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Tuesday 15 March 2011

Feb 2011

MARTY STUART was one of the big attractions at the recent Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow.
Since starting out singing gospel as a child, a bluegrass stint with Lester Flatt in the ‘70s, six years with Johnny Cash in the ‘80s, the “hillbilly rock” hits of the ‘90s, and his recent Rural TV series, the Grand Ole Opry star, country music memorabilia preservationist, stylist, designer, photographer, songwriter, all around renaissance man, and (first of all, perhaps), leader of the extraordinary, versatile touring and recording band The Fabulous Superlatives, Marty has shown a showman’s zest for every conceivable flavor of country music. Not to mention, a missionary’s zeal for bringing the importance of the music and its themes home to long-time fans and newcomers alike.
“What inspires me now, is traditional country music”, Marty says, “It’s the music I most cherish, the culture in which I was raised. It’s the bedrock upon which the empire of country music is built, the empowering force that provides this genre with lasting credibility. It’s beyond trends and it’s timeless. With all that being said, I found traditional country music to be on the verge of extinction. It’s too precious to let slip away. I wanted to attempt to write a new chapter.”
That new chapter is Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) (Sugar Hill label), his new album, which includes such unmitigated country staples as the male-female duet ("I Run to You," written and sung with his wife, Connie Smith), the dramatic recitation ("Porter Wagoner's Grave," a story song written by Stuart that raises the ghost of the late, great country icon, whose final album Marty produced), the chugging, bluesy—and spooky— fellow Mississippian Jimmie Rodgers-like train song "Ghost Train Four-Oh-Ten," and such steel guitar driven, hardcore heartbreak ballads such as "A World Without You," and "Drifting Apart."
Marty wrote eight of the tracks, on his own, two with Connie, one with steel guitarist Ralph Mooney , and one with Johnny Cash – the haunting “Hangman”, which serves as a tasteful tribute, done in an eerie Cash style.
There’s a catchy instrumental in “Hummingbird”, and a great cover of Warner Mack’s classic “Bridge Washed Out”.
If you missed his CC gig at The Arches, don’t miss out of “Ghost Train”.
This IS Country Music.

TOM T HALL is a popular Country music figure, but his material hasn’t always been the easiest to find in the shops. That all changes, with the release of his “50 Greatest Hits” (HumpHead).
It’s a 2CD collection , featuring all of his big hits like “Ravishing Ruby”, “I Love”, “Faster Horses”, “Ballad Of Forty Dollars”, and, of course, “Old Dogs Children & Watermelon Wine”.
It’s a superb collection from the guy they call “The Storyteller”.
He recorded 35 albums, in a career that stretches back to 1967. And he is still recording today. He’s notched up 54 chart hits, including 7 Number one’s, all of which are included in this collection.
There isn’t much more to say about this collection. The music speaks for itself.

TRACE ADKINS has been one of Nashville’s consistant hit makers since first hitting the charts in 1996. In that time, he has recorded 8 studio albums, and hit the top of the charts three times.
Now Humphead have released “The Definitive Greatest Hits”, which is just that- 28 tracks from his 14 year chart career.
You’ll recognise titles like “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, “Chrome”, “Big Time”, “Every Light In The House Is On” and my favourite “I Left Something Turned On At Home”.
Recently, Trace’s music has sounded a bit on the heavy side for me, but this collection does show Trace’s softer side, with songs like “Dont Lie”, and “Help Me Understand”.
It’s a good collection. He’s had quite a variety of styles in his career, and they show up in this collection. Well worth a listen.

The Humphead label have also released a couple of new “2on1” CD’s featuring old albums re-issued as a 2CD package.
The SUZY BOGGUSS package is especially welcome. It features her first two albums for Capitol Nashville. “Somewhere Between” was a wonderful debut album (on a major label- she did have an earlier independent recording). The title track has probably become more of a standard than Haggard’s original. Her version of “I Wanna Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” was brilliant too. In a similar vein, there’s “I’m At Home On The Range”, and Hank’s “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”. There’s Suzy’s version of “Night Rider’s Lament”, later recorded by Garth and a gorgeous song written by her husband Doug Crider. This really was an outstanding album at the time.
Her second album,”Moment Of Truth” was one of the strangest cases in Country music of not getting the recognition it deserved. Despite it being a lovely album (one of my all time favourite albums), and coming off the back of her succesful label debut, the album bombed. I’m really glad to see it getting another chance here.
Several of the songs are quite memorable. “Blue Days” and “My Side Of The Story” are beautiful ballads, as is the Dan Seals duet “All Things Made New Again”. She lifts the tempo on “Under The Gun” and “Fear Of Flying”.
This is a great package to collect. A great label debut album, and one of Nashville’s hidden treasures in one package. Highly recommended.

TANYA TUCKER has had many steps in her career. She started off as a teenage sensation with Columbia Records, then had spells with MCA and Arista, before moving over to Capitol in 1986. The new “2on1” collection from Humphead features her first two Capitol albums.
When “Girls Like Me” came out in 1986, it was three years since she had last charted. This album rekindled her career. It produced three hit single’s hitting No.3, No.1 & No.2. These hits were “One Love at A Time”, Just Another Love” and “I’ll Come Back As Another Woman”.
That album was followed by “Love Me Like You Used To”, which produced another three top ten hits, including the No.1 vocal event “I Wont Take Less Than Your Love”, with Paul Davis & Paul Overstreet. This album also features the romantic, “I’ll Tennessee You In My Dreams”.
A good one to catch up on.

LYNNE HANSON is getting quite a bit of reaction to her album “Once The Sun Goes Down” (UK distribution by Proper). It’s the Ottawa based singer-songwriter’s third album.
She has already toured Ireland, and will be in Germany when you read this, but she is planning some UK dates in the spring.
Her music has been called Country, Roots & Blues, Rough Around the Edges Folk, but Lynne, herself calls it “Porch Music with a little Texas Red Dirt”.
The album, to my ears, does have that porch effect.
“Rest Of My Days”, “Just For The Ride” and quite ear catching ballads.
There’s a more uptempo beat to “No More Rain”, and “Off This Train” which work just as well as the ballads.
Possibly, the most Country numbers are the waltzy “Three Time Bent”, and “Somewhere A Lovely Flower”, which are quite listenable.
I quite enjoyed this album, and look forward to her visiting our shores.

Another Canadian of note is MISS QUINCY,and boy, is she something different.
Miss Quincy does not fit the classic Singer/Songwriter mold. Equal parts edgy frontier woman and risque saloon madame, her mystique lays within the character created through her music, stories, and carnival weaved throughout her show. Influenced by the renegade women who came before, Miss Quincy draws inspiration from the blues ladies of the 1930s, boot stompin' bluegrass, and a healthy dose of vaudeville.
“Your Mama Don’t Like Me”, is an infectious album of quirky songs and tunes from a bygone age.
Most Country numbers are “Dead Horse” and the bluegrass flavoured “Wild Mountain Flower”. Elsewhere, I enjoyed the harmonica influenced “Bad Luck Woman” and the title track.
It’s a catchy album. Catch Miss Quincy, if you can on Friday 4th February at Glasgow’s State Bar.

MIKE DENVER has really established himself as one of Ireland’s leading Country stars in recent years. However his latest album,”Tradition” (Sharpe Music) sees him change direction a bit.
He says on the sleevenotes that this is an album he has wanted to do for a long time, since he watched the BBC “Bringing It All Back Home” series a few years ago. That programme featured a fusion of American and Scots/Irish music, and this album features a lot of Irish folk music influences alongside classic American Country music.
His fans wont be disappointed, as he includes good versions of “Gentle On My Mind” and “Still Feelin’ Blue”. There’s also two beautiful ballads. “God’s Plan” written by Derek Ryan, is given a strong cover (Lisa McHugh also has this song on her album) and “Knowing You’ll Be There”, previously recorded by Guy Penrod, is one of the album’s strongest songs.
But it’s his new found Irish sound that stands out. The instrumentation is superb, and these songs really suit Mike’s vocal style. Apart from a raucous “Seven Drunken Nights”, I enjoyed “I Want To Be in Ireland For The Summer”, “Day Of My Return”, “Paddy” and especially “Boston Rose”.
A lot of Country fans tend not to enjoy the Irish-Country sound, but we have to remember that American Country music, as we know it today, has its roots here and in Ireland. It’s something which we should be proud off, and the Irish certainly are. Just listen to the album’s closing track, “That’s How We Got Country”, written by Lawrence John.
A thoroughly good listen. Enjoy !

One of the rising stars on the Irish scene, is LINDA WELBY, who has “A Story To Tell”.
A native of Loughrea, Linda, a young mother of eight children, now resides in Roscahill, Co. Galway. Her new album 'A Story to Tell' is a collection of contemporary songs and music all written and composed by herself. As a composer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist and singer, music has always been at the forefront for Linda. Her grandfather Paddy Doorhy was an accomplished fiddle player and played with the first Ballinakill ceili band.
The phenominal success of her single release "The Galway Fiddler" , the first track on the album, has surpassed all expectations with regular airplays on Irish, UK & North American radio stations .
She recently featured on RTE Nationwide Television and won the award for Best Female Artist of 2008 on West Limerick Radio. Linda is a multi-instrumentalist playing Fiddle, Whistles, Accordion, Keyboards, Banjo and Drums
The album has a distinctive Irish feel to it, through asset of jigs, a hornpipe, and songs like “Crazy Love”, and “A Night I’ll Never Forget”
Family is obviously important for Linda, with tracks like “We Love You Mum”, and “Dear Dad”.
My favourite track would have to be the closing song, “You’re The One”.
It’s an all original album, from a name on the rise.
Look out for Linda Welby.

If Linda isa new name on the Irish scene, FOSTER & ALLEN are legendary.
Their famous laid back easy listening sound has earned them sales of over a million albums in the UK, since their “Bunch Of Thyme” hit the Top 20 back in 1982.
Their latest package, “Magic Moments” (DMG) remembers some hige hits from the likes of Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Pat Boone. It’s not a Country music collection, by any means, but there are covers of Country favourites like “Back Home Again”, “Happiness”,”You Needed Me”, “Send Me The Pillow” and “My Forever Friend”.
There’s 2 CD’s in this package offering 40 tracks, together with another 20 video tracks on a DVD.
A superbly relaxing package, and great value for money. They’re touring in May, and their dates are in the gig guide.

Still in Ireland, STEPHEN SMYTH has established himself as one of the brightest entertainers there in recent years. Like many Irish acts, Stephen has found a market, with shades of Country, but generally covering a wider range of music.
His latest album, “Do I Even Cross Your Mind”, does have strong Country songs, like “He Dont Call Me Anymore”, an quickstep version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” , a catchy version of “Dim Lights Thick Smoke & Loud Loud Music”, and a credible cover of “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.
But it’s essentially an entertaining middle of the road album, which I found to be an enjoyable listen.

JESSE BREWSTER is labelled as a singer, songwriter, guitar-slingin’ outlaw. His songs are of “loss,hope and reflection; fears, truth and introspection”, according to the publicity send out with his album, “Wrecking Ball At The Concert Hall” (Crooked Prairie).
He began his first band at age of 12, and has influences of Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young and Willie Nelson, all rolled into one.
The San Francisco native certainly offers a varirty of styles on the album.
He really rocks it up on tracks like “God Fearin’ Man”, but can slow it down with the more soulful “Dive To Drown In”.
“I’m Not Broken” and “All Those Things I Said”, whilst upbeat, have quite a Country feel to them, whilst “Fuel For The Fire”, “All She Deserves” and “Sometime” are pleasant Country ballads.
It’s an interesting album, which should see his fame spread beyond San Francisco.

SUSAN CATTANEO is a new name, but I’m glad I got the chance to discover her music through her album “Heaven To Heartache” (Jersey Girl Music) released here on Feb 14th.
Although based in Boston, Susan grew up in New Jersey, but spent her summers on an Arizona ranch.
She also spent a year in Italy, which has paid off, for she’s been back there touring in support of her debut album.
This follow up features 12 self penned originals. She has a lovely delivery, good voice, and good backing arrangements.
“Girls Night Out” has quite a modern upbeat Nashville feel to it. It’s the sort of song you could hear Martina covering! Another uptempo number is “Shave” about watching her man’s daily routine. It’s a quirky fun number, which is different from the rest of the album, but it works.
She also rocks it up a bit with “Country Is The State I’m In”.
On the ballads, “Put That Bottle Down” has quite a strong message, but one that Susan delivers with strength and dignity.
“Baby We Fly” has a lovely easy summery feel to it. I also enjoyed the gentle “Just Like It Was Texas”, which has a western feel to add to its authenticity.
I really enjoyed this album. Susan Cattaneo is certainly a name to look out for in 2011 !

MALCOLM HOLCOME is no stranger to Scotland, having toured here several times. His eighth album, “To Drink The Rain” (Music Road Records) is scheduled for a March 7th release, just before his latest tour which takes in Aberdeen & Montrose (dates & venues in the giglist).
He has an interesting vocal style. It’s quite a “lived in” voice, but theat really adds something to the 12 self penned songs on the album, which was recorded in Austin, Texas.
It’s a real Rural America sound, with songs like “Mountains Of Home”, Down In The “Woods” and “Those Who Wander” , with a bluesy edge.
The backing, featuring bass,fiddle,dobro and mandolin really adds nicely to the mix.
This is singer-songwriting at it’s best. He doesn’t try to be someone he isn’t. He’s his own man, with his own music.

Finally, “GET LOW” is a film set in the Deep South,in the 1930’s about a Tennessean hermit, Felix Bush, who, famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... whilst still alive. The film stars Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek, and features some wonderful old time & bluegrass music, in much the same way as “Oh Brother” did.
The soundtrack (Rounder) features music from Alison Krauss, The Steeldrivers, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Gene Austin, Paul Whiteman , and even The Inkspots. Ok, so only Alison Krauss’ solo track and the four tracks from The Steeldrivers are going to appeal to readers here.
I’ve not seen the film, but the sountrack was quite intruiging.

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