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Tuesday 15 February 2011

April 2008

Under Blue Skies – Rosette

Charlie has established himself as one of Britain’s premier songwriters, with classics like “What Colour Is The Wind” and “My Forever Friend” to his credit. A British singer singing his own songs is such a rarity in Country circles, that Charlie has established such a niche for himself.
On this album, and during his recent tour, Charlie has strayed from his own pen however, and is paying homage to his heroes- the songwriters who inspired him.
Among them, John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, and , of course Lennon & McCartney.
But don’t fear. Charlie has still contributed 10 of the 17 tracks on this new release.
The covers include two classics, “You Don’t Know Me” and “Moon River”, which Charlie does a superb laid back job on. He also gives credit to to Gordon Lightfoot numbers, “Early Morning Rain” and “Cotton Jenny”.
Sharing a Merseyside heritage with The Beatles, he has to include one of their numbers, and has selected “Here,There & Everywhere”. Also worth a listen is his version of the much covered John Prine penned “Speed Of The Sound Of Lonelines”.
Charlie’s own songs are consistently of a high quality. Stand out tracks include the opening two numbers. “Speak To Me Darling”, which has already had a fair bit of airplay. That’s followed by the truly gorgeous “Beautiful To Me”, which shows the gentle giant’s romantic side.
He gets a little bit rockier on “Long Way Down”, “Long Way To Go” and the catchy “Bullet In Your Gun”, which adds some variety to the album. I also enjoyed “Some Mothers Son”, and “Good For My Heart”, both of which I can hear featuring on radio.
It’s a good solid album from Charlie, which can only enhance his fan base.
Not only that, but the CD comes with a 10 track bonus CD of live cuts from the man’s concerts, include “Innisfree”, a Beatles medley, and his first single “I Will Love You All My Life”.
Great Value For Money!

We’re Still Together – Nell Records

Ireland consistently provides us with excellent easy listening Country, and this couple do nothing to change the popular format. What they do have to offer is a unique blend of vocal duets, which, apart from Daniel & Mary, don’t happen too often.
This duo have been around since 2005, when both had separate bands and careers, but the success of “Promised To John”, led them to further their collaborations.
Like many Irish acts, this is essentially a Middle of The Road album, with a blend of Country tunes like “Tennessee Waltz” and David Ball’s “Please Feed The Jukebox”, to classic pop, like Dylan’s “End Of The Line” and The Dooleys’ “A Rose Has To Die”. There’s a couple of Irish tunes about the “Little Homestead Cottage” and a cover of Johnny McEvoy’s “Long Before Your Time”. Isla Grant also contributes “Love Me Tonight”.
Musicians include Gay Brazil, Clive Cuthbertson and Charlie Arkins.
The sound is superb. The voices blend beautifully. And the song choice, whilst not 100% Country by any means, works well.
Altogether, a first class Irish MoR Country album!

The Ultimate Collection – Humphead

This Canadian sweetheart first hit the charts in 1995 with “Better Things To Do”, and quickly became recognised as a new generation Loretta Lynn, by voicing the woman’s side of things. Times move on, and newcomers like Gretchen Wilson have kinda put Terri into the background, but she has still has had time to establish herself as a pioneer for the modern woman in Country music.
She has a gutsy sound, best evident in tracks like “Better Things To Do” , “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, ”Emotional Girl” , “A Little Gasoline”, “I Just Wanna Be Mad” , “I Wanna Do It All” and “Girls Lie Too”.
They were all sizable hits both in America, and her native Canada. However, when you find such a winning formula, it creates a problem when it comes to marketing a greatest hits collection like this.
I love Terri’s music, but hearing all her hits together here on one album, I had a sense of déjà vu. So many of the hits here sound very similar.
There are powerful ballads here too, including “If I Were You”, “Just The Same”,”No Fear”, and my favourite, “Now That I Found You”, but they are rather shadowed by the more uptempo tracks.
Nevertheless, with no less than 21 tracks, it’s a great value package to add to your collection. There’s also a 16 page booklet with all the song lyrics, and sleeve notes from Alan Cackett.

Moment Of Forever = Lost Highway

Whilst he’s on the upper side of 70, Willie Nelson shows no signs of slowing down. Of course he’s back here in May, and is still releasing albums more regularly than many of today’s top acts.
He never follows a safe route. His albums are always diverse, and this new collection is no different.
He features songs written by Kris Kristofferson, Randy Newman, Paul Craft, Guy Clark, Dean Dillon and Bob Dylan. There’s also two of his own songs.
“Always Now” is a polished ballad, which is rather commercial by Willie’s standards. Very enjoyable though! He also wrote “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore”. This is quite a catchy number, and even has a punchline at the end, which he fails to deliver because “You Dont Think I’m Funny Anymore”. That was funny!
He teams up with Kenny Chesney for a duet on the bluesy “Worry B Gone”. His cover of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” is fairly heavy, but this album covers quite a variety of styles.
Kristofferson’s “Moment of Forever” (the title track) features some nice harmonica, which makes the track stand out.
The Randy Newman penned “Louisiana” is a beautiful tribute to the floods that devastated New Orleans. As you’d expect there’s a tasteful Cajun feel in the backing.
My favourite track, and the stand out Country song is the down home “When I Was Young And Grandma Wasn’t Old”. What a great title!
It must be quite expensive to be a Willie Nelson fan, but this is certainly one that you’ll want to add to your collection.

From The King To The Barrooms – Humphead

This 24 track collection from The Hag has an interesting concept, that sadly doesn’t quite work. Essentially, it’s a collection put together from his short time on MCA between 1977-1981. Despite only charting a dozen or so hit singles during this time (his lifetime tally is over 100), he did record some really superb honky tonk material, and many of the tracks are featured here, including “Misery & Gin”, “Back To The Barrooms Again”, “Leonard”, “Footlights”, “Red Bandana”, “If We’re Not Back In Love By Monday”, and “Rambling Fever”.
Shortly after joining the label, Elvis died, and Merle was quick out of the studio with the Top 5 hit “From Graceland To The Promised Land”, which was a very credible tribute.
But this album tries to build on that. As well as the tribute song, we have Merle covering several Elvis songs, like “Love Me Tender”, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, “Blue Suede Shoes” , “Don’t Be Cruel” and “That’s All Right”.
Merle is a great singer, and Elvis had some great songs, but Merle does nothing for these songs, and the songs do nothing for Merle.
For the Country and Honky tonk songs, this album is a great memory of a short period in Haggard’s career. But skip the Elvis songs.
Like the Terri Clark release, Alan Cackett has written a detailed introduction in the 16 page booklet that supports the CD.

Balls – 31 Tigers Records

This young lady, from Florida, has wowed Grand Ole Opry crowds in Tennessee for the last couple of years, and hit Scotland with a bang when she supported Suzy Bogguss during her recent Celtic Connections gig in Glasgow.
She possesses a wonderful southern drawl, and a wicked sense of humour. Her vocal style, combined with excellent musicians like Tim Carroll, Richard Bennett, and Rodney Crowell, who produced this album, blend together for the most Country album to emerge out of Nashville for many years.
She has fun filled uptempo numbers like the title track, “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”, (stating her claim as the modern day Loretta Lynn), the man-bashing “He Got No Heart”, and the music business bashing “Times Are Tough In Rock’n’roll”.
She can also deliver a mean ballad, as she shows on tracks like “Always Tomorrow”, written by Tim Carroll, “Sunday Morning” and “Rest Your Weary Mind”, on which she duets with Bobby Bare Jr.
She has a real vintage sound on “Don’t Go Borrowing Trouble” and “What Do I Do”, and is real apple pie flavoured downhome on “Mama’s Prayers”.
Elizabeth had a lot of fun on stage, and it comes over on the album. She has quite a unique voice, a mix of Dolly, Loretta, Iris Dement and Nanci Griffith, who joins her on “Down Girl”.
She has promised to come back in the summer. In the meantime, check out this album. Simply the most Country album you’ll find around. Already my album of the year!

Duets,Friends & Legends – EMI

Anne Murray is a Canadian & International superstar. Her easy listening, Country flavoured hit catalogue has won her many fans over the years.
Now the lady from Springhill, Nova Scotia, who will be 63 years old in June, takes a retrospective look back at her own career, with the help of friends she’s made in the business over the years.
All her duet partners are fellow songbirds, from fellow Canadians like kd lang, Shania Twain and Jann Arden to international names like Olivia Newton John , Martina McBride & Amy Grant., and even some from the world of music, beyond Country, like Nelly Furtado, Dusty Springfield and Sarah Brightman.
The songs are all Murray classics.
The star attraction is still in superb voice, and blends beautifully with her guests.
Most interesting selections for me included the duet with Shania on “You Needed Me”. Shania was only 15 when Anne first recorded the song, but she really adds a nice note to it. Shania sounds so much at home doing classic Country numbers (as she proved on the Willie Nelson & Dolly tributes), I wish she’d do more.
Listening to this version, you realise how suitable it is for a love duet, although two female voices maybe isn’t quite the way I would’ve imagined it.
The same applies to “Could I Have This Dance”, which she shares with Amy Grant.
The collaboration with Celtic Women stood out for me. I’ve always loved “Song For The Mira”, and this version just adds that vital ingredient to make it so special.
The Dusty Springfield duet on “I Just Fall In Love Again”, uses the original vocals Dusty laid down in 1979. Apparently, both women recorded the song around the same time, but Anne’s became the bigger hit, so this is a belated “thanks for letting me have the hit” project.
The Indigo Girls add to “A Little Good News”, another of my favourites, and notable is the change of location. The original talked of the troubles in Ireland, now replaced by Gaza. Proves that someone was listening.
I even enjoyed Nelly Furtado dueting on the old Monkees hit “Daydream Believer”.
It’s good to hear these classic songs again, done slightly differently.
If you’re a Murray fan, you’ll want to add it to your collection.

The Ultimate Collection – Humphead

I’ve always enjoyed Sammy Kershaw’s music, since he first charted with “Cadillac Style” back in 1991. But when this collection arrived, I realised that his music has been so overlooked.
He only had one number one, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful”, and a few others, like “Third Rate Romance”, “Love Of My Life” and “Yard Sale” got lots of radio play. But most of the 22 tracks on this collection didn’t instantly strike a chord with me.
That’s not to say that they shouldn’t have. He’s a superb vocalist, and has some great songs here, which really deserve to be heard again. So many of these songs just didn’t get enough attention when they were first released in the 1990’s.
“Honky Tonk America”, “Meant To Be”, “If You’re Gonna Walk” and “Haunted Heart” are probably best examples. If, like me, you’ve forgotten about just how good this guy is, check out this album.
Remember When

Dierdre Bonner is from Donegal, the eldest of six children. She’s been involved in music since the age of six, but it’s only in the past year that she’s been getting noticed by more and more impressive fans.
I first heard this lady’s music on a couple of Irish stations a few months back, and was instantly impressed. She has the most beautiful angelic crystal clear vocal style I’ve ever heard. She’s like a young Dolly Parton, with a dash of Iris Dement, and a cute light warble that gives her a style of her own.
With backings which feature fiddle, mandolin, banjo, dobro & accordian, you start to get a feel for the acoustic sound that this album oozes.
This is the follow up to Dierdre’s acclaimed “Atlantic Bridges” album, and features 12 beautiful songs, from Country classics like “Silver Threads & Golden Needles” and “Some Days Are Diamonds”, which are done very much in her own style, and a certainly not covers.
The closest to direct covers would be Dolly’s “Wild Flowers” and “Just A Few Old Memories”, but even her version of Iris Dement’s “Infamous Angel” has it’s own fresh identity.
My favourite tracks include Shawn Colvin’s ”These Four Walls”, which features Rod McVey’s piano, and the simple arrangement of “Who Will Watch The Homeplace”, a truly beautiful song that highlights her voice.
She also covers Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”, again in her own laid back style.
This girl hasn’t yet received the attention that her voice deserves, but I’m sure it will come.
This album, and her previous CD “Atlantic Bridges” and a 5 track EP, “Get Me Through December” are available through her website

The Ultimate Collection – Humphead

Mrs Steve Earle has recently moved on from the MCA label in Nashville, so this collection features the best of the material she recorded with them.
Here’s 18 tracks, packaged with a booklet of sleevenotes by Alan Cackett and lyrics to all the songs.
The singer, also known as Shelby Lynne’s sister, first came to our attention with “A Soft Place To Fall” from Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer” movie. That superb ballad is featured here, as are follow up songs such as “Send Down An Angel”, “The Hardest Part” and “Alabama Song”.
I’m glad to see the fast paced “The One That Got Away” is featured. It’s rather different than her usual material, but stands out as the best Country swing number she’s done.
Other songs featured, include “Ruby Jewell Was Here”, “ Dying Breed” , “Feeling That Feeling Again” and “Cold Cold Earth”, billed as a hidden track.
A good collection, and worth picking up if you don’t have an of Allison’s material in your collection

Good Time – Arista

Alan Jackson is probably the most popular modern American Country singer amongst Scottish fans. His recent album’s, one gospel, and one with Alison Krauss, may have seen him stray from his traditional footprint, but now he’s stepped back into the fold with this new 17 track collection of all self written material.
The opening title track didn’t do much for me, I have to be honest. But then “Small Town Southern Man” is trademark Alan. The other downhome southern song that stands out is “I Still Like Bologna”.
He goes on with a selection of laid back songs, like “I Wish I Could Back Up”, “When The Love Factors High” and “Listen To Your Senses”. Through these songs, I could hear an influence, I hadn’t heard with Alan before. He’s the new Don Williams !
I really liked “1976” a more uptempo autobiographical song, as the singer remembers his early loves. The strongest Country song has to be “If You Want To Make Me Happy”, with it’s Conway Twitty style talkie intro, and solid honky tonk jukebox theme to follow. The song works really well, even if you don’t appreciate the sentiments.
He really lets rip, with a good fun, pacey number on “Long Long Way” , and with Martina McBride on the pop-ish “Never Loved Before”. Their voices work well together, making a rather lightweight song sound really catchy.
He also has a little Jimmy Buffett influence evident in “Laid Back In Low Key”.
Alan Jackson proves he has the magic touch throughout this album. So many different styles, and so many good self penned songs on one album.
This one’s a must!

Whiskey & Rhinestones – The Ultimate Collection – Humphead

Another collection of tracks from the MCA vaults of the 1990’s finds 20 tracks from Marty Stuart. A few of these tracks, like “ Hillbilly Rock” and “Tempted” have become favourites on the linedance floors, but Marty Stuart is much more than these numbers.
“High On A Mountain Top”, “This One’s Gonna Hurt You”, “That’s What Loves About” and “Whiskey Aint Working Anymore” really show Marty’s 100% Country credentials. Not to mention the album finale, a live version of “Orange Blossom Special”.
You’ll also find gospel on “Come Into The House Of The Lord” , and native Americana with a 9 minute track, “Three Chiefs”.
There really is a lot to Marty Stuart. Much more than this album shows.
But it’s a good starting point!

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