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Monday 18 February 2013

Feb 2013

THE STATLER BROTHERS were one of America’s most successful ever Country vocal groups, from an era before boy bands became ten-a-penny. Their rich harmonies, down home values, and nostalgia themed hits gave them a string of hits from the mid sixties right through into the 1990’s.  Despite their hits being played by UK Country presenters, their record label refused to release their product in this country.
Now, decades later, and years after the band have stopped touring, Humphead have eventually released their music in the UK. “The Definitive Collection MCA Collection” features 50 of their tracks, which despite, not being commercially available here before, many will be instantly recognisable. Hits like “Bed Of Roses”, “Class Of 57”, “Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott”, ”We Got Paid By Cash”, “Years Ago” and “Elizabeth” are all here.
Most of their material was self written, but they did occasionally lend their harmonies to classic pop hits like “Hello Mary Lou” and “Only You”, which are both featured here.
It’s a great collection, which I really enjoyed hearing all these old hits once again. It’s all packaged with a little booklet which details the chart dates and positions of each song, and sleeve notes from Maverick editor Alan Cackett. The one thing that did disappoint me, was in the CD’s subtitle “The MCA Years”! The Statlers were never on MCA!. Their label was Mercury Records, which is now part of Universal, MCA’s parent company, but The Statlers had no association with MCA Records.  It’s a small point, which doesn’t detract from the great music on the double album.

Quite a few Irish releases hit my desk just before the end of the year.
DEREK RYAN is one of the up and coming stars on the Emerald Isle , and the fact that he is a writer as well as a singer, makes him stand out from the pack. His new 15 track album, “Dreamers & Believers” features 5 self penned songs, including the catchy “Write Me A Letter”, about leaving the folks at home while becoming a star in America, which has a nice feel to it.
“Life Is A River” and “Perfect Days” are both beautifully performed songs, which work well for him, but it’s “Song Of Donegal” which stands out. It’s so different to anything on the album. It’s a slow, but spiritual stirring song for folks associated with the most musical corner of Ireland.
The covers range from Eddy Raven’s “I’m Gonna Get You”, and Buck Owens’ “Loves Gonna Live Here” to Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s A Heartache” (which has been recorded by a number of Country singers). He also does a nice version of “Galway To Graceland”, very different to The Indians version, that we’re probably more familiar with.
The title track is a Pete St John Song, a bouncy Country & Irish number which will work for him.
It’s a really first class album, a good mix of old & new, Country & Irish, and all well produced  and performed.  Certainly, an album which will further enhance Derek as a star for the future.

MIKE DENVER is already established  as a top entertainer in Ireland. His latest CD release is “The Live Show”, (Sharpe) which is also a DVD.
I’m finding it difficult to review the CD, as I’m sure the DVD would offer a very different perspective. But as a CD release, you have to offer something different on a “Live” album. Too often here, Mike introduces “another song from my latest album”. Why fans would buy an album full of songs they already have, I don’t know.  A live album should feature newer songs, perhaps numbers you wouldn’t otherwise record, or at least give a different perspective to previous hits.
One of the best examples of a live recording was Don William’s “Live At Carnegie Hall”, where he let the audience sing beautifully on “You’re My Best Friend”. Mike does that song here too, but doesn’t risk any audience participation.
I’ve seen Mike in concert. He is a superb entertainer, but this CD doesn’t capture that side of him.
As I say, if I were reviewing the DVD, I’d be looking at it from a different angle, but as a CD, it didn’t work for me.
Scottish fans will get to see Mike Denver in person in April when Ireland West Music TV hold a weekend in Glasgow, with Mike as the star attraction.

The first of our home grown recordings this time comes from Dunoon’s TONY COLLINS. “Just Passin’ Through” is what Tony describes as his “retirement project”, but it’s probably more like a life long dream.
Tony has been involved in music all his life, through the pop and gospel scenes. He wrote his first song at age 14, and was the writer of the official Glasgow Marathon song, “Marathon Man”.  But Country music has always been part of Tony, known as the “Tartan Cowboy”, so it’s no surprise that this album is Country!
The album has twelve self written songs, was recorded in Ballymena, and features the likes of Richard Nelson on pedal steel, and Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle.
I really enjoyed the mix of music, from the toe tappin’ “There She Goes” to the Tom T Hall styled “You Say”.
There’s also a good bit of “DooWaa’s” and “Hot Bananas” on the honky tonk inspired “AWOL”.
The opening track “Back On The Road Again” is a good upbeat number, and “America” is a good song which sums up several generations obsession with Uncle Sam’s land.
I was quite intrigued to listen to a song titled “Rocky Mountain Home”, with a lazy gulf coast / calypso arrangement, which surprisingly works well.
The title track, ”Just Passin’ Through” is a slower number, with some neat sax.
I’d say that Tony’s influences were the Elvis inspired balladeers. He’s not an Elvis clone- nothing like it, but I do hear influences I also hear similarities with Mickey Gilley and Billy Crash Craddock.
It’s a really good album, which I enjoyed listening too.

Next up, a new CD from THE GLG BAND, led by George L. Goodfellow, from Hawick. As an aspiring songwriter, he joined the Tennessee Songwriters Association which led to him making contact with an exiled Scotsman, Jim McParland who asked George to collaborate with him on some of his lyrics. A few contacts on the other side of the pond, and the GLG Band was formed. “Both Sides Of The Pond” (Smallboy Records) is their fourth album together.
All 13 tracks on the album are originals from the band. The arrangements are simple but effective. The project was recorded and produced in Bristol ,Tennessee (where The Carter Family recordings were made) and finished off in Galashiels at David Little’s Sound Studios. The songs range from the catchy “I’ll Put Me Life On The Line” and “Maybe In Time” to the slower “Number Three” or “More Than Welcome”
“Without Doubt” and “He Was My Friend” are the two tracks which stand out for me, and most likely to get a bit radio play.

Austin , Texas CARRIE RODRIGUEZ has went through several stages in her career. Originally destined to be a classical violinist, she learned fiddle at Berklee, which set her up for a career on the road. She had a long standing partnership with Chip Taylor, who wrote “Wild Thing” for The Troggs and “Angel Of The Morning”.  Chip encouraged Carrie to write and sing, the pair became regular touring partners, and they recorded three albums together. She recorded her first solo album in 2006. In 2011, she recorded an EP of songs with Irishman Ben Kyle, and a new partnership was born.
Her new album, “Give Me All You Got” (Ninth Street) features songs from both Taylor & Kyle, as well as the lady herself.
She wrote 6 of the tracks  including the haunting “Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood” and the catchy opener “Devil In Mind”.
Something of an acquired taste, Carrie has built up quite a fan base, especially at festivals like Southern Fried in Perth, and this album will further her popularity there,

 THEA HOPKINS recently won American Songwriter magazine’s lyric writing competition, and now the Boston based writer releases her six track CD, “Lilac Sky”. She calls her music “Native Americana”, based on her Wampanoag and Cherokee heritage.
She has four originals on the disc, and two covers of Teddy Thompson and Marianne Faithfull numbers. Her own numbers include the catchy “Might’ve Stayed in Memphis Too Long” and the rather heavy title track, which may have been called “Angels Have Wings To Fly”, a line which is repeated rather a lot.
“Down By The Water” is quite catchy, if again a bit repetitive, whilst “Whatcha Gonna Do?” is the stand out track for me.

An interesting album arrived from an American outfit called ROSIE’s PAWN SHOP, whose new album “Dancing On The Gallows”, is released here prior to their forthcoming tour of these isles. Their only Scottish date is in Stranraer on Sunday 3rd March.
Apparently singer songwriter, and lead vocalist, Paul Givant “grew up on a disparate array of popular musical styles. But in the mishmash of rock,punk pop and rap, was Americana Folk and Bluegrass”, says the publicity hand out.
After meeting some kindred spirits, they came up with a hi energy driving sound which blended Woody Guthrie & Bill Monroe with The Ramones & The Pogues!
They certainly have a unique sound.
Some of it is just too far out for me, but other tracks I really liked, such as “The Bed In Which You Lie”, a good uptempo number , and foot tapping “Straw Man” and the opening title track.
“The Well” had shades of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”
 There’s an Eagles influence on “Pine Box”, whilst “Patiently” and “One Last Glass Of Whiskey” are more of a ballad.
All in all, a very interesting sound. Certainly an album with a lot of energy.

RICH MAHAN grew up in St.Louis and Los Angeles, where his dad was a big fan of Bobby Bare. Rich remembers his father jumping around the room playing air guitar and dancing to the likes of “Teqilla Sheila” and “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life”. This was a major influence on Rick, to the extent that it’s Bobby Bare who is a major influence on the Nashville based singer songwriter today.
So much so, that his debut album is simply called “ Blame Bobby Bare” (Snortin’ Horse Records). And it certainly does have a bit of a Bobby Bare feel to it. Of course, many of Bare’s hits, especially the quirkier ones, were written by Shel Silverstien, who is perhaps more of an underlying influence.
Just look at some of the titles – “Mamma Found My Bong”, “Rehab For Quitters” and “I’ll Get Off The Booze”!
I particularly liked his catchy geographic songs, “Overserved in Alabam” and the Silverstein flavoured “The Hills Of South Dakota”. “Tequilla Y Mota” has a definite Silverstein influence.
All the songs are self penned except Bob McDill’s “Put A Little Lovin’ On Me”, which fits in nicely.
Mahan, himself spend time in west coast coast pop & rock bands, only arriving ion Nashville in 2010, but seems to have found his roots in Music City.

Our final selection this time, comes from an interesting American group called THE BEAN PICKERS UNION, which is led by Chuck Melchin, a veteran of the Vermont and New England Alt-Country scene.  Their latest album, “Better The Devil” (Inseam Records) gets a UK release, following the response to their 2007 debut, “Potlash”.
The album’s 11 songs are described as “songs of despair,hope and redemption”.
The arrangements are quite simple, which adds to the album’s intensity.
Many of the songs, like “Lydia’s Lullaby” and  “Numb” are quite slow and dark.
But there are upbeat songs too. Listen out for “Tranquility” and “Magnolia”, which has quite an Eagles sound to it.
There are story songs too, like “Sometimes I Just Sits”, which is probably my favourite track.

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