself immersed in the music, and the result is the 10 tracks here.
It’s not a typical western album of the Roy Rogers, or even Chris LeDoux style. Amber has created a modern take on the old, or perhaps I should say New, west.
The album kicks off with the upbeat “Pack Of Lies”, which neatly sets the tone for the album. Other upbeat numbers include “One Last Look”.
The title track is more of a smouldering, haunting number, which features Gurf Morlix playing guitar.
“Eagle & Blue” and “Storms Of Scarcity” are softer melodic numbers, the latter enhanced by some lovely Tim O’Brien fiddle.
Loneliness is covered in several songs, notably the simple “Trinity Gold Mine”, and “Echoes” which captures homelife, and explains why things aren’t as rosy as they seem. This one kind of reminded me of early Loretta songs, although a bit more controlled, and it does feature some lovely steel from Mike Hardwick.
I really liked the simplicity of “Leaving Again”. It’s quite a bouncy little number.
The album closes with “Lone Freighter’s Wail”, an old timey train song, written by producer Ray Bonneville, the only track not penned by Cross, herself.
I love Amber’s voice. It’s accented, and really suits these songs, which bridge old style Country, with a touch of western, folk and even rock in there. I really liked her sound, and loved this album.

TYLOR & THE TRAIN ROBBERS are a band of characters, hailing originally from Helix, Oregon, who really capture a nation of travels on “Best Of The Worst Kind”. The band is led by Tylor Ketchum, who has created a sound which brings forward a passion for the America West.
And from the American West enters “Black Jack” Ketchum, the centrepiece of the album. A Texas cowboy turned outlaw, he was a member of the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang, which operated out of the same New Mexico hideout as the famous Wild Bunch led by Butch Cassidy. “Black Jack” is also a distant relative of Tylor Ketchum and the inspiration for the band’s name. Set for release on the anniversary of Black Jack’s hanging, the album is a bit of roots, country and Americana with influences from Texas and Red Dirt country music.
The CD kicks off with the mid tempo “Lost And Lonely Miles”, which sets the tone for the whole album.
“Good At Bad News” is a hard luck story song, telling how sure plans never turn out. “Pay Your Way” has a number of catchy clichés on the “all your eggs in one basket” phrase.
“Fumblin’ For Rhymes” is an upbeat “chasin’ your dreams” song. “Hide Your Goat”, is a driving upbeat number
“Storyteller”, “Before It’s Too Late” and “Few and Far Between” are a bit on the slower side, as is the album’s closer “Place Like This”.
I loved this album. Not for its western overtones, but for the simple fact that Country music used to sound like this. Good to hear Country music, like this, is still getting recorded.

Bluegrass bands are really all round entertainers. Whilst the image of a bluegrass band, may conjure up images of old timey banjo music, and a similarly old timey dress code, today’s bluegrass bands are much more creative in their musical arrangements. Hayseed Dixie, and our own The Daddy Naggins come to mind, as best examples of that.
There’s also CHATHAM COUNTY LINE, who describe themselves as “Newgrass”, a four piece, suited, outfit from Raleigh NC. The quartet have been together for 20 years, and have eight previous albums, and their new album, “Sharing The Covers” (Yep Roc) has just been released.
Yes, it’s an album of covers, but done in a unique bluegrass style. And, indeed, the “covers” aren’t a set of tried and tested numbers. The song choice comes from all genres of music.
The album kicks off with Wilco’s “I Got You (At The End Of The Century)”
They also honour Tom Petty , John Lennon and The Rolling Stones, as well as more Country offerings like “My Baby’s Gone” (The Louvin Brothers) , “Girl On The Billboard” (Del Reeves), “Think Of What You’ve Done” (Carter Family) and “I’m Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar” (Delmore Brothers). There’s an interesting take on John Hartford’s “Tear Down The Grand Ole Opry”, which may have something to say about the wider Nashville redevelopment going on at present. There’s also a superb instrumental, “Walk Don’t Run”, which was one of the biggest hits for The Ventures (America’s version of The Shadows).
The Petty cover, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, sounds very Country, although Leo Kottle’s “Bumblebee” and The Stone’s “The Last Time” do come over a shady rocky.
Altogether though, a really first class offering. Interesting, fresh arrangements. I really liked this album.

Another bluegrass album comes from JACKSON GRIMM, a multi instrumentalist and singer songwriter from Asheville NC. “The Bull Moose Party” (Vault Records) covers insights into the heartache and desolation felt on a young man’s exodus from home. His bio states that the album doesn’t fit easily into one genre. I’d say that the album fits very nicely into a number of genres.
The nine track collection kicks off with “Appalachia Calling”, an upbeat driving number, which starts with some strong acapella vocals.
“I’d Hold You (But I Don’t Wanna Hold You)” and “Mid America Blues” are a bit less bluegrass. The latter certainly has a subtle bluesy feel, but the three part harmonies really make it an interesting number.
The fiddle intro, from producer Josh Goforth, really adds to “If Not For You”, one of the most straight Country tracks on the album. Described as a waltz, the song also features some neat “high lonesome harmonies”.
“Last Train Home” is something a centrepiece of the album. It’s a “party-grass” number, in the style of the Old Crow Medicine Show.
“Runnin’ Ragged” is a fast foot tappin’ number which really worked well for me.
“Evangelina” and “Paper Airplane” are both much slower numbers. The latter, notably, features some nice harmonies, which reminded me of early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band records
All the tracks were written by Jackson, and made for a really nice listen.

MARK MANDEVILLE & RAIANNE RICHARDS are an old timey, bluegrass influenced duo from Maine, whose music is popular in Canada, as well as their native New England. They have been performing together, and have a string of albums behind them, and their latest, “Live In Manitoba” (Nobody’s Favourite Records), was recorded during a 13 date House Concert tour. The album recreates the atmosphere of the small intimate session, with short introductions and chats popping up in between songs. The quality of the song recordings are, however, so clear, that they could’ve been in a studio.
All but two of the songs were written by the pair. The exceptions being covers of Tom Petty’s “Walls” and Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”. Both covers really stand out on the album, but don’t let that distract you from the rest of the album.
Most of the vocals are lead by Mark, although it’s Raianne who leads on “Don’t Ever Stop Believing”, ”That Old Machine” and “One More Mile”, although the harmonies together are superb.
“It Wont Be Written On My Grave” is a catchy number which stands out. But, the harmonies are so beautiful, and the instrumentation so simple, that there’s not a bad track on the album.
A lovely listen.

Closer to home are a London based duo of Duncan Menzies and Robin Joe Sangster, who perform under the name of COPPER VIPER. They played their first public show at the Filey Folk Festival in April 2017, and now have their album, “Cut It Down,Count The Rings” released this month.
Their bio suggests that are an acoustic folk group, but there is certainly Country and bluegrass influences evident throughout the 11 self penned tracks, which were recorded in Washington State in America’s Northwest.
Menzies is originally from the North East of Scotland, and developed his fiddle and mandolin skills playing Scottish traditional music.
The music varies from the old timey opener, “Bad Desires”, the breezy “All In One”, to the double bass driven “Fly”,
to slow moody ballads like “Howl” and “Doors”. “Slow Down”, which closes the album features some nice mandolin.
“Hung Up Alone” is a stand out bluegrass number, and they do a really crackin’ job of it.
There’s certainly a lot of variety across the album, covering a range of genres.
Interesting CD cover too, with no artist or title prominent. It’s what’s inside that counts, and I enjoyed it. A nice, if different, listen.

Finally, DANNY SCHMIDT is an Austin, TX based singer songwriter, who has been named in the “50 most significant songwriters in the past 50 years” in the Chicago Tribune. He is up there with Leonard Cohen, Harry Chapin and Townes Van Zante.
“Standard Deviation” (Live Once Records) is his 10th studio album, recorded in Atlanta, and features 10 self penned numbers.
It’s all simple songwriter fayre, largely Danny and his acoustic guitar, with some additional Bass, Piano, steel, strings, banjo, mandolin and harmonica when required. All the songs are pleasant, and Danny’s vocals are really nice and listenable.
The tracks which impressed me most, included “Bones Of Emotion”, a really catchy Country feeling number, and “Newport ‘65”, with some impressive harmonies, from several singers, including his wife Carrie Elkin. “Agents Of Change” is another which worked well for me.
“Last Man Standing” is one of the more upbeat numbers, with a bit more instrumentation, and a catchy chorus lines.
A really pleasant album, released to promote his forthcoming tour, which calls at Glasgow’s Glad Café on May 8th.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Feb 2019

We’ll start off our reviews this time with a superb album from Canada. “Then And Now Vol 1” is a project by the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame, which is in Merritt BC , and produced by Tom and Carly McKillip.
The idea of the album is to team up the Hall of Fame legends with some of Canada’s younger (and not so young) talent, performing some of the legend’s biggest hits.
So you have Ian Tyson, teaming up with Aaron Pritchett and One More Girl on a rockin’ version of “Summer Wages” to kick things off. It’s certainly a bit different to Tyson’s original.
Some of the songs included aren’t really that different to the originals. They include Michelle Wright’s “Take It Like a Man”, where she’s joined by Jess Moskaluke, and “Fox On The Run”, featuring The Good Brothers and current CCMA Group of The Year, The Washboard Union.
But some of the songs are given totally new arrangements, like Sylvia Tyson’s “You Were On My Mind”, which is led by George Canyon, and Gary Fjellgaard’s “Dance With This Old Cowboy”, which features Brett Kissell.
Russell De Carle (ex Prairie Oyster) teams up with Patricia Conroy on the old Oyster classic “Such A Lonely One”. This one is given quite an Everly’s feel, with lovely harmonies.
The stand out track for me is the rockin’ version of “Down By The Henry Moore”, a hit for Murray McLauchlan back in 1975. He’s joined on this version by Belfast born Beverly Mahood, who was only months old when the song was originally released.
There are also collaborations featuring The Family Brown & Kelly Prescott, and Wendell Ferguson & Gord Bamford, before all the “Now” artists join together on a Gordon Lightfoot medley.
Watching the CCMA Awards show recently, it looks like the Country scene there has went the same way as Nashville- down the pop road - but there is some seriously good Canadian Country music on this collection, which should be savoured.
I found it a real feel good album musically, and a treasure to listen to.
The album can be downloaded, and the full physical CD package includes a glossy 24 page booklet and a DVD looking at the making the album.

The UK Country scene has developed its own brand in recent years, led by the likes of The Shires and Ward Thomas. It’s good to see Scottish acts getting recognised too. Glasgow based ASHTON LANE, who took their name from the city’s West End entertainment district, went right to No. 1 in the Official UK Country Album Chart with the release of their new album, “The In Between” (OC Records), holding onto the position for a second week.
Esther & Tim O’Connor, who make up the duo have released five previous albums (and another under Esther’s name), but this album raises their profile.
Much of the background to the album can be traced to the duo’s online “Kitchen Sessions” which has 8.7k subscribers. Many of the songs were written alongside fans, including the lead single, “Marilyn Curls”, which is based on the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be publicly executed in Britain.  It offers quite a different sound for them. It’s quite haunting and bluesy.
The title track, which sits nicely half way through the album, is a lovely simple ballad, which really highlights Esther’s pure vocals.
The album kicks off with the bright & breezy “By The Field”, and followed by the mid/up tempo “People In The Valley”, which really caught my attention on my first listen.
I really liked the driving “Growing Up Together”, which has quite a Rickie Lee Jones influence to it (albeit with a less scratchy vocal style).
Esther proves she can perform a mean ballad too, shown to best effect on the haunting “Primrose Hill”, which also offers some really neat harmonies. “Desert Sky” which closes the album has many of the same attributes.  “Under The Wonder” is another which excels in their harmonies.
“I’ll Pray” is another which has a really haunting sound to it. It conjures up images of an old church, without sounding like a gospel number. For me, another of the album’s highlights.
Over time, Ashton Lane have developed a sound that is theirs. In a world where so many groups and singers all sound the same, here is an album, which sounds original. That’s because it is!

Back in 2010, a young Glasgow girl called LISA McHUGH released her first commercial album called “Old Fashioned Girl” (She did record an earlier album of covers before this). It was the start of a career which has seen her move to Ireland to become one of the biggest Country stars there.
After seven highly popular albums, Lisa has taken time out to reflect on the past nine years and look back at the songs which have been “The Best So Far” and released them in one new package (Sharpe Music).
The 20 tracks take us from “I’m A Little Bit Lonely”, which was on her first album (but taken from her Live album here), right up to recent singles “Y’All Come” and “Honey Honey”, her duet with Derek Ryan. 
In between there are a number of Dolly covers, like “Applejack”, “Blue Smoke” and “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That”. Other hits included are Kasey Chambers’ catchy “Hillbilly Girl” and the title track to her last album, “Who I Am” (the theme to TV detective series Sue Thomas F.B.Eye).
This album proves that Lisa’s popularity, with her busy schedule on the Irish dance scene, is thanks to her happy upbeat numbers. But Lisa has had a few notable ballads of note. One example would be the lovely version she does of “Play Me The Waltz of The Angels”.  There are also duets with Nathan Carter on “You Cant Make Old Friends” and Malachi Cush on “Peggy Gordon”. There’s also “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “26 Cents”.
But the track which really stands out for me, and has done since her first album, is “There Were Roses”. Although originally on “Old Fashioned Girl”, the 5 ½ minute version here is from “Lisa Live” and is filled with so much emotion. If you’re not familiar with the song, it was written by folk singer Tommy Sands, and tells of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the killing of two good friends across the religious divide. The song really strikes a chord, and Lisa delivers it so well.
The whole album is a good catch up on her career to date. 

ROBBIE PETRIE is, without doubt, one of Scotland’s longest established Country performers, especially in the North East.
Robbie has come up with a real traditional mix of songs for his latest album, “Nashville On My Mind”, which was produced by Ryan Turner, alongside musicians like Danny Sheerin and Charlie Arkins from Ireland, and Max T Barnes, Johnny Lee Carpenter and Rusty Manmyer from Nashville, He’s even got The Benn Sisters on backing vocals.
Songs include The Hag’s “Big City”, “Lonesome Fugitive” and “Mama’s Hungry Eyes”, Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning”, and Paycheck’s “A-11”. There are some other gems, like the Confederate Railroad ballad “When You Leave That Way” and “This Is My Year For Mexico”, which I remember Crystal Gayle doing early in her career. Robbie also does his take on Kathy Mattea’s “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses”.
It’s a well produced album, featuring some real traditional Country music. They’re all covers, but Robbie does them so well.
Good job Robbie!

MICK FLAVIN has been at the top of the Irish music scene for over 30 years now, and celebrates with a new CD/DVD package, “30 Years Travellin’ To Flavin” (Rosette Records).  He has consistently been recognised as one of Ireland’s “most Country of performers”.
The CD was recorded live at the Backstage Theatre in his native Co.Longford, and features 15 songs from that have been signature songs for him, like “Someday You’ll Love Me”, “I’m Gonna Make It After All” and “Lights of Home” to George Jones covers like “Choices”, “A Few Old Country Boys” and “He Started Loving Her Today”,  to a Hank Williams set.
Stand out track for me has to be “Legend and the Man”, originally done by Conway Twitty, and later by Keith Whitley. Mick’s version is up there with both.
The DVD features all of the CD tracks, as performed live in Longford, with a number of additional songs, such as “Size 7 Round” (a duet with Mary Duff), “Back Home To Mayo” and “Old Log Cabin”.
There’s also video of Mick visiting some old stomping grounds from his childhood, and rekindling some great memories.
As I say. Mick is one of Ireland’s real Country singers, and this is a fitting marker for his 30th Anniversary in the business. Here’s to the next 30 !

Country music is sung all over the world, not only in the large English speaking countries, but also in smaller places. Our next album comes from the Mediterranean island of Malta.
MARTY RIVER’s first public performance was at the age of 13, singing Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” in a local talent competition.
His first three albums got significant attention and radio play from the international Country music community. Now, Marty releases his fourth album, “Maltese Falcon” (Amberstar), recorded in Nashville, with Gary Carter as producer. Gary also produced his “Midnight Sky” album seven years ago.
The album features 14 self penned songs (with Joseph Spiteri), all given a really polished Country sound. The title track, a lovely ballad, with some affectionate harmonies from Mica Roberts, tells of flying free without a care in the world.
The style of songs on the album is really varied, from the upbeat “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” , “If Only These Walls Could Talk” and “Tonight Mr DJ”, to the more mellow “You’re What Keeps Me Going On”, “He’s Walking By My Side”, “Love Is A Wonder” and midtempo numbers like “Texas Lady”.
Jay Jennings adds some trumpets to the Marty Robbins influenced “Magnifico Mexico”. It’s actually a bit more upbeat than anything Robbins done, but still has his feel. In a similar vein is “Sweet Lorena”, this time highlighting Jeff Taylor on accordion.
The Cajun flavoured “Why Don’t You” is another upbeat number, which is the current radio single. It should certainly get some airplay. Again Mica’s harmonies are just spot on.
One particularly interesting number is “February of ‘59”, which of course, remembers the legendary Buddy Holly. A very timely number indeed.
I really enjoyed this album from Marty. A good mix of real Country music, and all original at that.

JIMMY CHARLES is a new name to me, but maybe not to the viewers of “American Idol”, where he got as far as “Hollywood Week”. That was back in 2009. Now he’s in Nashville, and has just recorded a 7 track EP, “Hard Way To Go”.
All but one of the songs was co written by Delaware born, Charles alongside an array of Nashville writers, whose credits read like a who’s who of Country music.
They start off with the beach life influenced “Blue Spaces”, although Jimmy’s blue space is a bit farther north in the Ocean Bay area of Maryland, and bit more rocky than a Jimmy Buffett/ Kenny Chesney beach song. It’s a good lively start to the CD.
That’s followed by his big ballad love song, “She’s Where I Belong” before a smoldering inspirational number in “Rollin’ On”, telling of the trials of life and the ambitions to go after your dreams.
“God And A Woman” is one of the simpliest arrangements on the record. A nice ballad, it really shows off Jimmy’s vocals to best effect.
Cancer features in the songs, with the lead single from the collection, “I Am Not Alone”, which is quite an anthem, and the powerful and emotional ballad “Superman”, both highlighting the suffering of victims and loved one’s affected by the illness.
The one song he didn’t write, “Hard Way To Go” also has a serious message, as it deals with addictions. It’s another powerful ballad which really shows a lot of emotion.
An interesting collection of songs from a guy, I’m sure we’ll hear more off before too long.

JESS KLEIN is a Rochester, NY born singer songwriter who has released 11 albums over the past couple of decades, mainly labelled as folk or blues. Her songs have contained grassroots social activism, with alt-Country rock overtones.
She found herself in Austin Texas, considered by many to be the live musical centre of the universe, but Jess outgrew the city limits there, and ended up in rural North Carolina, after marrying fellow songwriter Mike June.
It took time for Jess to acclimatise herself to the North Carolina scene, but teaming up with producer Mark Simonson, resulted in this new collection of original material, “Back To My Green” (Blue Rose Records).
The title track is a quite catchy mid tempo song about feeling free in the great outdoors.
It all opens with a radio friendly “In Dreams”, which has quite a subtle pop beat, especially on the chorus which I actually quite liked. “Tougher Than I Seem”, is much more of a ballad, showing a vulnerability in her vocal style. Again the chorus really made the song stand out. In both of these songs, especially in the chorus, she reminded me of a young Olivia Newton John, whose early stuff was quite folky in parts.
The songs include the social statements of “Blair Mountain” (about the 1921 Coal War in Logan County, W Va) and “New Thanksgiving Feast”, dedicated to the Native American pipeline protestors.
Elsewhere, “4 The Girlz” and “I Hear Love” are especially delicate numbers, which really highlights her vocals, whilst “Mammal” was quite a poppy number.
But, for my first listen to Jess Klein, I really enjoyed this album, and I’ll be checking back on her earlier material.
She’s here in April/May. Check out her dates on the gig guide page.

You may think that you’re not too familiar with SEAN McCONNELL’s music, but you may well be. He’s written songs recorded by everyone from Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley to Martina McBride, Rascall Flatts and even Meat Loaf. Last year, he secured his first No.1 song with “Mercy”, recorded by Brett Young, who was on the cover of the last CMDS.
Sean recorded his first album at the age of 15, and has built up a catalogue of no less than 15 titles to date.
Recently performing at Celtic Connections, as support for Ashley Monroe, Sean released “Second Hand Smoke”, a 13 track album, with three co-writes and ten self penned originals.
Growing up in Boston, his family moved to Georgia when he was 10, and now calls Nashville home, where he produced this personal album. With the exception of strings and synths, he played all the instruments you hear on the record.
Sean’s bio points out that he has taken familiar stories, often with biblical roots, and added his own perspective.
The collection starts off with the title track, a soft story ballad, which sets the scene for what is to come. It’s a gentle introduction, which crosses his folk/country roots. By contrast, that’s followed by the more commercial “Here We Go”, which has a dated Paul Simon feel to it.
“Shaky Bridges” has some nice harmonica intro, leading into a gospel favoured number, which relates to the subject of compromises, which really just cover the cracks.
“I Could Have Been an Angel” delves into the relationship between Jesus and The Devil. An interesting take on why we don’t all turn out the same way. Quite deep. “The Devil’s Ball”, on the other hand is about longing for love.
“Greetings From Niagara Falls” is a ballad talking about the loneliness in chasing your dreams. It doesn’t only pick on the Falls, but on musician dreams like Austin. 
“Wrong Side Of Town”, which closes the album, is a very simple, piano led number, which I particularly enjoyed.
“Alien” has quite a pop feel to it, and “Rest My Head” is quite a slow, moody, haunting number. “Another Song About A Breaking Heart” and “I Don’t Want To Know” have more of a modern Nashville influence.
An interesting album, which should finally get Sean some recognition on a wider stage.

Finally, DEVIN DAWSON is one of Nashville’s new breed of male singers, who has been making a name for himself since his album, “Dark Horse” (WB) was released last year. He recently toured here as support to Dan & Shay.
The Californian native sold 223,000 units of his first single, “All On Me”, which reached No.2 on the Country charts. It’s a pleasant mid tempo number, with a catchy hook. A style that is popular in Nashville these days.
Unfortunately, the other two singles released from the album, “Asking For A Friend” and the title track, have failed to make an impact on the chart, although the album itself reached No.5.
The album starts off with “Dip”, a rather loud r&b number, which would’ve been a quick switch off for me, if I hadn’t the job of reviewing the whole album. Thankfully, there are some really nice, if poppy, numbers on the album.
“Asking For A Friend”, “Second Hand Heart” and “Dark Horse” all stand out for me. They all demonstrate vocals above simpler arrangements.
Other tracks, including “Second To Last”, “I Don’t Care Who Sees” and “War Paint” are all quite a poppy numbers.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Dec 2018

CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH recently rounded off his 16 date farewell tour of Scotland, as he prepares to run down his touring schedule over the next year. To mark the tour, Charlie’s latest album, “The Attic Collection” (Lana Records) features re recordings of some of his best loved songs, as well as five new songs.
Several of the songs were recorded in Jim Donaldson’s Attic, thus giving the collection its title.
All but two of the songs, are Charlie’s own compositions. The exceptions include Mark Knopfler’s “Why Worry”, and a first time recording of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”.
Some of the songs are not his best known, but, obviously have special meaning for Charlie, enough for him to re-record them. They include ballads like the piano led “How Do You Do Those Things”, and the gentle lilting “Child Of Candlelight”.
Of the known songs, you’ll find new versions of “Part Of Me”, “Dance with Me” and “Heaven Knows”, which has some nice mandolin, which stands out for me.
Amongst the new songs is the mid tempo “Winter Without You”, the upbeat, reflective “Golden Days” and “How Rich I Really Am”, as well as the quick paced “Somewhere, Sometime”.
Charlie’s still sounding really on top form on this collection. It won’t be the last we hear from him. Although he’s cutting out the touring, he does intend to continue writing and recording.
In the meantime, this 20 track “The Attic Collection” is a great keepsake of the concerts we’ve enjoyed from the lovable scouser over the years.

WILL BANISTER has built up a solid following on this side of the Atlantic since he first appeared at the Wembley Festival back in 2012. The flame was reignited during his recent UK tour which included the Ayr Festival.
With three albums already to his credit, Rollercoaster Records, the label famed for its vintage Rock’n’Roll releases, have dug into the archives and released “Coverin’ Tracks – The Early Recordings”, a title that kinda tells it all.
Here is an early Will performing 11 Country classics, in a pure Country style, ranging from George Jones’ “The Race Is On” and Charley Pride’s “Is Anyone Going To San Antone” to slower ballads like Charlie Rich “Good Time Charlies Got The Blues” and Freddie Fender’s “Before The Next Teardrop Falls”.  There’s also a lovely version of the Keith Whitley hit, “Miami My Amy”. It’s 30 years next year since we lost Whitley, yet he is still inspiring today’s young traditionalists.
He also honours Moe Bandy with “Bandy The Rodeo Clown”, and goes back to the 40’s for Leon Payne’s “Teach Me To Forget”, done in more of a 60’s Merle Haggard styling. A later Haggard song, “The Seashores Of Old Mexico” also gets the Banister treatment.
It’s all superb stuff. Covers done with honesty and integrity. A nice mix, with known, but not overdone songs.
But that’s not all.
The CD also has 6 tracks recorded at the 2012 Wembley Festival, four of them self penned, including “Turned Her Onto Country” and “Give Me One Minute”, as well as a couple of classics, “Lovesick Blues” and “White Lightening”.
If you’ve been turned onto Will Banister, or just looking for some superb traditional Country, then this is an album that should be in your collection.

CONNIE SMITH is certainly a legend in Country music. She arrived on the scene in 1964, and had a number one with her debut single, Bill Anderson’s “Once a Day”. Although she never repeated that feat, she did go on to have almost 50 Chart hits, record 53 albums, marry Marty Stuart in 1997, and still performs today, most notably as one of the true Country legends on The Grand Ole Opry.
Now HumpHead Records honour Connie with “My Part Of Forever Vol 1 – The Ultimate Collection 1972-2018”.
Connie’s most successful period was with RCA, the label she was with between 1964-1972. Her hits from that period are widely available. This collection picks up from her switch to Columbia Records, and brings us right up to date. It’s material that is much harder to find, so this will be a real prize for fans of Connie, who came over to the Northern Nashville Festival in 2013.
Some of the tracks include “Aint Love A Good Thing”, “Dallas”, “I Still Feel The Same About You”, “When a House Is Not A Home”, “Aint You Ever Gonna Cry” and “How Long”, just to name a few.
Her last chart hit, which I still have on a vinyl single, was “A Far Cry From You”, which was written by Steve Earle. That song is featured here, as are songs from more recent Warner and Sugar Hill label projects. There’s even a brand new track, “I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name”, with Buck Trent, recorded earlier this year.
The 2 CD- 50 track collection, also features ten recordings from a session she did for the US Armed Forces Network. They include some of her biggest RCA hits, including “Once a Day”, “Just For What I Am” and “Cincinnati Ohio”, alongside gospel classics, “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art”.
The CD package comes complete with a 24 page booklet with an excellent biography of the lady from Alan Cackett, as well as details of each songs original release. 

It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 50 years since The New Seekers were hitting the pop charts around the world with hits like “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” (used as a worldwide TV ad for Coca Cola) and “Beg, Steal Or Borrow”. Lead singer with the group back then was one EVE GRAHAM from Perthshire.
Eve recorded a Scottish album and a Christmas collection around 12 years back, and is back with a new collection, “A Matter Of Time” (Scotdisc). 
The album maintains Eve’s New Seekers connections. The project is produced by Australian born David Mackay, who was her producer all these years ago. In between times, he’s produced the likes of Cliff Richard, Bonnie Tyler, The Bee Gees and Elaine Paige.
Several of the songs were written by David Mindel, a songwriter who began his career as a record plugger during The New Seekers heyday. One of them, “The Nashville Dream”, is a quirky fun number, although I’m sure the lyrics may be a bit close to home for many aspiring Music City songwriters. It captures, so well, the struggles of an aspiring songwriter in Music City.
Another Nashville connection is songwriter Angela Kaset, who has written some great songs for the likes of Suzy Bogguss, Linda Davis and Aaron Tippin. Angela’s biggest hit was “Something In Red”, recorded by Lorrie Morgan. Eve records a very nice version of the song on this album, alongside two more numbers written by Angela, “I Could Be The One”, which has quite a vintage New Seekers sound to it, and the fun “Turning Into My Mother”. 
There’a also a couple of songs penned by Muscle Shoals native Michael Anthony Curtis, including the celtic infused “When I Am No More” and the reflective “The Last Time”.
She does a nice version of Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”.
The tracks which worked best for me include “Slipping Away” and the delicate “Catch The Wild Wind”, which closes the album. It’s really the stand out track for me.
Essentially, it’s a nice easy listening, middle of the road collection, and good to hear Eve still recording after all these years.

Next up is a Pennsylvianian singer songwriter, MARK WAYNE GLASMIRE, who has been around the music scene since 1982, when he released his first LP.
Now, six albums later, and having settled in Arlington, Texas, Mark is back with “Cant Be Denied” (Traceway Records), a 12 track collection of songs all written, or co-written by the man himself.
You may be familiar with Mark’s music, as he had a 9 week run at the top of the Country Hotdisc chart back in 2011 with a song called “I Like You”.
His music has been likened to The Eagles and Crosby Stills & Nash, and there is certainly that pop/folk influence running through the album.
The album kicks off with a couple of radio friendly, catchy numbers, including “I’ve Got A Feeling”, which certainly has that Eagles feel to it, and the title track. Other upbeat numbers include “Feel Your Love”, ”Out Of The Frying Pan” and the really strong driving beat of “Deep Inside My Heart”, which is the stand out track for me. “Without You” is a beautiful ballad which instantly appealed, and “This Too Shall Pass” is also a very pleasant ballad.
“Gone Too Soon” is a nice, reflective number, which recalls the love of a grandparent.
“Alysia” has a few different influences. There’s a bit of a gulf coast, Jimmy Buffett, influence, without losing the easy listening folksy feel to it. “Borderline”, by contrast, has quite a haunting feel to it.
The closing track, “Thru My Eyes” is an interesting lesson in life, with some thoughtful words in there.
Special mention for Mark’s sleevenotes, which he manages to include all the song titles. Something only a songwriter would do!
A really nice listen. Worth checking out!

STEPHANIE URBINA JONES brings a different sound to the Country classics on her new album, “Tularosa”.
In the past Stephanie has been best known for doing her own songs, and writing hits for others, including the title track to Lorrie Morgan’s  “Shakin’ Things Up”, and the No.1 hit “My Baby’s Got a Smile On Her Face” for “The Voice” winner Craig Wayne Boyd.
The San Antonio native picked up a lot of Latin vibes growing up, and after graduating from the University Of Texas, she continued her studies in Mexico, although her musical direction took her to Nashville.
Throughout her 6 album career, she has developed her own Tex Mex Sound, in much the same way as Freddie Fender did years ago. But this album takes her to new heights.
With a Mariachi band in tow, she has picked a number of real Country classics to give the latin treatment to. They include “Walkin’ After Midnight”, “Rose Garden”, “Tiger By The Tail” and “Is Anyone Going To San Antone”. There’s a few ballads too, like “Cold Cold Heart”, “Seven Spanish Angels”, “Silver Wings” and “For The Good Times”.
Add “Harper Valley PTA” and “You Aint Woman Enough” to the mix, and you get a real Mexican feel to the album. Normally, I’d be critical for the inclusion of such a collection of really well done numbers, but Stephanie has really done something different & creative with them (and they’re great for “guess the intro” competitions).
To top it all there are Spanish versions of “Jolene” and “Ring Of Fire”.

If bringing a Mexican sound to Nashville sounds strange, then bringing the sound of Hawaii to Scottish tunes may just exceed it.
DOUGIE STEVENSON has long been recognised as one of our premier steel guitar and dobro players, having been in Legend, and supported everyone from Boxcar Willie, Stella Parton & Billie Jo Spears to Sydney Devine, and scores of other artists.
Back in 1979, Dougie released a solo steel guitar album, “Steel On My Mind”. Now, 40 years on, comes the follow up, “Scottish Steel Guitar Chillout Album” (Scotdisc).
The title sums up the album. It’s a nice relaxing collection of Scottish anthems like “Dark Island”, “Over The Sea To Skye”, “Caledonia” and “Westering Home”, with the help of musicians like accordionist Stuart Anderson and Laura Beth Salter on mandolin.
I love the steel guitar sound, and enjoyed this collection, but this is more of a Scottish collection, rather than Country. But certainly one to chillout with. 

Readers will recall that LIZ CLARKE held her “Stetsons & Heels” show at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry earlier in the year. If you need a reminder of the night, check out her latest album, “A Night At The Opry”, which features many of the songs which were featured on the night.
Although her last album, “The Vanishing Breed” featured a few more original numbers, this album features a wide range of classic Country hits, which everyone will know, although not overdone.
Alongside “Coat Of Many Colours”, “Funny Face” and “Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song”, you’ll find more recent songs like “Suds In The Bucket” and “Girl Crush”.
And it’s not just female covers which Liz has picked up on. She also takes on Marty Stuart’s “Tempted”, and Dwight’s “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose”.
Liz also teams up with Donnie Henderson for a duet on The Bellamy’s “I Need More Of You”.
And there’s a celtic twist too with Karl Denver’s “Voices Of The Highlands” and “Home To Donegal”, featured in the 20 track collection, which was recorded at Stealth Studio in Glasgow.
Liz has also just released her second duet single with Paul Jackson from Sunderland. Under the banner of “JACKSON & CLARKE”, the duo have delivered an original romantic ballad called “Loves Embrace”. Their previous collaboration was on an old Tim McGraw/Faith Hill song. This song could also have been from the Nashville couple. Paul & Liz deliver a really strong vocal, harmonising together beautifully. Be sure to check it out. 

RACHEL HARRINGTON is a singer songwriter from America’s North West, who has been building quite a following since she appeared on the scene in 2004. Around six years ago, she took a break from the music, a bit longer that she anticipated. She was recently back on a tour which included a few Scottish dates and will be back next summer when the plan is to have a new CD, “Hush The Wild Horses” released.
For her most recent tour, Rachel recorded an album of covers, “I Wish I Was In Austin”. It’s an acoustic set, recorded at home, with a minimal amount of instrumentation.
The title comes from Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”. She also covers songs from inspirations like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Townes Van Zante and Dave Alvin.
For Country fans, you’ll find her takes on Willie Nelson’s “All Of Me”, The Judds’ “Tears For You”, Randy Travis’ “On The Other Hand”, and “Those Memories Of You”, inspired by the Trio of Dolly, Linda & Emmylou.
Most of the songs are quite slow versions. The exception is Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome When You Go”, inspired by Shawn Colvin’s version, which is a bit more upbeat.
The album has a real songwriter’s acoustic feel to it. It really captures Rachel’s emotions to best effect.
The album will be available as a download @

TELLICO are an Asheville, North Carolina modern bluegrass quartet, who have cleverly embraced today’s Appalachian sound, and blended it with celtic influences from “the old country”.  Much of that sound may be down to Irish born, but Asheville based John Doyle, who produced the album, “Woven Waters” (Organic Records) just across the stateline in Johnson City, TN.
The vocals are shared between Virginia native Anya Hinkle and Mississippi born Greg Stiglets, with Jed Willis and Aaron Ballance providing mandolin, steel and dobro. All the songs were written by Anya & Greg.
Anya’s vocals hit you within seconds of the opening track, “Courage For The Morning”, a bright and breezy number which really won me over. Most of Anya’s numbers are quite uptempo, with the exception of “It’s Just Rain”, which is more midtempo, and the closing track, “Like November”, which is a beautiful ballad. 
Greg takes the lead vocally on “Palisades” and “Salsa” which are a bit slower, but just as effective.  “New Moon” starts slow and moody, before lifting the tempo.
When they combine their talents, both writing and vocally, like on the slower “Fill The Air”, they just blend together beautifully. 
I really liked both voices, and thoroughly enjoyed this album.

The Rankin Family were a Canadian institution back in the 90’s conjuring up a fresh celtic approach which also crossed over into Country music and other genres. Their albums have sold over 1.5 million copies. Tragedy struck in 2000, when John Morris was killed in a road accident in Cape Breton, and Raylene passed away in 2012 after a long battle with cancer. The remaining members continued with solo projects, and JIMMY RANKIN headed for Nashville, and went on to record half a dozen solo albums, many garnering Country awards and nominations from the CCMA, The Juno’s and East Coast Music Awards.
For his new solo effort, “Moving East” (True North), Jimmy has returned to his East Coast roots, with, perhaps a more folksy approach to his music.
Having said that, the album opens with the catchy “Loving You Never Gets Old”, which is a co-write with fellow Canadian Country singer songwriter Patricia Conroy. Also worthy of a mention is the jiving “Been Away” which really rekindles memories of that unique Rankins sound. “Turn That Boat Around” also has that old family band feel to it.
“No More I’ll Go Roving” is certainly more folky, but still has a Country feel to it.
“Thin Ice”, “The Rawleigh Man”, “Down At The Shore” and “Haul Away The Whale” have some infectious sea shanty style chants (which sound much more authentic than the chants that feature so often in today’s Nashville hits).
As the album moves on, the emotions run deeper. He doesn’t hold back with the language on “These Roads” (bearing in mind that he lost his brother in a road accident), and on “Highlander”, he traces the arrival from Scotland “three lifetimes ago”, and there’s a catchy set of fiddle reels to close out the album.
If you like your Country music on the Celtic edge, this one’s for you.

The Indigo Girls have found a niche in the market for their harmony laden folksy sound over the years. One half of the duo, AMY RAY has also pursued a solo career, with half a dozen albums released since the turn of the century. They’ve covered a wide spectrum, as her first album was labelled as “southern punk”. In contrast her new album, “Holler” (Daemon Records) is a really enjoyable Country album.
After a short instrumental prelude, the album bursts into life with “Sure Feels Good Anyway”, quite an upbeat rocky number, but most definitely Country.
“Last Taxi Fare”, is quite a melodic ballad, which features Vince Gill (who will be in Glasgow with the Eagles next July) and Brandi Carlisle on harmonies.
“Oh City Man” features some catchy banjo from Alison Brown, who is heard throughout the album, and Matt Smith’s pedal steel really adds to the closing anthem  “Didn’t Know A Damn Thing”.
“Sparrow’s Boogie” has a bit of everything from bluegrass overtones to jazz/funk influences. It’s a good upbeat number.
But the stand out track for me has to be “Tonight I’m Paying The Rent”, about playing at The Bluebird in Nashville. Recent Glasgow visitors, The Wood Brothers add harmonies to the track, but it’s the real honky tonk sound that really makes the track stand out.
“Jesus Is A Walking Man” is traditional bluegrass, featuring Rutha Mae Harris of The Freedom Singers
The title track is a delicate ballad, as is “Sparrow’s Lullaby” and “Bondsman (Evening in Missouri)” and I also enjoyed, the, oh, too short (only 1:06) “Old Lady Interlude”. “Fine With The Dark” is just Amy and her guitar.
This has to one of the most surprisingly good albums of the year. You cant pigeon hole Amy, except to put this CD in the excellent category.

THE JAYWALKERS are a refreshing trio of musicians from Chester, who seamlessly blend easy listening Country music, blazing bluegrass and traditional folk music. Jay Bradberry is the lead vocalist, fiddler & guitarist, ably supported by Lucille Williams on double bass and Mike Giverin on mandolins and guitars. “Time To Save The World” is the band’s fourth album, recorded in Bath with producer Josh Clark. The album features ten original tracks, one by Jay, and the others by Mike, and one cover, we’ll mention in a moment.
The opening cut track, “Homage To The Fromage” is the one tune written by Jay. It’s a fiddle instrumental.
“What Do I Know” has a nice mandolin intro, before Jay’s haunting vocals arrive on the scene. The tempo picks up into quite a catchy beat. It is one of the folk-ier numbers.
The other tracks include the fiddle laden “How Many Whiskeys”, a stone Country song, and the softer “(Please) Rescue Me”, and “This Is The One” which really highlights Jay’s lovely vocal range.
I also liked the more midtempo “Life I Choose”.
“Too Close For Comfort” is quite an interesting song, not quite fitting into any genre.
“Burnt Chilli Creek” is a foot tappin’ bluegrass instrumental.
“Set Me Free” has quite a jazzy feel to it, as did “This Time”, which blends nicely into the slow “End Of The World” instrumental.
The cover is Johnny Cash’s “Big River”, recorded “live” around a single microphone (and a bottle of wine).
I really enjoyed this album. I like Jay’s vocal style, and the instrumentation was just spot on.

Back in April we reviewed a debut album, at the age of 81, by Lancashire raised GARETH OWEN.
Gareth has wasted no more time getting his second album, “I’m Out Of This Place” recorded and released.
Throughout his life, Gareth has been involved in poetry, having several volumes of his work published, and was the presenter of the BBC’s long running “Poetry Please” series. He also wrote numerous BBC plays and short stories.
With a lifetime of experience to put into song, Gareth has come up with 10 new tracks.
Centrepiece of the album is “Waltzing Kid”, where “Part 1” opens the album, “Part 2”, half way through and “Raise a Glass” later in the album. The tracks recreate images of the old west, with some lovely harmonies from SJ Mortimer.
Elsewhere, “Ribbon of Sky Blue Lace” has an emotional spoken intro, leading into a lovely soft number.
“The Preacher” also conjures up an old west image. 
A number of girls get a song check, including “Julie”, “Marie” and “Rosalita”.
The album rounds off with a party with a Tom T Hall sounding “Happy With That”. I’d be too.
A really nice album. Really easy listening stuff.

GARRICK RAWLINGS is a real well travelled singer songwriter, born in Wichita, Kansas, raised in Michigan, and now calls Arizona home, having detoured via California, Indiana and Chicago. He served as road manager for Rambling Jack Elliott, so he knows the road.
These days he plays all over America’s vast South West, and has just released his self titled second album (Peloponnese Records), the follow up to his “Million Miles” garage recording 15 years ago.
He covers quite an array of styles throughout the album.
The album kicks off with “I Want To Run Away”, a bouncy upbeat number, which got me interested right away.
“Lost In Time” is a jolly upbeat catchy number, as are “Friend Of The Devil” and “I Don’t Care What You Say”.
On a slower note, there’s the steel laden “Whiskey, Cryin’, Pain…”
“Lights Of Marfa” and “Lincoln Penny” are delivered in more of a story ballad style.
“Eye Of A Thief” is much the same, but more spoken than sung. “Million Miles” gets revisited 15 years on. It’s a bit heavier than the other tracks, with a quite a haunting delivery.
Perla Batalla, who sang, wrote & toured with Leonard Cohen, makes an appearance on “No Tengo Palabras”, which means “I Have No Words”. Their vocals harmonise well together, and the half Spanish/half English arrangements really work.
Elsewhere Jiami Lyn Shuey and Paul Marshall (I See Hawks in LA) provide some really influencial harmonies.
The whole project was produced by Rick Shea at studios in Arizona and California.
It’s a really nice listen. Check it out!

THE FOGHORN STRINGBAND are a quartet of quality bluegrass musicians from Oregon, Minnesota  and Quebec. The band originally formed back in 2000, and with several line up changes, and eight albums before them, they have now released their 9th album, “Rock Island Grange”, named after the historic Grange Hall on Orcas Island in Washington State, where the album was recorded. 
Their line up of girls Reeb Willms and Nadine Landry, with male counterparts Stephen Lind, and founder member Caleb Klauder, are considered the gold standard in old time American string band music, so could be considered the Abba of Old Time Bluegrass!
Many of the tracks are instrumental fiddle tunes.
There are some nice old timey songs, including “Pretty Fair Miss Out In The Garden”, “The Violet And The Rose” and Hazel Dickens’ “Only The Lonely”.
They also revisit a few old time foot tappin’ Carter Family favourites, “Lonesome Homesick Blues”, “Lonesome Valley” and “Give Me The Roses”.
There are 19 tracks on the CD, giving great value for money, but let it run and five are encored.
The CD sleeve folds out as well, with some nice stories about the tunes and songs.
They are an acquired taste. But if you like old time bluegrass music, these folks just do it so well.

BEN DE LA COUR hails originally from Brooklyn, where he was playing dive bars ten years before he was legally allowed inside them, but is now based down in Nashville, having arrived via LA & New Orleans.
His latest album, “The High Cost Of Living Strange” (Flour Sack Cape Records), which Ben labels as “Americanoir” is eight tracks of interesting stories and observations.
The title track, which closes the CD, has quite a heavy rock, thick smoke, feel to it, but it’s not representative of the album, as a whole.
The project kicks off with the light and bouncy “Dixie Crystals”. Later, “Face Down Penny” is quite a catchy upbeat number.
The fine line between life and death is picked up in quite a light hearted way on “Just Like The Blues”, with lines like “one foot on the pedal, one foot in the grave”. Quite a catchy number.
He does a bit of name dropping throughout the album, with the slow “Guy Clark’s Fiddle” standing out. “Uncle Boudreaux Went To Texas”, a slow story ballad mentions Waylon, Willie and Townes Van Zante. I love the simple, but effective accordion from Jeff Lisenby on this track.
“Tupelo” is a slow haunting number, which has echoes of Elvis and “Black Velvet”. It’s dark and moody, but really effective.
Stand out track though has to be “Company Town”, the sad story of places, where the work has all dried up and the people scrape by.
It’s an interesting album, well performed, and worth a listen.

Next up, we have some Canadian roots music, courtesy of Yukon based GORDIE TENTREES & JAXON HALDANE, whose major influence is fellow countryman Fred Eaglesmith. With 600 concerts in 11 countries under their belts, since starting to perform together in 2014, the duo release their album , “GRIT” (Greywood Records) early in the new year, ahead of a UK tour, which includes a number of Scottish dates.
The album is a real touring live album, being recorded over 5 nights in 5 different Western Canadian venues. There are original numbers, mainly from the pen of Tentrees,  a co-write with hero Eaglesmith, and the now legendary “Willie’s Diamond Joe”, written by Willie P Bennett.
Their music crosses from folk to blues, from bluegrass to Country. 
The banjo really comes out on “No Integrity Man” and “Sideman Blues”, but it’s really the slow & moody train song “29 Loads Of Freight”, and the harmony driven “Bottleneck To Wire” which were the stand out tracks for me.

Finally this time, KAZ MURPHY is a New Jersey raised singer songwriter, whose 4th album, “Ride Out The Storm” gets a UK release just after the new year. He first picked up the guitar at age 13, and had written over 100 songs by the time he graduated from high school.
He has been part of the music scene for the past 40 years, building up recognition as a storyteller.
Many storytelling singer songwriters have quite an acoustic sound on their records, but this album has quite a strong, driving instrumentation style to compliment Kaz’ vocals, which reminded me of an early Ian Tyson or John Stewart.
All the songs are self penned, and in the main, quite upbeat. Notable titles include “Thunderhead”, “Somebody Could Be Me”, “Stella Rae” and the closing track, “Rise Me Up”.
The opening track, “When People Together” and “Forget About The World Tonight” are rare ballads on the album.
“Where You Come From” has quite a haunting feel to it.
But the tracks which won me included “Blue Devil Sky”, which is the most straight Country track on the album. I also liked the spoken intro into “Soft Heart”.
A bit different this one, but certainly worth checking out.