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Tuesday 15 February 2011

June 2009

We’ll start this month with a wonderful project from western singer RW HAMPTON.. “Oklahoma… Where The West Remains” is a wonderful insight into a century of one of the most important states in America’s modern history.
Over time, Oklahoma has been the western front, for those making their way from the more populated eastern states. It’s been an important breeding ground for Country music, being the birthplace of such stars as Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Hoyt Axton, Becky Hobbs, Mel McDaniel, Hoyt Axton and Gail Davies.
RW Hampton isn’t a new name on the Oklahoma music scene. He has recorded no less than 11 albums to his credit, including Country Gospel and Christmas offerings.
But this is the first album to get a release in the UK (Savannah Music, distributed by Proper).
The album runs over an hour, as RW tells the state history in songs and narrations, The narrations are delivered in an interesting manner, and the songs are just so refreshing to hear. Many are originals, from the pen of RW, Edna Mac Holden (who produced the album) and Richard E. O’Brien (who done the arrangements), but you’ll recognise such classic’s as Jack Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills” and Cindy Walker’s “Dusty Skies”. There’s tributes in here to Bob Wills too.
All the songs are well produced, and the whole project, whether you’ll appreciate the history of Oklahoma, or just the western music, it’s a truly enchanting CD.
Next up, we head for Caithness, and a new album from KEITH MACLEOD , who will be known to fans of Manson Grant & The Dynamos, as Keith has regularly performed alongside Manson & Robert.
“In My Fathers Words” is a very apt title for this ten track original album. For all the songs were indeed written by Keith’s dad, David.
A few of songs may sound familiar, as several have previously been recorded by Manson, and Mike Devine.
The album is quite old fashioned sentimental Country, but Keith does the songs proud. Most are story songs, from “Boothill By The Depot”, about a dying hobo, to “Crazy Things” about the things kids say, to the different emotions of joy & sadness in “Heather’s Tears”.
The CD booklet has the lyrics, and each song is introduced by David. Not only people & situations, but a variety of places from Dornoch to Watten inspired these songs.
The instrumentation is superb. Charlie Arkins plays harmonica & fiddle, Richard Nelson on Steel , and John Macrae on pipes, adds to Keith’s musicianship on all other instrumentation.
There’s no doubt that there is a huge Manson Grant influence on the album’s sound, but Keith really does a great job on these songs. He’s certainly done his dad proud!
Available from Pan Records (, or Tel 01955 602646)
Staying in Scotland, a long overdue album from SPRINGFIELD has just arrived.
The quartette, led vocally by Jim Brett, are one of the longest running bands in the Central belt.
This album, recorded in Lanarkshire features Jim, alongside fellow members Crawford Brown, John McPherson and big Tom McCarthy, with guest musicians Willie Gamble on steel and Steve Johnson on piano.
The choice of material is really varied from the title track, “For Sale” (Heather Myles), through classics like “Louisiana Saturday Night”, “Bandy The Rodeo Clown” and “I’m Gonna Change Everything”, to lesser known covers like Paul Overstreet’s “Love Never Sleeps”, which opens the album, Travis Tritt’s “Sometimes She Forgets” and “Mary’s Just A Plain Jane”, previously recorded by Rick Trevino.
A great variety of material, well produced, right here in Scotland.
If you’ve seen Springfield, you’ll know what to expect. This album will be well worth picking up the next time they visit your club.
Last month’s Glasgow Americana Festival brought some great talent to the city.
To coincide with their visit, HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN released their first studio album since 2002, featuring Elana James, Jake Erwin & Whit Smith. Originally Elana & Whit formed the duo in New York back in 1996, with Jake joining in 2002.
Their sound has roots in jazz and western swing, with quite a few other international influences thrown in for good measure.
Some of the more Bob Wills sounding tracks, like “Cant Go On This Way” and “Columbus Stockade Blues” are great for Country fans. Some of the other tracks may not instantly strike a chord with readers. “Someone To Watch Over Me”, for example has a haunting vocal arrangement you would associate more with a smoky jazz club, that a Texas Dance Hall.
They also do a distinct version of “Georgia” and Tom Waits’ “Long Way Home”
There’s some instrumental magic on offer too, with the “The Magic Violin”, which as well as fiddle, has an impressive drum solo.
Hot Club Of Cowtown have an interesting album in “Wishful Thinking” (Proper), but it may be an aquired taste.
Another visitor to Glasgow Americana was Indiana raised OTIS GIBBS.
Otis seems to have led quite a colourful life. He’s worked at everything from driving an Ice cream van to stacking concrete blocks. In music, he’s recognised as a folk singer, but having performed for anti war protesters in places as far apart as Texas and Czech Republic, and planted over 7000 trees, you get the picture, that he is quite an honest, earthy character.
He first sang on stage at the age of 4. He sang Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waitin For A Train”. It’s a sound that has never left him.
He lives in Nashville these days, where he recorded this album, titled “Grandpa Walked A Picketline”.
It certainly has a Country sound, in a heartland of America way. All the songs are self penned. He has a gritty unpolished vocal style, which suits the songs here.
“Caroline” kicks it all off, with a story of a girl who suffered domestic abuse. Other tracks of note include “Preacher Steve”, “Long Black Thunder” and “Ghost Of The Domplate”, which has some nice steel guitar.
The album ends with a superbly delivered, “Bury Me On A Rainy Day”.
It’s certainly a different sounding album. Very basic arrangements. Very earthy – just like Otis himself.
New York City based ANNIE KEATING played Dunfermline & Inverness as well as Glasgow’s Americana Festival.
Her album, “Belmont” on her own label, is quite a masterpiece.
All 11 tracks are self compositions (the title track gets encore), and finds Annie coming over as a Mary Chapin/ Shawn Colvin/ Nanci Griffith type songstress.
The title track is inspired by the Massachusetts town where she grew up
“Drive” has a good beat, and “I’ve Got You”, another uptempo number, offers some neat harmonica.
“On The Road By Ten” is quite a bluesy number, whilst “Flowers Bloom” has a Nanci Griffith-ish simplicity about it.
My favourite tracks would include “I Want To Start Something With You” , and the opening track,“For The Taking”.
She has involved an army of musicians in the creation of this album.. Most are playing fiddle, accordian, acoustic guitar and bass.
I hadn’t heard of Annie Keating before her visit here. But I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more of her. She has a good commercial country/folk sound, and “Belmont” is a great introduction.
By contrast THE STAIRWELL SISTERS have a very old timey sound on their album, “Get Off Your Money” (Yodel–Ay-Hee).
These 5 girls, from San Francisco, took in 10 date Scottish tour last month, from Stornoway to Peebles, and from Irvine to Inverness.
Their album was produced by Lloyd Maines (remember The Maines Brothers ?) , and features a variety of styles for banjo, bass, dobro, fiddle and guitar.
There’s instrumentals, and vocal arrangements. My favourite tracks are the melodic vocal “Cinderella” , and the racey “Who’s To Blame”, the footstompin’ “Stay All Night”.
It’s certainly a feel good back porch party sound. Really refreshing.
One of the best albums from south of the border (down Berkshire way) next.
THE BIG RIVER BANDITS features female vocalist Renee Sears, alongside Gerry Power, Paul Edge, Brian Martin and Ken Smith.
Their debut album, “The Single Life” offers quite a variety of styles, mostly Country, although a couple of tracks veer towards 60’s pop. It’s all original material.
The album kicks off with the party influenced “Girls Night Out” , and follows with the equally infectious “Highwire”.
They add a bit of rockabilly with “She Dont Care”, and a kinda Patsy Cline big band shuffle sound on “You Ain’t Gonna Get My Heart”
“I’m Doing Fine” has a neat harmonica in the mix, which works really well., Then there’s the heart wrenching “You Took My World With You”. It has a real classic Country sound. And the album ends with a real old time sounding “Outlaw On The Run”, complete with the sound of a crackling campfire.
These guys really cover quite a spectrum throughout the album’s 12 tracks. Each track is really well produced, and it makes for a really refreshing album.
Check them out at big riverbandits.
The Humphead label continue their “Ultimate Collection” series of material, originally released by the MCA Nashville label. The latest CD features TANYA TUCKER, who was a child star when her career launched back in the 1970’s.
Most of her early, pioneering hits were on the Epic label. She switched to MCA in 1975 for about five years, before moving onto Capitol.
Her MCA days were real growing up times for Tanya. It was around this time, she had a well publicised affair with Glen Campbell. She recorded a couple of duets with Glen, including “Dreamlover” which is featured as one of the 24 tracks on this new release.
She also teamed up with Mike Chapman to do a very “rock” record during this time, which saw her cover Suzi Quatro’s “Tear Me Apart” and Smokie’s ” So Think You Know How To Love Me”. Nothing from this era in her career features on this collection.
There are a few songs from her TNT album, which was best remembered for it’s really hot cover. It’s good to hear some of these tracks again.
Tanya had over 65 Country chart hits, only 17 of which were on the MCA label. All but one, are featured on this album. The one they missed was a moving “Save The Seals” anthem called “Save Me”, which I recall was released here in the UK as a single at the time.
The time span covered by this Ultimate Collection is hardly Tanya’s most productive period, but it was certainly colourful. Despite that, there’s some great songs on here, including “Pecos Promenade”, “San Antonio Stroll” and “Texas When I Die”.
They’re well worth a place in your collection.
Donegal’s ELAINE BOYLE is one of the newer names on the Irish scene. Already she’s been making inroads into the Scottish scene, through her appearances on the recent Ladies Of Country & Pride Of Ireland shows. She also toured with Gary Gamble last year.
Her album “We Should Be Together” is a very well produced collection of popular Country hits, a mix that works well with audiences.
She has covered a couple of Tanya Tucker numbers (“Texas When I Die”, “Strong Enough To Bend” & “Love Me Like You Used To”) as well as Reba (I’m Not That Lonely Yet”) and Lorrie Morgan (“Walking Shoes”).
She digs deeper into her parent’s collection to find “Everybody’s Reaching Out For Someone” (remember Dottsy?) and the title track was originally done by Crystal Gayle.
Whilst Elaine does a great job on these, and the Patsy Cline medley, it’s Hazel Dickens’ “A Few Old Memories” which stands out for me. It’s the one song that really shows how good her voice really is.
Elaine’s a lovely girl, great personality, and I really have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Yes, it’s an album of covers, but they’re not the songs that everybody covers, and she does these one’s so well.
A star for the future!
Another Irish album that I was particularly impressed with is “Restless Ramblin’ Man” from CHRIS McLERNON. This time it’s a 100% original offering, with Chris having written all 12 tracks.
They vary from the upbeat title track, “Old Log Cabin” and “Walking Round A Dirty Old Town” to the slower “Dylan & Old John Prine”, “Down River Road” and “That’s My House”.
They’re all quite simple arrangements, and the tunes, whilst original, do sound familiar. It’s just one of these catchy albums that clicks instantly.
The album is produced by Clive Culbertson , recorded in Coleraine and features musicians like Aine Whelan, Tony Phillips, Rod McVey and John Fitzpatrick with an array of instruments like Fiddle, accordian, Dobro,Mandolin,Banjo and Ukelele as well as guitar and piano.
Well worth a listen.
Texan based guitarist BRYAN CLARK had a very mixed musical upbringing. It seems everyone from Joni Mitchell, The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, XTC and Ricky Skaggs gets a mention in the bio which accompanied his new double CD, “ Gossip, Inspiration and Slander” (Rainfeather) .
It’s really two CD’s in one package. The first CD is “Acoustic” and the other “Electric”. Only three tracks on each CD is the same, and, as it happens, they are the tracks which stand out for me, on either version.
The Acoustic CD features a variety of musicians playing banjo, fiddle & dobro.
There’s catchy little instrumentals like “Blackberry Blossom”, “Dom On The Saddlehorn” and “Bill Cheatum”.
The Electric CD surprisingly has less musicians than the acoustic record. Everything is Bryan, except for two guest spots on individual tracks. Some of the tracks, notably “Midnight Kisses” , “The Way It Is” and “Down In Flames” will fit quite nicely on Country radio. The CD closes with a strange instrumental, which sounds like it should’ve been on the acoustic CD.
It’s certainly an interesting project. Check it out at
Our next album, is from Chicago based ALICE PEACOCK. She went to Nashville to record her fourth album, “Love Remains”.
Our copy is a review copy, which has no songwriter or musicians info, but over the 15 tracks, we can determine that Alice has a hi energy Country rock feel, kinda reminiscent of singer songwriters like Wendy Waldman. She can also do a mean ballad, as shown on “Lovely” and “Angel”.
The title track, which closes the album is one of the most commercial tracks on the album.
I also enjoyed “City Of Angels”, one of the faster numbers.
The quality of Country music from other European countries never fails to impress me. STEFF NEVERS is from Norway, and has just landed a major label deal with his album “Closest To My Heart”.(AGP/Universal)
The album was recorded in Nashville with such top notch players as Eddie Bayers, Paul Franklin and Brent Mason.
The result is a great totally Country album, featuring some of his own songs, and a couple from Billy Yates too.
Billy’s “Alphabet Song” is given a great treatment- a superb tribute to Country heroes. There’s also a Hag tribute in “Merle Made Me Do It” , which also extends to Lefty Frizzell. “Party At The Farm” and “He’s Not Here Saloon” both have a good honky tonk feel to them. Then there’s “Redneck Rehab”! There’s some great fiddle to kick off the feel good song “Keep It Up”.
He can slow the tempo down too, with “Stay For A While” and “Higher Ground”
All in all, a superb Country album. Watch the name – you’re gonna here more of Steff Nevers.
Back to the USA, and let me introduce you to MICHAEL SCOTT. It could be that Micheal is on the verge of achieving what his father failed to do. His dad was an aspiring Country singer, and made several trips to Nashville from the family home in Milwaukee, but failed to get that elusive break.
Well here’s Michael with an album “ Bring It On” (AGP/Univeral) getting a European release..
It’s not a bad effort either.
My favourites would have to be the title cut, “Leaving and Gone” and “Somebody’s Praying For Me”
My only issue would be that Michael doesn’t have a distinctive enough sound. There’s too much of a Tim McGraw/Toby Keith and countless other hat acts sound on this album. Having said that, it’s a radio friendly sound, so he should get plenty of airplay. “Bring It On”
RANDY TRAVIS, who turned 50 last month, is coming to the UTV Festival in Belfast, and the Humphead label have taken the initiative to release a Double CD featuring 32 of his hits. They’ve also picked up on Carrie Underwood having recently covered Randy’s “I Told You So”, that they have used the song as the title cut.
All the biggies are here – “Forever & Ever Amen”, “On The Other Hand”, “Digging Up Bones”, “Three Wooden Crosses”, “1982”, “Just A Matter Of Time” to name just a few.
It’s a stunning collection of material from the voice, once considered “New Country”. We know now, that Randy was the voice of traditional Country forever.!
STELLA PARTON, Dolly’s wee sister, was a recent visitor to Scotland, as part of The Ladies Of Country tour.
To tie in with the tour, Stella released her new album, “Testimony” (Attic Records).
Although best remembered for hits like “Danger Of A Stranger”, Stella began her career in gospel music, and this album returns her to the “Positive Country” fold. Stella wrote, or co-wrote all 11 tracks on the collection, which features some really gospel sounding numbers, like “I Will Arise”, “Trophy Of Your Grave” , and “Daughter Of The King”.
Other tracks are heavy on family values, including “Family Ties”, “Tell It Sister, Tell It” and “Virtuous Woman”.
The stand out tracks for me include “Keep On Walking”, and “No Pride At All”, which has that unique Stella sound from the days she was hitting the charts.
Some of her fans may find this album just too religious, but she certainly does a great job in singing her own message in song.
I found the album a refreshing change to much of the over produced Country chart material coming out of Nashville these days.
BYRON HILL is quite an accomplished songwriter in Nashville these days.
He’s responsible for loads of hits, including “Fool Hearted Memory” (George Strait,), Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous” (Tracy Byrd), “Politics Religion & Her” (Sammy Kershaw) and “Nothing On But The Radio” (Gary Allan), to name just a few.
Now Byron has his own album, “Stay A While” (BHP).
There’s 12 tracks, of which two will instantly get recognition for their tribute factor.
“Blame It On Kristofferson” and “You Ain’t Chet Yet” are very different songs, but speak for themselves.
I also enjoyed “Way Too Long”, and “The Photograph”, which have a kinda George Strait sound , whilst the more mid tempo “Life’s A Ditch” is perhaps more like a Mark Chesnut hit. George Hamilton IV would do a great job on “All The Home I Need”. When you listen to a songwriter’s album, you do tend to think, who had he in mind when he wrote this.
Then the album finishes with a song called “My Daughter’s Father”, with the line, “What I Need To Be Is Myself”, and you realise this whole album is Byron himself.
It’s a great little, thought provoking, song about dreaming of being something we’re not, when we just need to be ourselves. It’s a song many singers may have their eye on, but it’s Byron’s own.
It sums up the whole album. He’s written for others for years. This album is Bryon Hill, by Byron Hill.
It’s a good selection of songs, good enough for the stars. But the man himself doing them just makes them that little bit more special.
Check him out at
A great album to end our roundup for this edition.

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