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Tuesday 15 February 2011


It’s 45 years since JIM REEVES was taken from us, but he’s still as popular today, and even more remarkably, new material is still surfacing.
H&H Music has released a double CD of material, much of it unreleased in Erurope before. Some of the songs are remastered, and alternate versions of hits.
You’ll find well known hits like “Anna Marie”, “Blue Boy”, “I Love You Because”, “Is It Really Over” and “He’ll Have To Go” are found here, alongside lesser known numbers, some written by Jim himself.
CD2 is one for the collectors. There’s a concert from August 1961from Mountainside Park in Pennsylvania. Here, we not only hear Jim in fine voice, but The Blue Boys doing instrumentals. It includes Jim doing impersonations of the likes of Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Red Foley (with the late Leo Jackson doing Kitty Wells part), and even Yogi Bear. It’s a sense of humour that we’ve rarely heard from Jim.
There’s also a 30 minute radio interview from October 1961, which was conducted by Bill Mack (who wrote Leann Rimes “Blue”).
It’s a wonderful keepsake for any Jim Reeves fan.
It would’ve been nice to have had this released in time for his 45th Anniversary at the end of July, but better late than never. There’s also a DVD “Antholgy” just released, featuring 18 separate TV and film appearances between 1955 – 1963, and a new 600 page biography too.
Jim Reeves, the memory, is certainly as strong as ever!
Bringing us up to date (although not in Britain), is the new album from BRAD PAISLEY.
The British record label decided not to release his album “American Saturday Night”, but as Brad was the most nominated artist at the recent CMA Awards, his American management did send out the album to international media outlets.
He co-wrote all 14 tracks with the likes of Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace an Tim Owens.
This is an album that grew on me, the more I listened to it. He seems to be going after the crossover market wirth the first few tracks, whilst his loyal Country fans will listen on to the much more Country tracks in the later part of the album.
The album kicks off with a rather non Country sounding 40 second intro into the title track, before he moves onto the rather soul sounding “Everybody’s Here”. There’s more strange sounding intro’s into “Welcome To The Future”, which isn’t a bad song, once it gets going. There’s also a reprise of the song a few tracks later. It’s only Brad & his guitar, and sounds so much more appealing.
He also teamed up with Bill Anderson & Jon Randall for “No”, a lovely sentimental song
I did enjoy “Anything Like Me”, a rather reflective biography of his own life,
“You Do The Math” is quite a catchy number, and sounds like another of Brad’s chat up lines (remember “Me Too”.
“Catch All The Fish” is another fast tempo number, which shows Brad’s superb guitar skills, whilst “Pants” is a tongue in cheek look at relatioinships. It also has a strong Country feel to it, with lots of fiddle & steel.
As has become traditional with Brad’s album’s the CD ends with a “hidden” track, a rather heavy 90 second instrumental.
I had my reservations for the first few tracks, but by the time the album finished, I was really enjoying it. And with 15 tracks, I have to say it’s value for money, and good Country music with it.
DOMINIC KIRWAN has for many years appealed to Country music fans, despite having more of an easy listening / MOR feel to his music. On his new album, “My Kinda Country” on the Scottish based Country House Record label, he redresses the balance by putting out a stonewall Country album.
It’s 20 years since Dominic recorded his first album for Ritz Records. In that time, he gas recorded a lot of good Country songs, even dueting with Rhonda Vincent, but this is a full album of Country songs that he has wanted to record for a long time.
We caught his “Country Classics” tour in Hamilton, and found the show was reflecting the new album. I dont think I’ve heard Dominic in as good a voice. For a long time. His voice really suits these songs..
For the album, Dominic has found a strong mix of songs by the likes of Kenny Rogers and Don Williams, to Billy Ray Cyrus to Garth Brooks. He covers classics like “These Lips Don’t Know Howe To Say Goodbye”, “Statue Of A Fool”, and “The Green Green Grass Of Home”.
He even covers Gallagher & Lyle’s “Stay Young”, and does a vibrant fresh version of it, unlike the slow Don Williams version. You’ll also find his version of Johnny Lee’s “Lookin’ For Love”, from the Urban Cowboy movie.
Certainly not an album of tried & tested classics. The variety on the album certainly displays Dominic as an all round Country singer, and as someone who knows his Country music.
Recorded in Donegal and Norfolk, the album is available from his website
From south of the Irish border, STEPHEN SMYTH has been rapidly building up a following in recent years. At the same time, he has managed to make several Scottish visits stretching his popularity here too.
His music is unashamedly showband influenced, but with a strong Country pedigree.
There’s 14 tracks on his new album., “Here We Go Again”, the title track, of which is quite a heavy ballad, previously recorded by Ray Charles & Norah Jones.
He covers Harlan Howard’s “Mary Ann Regrets” Alan Jackson’s “Lets Get Back To Me & You”, Haggard’s “I Take A Lot Of Pride In Who I Am” and the over sentimental “Medals For Mother”.
I was impressed to see him record Larry Gatlin’s “I Don’t Wanna Cry” and really enjoyed “Gently Hold Me”, the same song Peggy Sue & Sonny Wright had out in the early eighties/
The Irish influence is strongest on “Put Me In Your Pocket”, whilst “Shoes Of A Fool” is an original, written by fiddler Bobby Flores, who plays on the album.
With additional vocals by The Ben Sisters and Leon McCrum, this is a feelgood party album, the kind Stephen does so well.
A very different Irish album comes from BEN REEL.
“Time To Get Real” is the 5th album from the Country Armagh singer-songwriter, and his vocals, mixed with the instrumentation of harmonica and keyboards as well as guitars really work well.
It’s certainly not a standard Country album, but should appeal to those that enjoy singer songwriters.
I enjoyed “Old & Wise” and “Summers Always Here”, but my favourite track would have to be “Rainy Night”. It’s a real thinking of home song, so will touch a nerve with many of his countrymen.
The album was recorded in Monaghan, and available through
Some homegrown bluegrass next.
IAN MAIRS has been part of the Scottish bluegrass scene for many years, in Old Hickory, Banjo Cocktail and The Moonshiners. He was with The Moonshiners for 20 years, before leaving last year to pursue a solo career.
“Green Eyed Woman” is, in fact, Ian’s third solo album, and is released on Houndog Records. The album features all self written material, and was recorded in Dunfermline.
As you would expect from a bluegrass album, there’s plenty of banjo & fiddle. Ian, himself, is playing guitar and leading the vocals. His vocal style is quite listenable, and the songs have grown on my quickly.
I cant pick out a favourite from the album, but I will say that there are uptempo numbers like “Can’t Be A Lonely Man”, “The Old Grey Mare” and “Say That You Love Me Again”, whilst “A Million Miles Away” is quite easy listening.
“Green Eyed Women” sounds a bit more folksy, whilst the CD’s closing track, “I Left My Hat In Tighnabruaich” (a parody on San Francisco) is done accapella.
I really enjoyed the album. It’s great to hear bluegrass done so well right here in Scotland.
If Texan music is your thing, don’t miss “ Tall Texan Tales”, the new album from BOB CHEEVERS, who is currently on a lengthy UK tour.
Bob, to me, is an unpolished Willie Nelson. He has the sound that Willie should have. His phrase is “I don’t know if these stories are true, but they happened to me”, and that can be related to these songs, which all have a Lone Star State theme.
It’s not all Willie Nelson influence, there’s a bit of Buddy Holly coming through on “One Good Rib”.
The music varies from near narrative numbers like “Falling”, and the soft ballad style of “Is It Ever Gonna Rain” to the more rocky “Texas Is An Only Child”.
My favourite cut has to be the TexMex accordian flavoured “Luchenbach”.
The whole album was laid down in eight days, on an old analogue tape recorder.
It certainly makes for a really interesting album.
To those that know his music, TOM RUSSELL is a legend. He has been recording for over 30 years, as is credited with launching the whole Americana movement.
He was born in Los Angeles, but, these days is more associated with the Texan music scene.
Indeed, it’s part of a Texan singer-songwriter showcase, that will bring him back to Scotland in the new year for Celtic Connections.
His latest album, “Blood And Candle Smoke” (Proper label) features a dozen deep and interesting reflections of life, from the Canadian folk bars, to Indiana, Texas, Mexico, Vietnam and Nigeria.
He often tells tales of the Indian Reservations, and he returns there on several tracks, including “Crosses Of San Carlos” and “American Rivers”.
He tackles the cause of the miner, on “The Most Dangerous Woman In America”,
and the album ends with a gorgeous story , almost spoken, song called “Darkness Visable”.
His clever writing links Mexican railways, Spanish apples, Hank Williams and jazz singer “Nina Simone” into one song.
Recorded in Arizona, and featuring some lovely harmonies from Gretchen Peter on “Santa Ana Woind”, Tom Russell continues to prove just why he is so highly regarded.
Next up, a young lady from North Carolina, who now calls Gloucestershire home.
HEATHER BRISTOW has been a poet and a singer from a young age. Now, she proves herself as a songwriter too, with the release of her debut album, “Hope On The Vine” (Heifer Records).
This is a wonderful bluegrass old time album, with some good singing, some great pickin’ & fiddlin’.
There’s tracks like “Seasons”, “I’m Ready” and “That Train Wont Run”, which offer some great instrumentation, whilst others like “Red Sky Night”, “Counting Memories” show Heather’s vocals more.
There’s even a bit of Scottish influence with the banjo flavoured “I Cant Hear Those Hills”, inspired by The Cuillens of Skye.
She turns to old time southern gospel for “Ain’t Glory Grand”, and slows things down on a couple of tracks, including “Fear of Drowning” and the stunning acapella “Miner’s Tale”.
Altogether, Heather shows her talents in writing and singing across no less than 15 tracks. I thouroughly enjoyed this album.
Check her out at
There’s a superb upbeat finish with “Southern Storm”, which will be something of a signature tune, as she credits her band of the same name.
Next up, we have a real international artist.
MARYBETH D’AMICO is an American singer songwriter, who lives in Germany. She got into music after she lost her job as editor of a magazine in Amsterdam. The music you hear on her album, “Heaven, Hell, Sin And Redemption” (Waiting To Fly Music via Proper), is very much in the style of other progressive singer songwriters like Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards and Lucinda Williams.
Recorded in Texas, with dobro & pedal steel from Lloyd Maines, no less, she’s certainly making her mark. She’s already toured the UK briefly, and will be back in May 2010.
The album title comes from characters in the songs, from the single mum who cannot settle, to the sex scandal minister, the army brat, and a guy on death row.
The songs are strong story songs, with a good strong instrumentation
My favourite track would be the melodic “Nothing Without You”.
Worth a listen.
Over to Norway next, to check out an album by KARIN WRIGHT.
Karen is a singer songwriter, and has written 8 of the 10 tracks on the album. The exceptions being “Bar Thing”, quite a rocky number that was released as a single, and a cover of The Eagles “Wasted Time”.
Her own songs range from the stone Country sounding “Some Believe” and “I’m With You”, to the rockabilly “Hit Me With It Darlin’”. Her Country numbers remind me of early Loretta Lynn. She has a solid Country vocal styling on these numbers.
Meanwhile. “Down The Road” and “Indian Warrior” have more of a folksy feel to it.
With Norway attracting so many big Nashville names and festivals these days, perhaps we should take notice of the artists who are the main players in what is becoming the “Nashville of Europe”!
Karin Wright certainly deserves your attention.
HENNESSY KEANE is a Southern England based songwriting duo, with Irish ancestry, and a huge American Country influence.
They are Shaun Hennessy, who plays, guitars and banjo, and Ian Keane, the vocalist and drummer. Their debut album , “Nowhere Fast” was recorded in deepest Wiltshire.
It’s a lovely sounding album.
The instrumentation is assisted Carl Storey, Spencer Brown, and they really help sell the songs, alongside the harmonies, which are superb.
I like the simple little banjo breaks that pop up throughout the album.
In fact, if you can imagine The Eagles with a banjo, you’ll get a flavour of what this album is all about. It’s particularly noticeable on “Every Road” and “Now She’s Gone”.
“Uncle Johnny” has a really fresh Country beat- the stand out Country track on the album.
“As Long As I Got You” and “Too Late Tonight” are a bit more acoustic, but still work well.
I really enjoyed the album. Check them out for yourself at

In the last issue, we told you how Lanark born JOHNNY REID won 5 awards at the Canadian Country Music Awards, establishing himself as one of Canada’s top Country music performers.
His latest album, “Dance With Me” (Open Road label) won the Album of The Year accolade, and it is certainly his best to date.
Johnny has a raw, wholesome, vocal style, and certainly has his own sound in Country music.
The album kicks off with the strumming guitar sound of “A Woman Like You”, which develops into an arrangement with some lovely pedal steel. It’s a really catchy radio friendly opener, and is followed with the equally catchy “Old Flame”.
The title track is a soft romantic number, co-written with rising star Victoria Banks.
Despite having moved to Canada over twenty years ago, Johnny has never lost his roots. He still has an unmistakable brogue, and calls his fan club, his “Tartan Army”. It’s reflected in his music too, with a strong celtic feel to “Brings Me Home” (what a great song for our Year of Homecoming ! ) and “My Old Friend.
There’s touches of pop and rock’n’roll in his music too, but should still appeal to Country listeners.
The album was recorded in Nashville. Johnny co wrote all the songs, with people like Brent Maher, who produced the album, and Tia Sillers, Mark Selway,Thom Hardwell and Cindi Thomson. But just look at the musicians – Glenn Worff, Richard Bennett, Tammy Rogers, Fats Kaplin, John Jarvis and Sam Lovine, amongst others. Then there’s Vicki Hampton (ex Dave & Sugar) on backing vocals.
This is a major Nashville production.
It’s ten years since Johnny Reid showcased at Country Music Week in Calgary. With his haul of awards, and such a superb album, which was a Top 10 album in Canada (all music genres), 2009 has certainly been Johnny Reid’s year.
SHANE CHISOLM missed out on any awards at the CCMA’a, but his album certainly deserves some recognition. “Hitchhiking Buddha” is a refreshingly bright and breezy album, that I found hard to take out of the CD player.
The CD kicks off with “Tundra & Tacoma”, a racy truck driving number, before slowing right down with a Byron Hill/Tony Hiller ballad, that he manages to deliver with some easy.
Next up is a rather pacey cover of “Kaliga”, and he’s back on the road with the album’s title track.
There’s a French accordian feel to “Taking Out The Trash”, whilst “Living Out Our Life” has quite a nostalgic feel to it, and I really liked it.
The album also features a gorgeous ballad, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, a duet between Shane and Lynae Dufresne. A lady to look out for.
In the meantime, check out for one of the best albums of the year.
GEORGE CANYON is from the East Coast of Canada, and has been part of the Country scene there for several years now.
His latest album, “What I Do” has a good mix of Country sounds, from the honky tonk styling of “Pretty Drunk Out Tonight” to the emotional duet with Crystal Shawanda on “In Your Arms Tonight”, which they performed on this years CCMA Awards show, and deicated to forces in Afganistan.
There’s the rather suggestive , but fun “Betty’s Buns”, and the very serious title track.
George Canyon offers a lot of variety in this mix.
Check him out at

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