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Tuesday 14 February 2012

Feb 2012

I’m kicking off this time with a young lady from Pokeri in The Faroe Islands, 200 miles from Scotland’s North coast. We’ve heard several male singers from The Faroes, but EVI is our first taste of female Country talent from there, and whilst I was always impressed with guys like Hallur, Ragner and Oliver, this lovely songbird has really won me over with beautiful vocals.
Evi had sent me a copy of her first recording, a cover of The Louvin’s “How’s The World Treating You”, which I loved. Now after a couple of trips to Nashville, she has produced a gem of an album called “Wishing Well”. As with other Faroese artists, her Country style is very traditional, but that really suits her voice. But the real charm is, that with a couple of exceptions, the songs are originals.
She recorded the album in Music City, with some top notch musicians like Paul Franklin, Eddy Bayers and Brent Mason, who produced the whole project.
Stand out track for me is the catchy road song, “Blue Radio”, which is so radio friendly, it should really get her noticed. “Sink Or Swim” is also really catchy.
She excels on ballads like “For Every Valley”, “I’d Rather Have A Broken Heart”, “How Am I Supposed To Feel” and especially on “Somebody’s Somebody”.
Brought up loving Jim Reeves, she takes the Deborah Allen role on Jim’s classic “Oh How I Miss You Tonight”, with, no less than the Opry legend Jim Ed Brown completing the duet. And they make such beautiful harmonies together. Such a beautiful tribute to her Country music hero.
She also does a good duet with Alex Baerendsen on “I Don’t Want To Hear It”.
But perhaps the real scoop lies within the title track, “Wishing Well”, written by Glenn Douglas Tubb and Johnny Cash’s wife Vivien. Apparently, back in the 50’s Vivien asked Glenn to help write the song. When Glenn asked why she didn’t get Johnny to help, he soon found out why – it captures Vivien’s heartache, when she found out her husband was unfaithful. Perhaps not ideal subject matter for recently married Evi, but I guess when you get the chance to record a song with such a history, yet has lain untouched for half a century, you don’t knock it back.
I loved this album. Original, yet traditional. The voice of an angel.
Be sure to check her out at, and the CD is available at CD Baby

There’s no doubt that MARTINA McBRIDE is one of Nashville’s leading ladies. The 4 time winner of the CMA’s Female Vocalist Of The Year Award, has produced many classic hits since she first charted on 5th February 1992. Many have been strong anthems like “Independence Day” and “This One’s For The Girls”, whilst others have been more of a ballad, like “Broken Wing” and “In My Daughters Eyes”.
When she turns it on, she can be totally Country, but more often as not, she has disappointed me with her poppy sound.
To mark her 20th Anniversary, Sony have released “Hits & More”, and my immediate reaction was that it wasn’t that long ago that she released her “Greatest Hits”, but time flies, as I discovered, - that was 11 years ago.
The first 12 songs on this new collection were on that album, alongside another 5 that have been hits since 2001.
There are three ”more” songs- new songs completing the 20 track collection. Whether they’ll feature in her next hits collection in another 11 years time, I’d doubt it. They’re quite forgettable. But then, when you listen to all her biggies like “My Baby Loves Me”, “Wild Angels” and “I Love You”, new songs aren’t going to have the same impact.
If you need to catch up with your Martina music, “Hits & More” is a great way to do it, but if you have her “Greatest Hits” already, I’d pass on this release.

JOE NICHOLS is one of the most traditional youngsters on the Nashville scene today.
The 35 year old, from Arkansas, first burst onto the scene in 2003, with “Brokenheartsville”, and later produced the smash “Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”.
His 6th studio album , “It’s All Good”, released in the UK by Humphead, is a superb album. Featuring songs by the likes of David Lee Murphy, Dallas Davidson, Gary Burr, Rhett Akins, Deric Ruttan and Rivers Rutherford, it’s a very strong album.
There are no bad tracks. I especially liked “Somebody’s Mama”, a song about an old flame, and wondering where she is now. I also liked “No Truck, No Boat, No Girl”, which is quite self evident, and the radio friendly opening track, “Take It Off”.
If you like George Strait’s style, you’ll love Joe Nichols.

DAVID NAIL, from Kennett, Missouri, had his first single released in Nashville back in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2009 that his debut album, “It’s About To Come Alive” was released.
The album produced three hits on the Country Top 20 Album chart, crossed over to the pop charts, and earned him ACM and Grammy nominations.
The follow up is “The Sound Of A Million Dreams”, released here by Humphead.
He has lined up some impressive guests to join him, including Lee Ann Womack, Sarah Buxton and Will Hoge.
The Lee Ann duet, “Songs For Sale” is one of the strongest ballads, but I really caught onto “Desiree”, featuring some strong harmony vocals
He was involved in the writing of three songs- the recent hit, “Let It Rain”, “Catherine”, devoted to his wife, and “I Thought You Knew”, which was co-written with the guys from Lady Antebellum.
I found this album an enjoyable listen. It’s modern, radio friendly, and still Country.
Check him out !

I’ve admired JIM LAUDERDALE for many years. He’s a long time Nashville A list songwriter, and an accomplished artist in his own right, He also has his own radio show on WSM Radio, and played George Jones in the Ryman stage show “Stand By Your Man”.
I recent years, Jim’s own albums have veered towards Bluegrass, and his latest album, “Reason And Rhyme” (Sugar Hill) continues that path. The album is subtitled “Songs By Robert Hunter and Jim Lauderdale”. Robert Hunter is the lyricist for legendary rock band The Grateful Dead.
That certainly conjures up some interesting thoughts, but be rest assured, this is as down home a bluegrass album you’ll listen to.
There’s some good uptempo pickin; featured on tracks like” Love’s Voice” and “Tiger & The Monkey”, ”Doin’ It On My Own” and “Janis Jones”.
“Jack Dempsey’s Crown” is more of a folksy old time ballad, and “Don’t Give A Hang” has much the same style.
He’s a great performer, and that comes over on record.
Totally refreshing.

Now onto our home grown recordings for this issue, and we’ll kick off with a new CD from one of the hardest working performers on the Scottish entertainment scene. PAULA MCASKILL, from the Lochaber area, is kept busy most nights of the week, especially in the Fort William, Elgin and Inverness areas. She plays primarily in tourist venues, so it’s no surprise that a lot of Scottish traditional music features in her shows, although she has always done a fair bit of Country too.
Her new album, on Pan Records (home of Manson Grant), is an unashamedly easy listening mix of Scottish & Country music. Scottish material includes “Skyline Of Skye”, “These Are My Mountains” and “Highland Cathedral”, whilst the Country material does tend to be well known covers like “I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again”, “Blackboard Of My Heart” and “You’re My Best Friend”.
She does a very strong version of The Louvin’s “How’s The World Treating You”, with Keith MacLeod , covers of Isla Grant’s “Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star”, and Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl”, but it’s her version of Jim Reeves’ “Pretty Brown Eyes” that steals the album for me.
The players on the album include Manson Grant, and Robert Cameron from The Dynamos, Keith MacLeod, Gordy Gunn, Phil Anderson, Brandon MacPhee, and Richard Nelson. It’s a good professional backing throughout.
Whilst there’s nothing groundbreaking here, it’s a pleasant easy listening album, that Paula’s audiences will love.

Frank Doyle & Danny Rodger have been popular guys on the Scottish Country club and linedance scene for many years, through different bands, but now are together as STILLWATER, and have just released a new CD, “Run Deep”.
Produced at Stealth studios in Glasgow, the album features 13 well produced covers, some more aimed at linedancers than Country fans, such as “Baby Jane” and “Lucille (Chill Factor).
But there are plenty Country songs on her, from “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes” and “Cold Cold Heart”, through to “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried” and “Lovin’ All Night”.
The track that stood out for me was “That’s What They Said About The Buffalo”, first recorded by Michael Peterson.
A good production from a duo who have many fans across the land .

Still in Scotland, it’s good to hear from BOB LESLIE once again. Bob, from Glasgow, has a very interesting sound, which mixes Country and Blues, with a Scottish perspective. I was very impressed with his last album, which I reviewed in these pages and this new collection, “Fat Cat” is equally impressive.
All songs were written by Bob, and recorded at North Glasgow College.
The album kicks off with the catchy “One Size Don’t Fit All”.
“The Devil Aint A Friend Of Mine” has an outlaw sound, with some neat harmonica from Fraser Speirs.
“It Wasn’t Down In Texas” doesn’t exactly have a Texan sound, but still works with it’s Caledonian edge.
“Suddenly The Sun” and “Behind The Song” are slower ballads that have their own style. He has a kinda Froggie charm when in this mould. There’s a different kind of charm on the album’s title cat, and “Kid With A Gun” where Bob has the bluesy sound so familiar to listeners to the world famous Prairie Home Companion.
And it all comes to an end with the reflective “The Tune That Was Broken”, another relaxing bluesy ballad.
I really enjoyed the album, for being different.
Check Bob out at

Heading down under now to New Zealand, where we find ALY COOK, a young lady who is heading our way soon.
Her album “Brand New Day” is quite a contemporary country album, and features eight songs, all co-written by the lady herself.
She covers a variety of styles, with a bluesy feel to tracks like “The River” and Laughing In Silence”, but pure Country on “Ruby Jean”, and “Country Storm”.
The later, which is featured on a video on her website, is a particularly commercial number that should get her plenty airplay,
She has built up a strong international following in the past year, appearing at festivals in Australia and England (Americana & Yorkshire).
She’s a lady to look out for in 2012.

Now for some Canadian old time roots music from PHARIS & JASON ROMERO. The couple make banjo’s for their J.Romero Banjo Company, and then play them in concert all across Canada’s west and America’s north west. We get a chance to hear them through their album “A Passing Glimpse”.
The duo met in 2007, when music brought them together, although both were well steeped in the traditional sound, and it was a seemless blend to bring their music together.
The album features 15 tracks, many written by the pair, but also a few classics like Uncle Dave Macon’s “Hillbilly Blues”, Dottie Rambo’s “It’s Me Again Lord”, The Carter Family’s “Engine 143”, and Lonnie Donegan’s “Cumberland Gap”.
It is an unashamed old timey album, with very simple acoustics, and lovely harmonies.
Really pleasant.

I really enjoyed an album from THE JAMES LOW WESTERN FRONT, called “Whiskey Farmer”, which is released here at the end of February on the Union Made label.
The band hail from Portland, Oregon, but have a raw Honky Tonk Country band sound.
The title track opener has a rather depressing, but authentic outlook on farming life, whilst “The Stars Don’t Care”, has more of a barstool sound, which is only a prelude to “Medicine Show”, which I’m sure will be part of Rob Ellen’s radio show, if it’s not already.
“Sleeping It Off”, is an uptempo rip roaring “morning after” wake up call.
“Words” has a real west coast “Gram Parsons” sound too, and the short 8 track CD closes with the rather slow “A Little More Time”.
An interesting album. One that would be hard to categorise.

AMANDA SHIRES is a name that you see popping up on credits from time to time. She even played fiddle in the recent “Country Strong” movie behind Gwyneth Paltrow.
But essentially this West Texas Gal is a singer songwriter, and brings us some interesting songs on her new “Carrying Lightning” album, (Silver Knife Records) due for a UK release on March 5th , in time for a tour which will bring her to Glasgow on18th April.
The album kicks off with “Swimmer”, which has some effective whistles, giving it a relaxing, dreamy effect. It sets the tempo for the album.
This is followed by “Ghost Bird”, which blends a more folksy feel with a modern Country chorus. It stands out as one of the strongest tracks on the album. Other uptempo numbers include “She Let Go Of Her Kite”, and “Lovesick I Remain”, a catchy but simple song, that I liked a lot.
She also features a number of ballads, which demonstrate a more fragile side to her voice. “Side Gin”, is probably the most effective of these.
“When You Need A Train It Never Comes”, joins Country music’s long list of train songs .
An interesting album, that’s well worth checking out.

Finally this time around, an interesting old timey album from THE HARRIS BROTHERS, who hail from North Carolina. It’s such a down home album that Reggie & Ryan have titled the album, “Lenoir NC”, after their hometown.
They have already plated some of the biggest American bluegrass festivals, including Merlefest.
As well as old fashioned bluegrass, there’s more than a touch of blues, amd a touch of rockabilly and even jazz.
They are hailed as an immense live act, which the record cant capture, but you certainly get the feel of some intense picking, especially on “Rag Mama Rag”, “Freight Train” and the overly short Knoxville Rag”.
If you like old timey music check out the album, just released here on Scuffletown Records, and check them out on their Autumn tour.

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