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Monday 5 August 2013

August 2013

When George Jones passed away a few months back, everyone was asking “Whose Gonna Fill His Shoes?.”  Well his namesake GEORGE STRAIT has to be one of those you have to consider.  With over 30 years of hits, the quiet Texan has just released his 40th studio album , “Love Is Everything”. The has been with the same label (MCA) all that time, but it’s Humphead that have released the 13 track album in the UK.
I guess after 40 album’s , it can be a bit of challenge to keep things fresh and interesting. He’s done a fair job over the years, but don’t think this is one of his best.
The album kicks off with the rather unimpressive “I Got a Car”, and continues with the slow “Give It All We Got”, his latest single stateside.
Other slow songs, like “Blue Melodies”  and  “I Just Can Go On Dying Like This” ,  did nothing to keep me interested.  Likewise, uptempo numbers like “The Night Is Young” seemed to be missing his usual magic.
The album does feature his new single, “I Believe”, which he wrote  with his son, Bubba Strait, and legendary songwriter Dean Dillon after watching the news coverage of the tragic school massacre in Newtown, Conn. last December. Having lost his daughter at a young age, Strait felt as if it was a song he needed to write.
“I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing”, is a jaunty little number, but is really lightweight.
 “That’s What Breaking Hearts Do” , also written by George & son Bubba is about the best track on the album. I also quite enjoyed the closing track, “When The Credits Roll”, more of a story song.   They’re  certainly the most traditional Strait songs in here.
Not a bad album, but certainly not the best George Strait album out there.

As George prepares to hang up his touring boots  after over 30 years at the top, Humphead are also looking back at his career, with a 3CD collection called “The Cowboy Rides Away – The Definitive Collection”.
This set features 50 of his big hit songs, like “Easy Come Easy Go”, “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”, “Ocean Front Property”, “The Fireman”,  “The Chair” and “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”.  I’m pleased to see a few of his early hits, like “Unwound” and “Amarillo By Morning” (which weren’t No.1’s for him) are included.
As with many of the Humphead collections, Maverick’s Alan Cackett has written some complimentary sleeve notes about George.
There have been many George Strait collections over the years. This is probably one of the most complete collections, but I’d fear that everyone that would want a George Strait collection already has the majority of these songs.
Hopefully there’s a few more unconverted fans out there that’ll make this album a must.

DARIUS RUCKER, one time frontman of southern rock band, Hootie & The Blowfish, turned to Country music five years ago, after his attempt at being a solo R&B singer didn’t break the charts.  He later played a singing cowboy in a Burger King TV commercial, which is maybe why he headed for a Country music career.  He certainly has created quite a successful career from his first two albums.
Now Humphead have released his third “Country” album, “True Believers” in the UK, following his visit for the c2c Festival in London.
I have to say that I’m still finding it hard to accept Darius as a Country singer.  Most of the songs just don’t sound Country to me.
The exception is Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel”, which has been recorded to death in recent years. The version here is good, but there are equally as strong versions been recorded by Scottish groups in recent years.
Darius has co-written ten of the twelve songs on the album, including  “Radio” , and the catchy “Heartbreak Road”, the closest to Country of his own songs.
Sheryl Crowe joins him on “Love Without You”, just to add that bit more pop appeal.

It could be argued that TRACE ADKINS is something of a late developer in the modern Country music world. The Louisiana Man was in his thirties when he came to the attention of Capitol Records in Nashville. That was 18 years ago, and whilst many other “new names” that were emerging around that time have been long forgotten Trace continues to build a fan base which encompasses both traditional and modern Country music.
“Love Will,,, “ is his 11th studio album, released here on Humphead.
If you’ve heard Trace before, you’ll know his rich deep voice lends itself beautifully to his Country style. This is best heard on tracks like “Say No To A Woman”, “Alter  Of Your Love” and “When I Stop Loving You”.
He has several guests popping up throughout the album. “Watch The World End”  features some lovely harmony from pop singer-songwriter Colbie Caillett, whilst the world famous Harlem Gospel Choir provide some magic on the album’s big production title track.
But did he really have to dig up Exile for an updated version of the pop group’s 1978 hit “Kiss You All Over” ? The group tried a Country career in the 80’s , and here they are , thirty years on still trying to get recognition in Country music, with their pop hit.  To be fair, Exile members Sonny LeMaire and JP Pennington wrote another of the album’s tracks “Come See Me”, which is a fair ballad.
An interesting listen .

LEE ANN WOMACK burst onto the Country music scene in 1997, with a beautiful song called “Never Again, Again” .  But it was three years later that she really got noticed with the huge hit “I Hope You Dance”.  Whilst she continued to release albums until 2008, she didn’t produce anything to challenge that song.
Humphead have just released “The Definitive Collection” , a 2CD set, featuring 34 tracks from her 6 albums recorded throughout her career. The collection kicks off with “I Hope You Dance”, and includes more of her hits, including “I’ll Think Of A Reason Later”, “The Fool”, “Lord I Hope This Day Is Good”, “A Little Past Little Rock”, “Ashes By Now”, “Last Call”  and “Twenty Years And Two Husbands Ago”. There’s also her version of “She’s Got You”, from a Patsy Cline tribute album. But her debut single is hidden away as the second last track on CD2. It does deserve a better place than that, I think.
Accompanied by a CD booklet, which includes sleeve notes from Alan Cackett, this package is a good way of remembering most of Lee Ann’s most memorable recordings. Hopefully we’ve not heard the last of her. She has apparently another album in the can, but no label to release it yet.
Hope we hear it soon.
RUSTY RIERSON is a native of Leon, Kansas. Growing up on the family farm he fell in love with agriculture and completed a masters degree in Animal Science from K-State in summer 2011. Rusty got into music when he was 14 years old. He learned guitar when his father, Roger, suggested that they take lessons together. In 2005, Rierson won the state wide "YF&R talent find contest" hosted by farm bureau and performed at the Kansas State fair where he is annually invited back. In 2007 Rusty won the "Colgate Country Showdown" at the state level and placed in the top 15 nationally. He has played all over the USA and has toured abroad in Mexico, Central America, and in the U.K.  To date, Rusty has produced 5 albums and a DVD.  His latest release is “Souvenirs”, a project recorded in Nashville with producer Richie Owens. As well as Owens, you’ll find Kenny Vaughn (Marty Stuart’s band) and Al Perkins amongst the players, and Jennifer O’Brien and Vicki Hampton on the harmonies. It’s a delightful album to listen to. From the opening “Real People”, through his cover of Dolly’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”, to the catchy “We’re Not All There”, Rusty delivers a good traditional sound. The album has a certain cowboy charm, without being a western album. He wrote (or co-wrote) three of the album’s twelve tracks.  Of these, “I Just Miss You” has a certain Don Williams charm, whilst the other two tracks are a bit more honky tonk. The title track, and US single, “Souvenirs” deals with the loss of a father, and discovering the memories that he left. I also really enjoyed “Spurs Over Stetson”, which is probably my favourite track, but I really enjoyed the whole album. Worth checking out

SLAID CLEAVES is no stranger to the songwriter scene on this side of the Atlantic, and, indeed is back for Glasgow’s Americana Festival in October.  His latest album, “Still Fighting The War”, (Music Road label)  has a good selection of self penned songs, few written with friends like Rod Picott and Ron Coy.
There are few guests on the album, including Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave and Terri Hendrix.
The title track kicks off the album, and is one of the strongest tracks on the album, although “Hometown USA” also stands out. Both are quite uptempo numbers.
Softer tracks include “Gone”, “I Bet She Does” and “Voice Of Midnight” .
My favourite tracks include the catchy “Texas Love Song”, and the steel infused “God’s Own Yodeler” .
Slaid has been in the business for20 years now, and his experience shows on this latest release.

MADISON VIOLET are made up of two lovely Canadian singer songwriters, Brenley MacEachern  and Lisa MacIsaac. The duo have been building up a fan base on both sides of the Atlantic for the past few years, with their  close harmonies.
Their latest album (and DVD) is a Live album called “Come As You Are Live”, and was recorded in Colonge, Germany in late 2011, and released here on True North Records in time for their Autumn tour.
I have, in the past, in this magazine, been less than enthusiastic about live albums. I stick by my philosophy that live albums should offer something different, and whilst there is a minimal amount of audience participation, mainly handclapping on “Never Saw The Ending”  and “Cindy Cindy” , or       crowd singing on “Fallen By The Wayside” , there’s not really much to justify the live album here.
Eleven of the seventeen tracks have been previously released on the duo’s last two albums. Any chat between songs has been edited out, and, if we’re lucky, we get one of the girls giving out the title before a song.
Having said that, I really enjoyed just sitting listening to the album. Their harmonies, and the simple, bluegrass style arrangements is extremely easy on the ear. My favourite Mad Violet song is “Small of My Heart” and their version here is quite atmospheric.  I also enjoyed the catchy “Never Saw The Ending”, which includes references to some very personal activities, (which may preclude it from radio play), but features some fabulous fiddle.
They are back in Glasgow in October, for the Glasgow Americana Festival. They’re at their own show at the CCA on the 5th , and at The Cottier Theatre the following night, as part of the Gram Parsons  Tribute concert.
 Next  up an English Midlands based singer called CARMEL SILVER.
Carmel was born in Dublin in the 1930’s , but emigrated to Coventry as a teenager. She’s been part of the Irish community in the Midlands for many years, as well as regularly performing  at a St Patricks Day concert in Spain for 3000 people each year.
For her latest album, “ He’ll Be There”, she headed for France to record with fellow Midlands based songwriter, performer & producer Terry Bradford, who has worked with the likes of Dominic Kirwan and Charlie Landsborough.
Although the album is a nice mix of gospel standards like “Old Rugged Cross”, “It Is No Secret” and “Abide With Me”, Terry has written the title track to the album, which is a bouncy number complete with a small children’s choir.
It’s a nice album of mainly well known gospel songs, well performed.

SCOTT COOK is an Alberta based singer songwriter, who has spend the past six years, touring not only Canada, but all over Europe and Asia, His new album, “One More Time Around”  features ten hand crafted songs, with simple instrumentation, which includes dobro, fiddle , bass and clawhammer banjo.
The album kicks off with “Pass It Along”, a very personal account of life from a guitar to patriotic love of his country, It’s one of the stand out tracks on the album.  I also quite enjoyed “Mama Always Said” and the quite melodic “New Ghrist” .
He’s back in Scotland in October. If you like singer songwriters, he’s worth checking out.

Country music is such a broad church. The styles range from bluegrass to pop, from the sentimental to Americana.
Our next new release is from a well established, and highly acclaimed quartet from Edinburgh called THE WYNNTOWN MARSHALLS.   The band features Keith Benzie, Iain Sloane, Murdoch MacLeod and Kenny McCabe.  I’m willing to bet that many readers haven’t heard of them, and others may only recall them opening for Marty Stuart at Celtic Connections a few years back.  But that sums up the diversity of Country music in Scotland.
Their new album, “The Long Haul” was recorded in Edinburgh, and is the follow up to “Westerner”, which, apparently, was regarded as one of the best European Americana releases ever.
If you enjoy the likes of The Eagles then these guys are worth giving a listen to.  There’s a clear Eagles sound, but they’re much more than that too.
The album kicks off with a couple of driving country rock numbers in “Driveaway” and “Canada!”, before one of my favourite tracks “Low Country Comedown”. It features some great harmonies, and is inspired by their regular visits to the continent.
I also enjoyed “The Submariner”, a neat story song about a modern day Captain Nemo. The number includes some really neat steel featured on this track. It’s probably the most Country track on the album.
There’s also some nice steel guitar evident in “North Atlantic Soul”, a strong song vocally, which may just be the track that will attract radio play.
“Crashing” (Like The Reds)” has a very strong Eagles sound, with lush harmonies and instrumentation.
“Whatever It Takes” and “Curtain Call” are quite slow numbers, as is the album’s closing number “Change Of Heart” , which features some nice harmonies from Diane  Christiansen from Chicago based group Dolly Varden.
It rounds off a very interesting and pleasant album.
Check them out at

INNES CAMPBELL is flying the Scottish flag down under. Originally from Stirling, Innes moved to Brisbane to work as a doctor, but a few years ago surprised himself at winning an award as top bluegrass guitarist in Tamworth.
He came home on a visit a couple of years ago with his band Present Company, and played the Guildtown Bluegrass Festival, and other venues from Edinburgh to Dunnet Head.
Now Innes is back with an album that is all him.
“Click To Like” features ten tracks, all composed and performed by Innes, recorded in his home studio, Although, he is particularly focussed on bluegrass, it’s very much an alternative sound that he has developed here.
Indeed there are a couple of tracks, where he has even enabled some electronic sounds and voice effects to give the songs a completely different feel.
The album kicks off with a short little bluegrass guitar instrumental, and is followed by a wide variety of styles, from the easy listening “Two’s Company”,   the catchy “Brown” and the fast paced pickin’ on “Pig Dog Man”.
It’s an  interesting album. Alternative Bluegrass.

STEVE EARLE’s career has been quite extraordinary, since he first come to the attention of fans through his MCA albums in the second half of the 1980’s. Some of his best stuff was in these early days, and Humphead has just released a 2CD “Definative Collection”, covering his recordings between 1986-92.
Included are such classics as “Copperhead Road”, “Guitar Town”, “My Old Friend The Blues”, “The Devil’s Right Hand”  and “I Aint Ever Satisfied”.
39 tracks in all, and a good way of picking up some early Earle recordings.

And finally, now here’s something real Country !
MICHAEL & THE LONESOME PLAYBOYS won great acclaim, and a No.1 on the Country Music People chart with his previous “Last Of The Honky Tonks” album, and let to gigs with Dwight Yoakam  and David Allen Coe. Michael Abaldini is billed as the Rock’n’Roll poet, and, yes his music is rock’n’roll, but from an era where r&r was closely emerged into Country.
He is based in California, and it’s that Bakersfield influenced sound that dominates his new album, “Bottle Sky Cap”.
All songs are written by Michael, from the opening baptism in “Walk Thru Fire”, through the really catchy “Moondog Man”.  The old time Country continues through tracks like “Sweet Ol’ Riddle” , “Rosewood Night” , “Another Side With Every Story” and “JM Pride, The Texas Oil Man” , to the slower “Lonesome When You’re Gone” .
“The Outlaw King” is perhaps a bit more modern, but doesn’t lose that twang!  And there’s a train song- “Steel Train” too !
“Two Wrongs Like Us Dont Make A Right”, is different again. With some nice steel licks, it conjours up some Crosby Stills, Nash & Young images.
Then , if it’s a slow Country ballad you want, listen out for  “Soulfoul; Love Rest”,“Heart Full Of Tears”  and “Three Cheers For Heartache”.
There are a couple of more bluesy tracks on the album,  but, in the main, a really enjoyable Country album.  I loved it. There’s a raw live musical feel to the album, which just adds to the mix.

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