Search This Blog

Monday, 29 November 2021

Dec 2021

 I’ve been quite a fan of TEEA GOANS since she arrived in Music City from her native Missouri, and she released her first album, over a decade ago. Teea firmly found a home in the traditional old school Country scene, with her appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and on the Country’s Family Reunion TV series. 
Whilst her first four albums were largely covers of classic Country and swing numbers, her new album, “All Over The Map” features 10 songs, which she co-wrote, mostly with producer Jim “Moose” Brown.  But they all fit nicely with the sound that she has developed over her previous albums. 
The album opens with the catchy mid tempo “Enjoy The View”, which is along the theme of enjoy today, as it’s just part of life’s journey. The track features some lovely fiddle & mandolin from Jenee Fleenor, a singer songwriter and player, who was the first female CMA Female Musician Of The Year, back in 2019. Her contribution on this album proves her worth.
I just love the uptempo “swing” numbers like “There’s More To Me”, which features background vocals by Mo Pitney, which is a nice bonus. Pitney also features on “Beat Of A Back Road”. 
“The Detour” is a bright & breezy upbeat road song, which also stood out for me. 
 “Untangled” is one of the simpler ballads that stands out. It has quite a haunting, atmospheric feel to it. “Story Telling Time” is much in the same vein.  Other ballads include “Just Another Day”, which is just Teea with piano accompaniment, and “That’s What I Know”, the beautiful closing track, which  features Vince Gill on harmonies. 
The jazzy, soulful sound that she has featured in previous albums, resurfaces on “What’s A Girl To Do”, which is a bit different to the rest of the album, but really demonstrates Teea’s vocal ability.
I love Teea’s simple vocal deliveries, and hearing her perform on her own songs is a real joy. 
One of my favourite albums of the year. 

TOBY KEITH recently released his first all-new album in more than five years. “Peso In My Pocket” was co-produced by Kenny Greenberg and Keith, and features the highest Billboard Country Airplay chart debut of his career with the lead single "Old School." 
Though Keith has accomplished much since the 2015 release of 35 MPH Town - perhaps most notably in writing the Clint Eastwood inspired "Don't Let The Old Man In" - a new studio album was long overdue. And “Peso In My Pocket” has more than a little to do with the worldwide pandemic. "My whole musical career, I haven't been off the road this long," Keith says, calling 2020, "a reset button I never would have hit."
Also deserving of credit for the collection is Mexico, where Keith has a house he stayed at for the first several months of the crisis. 
As a result, Toby came up with more than a few songwriting pesos in his pocket, as he added outside contributors to the mix. Notable songwriting credits include The Warren Brothers, Ryan Hurd, Maren Morris, Jesse Jo Dillon, Brett Tyler, and Sammy Hagar. 
The title track is a catchy, typical Toby Keith number, which made more of an impact on me than the opening track, “Oklahoma Borderline”.  
Keb Mo joined Keith in the studio on a cover of his "Old Me Better," which was the lead single from the album. I have to be honest, this song didn’t appeal much to me, and I was thinking that I did like the Old Toby better. 
But we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There’s some crackin’ songs on this album.  My favourites would have to be “Days I Should’ve Died”, the pure country honky tonk killer ballad, “She’s Drinkin’Again” and the upbeat tex mex flavoured “Thunderbird”.
Keith also offers a tribute to the late John Prine on the Prine-John Mellencamp co-write "Take A Look At My Heart."
Like Toby Keith’s previous album’s he covers a lot of styles here- some I like, some I don’t, and that consistency remains.  Toby’s fans will love it !
 
Next is an excellent second solo album from award-winning bluegrass singer/songwriter DARYL MOSELY, devoted to the “Small Town Dreamer”. Throughout the '90s, Daryl toured as lead vocalist/bass player with much-celebrated Bluegrass group The New Tradition, then in 2001, he joined the legendary Osborne Brothers. In 2010, Mosley formed The Farm Hands, which quickly became one of the most awarded bands in Bluegrass. In 2020, Daryl stepped into the solo spotlight with “The Secret Of Life”. Inbetween times, Mosley has written six #1 songs, and been honoured as Songwriter of the Year twice. 
This new collection includes 12 new tracks, all spotlighting the Waverly, Tennessee native’s small town roots and humble upbringing. The record was co-produced by Mosley and The Grascals’ Danny Roberts. 
The first taste of “Small Town Dreamer” came via the lead single “Transistor Radio” which pays homage to the good ole’ days and simpler times. The song gives a shout-out to the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis, Bill Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Motown and other music heroes. 
“Here’s To The Dreamers” is the key inspiration for the album’s title and its empowering lyrics offer an optimistic approach for tough times.
“You Are The Reason” and “Hillbilly Dust” are the strongest Country songs on the collection, whilst “I Cant Go Home Anymore”, “The Way I Was Raised” and “Sing Me A Song About A Train”, are stronger bluegrass numbers.
One of the album’s most interesting stories is “The Waverly Train Disaster,” which has nothing to do with Edinburgh, but rather Mosely’s hometown , and recalls a 1978 tanker explosion that killed 16 people and caused over $1.8 million in damage. 
In addition to straight-forward forays into Bluegrass and Country numbers, the project also features two well-crafted Gospel tunes: “He’s With Me”, which is absolutely beautiful, and “Mama’s Bible.” 
The album from start to finish centres around Daryl’s one-of-a-kind storytelling and his chameleon-like ability to segue gently through multiple genres, whilst the harmonies of Jaelee Roberts and Jeanette Williams are really on the icing on the cake. 
This is my kind of Country music. Simple stories, simple arrangements, and beautiful harmonies. 

STURGILL SIMPSON is considered one of the most daring musical artists around these days. Since his first album back in 2013, he has consistently scored high praise from the media, and high placings across Country, Rock and pop charts, both in America and Europe. 
“The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita” is his third album in the past twelve months, following the success of “Cuttin’ Grass” Volumes 1 & 2. This album written and recorded in less than a week, is a Civil War era story, inspired by grandfather. 
He has used many of the same musicians that featured on the “Cuttin’ Grass” albums, including young Sierra Hull, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and Jelly Roll Johnson. He even pulls in Willie Nelson to play guitar. 
There are so many traditional elements to this album, from the bluegrass sounds of  “Go In Peace” to the Tex- mex feel of “Juanita”, to “ Shamrock” which sounds like it’s right out of a Clint Eastwood movie, and from the Waylon outlaw feel on “Ol’Dude” and “One In The Saddle, One On The Ground” to a Cash/ Haggard  influence on “Played Out”. 
As with other concept albums, there is story setting short interludes, and here we have Civil War marching intro and Epilogues, as well as tribute to “Sam”, a faithful old hound.
I loved this album! Sturgill Simpson is such a talent, and this album has such a traditional sound, that it’s a real winner for me. If you want to go all the way, as well as CD & downloads, it’s also out on vinyl .

LAUREN ALAINA is another of the reality TV created stars. She was runner up on American Idol back in 2011, and came in fourth on Dancing With The Stars in 2019, and has appeared in a TV movie titled after her album “The Road Less Travelled”, and more recently in a TV movie “Roadhouse Romance”.
Musically, her first album, following her American Idol hype was a Top 5 hit in both the Country & Pop charts. It took 6 years for the follow up, which still made No.3 on the Country charts, but only sold a tenth of her debut album sales. 
Now her third album, “Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World” has been released. Like many other girl singers coming out of Nashville, it’s quite poppy. But I do quite like her voice. It’s not as “shouty” as some of the others. 
The album is heavy on pleasant ballads, with the title track, “I’m Not Sad Anymore”, “Change My Mind” and “You’re Not a Cowboy”  being a few of the stand out tracks.
“What Do You Think Of“ is a big ballad number featuring Danish pop band Lukas Graham. Trisha Yearwood duets on “Getting Good”, the only track not co-writtten by the singer, which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. 
There’s another duet, the smoking, “Getting Over Him”, which features Jon Pardi. This is the single released to promote the album.
Of the more uptempo numbers, I really enjoyed “Same Story, Different Saturday Night” which stands out for me.
Alongside award-winning songwriters Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and more, Lauren co-wrote 14 of the 15 songs on the album. 
Quite a pleasant listen.

AMERICAN YOUNG  is made up of singer/songwriters Kristy Osmunson and Jon Stone, both of whom found success in Nashville before joining forces in 2013. 
Prior to launching American Young, Osmunson, a fiddle player and former member of vocal group Bomshel, had songs recorded by Joey + Rory (“Cheater Cheater”), among others; while Stone was an in-demand producer who had cuts recorded by Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and others. Following the release of their self-titled CD which featured the singles “Love Is War” and “Wasn’t Gonna Drink Tonight,” American Young was nominated three years in a row for a British Country Music Association Touring Award, which they won in 2019 solidifying their place as global ambassadors of Country music. Amongst their UK dates was an appearance at the Millport Country Music Festival.
Now they have released their second album “AYII”. 
To preview the album, they released “Happy Again”, a soft harmony driven ballad which I really quite enjoyed and was quite looking forward to the album. 
Unfortunately “AYII” is quite a Nashville pop sounding affair, which will find its place on Country radio stations where listeners tune in purely for background music. It’s all pleasant enough, but very few tracks struck a chord in my mind. The exception, possibly, is “Soundtrack Of Your Life”, which is a bit more uptempo. The other saving grace is a cover of John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind”. I’m not quite sure how this song fits in with the rest of the album, but it is welcomed. 
The album closes with “Country Girls”, another track which just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. It’s quite an R&B number, more rap than Country. 
I was quite disappointed with this album, but, as I say, it will fit nicely into bland daytime Country radio formats.  

Next off, we’re heading for tranquillity of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, where we find a duo called OVER THE MOON”. Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell met when he was hired as a musician at a studio where her, then, band were recording a CD. They’ve been together ever since. 
Their second album, “Chinook Waltz” was recently released, featuring 10 beautifully crafted songs.
The album starts off with “Lonesome Bluebird”, one of five original songs written by the couple. 
They include the title track, which has a lovely old Ian Tyson feel to it, albeit with Suzanne’s gorgeous vocals, and the equally lovely “When She Rides”. 
“John Ware” is a more upbeat ballad in honour of a local legend, who grew up in slavery in South Carolina, and ended up being one of Alberta’s most respected and loved cowboys. 
“I’m Not Cool” is a bit different- a bit of old time swing, but really works well.  
Of the covers, they do a lovely version of near neighbour Ian Tyson’s  “Someday Soon”, as well as Buddy & Julie Miller’s “I Cant Get Over You”.  Their harmonies really come to the fore on “Kentucky”, a really slowed down version of the song inspired by The Everly’s version. They also do a version of the folk classic “Darcy Farrow”, which has been done by everyone from Ian & Sylvia, to John Denver, and our own Colorado.  One song that is very different is “They Cant Blackout The Moon”, which goes back to wartime and bandleader Harry Roy. It’s quaint, and really refreshing. 
Throughout the album their harmonies really shine. I loved listening to this album. 

When you’ve spent the past 40 years having hit after hit, even some of the most popular songs from way back, may disappear off the radar. That may be the reason that REBA has come out with a 3 CD, 30 track selection of hits, which she splits into “Revived Remixed & Revisited”. 
“REVIVED” features new arrangements of fan favourites like “Is There Life Out There” and “Can’t Even Get The Blues” recorded with Reba’s touring band. This disc also features one of my all time favourites, “Whoever’s In New England”.
“REVISITED” produced by the Grammy® award-winning Dave Cobb strips back songs like “Somebody Should Leave” and “How Blue” to let the raw power of Reba’s vocals shine and features a long-awaited pairing between Reba and Dolly Parton on one of the red haired Oklahoman’s most famous duets, “Does He Love You”, which was originally done with Linda Davis back in 1993. 
But it’s the “REMIXED” tracks which takes her more uptempo songs like “Little Rock” and “I’m A Survivor” and spins them in ways like you’ve never heard Reba before. The strangest arrangement has to be the Donna Summer “I Feel Love” influenced beat on “The Night The Lights Went In Georgia”(Eric Kupper remix). I don’t know what audience she aims to appeal to with an arrangement like this. It sounds so strange. There’s a similar upbeat remix on “Does He Love You”, without  Dolly this time. “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter”, “Fancy” and “Turn The Radio On” have similar mashed up sounds. Not for me, I’m afraid. 
Interesting stuff, but whether Reba has stretched her boundaries too far this time remains to be seen. 

After a tumultuous 1967 for JOHNNY CASH, the year 1968 was bookended by what would become his two iconic, highest-grossing albums, “At Folsom Prison” and “At San Quentin”. But now, fifty-three years later, a lost chapter has emerged to enrich and complement the story of that very good year. 
“Bear Sonic Journals : Johnny Cash At The Carousel Ballroom” recorded on April 24th, 1968 in San Francisco, captures the man in black at the height of his charismatic powers. Confidently departing from the more formalised setlist he’d been doing, we hear him in playful and powerful dialogue with his new bride June Carter and his longtime musicians—guitarist Luther Perkins, bassist Marshall Grant and drummer W.S. Holland—connecting with an audience more accustomed to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, who were among the collective of artists who had briefly operated the venue, which later became the Fillmore West.
The 28 track collection includes well known Cash classics like “Guess Things Happen That Way”, “Give My Love To Rose”, “Ring Of Fire”, “I Walk The Line”, and “Forty Shades Of Green”, alongside other songs, made more famous by others, including “Green Green Grass Of Home”, “Long Black Veil” and “Orange Blossom Special”. June Carter is also featured on “Jackson” and “Wildwood Flower”.
The concert was recorded by innovative sound wizard Owsley “Bear” Stanley capturing Cash’s unadorned voice entirely on the right channel and the Tennessee Three all on the left; setting the listener right between Johnny and his band as if they were centre stage at the Carousel. 
The sound is dated, but it’s another amazing piece of Johnny Cash history, which every fan of The Man In Black will want to own. 

WANDA JACKSON is probably best known for her biggest Country hits, “Right Or Wrong” and “In The Middle Of A Heartache” which go back to 1961. But Wanda’s early beginnings were steeped in rock’n’roll, a genre that she returned to in later years. 
She is the subject of the Humphead label’s latest release of golden treasures, with the 49 track “Capitol Country Keepsakes”, which cover her releases for the iconic Nashville label between 1965-1973.  Although she had been with Capitol since 1956, and had those two biggest hits for the label, this collection picks up on her career in 1965. 
Having said that, there are some great Country recordings here, proving that Wanda should have been up there with Patsy, Connie and Tammy. 
“Tears Will Be The Chaser For Your Wine”, “A Woman Lives For Love”, “Fancy Satin Pillows” and “The Box It Came In” were Top 20 Country hits, and all featured here alongside “A Girl Don’t Have To Drink To Have Fun”  and “My Big Iron Skillet”, which I recognised instantly. 
There’s also  covers like Patsy’s “Crazy”, “If I Had A Hammer”, “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello”, “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine”, “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and “Just Between You And Me” as well as early versions of  “Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through)” and “Love Of The Common People”, before they were hits elsewhere.
This is a magical treasure trove of forgotten gems which I really enjoyed listening to. And, as with other Humphead collections. There’s a booklet with a superb biography from Alan Cackett.

Finally, a homegrown album to enjoy.  MALCOLM MACWATT may be a new name to many readers, but he already has 4 albums and 3 EP’s to his credit, since he started recording in 2018.  His latest album, “Settler”, fuses Americana music with a Celtic edge to it, and is released on the US based Need To Know music label.
Hailing from Morayshire with the Highlands and North Sea as a constant backdrop, MacWatt was raised listening to the folklore and music of Scotland. His love for the outdoors saw him spending much of his life as a keen hillwalker, snowboarder and surfer; learning first hand that the Highlands are beautiful and uplifting but unforgivingly harsh if taken for granted. Like many other young men from the area, he worked on the offshore oil rigs where the power of the North Sea was a constant reminder to remain humble in the face of nature. 
“Throughout history the Scots have settled all over the world”, Malcolm points out, “ my family included. I’m a mixed-race Scot with a keen interest in ideas surrounding heritage and identity. Nations were built by people seeking a better life and it is easy to forget our own ancestors were all settlers and immigrants at one time.”  
MacWatt weaves Scottish balladry with Appalachian string band influences to tell stories of loss, injustice and arduous journeys. 
It’s the Appalachian banjo sound which starts off the album with “Avalanche And Landslide”, which features Austin based Jaimee Harris, who is just one of the guest vocalists on the album, from both sides of the Atlantic. 
Whilst the fusion blends the sounds of both sides of the Atlantic, other more Appalachian influenced numbers include “Letter From San Francisco” and “Banjo Lullaby”.
On the Celtic side, NY based Laura Cantrell adds her vocals to “The Curse Of Molly McPhee”, whilst “Ghosts Of Caledonia” is inspired by the legions of Scots who have been “settlers” in places all over the world.  The same theme runs through “My Bonny Boys Have Gone”, a lovely simpler ballad, with some wonderful harmonies from songwriter Gretchen Peters. 
“The Miller’s Daughter”, featuring Eliza McCarthy, “John Rae’s Welcome Home” with Kris Drever, and “Trespass” complete the more Celtic side of the album. 
The album closes with the more Country-ish “North Atlantic Summer”, which is a delightful track, and probably my favourite track.
With the exception of Phil Dearing, who plays bass on the album, and Kris Drever providing electric guitar on one track, MacWatt plays all other instruments.
This is one of these albums which blend Country, Bluegrass and folk music defying all boundaries. I found it a very enjoyable listen.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Oct 2021

A new album from ALAN JACKSON is always an event. It’s been six years since his last release, but he’s back out of semi retirement with a fabulous 21 track collection, which is vintage Alan, the sort of music that shot him to the top back in 1990.
The title of his new album is “Where Have You Gone”, which opens the album. It’s a sentimental lament to traditional Country music, soft steel guitars and words from the heart. It’s a song that his fans with relate directly with the tall Georgian native. Everything he yearns for in this song, is renewed in the next 20 songs. A one man crusade you could say.  
There are the jolly trademark Alan Jackson songs reminiscent of “Chattahoochee”, in “Where the Cottonwood Grows”, “Living On Empty”, “Back” and “Write It In Red”. 
He does seem to have relied a little on some golden nectar for a number of the songs here, including “Wishful Drinkin’”, “Beer 10” and “I Was Tequila” as well as some emotional ballads like “I Can Be That Something”, “Way Down In My Bottle” and “The Boot”.
Closer to his heart are ballads like “You’ll Always Be My Baby” and “I Do”, which he wrote for his daughter’s wedding, and “Where Her Heart Is”, which was written for his mama’s funeral. Both are beautiful heartfelt songs, which many readers will relate to.  
Also fitting this theme are “Things That Matter” and “A Man Who Never Cries”, one of my favourite tracks on the album. 
The album also includes a tribute to Merle Haggard on “That’s The Way Life Goes” and his single from 2017, “The Older I Get”.
At the age of 62, Alan Jackson is back, with one of Country music’s must have albums of 2021. 

CONNIE SMITH is a Grand Ole Opry legend, whose biggest success is still her debut single, “Once A Day” back in 1964. She went on to record 54 albums, her latest is “Cry Of The Heart”, which was released for the singer’s 80th birthday. And Connie’s voice still sounds as good today as it did in her heyday. 
Produced by Marty Stuart, whom she married back in 1997, the album features Harry Stinson and Paul Martin from Marty’s band, alongside the legendary Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, who played on Connie’s early tracks. 
The project features a total of 11 songs and was kicked off when Dallas Frazier, who had written many a song for Connie through the years, came up with “I Just Believe Me Anymore”, a song which really captures the Connie sound of old. A perfect song for her. From there, the rest just fell into place.  
Smith and Stuart composed both the heart-wrenching "Spare Me No Truth Tonight" and the more upbeat "Here Comes My Back Again" for the project. She also collaborated with songwriter Monty Holmes on the lively "Three Sides”, which is one of the stand out tracks to my ears. 
Marty and Harry Stinson co-wrote "Look Out Heart", whilst "To Pieces" was composed by Carl Jackson. Jackson also co-wrote “I’m Not Over You” with Melba Montgomery. Connie does the song real justice. 
There are also more few covers on the project. 
"A Million and One", which opens the album, was first made commercially successful by Billy Walker, and later Dean Martin, while "All the Time" takes us back to Kitty Wells and Jack Greene. "Heart, We Did All That We Could" was first released as a single by Jean Shepard.
Connie also revisits "Jesus Take a Hold", which was originally composed and recorded by Merle Haggard. Smith had first recorded the song in 1971. She chose to re-record it because "it’s just as relevant today as it was back then, if not more so".
It has to be said that Marty’s influence in the sound is notable. It’s modern, whilst keeping traditional steel vibes. It blends beautifully with Connie’s voice, which sounds as good as she always has. 
Certainly the most Country album of the year. 

RHONDA VINCENT is the undisputed Queen Of Bluegrass, and earlier this year was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Vincent's music career began when she was a child in her family's band The Sally Mountain Show, and winning her first award back in 1974. Eighteen albums later comes “Music Is What I See”, her first new music for 7 years. 
The title track is devoted to a blind busker down on Nashville’s Broadway, which namechecks a number of classic Country & gospel numbers. A really nice number, worthy of being the title track. 
Fiddles and banjo shine through, especially on tracks like “What Ain’t To Be Just Might Happen” written by Porter Wagoner, which opens the 12 song collection. 
Upbeat instrumentation is to the fore on numbers like “I’d Like To Be A Train” and “False Hearted Love”. 
For me, Rhonda excels on emotional ballads, most notably here on “Slowly”, the old Webb Pierce song, as well as2 “I’m Still Not Over You” and “It’s Me Again”.
The album’s closing track, “There’s A Record Book”, which features The Isaacs, is a beautiful gospel inspired ballad. 
One of the early singles from the album was the emotional ballad “Like I Could,” which was written by Jeannie Seely, Erin Enderlin, and Bobby Tomberlin. Jeannie & Erin were on hand when Rhonda performed it at a historic performance as the last artist to host The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree at the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee, before going back to its original home on lower Broadway.
The album features a couple of more interesting covers, She records the first bluegrass version of “Unchained Melody” and a 2021 Covid ridden parody of Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”, which is retitled “I Ain’t Been Nowhere”, a song which we can all relate to.
I love Rhonda Vincent’s music. I just love the way she combines Country and bluegrass with ease. She has a truly wonderful sound. Another winner !

One of the most impressive new names I’ve heard coming out of the US Country scene recently is a trio of ladies who call themselves CHAPEL HART. Not only do they display a stunning Country sound, with lovely harmonies, but they dont comply with the stereotypical “look” of a Country girl band! They are different- a breath of fresh air!
The three members of Chapel Hart are sisters Danica Hart and Devynn Hart, and their cousin Trea Swindle, all of whom are natives of Poplarville, Mississippi. Although the group saw its beginnings as a street-performing duo on Royal Street in New Orleans, the three began writing original songs and in 2019. The group independently released their first album, “Out the Mud” the same year, whilst CMT selected Chapel Hart for their class of 2021 "Next Women of Country" 
The trio has the natural ability to bring people together in song and dance through their exhilarating live performances. 
My first listen to the band was the song “You Can Have Him Jolene”, a really catchy, hi energy Country number. Inspired by Dolly’s big hit, which really got me hooked. Do check out the video on Youtube. Then check out their album, “The Girls Are Back In Town”.
They make their mark on uptempo “don’t mess with us” anthems like “Big Ass Waman”, “Tailgate Trophy” and “Jesus And Alcohol” (which features ZZ Top on the video).
But despite their ambitions, they don’t forget their roots, with the homespun “4 Mississippi”.
The album kicks off gently with the beautiful ballad “Nearly Over You”. They have a number of other ballads, including “Just Say I Love You” and “Angel”. Their harmonies are really stunning 
In between there are catchy, back porch numbers like the catchy “I Will Follow”, “Jacqui’s Song” and the smouldering “Red Neck Southern Night”
The title track, which closes the album is a real Country rocker, complete with a few rap lines, with the warning that “We’re the Real Women Of Country and it’s our town now!”
The pop princesses that masquerade as Country singers could be about to be run out of Music City by these divas. They’re the real deal! 
History in the making! 

There’s been a load of new music from reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year ERIC CHURCH released recently – three albums, released within days of each other. Collectively the trilogy is “Heart & Soul”, but all three are available individually. Furthermore, the 6 track middle album, “&” is specifically for his fan club, known as “the Church Choir”, and is available exclusively to those fans and only as a vinyl record.
The total 24 track collection came out of spending 28 days back home in the mountains of North Carolina, where the songs were recorded and written. All, but one, of the tracks was written, or co-written by Church. That one is the rather brash 2020 hit “Stick That In Your Country Song”. 
Over the 15 years that he’s been charting with songs like “Springsteen”, “Drink In My Hand” and “Some Of It”, I have to confess that I’d never really caught onto his music. Over this project, he does show a mellow side on tracks like “Heart Of The Night”,“Crazyland”, “Love Shine Down” (I love the spaghetti western intro), “Rock’n’Roll Found Me”, “Bright Side Girl” and “Jenny.”
The latest single, “Hell Of A View” has more of a gentle feel too. 
A bit more upbeat are tracks like “Bunch Of Nothing”, “Heart On Fire”, “Look Good And You Know It”. 
One of Church’s earlier hits was “Springsteen”, and this collection closes with the simple, acoustic, “Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones”. That sums up the sound that Church has developed over the years- Southern Country rock.  That closing track is a beautiful ballad, by the way, one of my favourite tracks on the collection. 
Quite a nice listen throughout. 

CHASE RICE first surprised fans with “The Album Part I”, in January 2020 while touring the UK/Europe, releasing seven songs. Roll on 17 pandemic affected months and the full 15 track project has been released.  This is the Florida born singers’ 5th album to date. And his first since “Lambs And Lions” back in 2017. 
He wrote, or co-wrote, 11 of the tracks. One of those he didn’t write is “American Nights” which opens the album. Another is “Messy”, a beautiful ballad which really stood out for me. This track features some really impressive female harmonies. Certainly the stand out track for me. 
Mid tempo tracks which appealed to me include “Forever To Go” and “If I Didn’t Have You”.
The closing track, “Drinking Beer, Talking God” is a vocal collaboration with Florida Georgia Line. It’s not a bad track, and one that is growing on me, but, in the main, this isn’t what I’d consider to be Country music. 
The most Country track to my ears is “Break Up Drunk”. 
Having said that, Chase has built up a faithful following on this side of the Atlantic, so this album will, no doubt, be welcomed.

GARY ALLAN is one of these Country stars, who seem to have been around for years, without really hitting the heights that he deserves and that his longevity would suggest. In the 25 years since the released his first album, he’s notched up 4 Number ones, including “Tough Little Boys” and “Nothin’ On But The Radio”.
Now with his 10th album, “Ruthless”, the Californian native gets a UK release on Snakefarm Records – his first for 8 years. It’s been a long time coming, and Gary recorded around 30 tracks, before settling on the 13 which made the album. 
The title track, “Ruthless” is quite a strong ballad, with some effective harmonies. I really liked this track. 
The album opens with “Temptation”, whilst quite a catchy number, but gets totally overshadowed by track 2, “Waste  Of A Whiskey”, which really stood out for me. Another drinking song, was the more of a crooner “Little Glass Of Wine”.
“Slide” had quite catchy feel, as did the more acoustic “Unfiltered”.
 “Pretty Damn Close” and “Trouble Knows Trouble” are quite pleasant ballads, which stood out for me. 
Quite a pleasant listen, and good to have new music from Gary.  

On the home front, West Lothian based singer LIZ CLARKE has released an album of songs that she’s recorded over the past few years, “To Nashville From Love”. The album features 13, mainly original, songs from a mix from sessions over the past few years. 
The album opens with the really catchy “Country Looks Good On Me”, a good traditional foot tapper, written by Irish based American songwriter Sandra Mayer Sovik and Mike Scott-Tracy. It’s a song I really think suits Liz’s style. 
In much the same style, is “You Wont Cheat Me Again”, which I really enjoyed. 
“3 Jobs 2 Kids No Money” is an catchy upbeat song written by London based writer Jon Philbert, who has written songs for Bobby Bare and Tom Jones amongst others. “That’s My Baby Sister” is a similarly styled number, which is one of the radio singles released to promote the album.  
“I’ll Be Gone” is quite a delicate ballad, written by John Mc Keever, who hails from Bonnybridge.
“Blue Skies Over Georgia” is a song written many years ago by Mark Moseley, and Liz does it real justice in bringing it back to the fore.
Liz has a few duet tracks on the album. Two are with Nashville based T Jae Christian, which were also featured on a previous album. “The Vanishing Breed” is a particularly strong Country production, which is a stand out track for me. Another duet with T Jae is “This Feeling That’s So Strong”, which is a bit more soulful. T.Jae also wrote “When Your Heart Tells You It’s Time To Love Again”. 
There’s also three duets with Paul Jackson, who, before last year’s lockdown, she had been building up a live show as Jackson & Clarke. Together they cover the old Tim & Faith hit, “Let’s Make Love”, and two originals penned by Paul, the soulful ballad “Loves Embrace”, and the more upbeat “If You Want Me”. 
That leaves her cover of Karl Denver’s “Voices Of  The Highlands”, which stands out by being  so different to the rest of the album. It’s obviously a song with means a lot to Liz. 
Having been recorded over a number of years, the album embraces the different directions that music has taken Liz during that time. It’s good to listen to the journey. 
Liz had the Jackson & Clarke show planned for the Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry shortly after lockdown began and put the event on hold. Hopefully, it wont be too long before they’re back. 

PAULA MACASKILL is one of the hardest working performers on the Scottish scene, especially in the Lochaber area, playing local tourist venues, although she does tour outwith the area as well. As a result she has built up a huge following over the years. Through lockdown, all that shut down, although Paula, especially in the early days, was a regular, posting live sets on line. It also gave her time to get into the studio to have an album ready for the venues opening up again. 
He result is “Your Forever Friend”. produced at Kirkhill Recording in Inverness, by fellow singer Ronnie Ross, who plays all the instrumentation on the 12 track album. Ronnie also wrote the title track, a lovely, gentle, sentimental ballad which really suits Paula’s style perfectly. 
The album has quite a variety, starting off with Mark Knopfler’s “The Next Time I’m In Town”. The arrangement really fits in with Paula’s gentle easy listening sound. 
The nature of Paula’s live gigs demand a crossover of upbeat Country and more Celtic sounding numbers, so there’s no surprise to find tracks like “Home To Donegal”, “Walking On The Waves”
and a lovely version of Moira Kerr’s “Where Eagles Fly”. Her version of “Wagon Wheel” is also more Nathan than Darius! 
There’s a couple of more pop numbers like Tom Springfield’s timeless “A World Of Our Own” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”.
And for Country fans, there’s classics like “From A Jack To A King”, “Take Me Home Country Roads”, “Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels” and “End Of The World”. 
As expected, Paula comes up with another very enjoyable, easy listening MoR album, which defies genres with ease.   

Our next album comes from Donegal lass ELAINE BOYLE, who has toured with Dominic Kirwan, Gary Gamble, Billie Jo Spears and Stella Parton amongst others. Her latest album, her third, if I’m not mistaken, is a fairly Irish affair, called “Isle Of Hope”.
The title was made popular by Mary Duff a few years back. If you’re not familiar with the song, it tells off a 15 year old Annie Moore, who was one of the first Irish immigrants to land at Ellis Island  enroute to a better life in America. It’s a gorgeous song, and Elaine handles it with sensitivity and emotion. 
Other songs on the collection include the upbeat “The Ferryman”, “Mary From Dungloe” and “Whiskey in The Jar” as well as the more emotional “Town I Loved So Well”, “Noreen Bawn”, “Bright Blue Rose” and “Carrickfergus”.  Although distinctive Irish songs, Elaine has recorded them in a style which will appeal to Country music listeners. 
Away from the Irish, Elaine also covers Highland Scots band Skippinish’ “Walking On The Waves”, Canadian songwriter Ron Hynes’ “Sonny’s Dream” and English duo Splinter’s catchy “Evergreen”, which I really enjoyed. This track really stood out for me, probably because I was unfamiliar with the song. But there’s not a bad track on the album. 
I’ve always enjoyed Elaine’s music, and have to say that this album continues that appreciation. A really enjoyable listen. 

The RYAN TURNER Band are one of the most versatile bands on the Irish scene, catering for all sorts of events from being a Wedding band, to a backing band for touring artists. They have a huge following in the North of Scotland, and the release of Ryan’s latest CD, “Brand New Man” has been much anticipated.
With the live performances being shutdown over the past year, Ryan used the time to put down some recordings, and this is the result. 
There are 11 tracks, ranging from Don Williams’ “If Hollywood Don’t Need You”, and Conway Twitty’s “Fifteen Years Ago” to Phil Vasser’s “I’m Alright” and the Brooks & Dunn cover which gives the album it’s title.  
The opening cut, a Jerry Kilgore song called “I Just Want My Baby Back” is a good upbeat introduction to the album.
There are three Keith Whitley covers, including “I’m Over You”, “Miami My Amy”, and a duet with Carmel Sheerin. That’s one of two duet’s on the album.
The other is, in my opinion, the stand out track. Written by acclaimed Irish songwriter Shunie Crampsey, Ryan teams up with Marty Haggard (son of Merle) on “Dying A Death But Living A Dream”. What a great Country Song title! - and the song itself lives up to the title. 
The production is first class, and 100 % pure Country!
Highly recommended.

THE OAKRIDGE BOYS have been a major musical force since their formation as a gospel group way back in the 1940’s. 
Big bearded William Lee Golden and Duane Allen joined the group in the mid-1960s, and Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall joined in the early 1970s. Aside from an eight-year gap (1987–95) when Golden left the group and was replaced, this lineup has been together since 1973. 
They have a new album, “Front Porch Singing” recently released in America, but Humphead Records, here in the UK, have just added The Oaks to their “Definitive Collection” series, with a 2 CD, 39 track collection of hits from around the 80’s when they were at the very top of their game. 
Hits like “Elvira”, “American Made”, “Y’all Come Back Saloon” and “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight” were huge hits for the quartet, as were “You’re The One”, “Dream On” and “Bobbie Sue”. 
They never lost their core gospel values, as demonstrated on songs like “Thank God For Kids”, “Touch A Hand Make A Friend” and “American Family”. 
Two songs, I always liked from The Oaks were the similarly titled  “Come On In” and “Come On In (You Did The Best You Could Do)”, which were recorded 7 years apart. Cleverly, (or perhaps dangerously for radio DJ’s), both songs are track 4 on the respective CD’s. 
As ever with Humphead compilations, there’s an informative 12 page booklet with an interesting bio written by Alan Cackett. 

Canadian collective THE HELLO DARLINS, had built up huge anticipation prior to their first full-length album “Go By Feel” released back in June.
The buzz began building almost immediately after the Calgary, Alberta-based Americana outfit debuted on the scene in early 2020, although the seeds of the band took root in 2016 when vocalist/producer Candace Lacina crossed paths again with keyboardist/producer Mike Little after first meeting at a recording studio years earlier. Once reconnected, they soon found themselves making music together, whilst, at the same time, the couple began inviting others within their circle to participate, including Clayton Bellamy (The Road Hammers), Matt Andersen, Dave and Joey Landreth (aka The Bros. Landreth) and ace fiddler Shane Guse.
On “Go By Feel”, this incredible collection of Canadian talent has forged a hybrid of country, gospel and blues like no other, from the heart-wrenching ballads like and “Prayer For A Sparrow” to the classic country-rocker “Mountain Time”, and the smouldering “Smokin’ Gun”. 
I wouldn’t want to consider The Hello Darlin’s as mainstream Nashville Country pop, but the opening track “Catch That Train” does conjure up quite a Lady A sound. 
“Lonely In Las Vegas” and the title track are both emotional, soulful ballads with suits Candace’s smouldering vocals, as does “Never Get Over You” and “Where Are You”.
Released as a single prior to the album release, “Aberdeen” has an obvious interest over here. On this beautiful, melodic track,  Joey Landreth takes the lead vocals, with some stunning harmonies provided by Candance, not to mention some creative instrumentation, including Tammy Rodgers on mandolin, and Mark on accordion,  which really shines through.  Actually the song hasn’t anything to do with the Granite City though. “Aberdeen” is simply the name of a horse, and is about the loyalty and friendship that is shown beyond fence lines. Still the stand out track!
“Still Waters” is another amazing track, featuring soulful vocals by blues man Matt Andersen. 
When I first got into Canadian Country music, I was attracted by the diversity of styles on offer, between the likes of The Rankins, Prairie Oyster, Farmers Daughter, Michelle Wright etc.  That’s largely disappeared over time, and much of it today, is a clone of the Nashville sound. But The Hello Darlin’s have rekindled the belief for me.  A real winning sound it is! 

Born in Oklahoma, the now Essex-based BOB COLLUM  is back with his band THE WELFARE MOTHERS, and a new album, “This Heart Will Self Destruct” (Fretsore Records).
Raised by his grandparents on the likes of Bob Wills and The Carter Family, Collum quickly embraced the sonic-fusion of transatlantic influences brought through the ongoing ripple effect of The Beatles. What results is a combination of these influences in his own artistic output; home-grown, transatlantic and British are all evident here. Collum reflects on the album as “beginning life on the cusp before the insanity of 2020” with much of the recordings done intermittently with safety taking priority. Initially intended as an EP, the sessions resulted in a full-length album.
The title track has a catchy rockabilly feel to it. “Saved” also has a vintage feel to it. It’s an interesting take on the Lieber and Stoller hit by LaVern Baker (and also recorded by Elvis). 
A more recent single, “From Birmingham” has a strong Country influence. I really enjoyed this track. I loved the accordion and female harmonies shining through on it. Other stand out tracks include the opening track “Parachute” and “Second Fiddle”.
There are a few bluesy numbers, including “Spare Me”, “Tall Glass Of Muddy Water”, but plenty of interest for old timey Country fans. 
 “I think the album captures the last year quite well; songs about anxiety, hope, fear, humour, uncertainty, love, disappointment, redemption, faith, more uncertainty, more fear, more hope etc.”, Collum states. 
With live shows on hiatus, this album takes its listeners on a retrospective journey invoking images of close-knit writing rooms and vintage recording studios, to bustling club nights and Fender-fuelled honky-tonks. 
A good listen.

It would be hard to categorise LAUREN HOUSLEY’s music. There’s a lot of soul and some vintage pop, but a lot of rootsy Country/Americana as well, which should appeal to readers. 
“Girl From The North” (Lovebird Recordings) released on St Georges Day, is her third album, and was recorded in the heart of England’s industrial north – Rotherham, in a studio she and husband/producer Thomas Dibb built underneath a foodhall. 
The album begins with “Bless His Soul”, which is one of the most Country sounding tracks on the album, especially with the steel, courtesy of CJ Hillman. 
“Guaranteed Sunshine” also has a strong modern Country feel to it, although the accompanying press release likens this track to early Sheryl Crow (who, of course has done a fair bit of dabbling in Country music).
“This Aint The Love”, one of the singles released to promote the album, has a catchy feel, with sits somewhere between Patsy Cline and 60’s pop.
“Stay Awake To Dream” is a beautiful ballad which I really enjoyed, whilst “What’s Troubling You Child” has more of a bluesy feel to it.
“Why Are We Making It So Hard” is a catchy mid tempo number which is quite catchy, if a little repetitive. 
Some tracks are old style Britpop with an atmospheric psychedelic sound, such as the lengthy “Breakdown” (over 5 mins) and the short “Two Lovers Lost in Space” (just 75 seconds long).
“Sing To Me” is different again. Her description as an “adult lullaby” is fairly accurate, I’d say. 
The album closes with the rockier “We’re Not Backing Down”, which has a really good beat.
An interesting album, with lots of different styles. A pleasant listen!

ROLAND ROBERTS life is like a musical atlas. He was Memphis born, Alabama raised, Colorado grown, and now a staple in the ever flourishing Alaskan music scene. To add to that, he recorded his debut album, “All About The Timing” (Happy Life Records) in Whitehouse in The Yukon, in Canada’s far north. 
He has been compared to the likes of John Prine, with a classic Country sound, blended with American folk, bluegrass and delta blues in the mix. 
The title track is a bouncy little number, with some life lessons contained within the lyrics. 
The completely self penned album starts off by highlighting his travelling by place checking   Toronto, Colorado and Yukon, in a catchy love song called “Beautiful Soul”.
“Picture On The Wall” has more of a Prine feel to it, as is the slower “Don’t Tell Me Goodbye”. 
“Sittin’ In Nebraska” is a catchy number inspired by being “stuck” there with no way out. 
There’s a much more old timey/bluegrass feel to “Rambling Joe”, whilst the steel intro to “Being Me” was quite appealing. 
“Wake Up” and “Lonely Blues” are two of the more bluesy numbers, whilst the album rounds off with “Keep Movin’ On”, which suggests that Roland will be rollin’ along for the foreseeable future. 
I really quite enjoyed tis album. It’s a little different. 

Finally, If you like your music really old style traditional Country then SUITCASE SAM will take you back to the likes of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers with his latest album, “Goodnight Riverdale Park”.
The album builds on 20’s jazz and 30’s country, both of which are big influences, and there’s also a
bit of The Band and some Willie Nelson-inspired outlaw country included in the 10 original tracks.
The album starts off with the bluesy “Growing Up”, before leading into the Hank styled “Friday Afternoon” and the jazz/ragtime instrumental “Maple Leaf Stomp”. 
You’re already getting the feel for the album. He then takes us to the deep south with the Southern blues/rock feel of “Frankie And Me” and the more, albeit dated, mainstream “Morning Mail”, which I really think is one of the stand out tracks. “Honey I’m Home” is another which really captures what this guy is all about.  
“Edge of Town” is a catchy number with a shade of a honky tonk influence, whilst “The Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad” honours the wayfaring hobo, sharing the escapism, which the harmonica introduction to “Tattered Shoes” keeps that feel rolling on. 
“Goodnight Riverdale Park” was co-produced by Juno Award winning analogue specialist Walter
Sobczak at Toronto’s Revolution Recording studios, who stayed away from computers when capturing the overall Suitcase Sam Sound.
“I think the fact that we recorded it to two-and-a-half-inch tape really sets the album apart,” notes
Sam. 
Suitcase Sam still has no fixed address. He is rumoured to be hailing from “the wilds of Canada.” But he may just find a place in your musical collection. It’s certainly different. Refreshingly vintage. 


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

April 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Dec 2020

As the pandemic is still heavily impacting the live Scottish Country scene, the planned December issue of "Country Music & Dance In Scotland" magazine wont be published. But we're pleased to let you read the CD reviews which would've appeared in the magazine.

Louisiana born ALECIA NUGENT made her name on the bluegrass scene, with three highly acclaimed albums for Rounder Records between 2004 and 2009, crowning it off with an IBMA Female Vocalist Award in 2009. 
Now she’s back, with a much more traditional Country sound on her latest album, “The Old Side Of Town” (Hillbilly Goddess Music), and I have to say she’s come up with a stunning collection of songs.
The title track, which opens up the album, is a Tom T Hall song. It kicks off with a twin fiddle intro, and I’m instantly hooked. She does a brilliant version of the uptempo song. 
The single released as a taster for the album, “They Don’t Make Em’ Like My Daddy Anymore”, is a superb upbeat number, written by Alecia and Carl Jackson, who worked on her previous albums. There’s Country and a bonus bluegrass version on the album. 
“Too Bad You’re No Good” is upbeat, although different from the other faster tracks on the album. It’s a bit more bluesy, and shows a lot of personality.
Following the title track opener, is a Paul Franklin steel laden ballad called “I Might Have One Too”, proving she can deliver a killer ballad. Other strong ballads include, “Way Too Young For Wings”, which is another co-write from the singer. In fact, she has co-written five of the songs, alongside Nashville top notchers including Larry Cordle, Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall, including the soft and emotional “Sad Song”. Stegall also produced the album. 
She does a fine take on “The Other Woman”, co-written by Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones 
But stand out track for me is “Tell Fort Forth I Said Hello”, written with Larry Cordle and Kevin Denney. It’s a really catchy shuffle number, with some impressive fiddle, steel and honky tonk piano. “I Thought He Never Leave” also has quite an infectious swing beat, after a soulful bluesy start. 
I remember enjoying Alecia’s bluegrass stuff a decade or so ago. It’s been too long, but this knockout album was certainly worth the wait. Certainly one of the highlights of 2020 !

JOSH TURNER made an immediate impact of Country music when he first appeared in Nashville, with his deep rich, Southern drawl. His first album, “Long Black Train” released in 2003 went platinum, and the rest as they say, is history.
Now, on his eight studio album, “Country State Of Mind” (MCA) he honours the Country legends who have been his influences over the years. 
The title track features Chris Jansen, whilst he opens up the collection with a cover of Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger To The Rain”. Many traditional fans consider Whitley to be last great Country singer, but Josh, with his unique tone, certainly delivers a great version of this song, and sets us up for a superb collection of real Country music.  He also takes on Vern Gosdin’s upbeat “I Can Tell By The Way You Dance”, the theme to the “Dukes Of Hazzard”, and the less than obvious Johnny Cash story of “The Caretaker”.
He has quite a few guests from Kris Kristofferson on “Why Me Lord”, John Anderson on “I’ve Got It Made” and Randy Travis on “Forever And Ever Amen”. This is Randy’s first recording since his stroke, back in 2013. 
On the more modern front, Runaway June join Josh on “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me”,  the old Patty Loveless/George Jones song, and Maddie & Tae guest on the old George Strait number “Desperately”. 
He even takes us back to the days of Hank Williams, with the haunting Alan Jackson hit, “Midnight In Montgomery”, as well as the sad and dark “Alone And Forsaken”, with harmonies from Allison Moorer. 
Josh, himself, has one of the most Country voices around these days. For him to honour some of the legends, is a real musical treat. And what I like about this album, is that whilst, he has a number of really well known songs, there’s a good few less obvious choices as well. It all comes together in one of the strongest “Country” albums around! 

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE are Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, who both had individual careers before launching the duo a decade ago. Although influenced by the great married duets of Johnny & June, and George & Tammy, their music is much more modern, yet doesn’t lose that traditional touch. The Birmingham based duo have a number of acclaimed albums to their credit, but their latest project is “Country Darkness”, featuring songs from the pen of Elvis Costello. They released the album across 3 EP’s in the past year, and now the whole collection is released as a full album. They have recreated the songs for duet vocals, and with vocals that work so well together, this makes for a really good listen. They have also enlisted Steve Nieve, Costello’s long time keyboard player, who gets equal billing on the whole project.
The project is a reincarnation of one of Lou’s earlier projects – she wrote and appeared in a play, "They Call Her Natasha", based around a series of Elvis Costello songs, which was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival. 
Costello had a Country side to him over the years, best highlighted in his cover of George Jones’ “Good Year For The Roses”, but it never really come to the fore in his hit records, but more so in his writing. None of the songs on here were hits for Costello, but you may recognise a few of the songs. 
“Stranger In The House” has been recorded as a duet with George Jones, and I recall a version from Rachel Sweet back in the late 70’s. I always loved the song and Lou and Michael do a great version here. 
Loretta Lynn co-wrote “I Feel The Chill Before The Winter Came” with Costello. I’m not sure if Loretta ever recorded it, but the version on here certainly is one of the stand out tracks. 
“I Lost You” is quite breezy & upbeat number which Costello co-wrote with Jim Lauderdale. There’s a lot of Lauderdale’s influence in the version here. 
“Heart Shaped Bruise” has been sung as a duet between Costello and Emmylou Harris, but I cant find an audio recording of it, as a duet before. 
“Different Finger” has a lovely tex mex accordion intro, courtesy of Piero Tucci, before turning into classic Country song which could have come right from Marty Robbins. There’s also some neat Spanish guitar playing from Shez Sheridan. It was a single released from Vol 2, and a really good radio song. 
I love the sound they make together, and picking up a whole realm of songs that have largely remain unknown to a mass audience until now is brave, but enterprising. There’s a bit of everything in these tracks from My Darling Clementine - it works, whatever way they turn.

ROBBIE PETRIE has been a longtime favourite on the Scottish Country music scene. He’s also one of the most traditional sounding singers still performing today. 
Following on from his last album, “Nashville On My Mind”, Robbie went one better, and recorded his latest collection in Music City. “Ever Changing Woman” is a stone Country collection of 13 songs, all produced in a pure Country fashion. 
The title track is a Curly Putman/ Dave Kirby composition, which Merle Haggard recorded for his “Back To The Barrooms” album. It’s just one of seven Haggard songs on the collection. Other include “Shelley’s Winter Love”, “Swinging Doors” and “Here In Frisco”. Robbie is a huge Hag fan, as you can tell.  But Buck Owens is also well represented, with 3 covers, including opening track “Foolin’ Around” and “Together Again”.
Other songs include Mel Street’s “Borrowed Angel”, Tommy Collin’s “New Patches” (a hit for Mel Tillis) and George Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away”.   
Robbie engaged the services of Steel guitar player Rusty Danmyer as producer. Over the years, Rusty has worked with Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack and Leann Rimes. The album also features Joe Spivey on fiddle, an inductee of the National Fiddle Hall Of Fame, and member of John Anderson’s band. Nikki Nelson, from Highway 101, is on harmony vocals, rekindling a connection made at the Caithness Festival a few years back. Keith Nixon also adds vocals, Eddie Lange and William Bagby provide guitar, Joey Schmidt on piano, and former Hag drummer Randy Mason complete the credits. 
Robbie sounds great throughout the album, and the production is superb. 
If Merle & Buck is your kinda Country, you’ve love this album ! 

A year or so ago, I told you about an album from Western Isles band, “Tumbling Souls”. Well, lead singer WILLIE CAMPBELL is back with a new solo album, “Nothing’s Going To Bring Me Down” (Invisible King Records).
This was intended to be the next Tumbling Souls album, and studio time had been booked in Glasgow back in March. But as lockdown took effect, Willie chose to take the bull by the horns and self-produce the album. 
Willie describes the themes across this album as “the internal struggle that he lives with, of loving the place that you’re from, but knowing that you have to leave it to make a living or to achieve the goals that you’ve set”. 
All ten songs on the album are self penned. It’s not all Country, but there is quite a Country feel running through some of the songs, probably a throwback to his songwriting expedition to Nashville a decade ago, where he learned so much about honing his craft. The touches of Steel Guitar, courtesy of Lloyd Reid plays a part too. 
The title track was released as a single, and crashed straight into the Scottish Top 40. It features some impressive piano from Keith Morrison, and a real catchy hook line. 
The album kicks off with “Leave Home”, which sets the agenda for the rest of the album. It has influences of Country, rock, pop and celtic music, and is a nice taster for the listen ahead. 
“Keep My Dreams Of Yesterday” is a pleasant ballad, as is “Pages Of The Past”. “Lay Your Burden Down”, whilst more pop inspired, is a really catchy number, which really got into my head. 
The closing track, “Home To Say Goodbye”, has a particular Country feel to it. It’s a very simple, yet melodic, arrangement, and stands out as my favourite track.
Although crossing a number of genres of music, I really liked the album.

DAVE SHERIFF has been one of the real mainstays of the UK Country music scene, and shows no sign of slowing down. With live performing greatly curtailed this year, Dave has still been busy writing and recording, and this new 14 track album, “How Long Is Forever” (Stomp label) is his second album to be released since lockdown. 
Whilst some of his recent albums had had themes (Irish/ driving, etc), this comes across as a general mix of Dave’s differing styles and themes. That said, there are a few songs which touch on old age, notably the very catchy “Too Late Now”, “As I Grow Old” and “Old Age Don’t Come Alone”. “Make Me Love You More” is about sharing life’s journey with a loved one, whilst “I Wish” is a sentimental song about losing a loved one.
Even “The Tourist”, is a haunting realisation that, in our lifetime’s journey, we’re all passing through, just like tourists, appreciating what we have around us. 
The album starts off with a gorgeous steel guitar laden title track, which is one of the album’s highlights. Also worthy of note, are the celtic influenced “Always Have, Always Will” and “We All Need A Friend” both with lovely sentiments, which will appeal to the Irish market.    
“Dance Till The Music Stops” has a catchy holiday/party theme, and it should appeal to the line dancers. “A Little More Loving” has a similar beat. 
With a top team of musicians, like Stephen Smyth, Derek Thurlby, Pete Ware and Adam Linsley, the production is superb. The songs all come from Dave’s own pen, covering a range of styles. 
A thoroughly enjoyable album. Another winner from Dave Sheriff!  

WAYLON JENNINGS’ music spanned four decades from the sixties right through to the late nineties. His best known, and most successful music comes from the 32 albums he recorded for RCA, including his famous Outlaw era. 
He moved to MCA Records in 1986 and recorded 4 albums, which have now been released by Humphead Records here in the UK as the double CD “The MCA Recordings – The Ultimate Collection”. 
The first album, “Will The Wolf Survive” was a big No.1 album for him, and featured Steve Earle’s “The Devils Right Hand” and Top 10 singles “Working Without a Net”, “What You’ll Do When I’m Gone”, and “Will The Wolf Survive”. 
“Hanging Tough” produced the number one hit, “Rose In Paradise” and a cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”!
“A Man Called Hoss” was his third album for the label. It was a concept album, written with Roger Murrah, which chronicled Jennings' life and experiences in ten "chapters", each of which corresponds to a single track on the album. Hits from this album, included “Rough And Rowdy Days” and “If Ole Hank Could Only See Us Now”. 
And this collection is completed with the tracks from “Full Circle”, which produced another two Top 40 hits with “How Much Is It Worth To Live In LA” and “Which Way Do I Go (Now That I’ve Been Gone”. 
I do recall Waylon created a more edgier, rockier sound with his move to MCA, with the exception of the “A Man Called Hoss” tracks, which are classic Waylon. 
These aren’t his most memorable tracks- you’ll find them on various RCA collections, but it’s great that Humphead have broadened the material available from another era in Jennings’ long career. As ever, with Humphead releases, there’s a very informative 12 page booklet, written by Alan Cackett.  
This is a collection that deserves to be in your collection.

Singer songwriter LORI McKENNA has been active in the music business for over 20 years, primarily in the American folk scene. Back in 2005, she caught the attention of Faith Hill, who recorded four of her songs for her “Fireflies” album.  Since then, her songs have been recorded by the likes of Sara Evans, Keith Urban, Alison Krauss, Ashley Monroe, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood. Her most notable songwriting hits are Tim McGraw’s “Humble And Kind” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”, both CMA and Grammy Country Song of the Year award winners. 
Lori has 10 previous albums to her credit, and now releases her 11th collection, “The Balladeer” (Thirty Tigers). The album has been  described by McKenna as the "most personal album" of her career. Of the ten tracks featured on it, seven of them she wrote solo while the remaining three were co-written with frequent collaborators Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, all of whom are collectively known as the Love Junkies. All three feature on the track “When You’re My Age”, which was the taster single. It’s a sensitive, emotional ballad. 
It all kicks off with “This Town Is A Woman”, another vocal collaboration, this time with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberley Schlapman. It’s a soft reflective ballad, which really shows her vocal prowess, and the harmonies just help top it off. 
This is followed by the album’s title track, which has quite an old west story song feel to it, whilst having a bit Kacey Musgraves sound to it at the same time. A really interesting arrangement.  “Marie” is quite similar. 
“The Dream” and “Uphill” quite a reflective ballads, which really highlights Lori’s vocals.
“Good Fight” is an upbeat number, which she handled really well. “Two Birds”, is really catchy. It may be one that radio may pick up on.
“Stuck In High School” is quite a reflective number, again quite upbeat, then on a similar theme, she closes the album with “Till You’re Grown”. 
Lori’s writing is firmly embedded in Country music these days, but her recent albums have still been better acceptable in folk circles. I think this could be the album which really gets her noticed as a performer on the Country music scene.

GRANGER SMITH has been around the Country scene for over 20 years, recorded 10 albums and 23 singles, but it’s only the past couple of years that Country radio have picked up on his music, with hits like “The Backroads Song” and “If The Boot Fits”. Now, the Dallas native continues to pursue his career with “Country Things” (Wheelhouse Records), and I think his time has come. 
This album has been a long time in the making. He had starting working on the album, when tragedy struck the family, with the sudden death of his youngest son.  
The 18 track collection beings with “Country Things”, one of the few tracks, which Smith didn’t co-write. There’s a nice banjo intro into a song with appreciates down home family values. 
“Hate You Like I Love You” is a modern Nashville sounding song, about getting over a relationship, which has been getting a lot of attention of late with over 6 million streams.
“I Kill Spiders” is a real family song, playing the part of a father and protector for his children. Without being over sentimental, I think it’s a song which fathers will relate to. 
“That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads”, follows on from his first chart album, “Dirt Road Driveway”, and is his latest single. It’s a good upbeat number, which should do well for him. There's a bonus track, which features rapper Lathan Warlick. I have to say, I prefer the first version. He keeps on the driving theme on “Chevy’s, Hemis, Yotas And Fords”. 
“Heroes” is a great anthem, which can be adapted for all the heroes we take for granted in the world today. 
I enjoyed a few of the ballads on the album too, including "Man Made", "That's What Love Looks Like" and "Six String Stories". 
Granger also performs under the name of Earl Dibbles Jr, and it’s with this fun moniker, that he performs a few of the songs, including the rather repetative "Workaholic" and the rather rocky "Diesel" andd "Holler", but it's  “Country (And You Know It)” that really makes its mark. It’s hardly original, based on the nursery rhyme “If Your Happy And You Know It”, but Granger and three others are credited, alongside Joe Raposo (who holds the copyright) for coming up with the Country version. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and could really catch on. 
Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable album.

25 year old COLTER WALL is a Canadian singer-songwriter from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, who has a distinctive old western sound to his music. That’s in stark contrast to the AC/DC & Led Zeppelin covers he was playing a decade ago.
His third album, “Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs”, (Thirty Tigers) was released a couple of months back and has already hit No. 1 of the UK Country chart and top 10 on the US country chart.
Despite his young age, he sounds much older, which makes this album sound just so much more authentic. 
The title track leads off the album and sets the scene. “Western Swing & Waltzes” is a real old western song, with some great fiddle, steel and harmonica breaks.  
His cover of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” is really impressive. And his version of “Cowpoke” is much more authentic than Eddy Arnold’s smooth version. 
There’s story songs about people like “Henry And Sam”, Diamond Joe” and “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” and a horse called “High And Mighty”.
And there’s an uptempo ramble across the plains with “Rocky Mountain Rangers”
What I really like about the album is that the songs are about his own area of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Montana. He’s not tried to impress a bigger audience by adapting to southern states like Texas or Arizona.
If you like real old time western music, this is definitely for you. It is an acquired taste though! 

THE PAWN SHOP SAINTS are a quartet, who have emerged over the past couple of years from the Berkshire Hills of New England. The group are led by Jed Barry, who has built up a solo career at the same time as the group has grown. Their third album, “Ordinary Folks” (Dolly Rocker Records), follows on from the success of “texas, etc…” which made an impression on the Euro Americana charts a year or two back. Supporting Jeb are Michael O’Neill, Josh Pisano and Chris Samson.
Two years ago Jeb wrote fifty songs in fifty days whilst travelling through Appalachian areas of the US, including three he wrote in a Nashville hotel room. “I began pulling off the interstates to hit the small towns where ordinary people live”, he says. “You can drive a couple of miles, and find other worlds”. 
That’s the background to this album. It’s an album of simple observations, with simple arrangements. 
The nine track collection begins with “You Don’t Know The Cumberland”, which tells of the effect of social effects as life changes. “Southern Mansions” has much of the same theme running through it. “New Year’s Eve, Somewhere In The Midwest”, was co-written with Jason Isbell. “Ain’t No Mama Here” is a bit different to the rest of the album, dealing with the loss of parents, and the issues faced by the family left behind. 
“Lynyrd Skynyrd” is about the generation inspired by the iconic Southern Rockers.
The album leaves us with a love song in “Dry River Song” which was really appealing. 
The album was recorded in Massachusetts.  I really enjoyed it. Released here December 11th. 
One of the most surprising albums of the year came from TENNESSEE JET (real name TJ McFarland), who actually hails from Oklahoma. You would never label Jet’s music as straight Nashville- but theirs is some magical Country sounds on his third album, “The Country” (Thirty Tigers). 
The album’s gets your attention from the opening beats of “Stray Dogs”. It has one of these driving road song beats, that just smell of freedom. I was hooked! 
“The Raven & The Dove” is a bit slower, but picks up nicely. It’s about the sort of days you have- “some days are raven, some days are dove”.  
“Off To War” and the closing “Sparklin’ Burnin’ Fuse” are both gentle acoustic numbers. 
There’s some beautiful steel guitar on the intro to the “Someone To You”, one of the mellowest, and straight Country tracks on the album. It’s certainly my favourite track on here. The title track is hidden away on track eight. It’s a gentle simple love song, which I adore for its line, “I miss you like the country radio don’t play no more.”
Just when you were settling into a real Country experience, he hits us with a rockin’ tribute to “Johnny” – Horton that is! I don’t quite get why the “North To Alaska” legend is honoured by such a rocker. He also rocks his way through “Hands On You”.
He covers Townes Van Zante’s “Pancho & Lefty”, with the help of Elizabeth Cook, Cody Jinks and Paul Cauthern. It’s a solid version of the song, but given his originality elsewhere on the album, this track came over as just a little uninspired.  
He also covers “She Talks To Angels”, a Black Crowes song. But with its banjo, fiddle and steel, he really Countryfies it. The harmonies from Elizabeth Cook add something to the mix.
He is considered a bit of an open spirit when it comes to life and music, He says he has “got a head full of metal, but a heart of country gold”. This album, in the main, comes straight from his Country heart. 
Do check it out!

Gifted singer-songwriter ARLO McKINLEY released his debut solo record at age 40 on John Prine’s Oh Boy records - after he almost gave up on music altogether. Indeed he was the last artist signed by Prine, before his passing earlier this year.
“Die Midwestern” is deeply rooted in street soul, country, punk, and gospel and draws on personal stories, set against the backdrop of his hometown of Cincinnati Ohio, and crafted downriver in Memphis’ legendary Sam Phillips Recording Studio. 
There, McKinley recorded ten remarkable songs -some dating back fifteen years - all penned with a weight, honesty and gritty-hope that comes from living in the rustbelt city where his songs were born. 
On “Die Midwestern”, McKinley’s songs bleed truth and emotion from a heart scarred by wild nights and redeemed by soulful Sunday morning confessions. His lyrics are laid bare, stark and arresting in their honesty, and often penned from real-life experience.
The title track reflects on his love/ hate relationship with his home state of Ohio. “I love it because it’s everything that I am, but I hate it because I’ve seen it take my loved ones lives” he says. “I’ve seen it make hopeful people hopeless”. It debates whether to leave home, because, it he doesn’t do it now, he never will.
“Bag Of Pills” is an autobiographical and frank account of the drug issues which affect his hometown. It seems to be a song which embraces the whole album in one song. 
“Suicidal Saturday Night” is one of the strongest Country songs on the album. It’s about criminals on the run or “heartland wanderlust” as The Tennessean labelled it. 
I liked “She’s Always Around”. It’s a traditional Country ballad, and he handles this style of song particularly well.
“Gone For Good” sees McKinley share his lessons from broken relationships, “It’s about me realising how short I fell on even trying to make it work,” he says. 
The album rounds off with “Walking Shoes”, another song of wonderlust, like the title track- if I don’t do it now, I never will theme. 
This album has been a long time in the making. It’s a life story – so far. I really enjoyed the journey. 
The album “Halfway From Nashville” is the next stop on songwriter SEAN HARRISON’s long, twisty, up-and-down road back to music from a long time gone. Sean was born in Music City and raised mostly in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he grew up in the literary home of his father, the late novelist/screenwriter William Harrison, probably best known for the movie “Rollerball”. 
Sean lived some years in Europe, then Texas, with a lot of traveling and finally back home to Fayetteville. He has busked in London, Paris, Florence and Venice, southern Spain and other parts of Europe, New York City and Dallas/Ft. Worth. 
In his early twenties, Sean played full-time in Texas and shared the stage with some legendary songwriters and players. 
After many years playing  music , and writing ,“Halfway From Nashville,” is Sean’s debut album. He kicks off the album with the title track “to let folk know this is a Country album”. It’s quite a slow, acoustic , reflective song, which references to The Hag, Cash and Dylan along the way. 
“Ode To A Goner” is another of the most obvious Country songs on the 12 track album. It’s a co-write with novelist, John Dufresne. “I read a line in one of his books and I just had to have it” Sean explains, “Emailed him, he said cool, and he wrote some beautiful verses for this song, just trading emails with me”. 
Some of his songs sound quite quirky including “Big Decision”, a tongue in cheek relationship song, and “Wake Up Dead”.  “Fingertips”, although a love song, sounds quirky. It’s also one of the tracks featuring Tim Alexander from Asleep At The Wheel, recorded shortly before he died. “Psychedelic” is a fun throwback to the pop culture of his youth. “Paydays” is a Roger Miller inspired song, which worked really well. “Water Towers” is a source of curiosity-and Sean’s viewpoint is “why have them if you cant climb them”.  
 “Go To Girl” is quite an upbeat number, which is should get a bit of radio attention. “Gravel And Dirt”, is steeped in Southern roots, and “Worried” veers towards a driving rock sound, but the vocals still dominate, whilst the album closes with the most delicate “Breath Out Her Name”. 
There are echoes of Shel Silverstien, Ray Stevens and Roger Miller running through the album, but Sean’s not cloning any of them. It’s a very original approach, and an album that’s really growing on me. 

Gary Van Miert is a local cult figure around New York.  Known for looking as if he stole his clothing from Ernest Tubbs closet, the singer-songwriter, musician and all around entertainer honed his skills playing the nightclubs of New Jersey, Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond. THE SENSATIONAL COUNTRY BLUES WONDERS started as a vehicle for Van Miert to start performing and take advantage of the vibrant art and music scene in Jersey City. The band’s name is an homage to all the great groups from the golden age of Country & gospel. The band was designed to replicate the original instrumental lineup of acoustic rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar and upright acoustic bass used on the first rock and roll records made by Elvis at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. 
With live performing off the agenda, he began work on his first original album “The World Will Break Your Heart” (he released an album of covers in 2012).  
The music on the 10 track album sounds refreshingly dated, ranging from the Bakersfield sounding “Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar” and “I Can Hear The Music Play” to the ragtime influenced “Double Barrell Blues” to the old timey feeling on “I Wont Change Anything”.
“I’m Afraid Of Every Goddam Thing” is superb vintage Country that is just so appealing. And I just love his catchy murder ballad, “My Baby Stabbed Me With A Steak Knife”.
The single, and video released from the album is “Privilege”, which is more of a ballad, and closes the album. 
It’s an interesting album. It certainly doesn’t fit with today’s Nashville sound, but is really refreshing, vibrant, and real !
I really enjoyed it. 

Back in 2017 I introduced you to the music of THE 19TH STREET BAND, an adventurous band, crossing genres from bluegrass and Irish roots to rock, led by Caolaidhe Davis, from Hollywood, Northern Ireland, who emigrated to America’s East Coast back in 2005. Joining Cally in the band is his wife Meghan, a trained violinist, whom he met when she was working in a Washington DC Irish Bar. Fast forward a few years, and the couple found themselves living on 19th Street in Arlington, Virginia, and the band name was born.
They are joined by Greg Hardin and drummer Patty Dougherty , to make up a refreshing, exciting sound that you just cannot pigeon hole into any one genre. 
“Diamond In The Rough” is their second outing, and was recorded in Maryland and Tipperary. 
The album kicks off with three numbers, each of which run over 5 minutes. The opening track, “I Just Had To Say”, has a full minute intro, focusing on different instruments before launching into a catchy, hi-energy fun numbers. The music covered various genres, but the vocals came across as bluegrass.
“Nothing To Do (All Day To Do It)”, which is where the album title comes from, and “Firefly” have quite bluesy inspirations, although switches to an upbeat tempo mid songs.
“Hillbilly Boy” is a fun sounding old timey number, with band chants, which just add to the magic. It works well.
“I’ve Been Waiting” is a catchy, upbeat number, with a folksy, bluegrass approach. “Away From Our Happy Home” tells of taking trains away from the home place. Again it has quite an old timey feel. 
“The Cajun Rock And Roll Stanza” is an interesting, and quite infectious track. On my first listen, I wasn’t too sure about it, but it quickly had me hooked. It’s probably the least Country track on the album, but, as I say it’s quite infectious.
By contrast, “True Love” is a probably the most straight Country song on the album.
Meghan takes the lead track on a couple of tracks, including the lovely “Your Love Is Like The Lone Ranger”, which has superb harmonies, and some catchy fiddle. Probably my favourite track.
Like their previous outing, I really enjoyed the mix of music on this album. Do check them out. 

OWEN MAC is one of the young breed of Irish Country singers, and by young, we mean young!  At the age of 17, he has just released his 5th album. It’s a gospel album called “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”. 
The album kicks off with “Praying”, which he has also released a video for. 
I like how he, in the main, stays clear of the most obvious gospel songs that everybody does. 
That said, he does include “Jesus Loves Me” (which he really speeds up), and is joined by Tony Allen (Foster & Allen) on “Far Side Banks Of Jordan”. He also features “If We Never Meet Again This Side Of Heaven”, which has previously been recorded by Elvis, Cash, Merle and Ricky Van. 
There’s a couple of songs originally recorded by The Easter Brothers, a gospel group in North Carolina. Desi Mac features on “Jesus Is Living With Me”. And Shauna Mac joins in on “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”.  
He has dug into American southern gospel for the songs, with songs like “Look For Me” (Howard Goodman) and “Build My Mansion” (Dottie Rambo).  The title track, which closes the album is a traditional song, done in a simple old time style. It’s another hymn from America’s deep south. 
Owen has built up quite a following in his young career. I think many of his followers will appreciate this latest offering. 

Finally, Louisiana native MARGIE SINGLETON has been part of the music industry for the past seven decades, charting nine Top-40 Country hits, including duets with George Jones (Waltz Of The Angels) and Faron Young (Keepin’Up With The Joneses). As a songwriter, Singleton wrote and co-wrote numerous hits for others, including “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got)?”, as well for Brook Benton, Johnny Tillotson , Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Lynn Anderson, Trini Lopez and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Now at the age of 85, Margie is back, with a new 5 track EP, “Never Mind”. 
I see one of her albums back in the 60’s was called “Sings Country Music With Soul”, and that would be a good description for this set of songs. She starts off with the title track, which is an autobiographical song. As Margie points out on the sleevenotes, “I started singing the first line, ‘I was born in Coushatta Louisiana’ (was going to say in 1935) and my son, Steve joined in with ‘19 never mind.’ That was it!” It’s quite a bluesy arrangement, but that works well for her. Steve also collaborated on “Who’s Gonna Love You When I’m Gone”, which found a creative vibe between mother and son. It’s bright and breezy, and is the most Country track on the collection.
“Lie To Me” is an old song, which she wrote with Brook Benton. Brook had a hit with it in 1962, but Margie had never recorded the song herself- until now!
“Wonder What She’s Doing” and “Missing You” both have a real soulful feel to them. The latter is the one track which Margie didn’t have a hand in writing, having been written by son Steve, who also co-produced the project. 
There is a noticeable blues and soul influence, but still fits within the Country genre. There is steel, courtesy of Steve Hinson and some neat harmonica from Jimbo Sales. 
Good to see that she’s still sounding great.