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Tuesday 4 October 2011

Oct 2011

Good to see quite a few homegrown recordings appearing on my CD player.
ROCKIN HORSE, led by George Inglis, has been building up quite a reputation from their Borders base over the past few years. Their music is at the more traditional end of the scene, and original, at the same time.
“Barstool Cowboy” features 10 originals from George’s own pen.
The title track, is a popular song already on the linedance floors, but there’s also a good tribute to the “Man In Black”.
There’s also a catchy beat to the latest single, “Catch A Train”, and “Children Og The Sixties” has quite a nostalgic feel to it.
I also enjoyed “Still Think I’m Gonna Win” quite an uptempo number, and the catchy “Smoke Filled Room”, before the album closes with the “Rockabilly Ball”.
I really enjoyed this album. Quite a diverse choice of material.

Staying with the homegrown acts, I was very impressed with an album from RAINTOWN, They are Glasgow based duo Paul Bain & Claire McArthur, but have a definate modern Nashville approach to their music.
Indeed they have been called “The UK’s Lady Antebellum”, and were given rave reviews from former 3C, now Voice Of Country host Pat Geary, after they appeared at the CMA Global Artist Party in Nashville.
“Hope In Troubled Times” is their debut album, which is an all original affair. All the songs have been written by the couple and Greg Friel.
They have already achieved quite a bit of success with two radio singles “Picture Of Us” and “Just One Kiss”
“What Matters Most”, “Light The Fuse Up” and “Loves Got A Hold On You” are particularly catchy upbeat radio friendly songs .
“The Road Never Ends” sounds quite loud, but has a good beat, and I liked it at lot.
I also liked the title track.
They also feature a couple of well crafted ballads, including the very strong “Falling Backwards” “I Wont Dance Alone”and “The Last Song”.
It’s not too often Scots can show their stuff in Music City.
Check them out :

Crossing the country now, where Edinburgh’s THE SUNSHINE DELAY have built up quite a following with their “Alt-Country” sound over the past ten years. The Sunshine Delay, are Paula McKee, David McKee, Iain Barbour and Brendan O’Brien.
This month, they release their second album “Keep It Together” (Wrong Train) , and it features a strong selection of their original material.
The album kicks off with the strong tempo-ed “Last Generation To Die” which should do well on radio. Other uptempo numbers are the racey “Leaving Song”, and the catchy “On Our Own”.
Of the slower tracks, “Roll Off The Treble”, led by David works well
Other ballads include “Slow Day For Love”, “Angels Share” and “Don’t Have The Heart”.
It’s an interesting selection of songs, well produced and performed.
They should win many new fans with this collection.

YARD OF ALE are a Fife based folk band, who have been on the scene since 1972. They’ve been a various TV shows, including New Faces & Thingnmmyjig.. The current line up features Colin McKenzie, Alastair McDougald and Peter Gillan.
Although a folk band, there’s a lot of Country interest on their new album “Tracks From The Shack”.
The 12 track collection, recorded at The Shanty Shack in Aberdour, features songs from Steve Earle (Galway Girl & The Mountain), Buddy Mondlock (Coming Down In The Rain), Steve Goodman (City Of New Orleans) and Rick Nelson (Garden Party).
Dave Smith , from Grass Routes (and ex Peacemakers/ Scots Country Comfort) adds pedal steel to “Flower In The Snow”. There’s also a good version of “Wagon Wheel”. And I liked the catchy original “Lay Our Money Down”.
Yard Of Ale may be a folk band, but they have a sound that blends into Country quite nicely.

Heading up our Nashville releases this time, is BLAKE SHELTON, who is no stranger to readers. The current CMA Male Vocalist, and five time nominee for this years awards, who has a string of hits, returns with “Red River Blue” (Hump Head).
There’s quite a mix of styles on the album, which kicks off with the first single, and rather sugary “Honey Bee”. In a similar poppy vein is “Get Some”.
The main Country tracks are the catchy “Good Ol’ Boys” and “Ready To Roll”, and the familiar themed “Sunny In Seattle” (Think “Til It Snows in Mexico” or “Ocean Front Property”)
Of the softer ballads, “Drink On It” and the title track, which close the album, work quite well.
Produced by Scott Hendricks, the album features 11 tracks, and features the writing of the likes of Craig Wiseman, Jon Randell , Jessie Alexander, Chris DuBois, Dallas Davidson.
A good listen, if you enjoy current American Country chart music.

TRACE ADKINS has also been part of the Country scene for a number of years, without getting too much recognition over here. But thanks to HumpHead, his latest album, “Proud To Be Here” gets a UK release.
The album begins quite mellow, with the title track and songs like “Days Like This” and the traditional Daddy and Daughter themed “Just Fishin’, before getting into his rather rocky trademark style on “It’s A Women Thing”.
The album’s high spot comes in the form of “The Poor Folks”, a really strong Country song, and the album officially closes with a lovely ballad in “Always Gonna Be That Way”.
The Deluxe Edition features a further four songs, including a rather unconvincing duet with Kenny Chesney, although the ballad “Semper Fi” is worth listening to the end for.
Another strong Nashville album.

Texas born RONNIE DUNN has already had a less than successful shot at solo stardom, but 27 years after he had two singles which didn’t even make the Top 50, he’s back with a self titled album (released here on Humphead), which will surely ensure more success second time around . Of course, in between times, he was one half of the mega duo, Brook & Dunn. (Incidentally Ronnie had slightly more success as a solo artist than Kix Books had back in the 80’s).
If you liked the Brook & Dunn sound, then, you’ll enjoy this album. There’s not a big difference in the sound he sends out here, to what we’re used to as a duo.
Biggest difference would be the Tex Mex flavoured “How Far Is Waco”, which sounds more like a Raul Malo number, but works well for him here.
He kicks off with a rather rocky “Singer In A Country Band”, and there are other quite rocky influences on tracks like “Let The Cowboy Rock”
But he can be a romantic as well, with “Your Kind Of Love”, “Last Love I’m Tryin’”, “I Cant Help Myself” and the closing ballad “Love Owes Me One”.
And I quite liked the ballad “Cost Of Livin’”, which we’ll all appreciate the message.
It’s a good strong Brook & Dunn sound, just with Ronnie Dunn.
Worth a listen.

RICKY SKAGGS had a string of Number one hits back in the 1980’s, but is still one of the hardest working guys around. He’s always been a bluegrass pioneer, and was taking bluegrass mainstream long before The Soggy Bottom Boys.
His new album “Country Hits Bluegrass Style” (Skaggs Family Records) revisits his big hits and gives them a slightly new twist.
The album kicks off with “Heartbroke”, “Honey Open That Door”, and goes on through “Cajun Moon”, “Highway 40 Blues”, “Uncle Pen” , “Country Boy”, “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could”, and more. 17 tracks in all.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but, if I had one complaint, it’s that these versions aren’t significantly different to the originals. But then, Ricky has always had that Bluegrass vibe in his sound. It was great to hear all these songs again in one package again.

One of the most Country debuts I’ve enjoyed for a long time comes from a lady from Missouri called TEEA GOANS. Her album “The Way I Remember It” (Crosswind label) is such a beautiful collection of Country songs sung in the way we grew up to be Country music fans with.
There’s no over production, just simple arrangements and a lovely vocal style that’s never stretched . On some tracks she reminded me of a very early Reba, on others, there’s a Lee Ann Womack influence. Whatever way, Teea has a lovely vocal style.
She grew up listening to the Opry, and even did her 4th Grade project on the Country music church. Naturally, she found herself in Nashville, and got a job at WSM. For the past couple of years, she’s presented “Inside The Opry Circle” on the station, giving listeners an Access All areas backstage pass, which aired between the two live Opry shows on Saturday nights.
The Opry is certainly in her blood, and with an album like this, it’s only a matter of time before she’s a regular out front stage too.
Many of the songs are familiar, like Willie Nelson’s I’m Still Not Over You”, Ernest Tubb’s “Walking The Floor Over You”, Bill Anderson’s “Walk Out Backwards” and Haggard’s “I Didn’t Mean To Love You”. Others, from the pens of Jim Owen, Angela Kaset and Hank Cochran, and Dan Tyminski dueting on “Made For Lovin’ You”, all add up to a wonderful stone Country album.
The lead off single, Letter From God”, is a good strong sentimental ballad, but it just didn’t prepare me for just how much I was going to enjoy this 100% pure Country album.
The Opry will always live on as long as youngsters like Teea are around.

Recent UK visitor SUZY BOGGUSS has been part of the Nashville Country scene since she first charted in 1987. Before that she built up a following playing coffee houses, and a season at Dollywood where she plugged her first self released album.
That album, affectionately called “The Dollywood Tape”, portrayed Suzy as a singer with some folksy influences.
For her new album, “American Folk Songbook”, she has went back to her roots, and covererd 17 songs, from quite a broad cross section of the American folk music scene.
There are traditional numbers like “Shenendoah”, and “Red River Valley”, the bluegrassy “Shady Grove” and “Wayfaring Stranger” and childhood memories in ”Froggy Went A Courtin’” .
She comes more up to date with an interesting version of “Banks Of The Ohio” , and livens things up on “Old Dan Tucker”, and even takes on the “Rock Island Line”.
All the songs are done in a beautiful simple style, and have to say Suzy really suits this style.

When GENE WATSON was over at Easter, he told everyone about his forthcoming duet album with bluegrass queen RHONDA VINCENT. Well,“You’re Money And My Good Looks” (UM) has arrived, and it certainly was worth the wait.
Their voices work well together, in a way that Country music has never heard since Conway & Loretta. The songs mainly feature vocals, line about, in a kinda talkback style, but when they do show their harmonies, on tracks like Cathy Gosdin’s “Til The End”, they make beautiful music together.
I especially liked their version of the catchy “Sweet Thing” written by Nat Stuckey, the slow “Gone For Good”, “You Could Know As Much About A Stranger” and “It Aint Nothin’ New”, and they do a really first class job on Hank’s “My Sweet Love Aint Around” too.
The album carries a warning – “Contains REAL Country Music”, and carries a quote from George Jones saying “This Is the REAL DEAL”.
I cant argue with that.
First class. Next time you come to Scotland Gene, bring Rhonda with you!
The album isn’t released here but you can get it from various Country music stores here, and online.

It’s ten years since George Clooney starred in the southern downhome classic film “OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU”. Despite raising little interest from American Country radio, the film’s soundtrack is the biggest selling soundtrack of the 21st Century, with more than nine million albums sold.
To mark the 10th Anniversary, a deluxe edition of the album has been released, and it features a whole new CD of material recorded at the time, that didn’t make the original score.
The new material includes classics like “You Are My Sunshine” from Alan O’Bryant, “I’ll Fly Away” from The Kossy Sisters and “Keep On The Sunny Side” with The Cox Family. There’s also recently departed Harley Allen’s version of “In The Jailhouse Now”.
Of course, the memories of Soggy Bottom Boys are relived on Disc 1, with songs like “Man Of Constant Sorrow” and Alison Krauss’s haunting “Down To The River To Pray”.
I’m not a film buff, but I have watched “Oh Brother” several times. It’s great to relive the music on this deluxe reissue.

ERIC CHURCH has made quite an impact on the American scene since he first appeared on the charts five years ago. He still remains relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic, however the release of his third album, “Chief” by Humphead Records should help change that.
This album lets Church explore his own writing a bit more than perhaps he has done previously. He has co-written ten of the eleven tracks on the album, produced by his guitarist and dobro player. Jay Joyce.
Church has fallen into Hank Jr’s Rowdy friends mould, and whilst there’s still evidence of that here, he has mellowed on tracks like “Springsteen”, as he tells of how music brings back memories, or the rather slower “Like Jesus Does”. He also performs a rather sentimental family number on “Homeboy”.
“Jack Daniels” isn’t too rocky, but does come over as a hangover song. Then there is “Hungover And Hard Up”, which some fans may associate themselves with.
“Country Music Jesus” did catch my ear. It is a bit rowdy, but, by the same token has some catchy banjo in there too.
Eric Church certainly isn’t run of the mill Music City. His music certainly has an edge. He wont appeal to all tastes, but if you enjoy Waylon and Hank Jr, you should check him out.

As far as living legends go, 74 year old MERLE HAGGARD is one of Country’s greatest. Since he first charted 48 years ago, the Bakersfield boy has continued to create and impress with his music.
His latest album, “Working In Tennessee”, released October 3rd on Vanguard Records, will be one of the year’s most iconic releases.
The album, his second for Vanguard, features many self penned Hag originals, with a reworking of “Working Man Blues” with his son Ben, and Willie Nelson. There’s also two Johnny Cash covers, a catchy “Cocaine Blues” and an authentic “Jackson”, with wife Teresa.
Throughout the years, Merle has used his songs to speak out against the establishment, and he’s not giving up now. “What I Hate” is aimed at everyone from politicians to road construction workers. He also puts himself in the position of being laid off work after years of employment in “Under The Bridge”
His relationship with Nashville has never been straightforward, so his opening swing number, “Working In Tennessee”, running just over 2 minutes long, perhaps takes a swipe at the Music City, with lines like “Wound Up working at Opryland!”
“Sometimes I Dream” , co-written with his daughter, Jenessa, is a particularly catchy number, which I enjoyed.
I enjoyed the whole album. It’s great to hear The Hag still sounding so good!

LUKE BRYANT is another name who has made it in America, without much impact here, and again Humphead aim to change that with the release of “Tailgates & Tanlines”.
The son of a peanut farmer burst onto the scene in 2007, and has a string of hits from his first two albums, including “Country Man”, “All My Friends Say” and “Doin’ My Thing”.
This is his third album, and kicks off with the rather sexist and immature, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”. Despite being a huge American hit, it doesn’t impress this Country boy!
It just sounds like a beach party number to me.
The theme carries on, with “Drunk On Me” featuring lines like “ you’re a 9.9”, “that sort of thing makes a man go mmm hmmm”. Really clever words!
The album does improve thankfully.
I did quite like the uptempo “I Don’t Want This Night To End” and the midtempo “Tailgate Blues”.
It’s modern Country music. It may get lots of American radio play, but I cant see Luke making much impact here.

Austin based RITA HOSKING received her rave reviews for her last album, ”Come Sunrise”, and won the Best Country Album Vox Pop at the 2010 Independent Music Awards.
Now she’s back with an all original set of songs on her new album “Burn” released to coincide with a UK tour that brings her to Glasgow’s Mono CafĂ© Bar on Wednesday October 12th.
The album kicks off with the lyrics, “ I wanna write you a pretty love song, like Van Morrison or Johnny and June”. I’m not sure if she manages that, but she does deliver a good set of songs.
“When Miners Sang” tells of the coal towns, whilst “Ballad For The Gulf Of Mexico” tells of the wealth from the oil industry. She reaches into rural America on “Indian Giver” and “Coytote”
“Dishes” is one of the most uptempo numbers on the album, although I never thought I’d hear a song inspired by sinkful’s of dirty plates..
Rita has a variety of subjects, and tells her tales well.
She’s well worth checking out !.

KRISTI KAYLIN is pure Texas Country magic. Her Single “My Heart Has Swinging Doors” was a great introduction to her.
Now the album, “It’s Not Over” is even better. With Texas swing numbers like “Cowboys Love Texas” , “I Just Get Leavin”, “When You Said I Do” and Country ballads like “Short Memory” and “Love Me Like The Whiskey” and “Everytime I Think It’s Over”, Kristi really shows just how good Texas music is these days.
She comes over as a Connie Smith, Barbara Mandrell, or even early Reba in her vocal style.
The Western swing numbers are certainly her biggest asset. She performs them with fun and conviction,
I loved this album.

I had the pleasure of meeting Austin based BARBARA NESBITT during her recent Scottish tour. The Georgia native got to the Texas musical capital via Virginia and San Diego, where she really honed her craft, and, indeed recorded her album, “The Bees”.
Barbara wrote all but one of the 13 tracks, the exception being a beautiful version of “Like Strangers”, which works well with her vocal style.
The album kicks off with the invitation to “Come To Find Out”. The track, which many a Nashville based songstress would be interested in, and certainly entices the listener into hearing more.
“Losin’ Time” is a good uptempo number, whilst “Good For Something”, features some lovely steel from Doug Pettibone. “Where You Go” has a nice banjo intro
I also liked the heartfelt, “Message To You” and “When Summer Is Over”.
Whilst certainly a songwriters album, Barbara has a good strong voice, with a hint of huskiness, which emphasises the songs nicely.
Hopefully, it wont be too long before she’s back over this side of the Atlantic.

GEORGE STRAIT recently marked the 30th Anniversary of his first album release, with the release of his 39th studio album. “Here For A Good Time” is released here on the Humphead label.
After all that time, he knows what his audience wants, and knows how to deliver.
Yet, his sound has never sound tired.
George continues his writing, which he has been developing over recent albums. He has co-written seven of the eleven tracks with son Bubba, and longtime writer friend Dean Dillon.
The tracks include the catchy title track, the slower soul searching “Drinkin’ Man”, and “Three Nails & A Cross”, which does sound rather inspired by Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses”.
The strongest track to my ears, the old Delbert McClinton number, “Lone Star Blues”, which George really brings some energy to. He also covers the slow “A Showman’s Life”, written by Jesse Winchester, and features Faith Hill on harmony vocals.
The album closes with a rather retrospective look back at his career, and although he does claim “I’m Not Through By Any Means”, this song really sounds like his swansong. If he were to retire tomorrow, it would be a fitting farewell.
I don’t think it will be. I think George Strait could go on forever.

Only one Canadian release this time around, which comes from CATHERINE MACLELLAN.
I wasn’t familiar with Catherine, until I had listened through her album, “Silhouette” (True North Records), and reached the second last track It was a really slowed down version of “Snowbird”, a huge hit, of course, for Anne Murray, written by the late Gene MacLellan- Catherine’s father.
Although a very different version to the original, she made the song her own.
Catherine has certainly followed her father’s footsteps by going into songwriting.
The songs on the album, are both haunting and exhilarating.
I think “Same Way Again” is probably mny favourite. It has a simple folksy feel to it.
“Old Tin Can” has a quaint bluesy influence, and the opening track, “Stealin” has a good beat to it. “Eastern Girl”, which could be autobiographical, and self explanetary.
The album was recorded in a secluded cabin in Prince Edward Island.
She’ll be in Glasgow at Bar Brel on 18th November.

The thriving Irish scene has constantly brought us new talent, and the latest is 25 year old Ballymonet Country Boy , ALASTAIR COYLES, whose album “If Teardrops Were Pennies” has recently hit the airwaves.
And ideal for radio play it is. A good clean recording, which makes even the well covered classics sound refreshed.
Yes, there are a few over recorded numbers, like “Coat Of Many Colours” and “One Day At A Time”, and a couple of Irish numbers like “Roslare Harbour” and “Connermara Marble Ring”, but Alastair does them really well.
He pays tribute to one of his heroes in “Big Tom Is Still The King”, and features a really strong version of “Far Side Bank Of Jordan”.
He also covers songs by Irish writers Henry McMahon and Jimmy Buckley.
Despite lacking in originality, Alastair has recorded a really enjoyable album.

As far as Irish musical legends go, you have to admire MARGO O’DONNELL.
Who knows, maybe if Margo hadn’t already been an established artist, her young brother may never have got his break.
She’s made many friends over the years, and features some of them on a new “Margo & Friends” collection. (Arran label). The recordings are a collections of duets that Margo has recorded over the years, with the likes of Dolly Parton, Maura O’Connell, Joe McShane, Isla Grant, Philomena Begley, Larry Cunningham, John McNichol, and, of course, Daniel.
Margo has also released a single, “The Missing Mary Boyle”, about a six year old girl, who Margo had known, who disappeared in Donegal 34 years ago- Ireland’s longest missing person case.
SOCIETY are a West Sussex based trio of Country rockers, heavily influenced by the Eagles West Coast sound, who have just released their second album, “A Crooked Mile”.
Matt Wise, Ben Lancaster and F.Scott Kenny formed the group in 2004, and wanted the album to reflect all things West Coast America, and they have quite definitely succeeded, with an album of original songs.
From the opening harmonica on “Wheels A Turning”, through the spring in your step “Roll Home Sweetheart”, the slower “Davey”, to the heavier “Martyr’s Avenue”, which closes the album , their three part harmonies really come over well.
I really enjoyed the album, West Coast music from West Sussex. It works well.

Finally, a couple of Irish released singles, from girls with Glasgow connections.
LISA McHUGH has really established herself in the past year with her “Old Fashioned Girl” album. Such is her popularity, she has moved from Glasgow to Donegal, and is now billed as “Ireland’s Sweetheart Of Country Music”.
Her new single is “Court Of Love”, a bright and breezy number, written by Canadian Mike O’Reilly, and previously covered by Rhonda Vincent. She does a great job on it.
Meanwhile another Donegal lass, who went to college in Glasgow, is JACQUI SHARKEY. Jacqui’s debut album “A New Dawn” has really caught fans attention, and she has now released a self penned single, “If I Had You”. Jacqui has a lovely deep vocal style, kinda like Anne Murray, and this lovely song is the type of number you would hear Anne singing. Nice job.
Two girls, with similar journeys, and very different styles, both both coming out winners. Both are available through I-Tunes etc.

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