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Tuesday 15 February 2011

Dec 2007

Real Things- Humphead

Joe has come a long way since “Brokenheartsville” launched his career 5 years ago.
This is his third album, and on it, he proves to be the “Real Thing”. Indeed “Real Things” kick off the album. It’s a very solid Country number, in an Alan Jackson style. In fact, this album shows quite a few similarities between Joe & Jackson, even on the more uptemo numbers like “Comin’ Back In A Cadillac”.
He’s not a Jackson clone though. “Another Side of You” is another with a solid Country beat, with impressive fiddles and vocals., and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” and “Aint Nobody Goin’ To Take That From Me”, have more of a classic George Strait feel. Then on “My Whiskey Years”, it’s Merle Haggard that comes to mind.
There’s more of a honky tonk theme in “Lets Get Drunk And Fight”, with some neat harmonies from Morgane Hayes and The Universal South Family Singers” (his US record label). It’s a real feel good party number, which is so rare to hear these days.
One of my favourite tracks has to be the Jamey Johnson/Dallas Davidson composition, “She’s A Lady”. It’s all about the temptation of a groupie, when he has a lady waiting at home. Like a good living Country boy with family values, he goes home.
The album concludes with “If I Could Only Fly”, a duet with Lee Ann Womack. Again, there’s Hag influences, but John Hughey’s steel guitar really makes this track.
The songs have come from the creme of Nashville songwriters like Scotty Emerick, Rivers Rutherford, Billy Dean, Dean Dillon, Jamey Johnson and John Scott Sherrill. Nichols, himself only had a hand in co-writing one of the tracks. “The Difference Is Night & Day”, a song dealing with a rocky relationship.
The musicians include MacMcAnally, Brent Rowan and Paul Franklin, and they really have produced a great solid sound for Joe throughout this album. There’s few modern day artists that you can realy call “Country”. Strait & Jackson have held the torch for so long. You can add Joe Nichols to the list.

The Greatest Gift Of All – Pan Records

This album came in just too late to be reviewed last year, but no doubt still available this year.
Wick’s long running Country showband come up with a good festive party album, with no less than 21 Christmas classics. They’re all here- “Winter Wonderland”, “An Old Christmas Card”, “Silver Bells”, “White Christmas”, “Jingle Bells” and many more.
Manson’s trumpet is much more to the fore than ever before, most notably on “Silent Night”.
Perhaps the most interesting tracks are the lesser known covers. Loretta Lynn’s “Country Christmas” is quite refeshing, but I’d pick “Christmas Long Ago” as my favourite.
Manson and the lads do a good party job on the album. Most of the tracks have been done to death, but if you’re having a Christmas party, then everything you need is here on one album.
Available through the website.

Duets – Humphead

Reba McEntire has been Country music’s leading lady for a couple of decades now, and has spread her talents to Broadway and TV sitcom. Her music, though, has remained rooted in Country, despite having a very AOR feel to it.
Perhaps this is why Reba (now only known by her first name), has teamed up with pop singers like Kelly Clarkson, Carole King and Justin Timberlake, and other Country singers who have crossed over, like Leann Rimes, Faith Hill and Kenny Chesney. Perhaps Reba needs to be noticed as a singer outside of the Country genre.
Of course, she’s not going to alienate her huge fanbase. She’s got Country stalwarts like Vince Gill , Ronnie Dunn and Trisha Yearwood on this album too.
Most of the tracks are quite heavy ballads, including the Kelly Clarkson duet “Beacause Of You”, which has already been a huge US hit.
The voices throughout the album really do blend beautifully, especially on “She Cant Save Him” with Trisha, and with Faith Hill on “ Sleeping With The Telephone”.
The opening duet with Leann Rimes is quite a stunning combination, that will surely be a future single.
The Vince Gill duet on “ These Broken Hearts” works well, thanks in part to Paul Franklin’s wailling steel guitar. Of course, this isn’t the first time Reba & Vince have sung together.
I loved Reba’s early material. It sounded so much more Country than the heavy ballad that became her trademark. There’s no competition when choosing my favourite track from this album then. She teams up with Ronnie Dunn (from Brooks & Dunn) on “Does The Wind Stil Blow In Oklahoma”. It’s a beautiful song about missing home, and the most Country song I’ve heard Reba sing since her Mercury label days!
It’s also written by the pair, and is the only track which Reba had a hand in writing.
I also quite liked “The Only Promise That Remains”, which is billed as featuring Justin Timberlake. His inclusion may alarm some Country fans, but in fact, Justin had very little input, providing harmonies, and coming in with a solo line right at the end. It’s a good wholesome Reba number.
In fact, despite all the guests, this is still very much a Reba album.
If you’re a Reba fan, you wont be disappointed. It’s one for the Christmas wish list.

Just Who I Am : Poets & Pirates (BNA)

Kenny Chesney has been one of Country music’s big crossover artists of recent times. This is his 4th consecutive album which has topped the all-genre Billboard album charts.
From his less than inspiring chart debut in 1993 (his first 2 hits failed to hit the Top 50), the Luttrell,Tennessee native, who marks his 40th birthday next year, has really come a long way.
Recent albums have seen him in a relaxed Jimmy Buffett mood, and whilst there’s still traces of the Carribbean here, it’s a much more mainland album this time out.
He has a couple of guests. George Strait joins him for the catchy “Shiftwork”, which has already had lots of airplay, and Eagle Joe Walsh on the rather strange sounding “Wild Ride”, written by Dwight Yoakam. I have to say the scary dalek voice repeating the song title is a real put off.
Elsewhere, it’s a really enjoyable album. “Got A Little Crazy” is a bit of a party number, but it’s the ballads which sell this album.
The Bill Anderson/Jon Randell written “Demons”, which closes the album, is one of the album’s highlights. I also liked “Dancing For The Groceries”, which adds a sense of realism into a fantasy lifestyle.
The opening track, “Never Wanting Nothing More” has already been a smash hit single stateside, and captures that moment of sheer happiness when life could never be better, whilst the next track, “Dont Blink” kinda stays on the same theme, but advising us not to miss the moment.
The same theme extends through “Wife And Kids” and “Scare Me”. It’s an album about life’s important moments.
As you’d expect, the album features some top notch musicians, like Larry Paxton, Sonny Garish, Vince Gill,Rob Hajacos,and background vocalists like The Cannons, Jon Randell, Bekka Bramlett,Tim Hensley, Jonell Moser and Andrea Zonn.
Kenny has never had the same recognition in Europe as he enjoys back home. Whilst this album is quite enjoyable, I dont see this British release changing the situation much.

Family – Curb

There’s no doubt that Leann Rimes has one of the most powerful voices in popular music today. There’s also no doubt that she can deliver a mean Country song. She did it with “Blue” and the album of classics that she did a few years ago.
This album sees Ms Rimes music still evolving, and directed at more than the Country music fan.
She has developed a southern drawl on several of the tracks that we’ve not heard before. I’m not sure if this is simply to remind us of her Country credentials.
“Nothin’ BetterTo Do” is the best example of the accent. The song, which was also released here as a single, sounds so much like “Ode To Billie Jo”. It’s growing on me, but is certainly one of these songs that you’ll either love or hate.
Tracks that I did enjoy were “I Want You With Me”, a solid modern Country ballad, and the simply acoustic “Pretty Things” and “What I Cant Change”.
The album closes with two duets from other projects. The duet featured on Reba’s Duets album is also featured here. There’s also, for me, is the best song on the album, and certainly the most Country friendly. “Till We Aint Strangers Anymore” is a duet with Bon Jovi.
“One Day Too Long” is a great song, but , like several of the tracks on this album, is delivered in a soulful bluesy kinda style, that really suits Leann’s vocals. They’re just not Country.
She’s certainly aiming at the crossover market with this release, but there are a few songs, Country fans will enjoy.

Greatest Hits – Humphead

We first discovered Ms.Yearwood in 1991, when she shot to No.1 on the Country charts with her debut single, “She’s In Love With The Boy”. Since then, she has recorded dozens of hit singles, and no less than 10 albums. She was twice voted the CMA’s Female Vocalist Of The Year.
She has just left the MCA label, so they’ve released a Greatest Hits package, which Humphead are distributing here.
Many of her hits, such as “Like We Never Had A Broken Heart”, “XXX’s and OOO’s”, “Believe Me Baby I Lied”, “There Goes My Baby” and “Wrong Side Of Memphis” are included here. I especially enjoyed hearing some of her earlier songs again.
The album also has two “unreleased” tracks, which, as she’s now left the label, are more likely to be older “lost” tracks, rather than new recordings.
“Just A Cup Of Coffee” is a very pleasant Country arrangement, that worked quite well, whilst “Nothin’ To Lose” is a bit more bluesy, and not really Trisha’s style.
This album is a superb reminder of the great music that Trisha has given us over the past 16 years. If she’s not already part of your record collection, then this album will fill the void nicely.
*Humphead have also released a 2 on 1 package on Trisha, featuring the albums “Jasper County” and “Inside Out”. Included in the 24 tracks are “Georgia Rain” and her duet with Rosanne Cash on “Seven Year Ache”. It’s a great way to catch up on these albums if you’ve missed them first time out.

Greatest Hits – Sony/BMG

Ever since “Three Chords And The Truth” broke this Missouri girl into the Country Top 50 back in 1997, she has consistently been on Country radio with a string of hit records.
That debut album was perhaps not too big a hit commercially, but still ranks as one of the best debuts of the past ten years. Yet, no tracks from her debut merit a place on this hits collection.
Those that do, include the uptempo “Suds In The Bucket” and “Born To Fly” , together with ballads like “I Could Not Ask For More”, “No Place That Far” and “Cheatin’”.
There’s 10 “hits” and four new songs.
The CD opens with the new uptempo “As If”, and closes with two softer ballads, and another uptempo number “Some Things Never Change”.
Sara has one of these great Country voices, kinda like Terri Clark and Gretchen Wilson, that can handle ballads and uptempo numbers, with equal ease.
Her material has perhaps not been too readily available here, so this album will be a useful addition to your collection.

Down Memory Lane – CMR/Rosette

Scots born Isla has made a lot of friends in the business over the years, both as a songwriter and as a performer. On this new album, she gets together with a bunch of her true friends and produces 16 duets, some of her most popular numbers, and some country classics.
The title track, which opens the album teams her up with Daniel O’Donnell, and DOD also features on the ever popular “Partners In Rhyme”. Daniel’s sister Margo is also featured on two tracks, “It’s Good To See You” and “An Old Friend Like You”.
We find perfect harmonies with husband Al joining Isla on “My Happiness” and “Jackson”.
Foster & Allen are featured on Isla’s composition, “Over The Years” and she returns the favour by joining in on their classic “After All These Years”.
Jimmy Buckley & Isla do a couple of classics proud, on “Makin’ Believe” and especially “Today I Started Loving You Again”. It’s clear to see that both have such an affection for The Hag.
Everybody’s friend George Hamilton IV pops up on “Spending Time With You”, and Australian Judy Stone shares the vocals on “What’s A Girl To Do”.
But my own favourites have to include Gail Davies “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You”, which Isla duets with Louise Morrissey and her own “Will You Walk Down This Road With Me” which she shares with new Irish sensation Mike Denver.
Robert Mizzell & Isla take on George & Tammy, and do an exceptionally good job on “One”, and her teaming up with Mick Flavin on “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine” is just superb.
This isn’t just an album of duets. You can tell from the chemistry that Isla is with friends here, and you’re welcome to join the party.
A superb collection.

Long Road Out Of Eden – ERC/Polydor

There’s do doubt that The Eagles were the greatest Rock band ever. Their string of hit songs like “Lying Eyes” and “Take It To The Limit” are classics that have stood the test of time. Their Greatest Hits collection has sold nearly 30 million copies in the past 30 years, and still sells today. Despite their Country feel, they only ever notched up one Top 40 Country single, yet are certainly respected years later by the Country music community.
This new double CD features The Eagles today – Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B.Schmidt. Frey and Henley have been there since day one. Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon in 1976, and Schmidt replaced Randy Meisner two years later.
This quartet format has been around since 2001.
Here we have a completely new 2CD set featuring 21 tracks, covering quite a variety of styles, but all unmistakably The Eagles. They still have great harmonies, and that superb West Coast easy sound, which is their trademark.
CD1 is quite laid back. The single, “How Long”, beiong one of the exceptions. It has quite a driving beat, but still enjoying that unique sound. “Fast Company” does break the mould somewhat. Elsewhere it’s easy listening relaxing songs from the band’s own pens, and those of JD Souther, Paul Carrack and Steuart Smith.
CD2 starts off somewhat differently. A rather haunting intro into the album’s title cut, which is something of a masterpiece at over 10 minutes long. That’s followed by the shortest track on the collection. “I Dreamed There Was No War” is a nice little instrumental that runs for under 90 seconds.
They do some different things on the second CD. It’s a bit more pop & r&b, but I did like the more folksy “I Love To Watch A Woman Dance”, complete with Michael Thompson’s accordion, which gives it a nice touch.
The other track which stood out for me was the Raul Malo flavoured “It’s Your World Now”. Complete with horn section , and the accordion again, the Eagles flew south to capture the Mexican atmosphere on this soft romantic number.
If you like The Eagles, then this double CD wont disappoint. If you’ve never got into The Eagles before, then I still suggest giving this a listen. It really is quite an album.

Mr D
Wings & Wheels – OneInchPunch Records

Mr D is Paul McLinden on guitar & vocals with Larry Primrose on Bass & drums.
The album has a real full Country rock sound throughout.
Track 2, “Island Girl” is exceptional. It has a real West Coast (I mean USA) flavour to it.
“Late September”, likewise has a nice Eagles sound to it.
Malcolm McMaster adds some superb Steel guitar on “Somebody,Somewhere”, whilst “Ode To Geraldine” is an instrumental guitar piece, running in at just over two minutes.
“New Day” is a bit more lively than most of the other tracks, although it’s just a bit more poppy.
The album closes with “Whenever You Get The Feeling”, another softly sung Country rock number.
It’s all original material, 100% Scottish, and well worth a listen.
Work on the writing of this album began in September’ 2006, and recorded over 20 days last December at Glasgow’s Q-10 studios, and a band has now been formed, and publicity photos already taken at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry.
Check out MrD at

Everything Is Fine – Humphead

Josh Turner, the newest member of The Grand Ole Opry, is one of the few new names to arrive in Nashville in recent years, who are actually Country ! His deep rich vocals just ooze Country.
With banjo, fiddles and steel prominent in the musical arrangements, and Turner’s Country vocals, this is one of the best albums of the year.
The title track, which opens up the album has quite a lazy summer sound to it, and works well. The mood is kinda the same on “So Not My Baby”.
“Baby I Go Crazy” has quite a commercial feel to it. It’s a real radio friendly song that I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of.
“Firecracker” is a good foot tapping uptempo number, which I’m sure there’ll be a linedance to before long. “Trailhood” also has quite a driving beat. But it’s the cover of George Jones “One Woman Man” which really gets the feet tapping. It’s a really good version.
Slowing the tempo, he ties up with Trisha Yearwood on “Another Try”, a lovely song wishing that he can get another shot at love. He also features on another duet ,“Nowhere Fast”, this time with Anthony Hamilton.
But the stand out track for me has to be “The Longer The Waiting (The Sweeter The Kiss), written by Pat McLaughlin and English born Roger Cook. It has a beautiful folksy Celtic feel, and ends with an all too short bagpipe break courtesy of Jay Dawson.
Towards the end of the album, Josh gets quite reflective, firstly on “Soulmate”, then “The Way He Was Raised”, both quite pleasant ballads, before the album finishes with the autobiographical “South Carolina Low Country”.
A superb album well worth checking out.
*Humphead have also released a 2 on 1 package to give UK Country fans the chance to pick up two of his albums for the price of one. That’s 22 tracks in total, and they offer quite a bit of variety.
Together “Your Man” and “Long Black Train” features 22 tracks, with guest appearances from John Anderson, Diamond Rio and Ralph Stanley.
I really like Josh Turner. Here’s a great way to add him into your collection.

Song & Dance Man – CMR

The Wee Man From Strabane is back with another 16 easy listening songs which will go down well with his legion of fans who listen to his daily Radio Ulster programme (1.30-3pm Mon-Fri on 1341 AM, Sky 0118 and via the internet).
Whilst this isn’t a totally Country album, they songs should certainly appeal to readers.
The song choice is quite diverse from Kristofferson’s “Jody & The Kid”, Bill Anderson’s “I Love You Drops” and Isla Grant’s “Love’s A Blessing”, to classics like “Edelweiss”, “Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way” and “What A Wonderful World”.
He does a good version of Lobo’s “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo”, and I really liked “Wrong Side Of Forty” and “I’ve Got Five Dollars & It’s Saturday Night” (He’s a real big spender!)
Recorded in Tyrone, Hugo is joined by musicians like Eugene Smith, Paddy Cole, John McHugh, Martin Cleary and Charlie Arkins, a vocalists The Clinton Sisters.
A good easy listening party album.

Cowboy Town – Sony/BMG

Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn were both aspiring solo performers twenty years ago, but neither really made an impression. Whoever suggested they got together must have the midas touch. I just hope they recognise him.
For since Brooks & Dunn first charted with “Brand New Man” back in 1991, they have consistently produced hit after hit.
This new 12 song album continues the journey. As you’ve come to expect, it’s hi-energy radio friendly modern edged Country music.
Several tracks stand out, especially “The Ballad Of Jerry Jeff Walker”, a fun tribute, which not only features Walker himself, but the track is much more a Jerry Jeff tune than a B&D song.
“Johnny Cash Junkie” is a general anthem for Country music, rather than a Cash tribute. The song also praises Waylon, Willie, The Hag and Buck Owens. It’s a great Country theme, and one we can all appreciate.
The album’s title cut opens the album, with a rather strange intro, but quickly gets into the song, telling of the hard working, hard playing rural towns across America.
In similar vein, we find “Proud Of The House We Built”, which has a really catchy chorus.
“Tequila” is a fast paced fun song, whilst “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” is more of a modern ballad. Both work in their own ways.The album closes with the rather thought provoking “God Must Be Busy”, which is one of my favourites on the whole album.
I never find much to say about a Brooks & Dunn album. We know what to expect, and they consistently come up to expectations.

The Wolf – Humphead

Shooter Jennings is the son of the legendary Waylon. As with anyone following their fathers’ footsteps into the music business, it’s hard to create your own identity, without being compared . When your dad was an outlaw like Waylon, it must be even harder. One of his father’s albums back in the late 80’s was called “Will The Wolf Survive”, so the title of this album certainly suggests that Shooter isn’t hiding his background.
There are no immediate parental influences in the first couple of tracks. We’re then treated to a cover of Mark Knopler’s “Walk Of Life”, before we hear Waylon’s style coming to the fore.
“Old Friend” has a distinct Waylon sound, but also influences of Marty Robbins, especially with the horns. It’s certainly one of my favourite tracks on the 13 track album.
The Oakridge Boys join Shooter for “Slow Train”, another one that could’ve been his dad. The collaboration works really well.
“A Little More Time On You” is a slick uptempo rocker, which is followed by the slower, reflective, “Concrete Cowboys”. Shooter shows his command of a song of both styles.
“The Wolf” is a bit rockier than the rest of the album, whilst “”Higher” and “Blood From A Stone” sound rather poppy, and lack the integrity that comes over on the rest of the album.
The album closes with a real belter. ”A Matter Of Time” has all the hallmark’s of a Country classic in years to come. There’s honky tonk, as well as outlaw influences. There’s a neat change of tempo half way through, which is quite quirky. Certainly one Ol’Waylon would have been proud of.
Indeed, I’m sure Shooter would’ve pleased his dad throughout the album.

If It Aint One Thing It’s Another – Arrowhead

Now this is Country !
Texan Jeff has teamed up with Joe Stampley (of Moe Bandy & Joe fame) for this superb debut album. Jeff has been playing guitar since childhood, and was packing out the Santa Fe clubs at age 15.
The pure Country music runs right from the first note of “It Ain’t The Clothes That Make The Man”.
The deep soulful ballads like “She Reminds Him Of You”, and the really classy sounding “It Was Always So Easy” certainly have George Jones influences. Other ballads like “Tonight Was Made For The Both Of Us” doesn’t sound like Jones, but Griffith delivers it well, in his own way.
I really liked the strong John Conlee type delivery on “I’m Your Radio”, the pure Country swing of “Lets Make Love Tonight” and the softer “Drinkin’ Thing”
The livelier honky tonk side of Jeff comes in the form of “Whiskey Talkin’”, and it’s a different kind of uptempo on “Fishin’ Forever”, in a kinda Chattahoochie style.
With writers like Tony Stampley, Wayne Carson, Dean Dillon, Blake Mevis, Carmol Taylor, Whitey Shaffer and Kevin Denney, you can tell that the songs come with quite a pedigree.
Jeff Griffith does himself proud on this debut album.
One not to be missed by readers who like their Country music pure & traditional.
Check him out at

Living Hard – Humphead

Whilst his music is probably not too well known on this side of the Atlantic, California born Gary Allan is one of the biggest selling Country artists in recent years. He has notched up 5 million album sales and a million concert tickets in the last year.
This album teams Gary, the songwriter with folks like Jim Lauderdale, Jon Randell, Bob Dipero and Odie Blackman on six of the tracks , and the likes of Dean Dillon, Scotty Emerick and Radney Foster contributing to the other tracks.
Gary Allan is a driving Country rock singer.
Tracks like “She’s So California” work really well, although I found “Living Hard” just too rocky for me.
He does turn the tempo down for “Learning How To Bend” and “As Long As You’re Looking Back”, in a sort of Eagles kinda way.
“Yesterday’s Rain” is much more of a Country ballad, and is my favourite from the album. Also worth a mention is “Half Of My Mistakes”, which Jace Everett fans will recognise from his first album.
Gary Allen isn’t traditional Country. If you like an edge to your Country, then he’s worth checking out.
*Humphead have also released a 2 on 1 package on Gary Allan, featuring his two platinum albums “ Tough All Over” and “See If I Care”. The package includes 23 tracks including the sentimental “Tough Little Boys”.

Various Artists

The Line Dance Fever series has went through as many phases as the music.
Listening to this collection in isolation would give the idea that linedancers are back dancing only to modern Country hits. Whereas in the past the series featured some really dance orientated tracks that would not appeal to Country listeners, the last couple of volumes has concentrated on modern Country tracks.
Cynics may even suggest that the compilation was more to do with promoting Curb’s recent CD releases here. That may be so, but when they are the only major label constantly supporting the British Country music scene, then I see nothing wrong in that.
There are 16 tracks on this collection, and the sleeve suggests dances that can done to each track, and the CD booklet includes steps to six of the dances.
The album kicks off with Leann Rime’ “Nothin’ Better To Do” (with steps). Leann is back with the beautiful “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way”, one of the most Country tracks she’s recorded since “Blue”.
There’s also Tim McGraw’s “Last Dollar (Fly Away)”, the catchy stand out track from his “Let It Go Album”. Hal Ketchum has two tracks- “One More Midnight” and “One Of Those Things”, and there’s a double from The Bellamy Brothers. Howard & David offer “Dancing Cowboys” and the stunning “You’re My World”.
Rodney Atkins catchy “Watching You” is also featured alongside his danceable “About The South”.
There’s also Wynonna, Clay Walker, Steve Holy, Hank Jr , Cowboy Crush, and Bomshel with the superbly titled “It was An Absolutely Finger Lickin’ Grits & Chicken Country Music Love Song”.
A great collection for dancers and sit’n’listen fans alike.

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