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Tuesday 6 October 2015

October 2015

The new album from RAINTOWN seems to have taken forever. But the wait is over, and “Writing On The Wall” (BMB) has finally arrived.
And I have to say, it’s been worth the wait.
Paul & Claire have made some good music together for a number of years now. The have obviously matured in their writing and performing since their last album, “Hope In Troubled Times”. They have written, or co-written nine of the twelve tracks on the album. The thing that impressed me most, is the crisp clean arrangements on many of the tracks, which really match the American Country sound.
Each song is handled differently. In some, Paul takes the lead, in others, it’s Claire. On tracks like “If This Was A Love Song”, the single from the album, their harmonies come out in force.
On tracks like “Missing You”, Paul leads the first half of the song, before Claire takes over. This song was written in the aftermath of Glasgow’s Clutha tragedy.
Most of the tracks are quite upbeat, like “Beautiful Life”, and “Writing On The Wall”.
“Forever Isn’t Long Enough” and “Better Beautiful” are more of a medium paced ballad, with lead vocals by Claire, whilst “Shut The Front Door” is an upbeat attitude song, one of the more rockier tracks on the CD,
“Nineteen Again”, written by Brian Hughes, is a good upbeat number, which sounds like it came right out of Music City USA. It’s a really strong radio friendly number. By contrast, “See You Again” is a beautiful ballad, with a simple piano, bass and steel arrangement.
Recorded at Par Street Studio in Liverpool, producer Justin Johnson has really captured Paul & Claire’s talent down to a tee. Fellow rising stars Laura Oakes and Luke Thomas also feature on the album.
Altogether, it’s a good modern Country sound. This album is right up there with the cream of the Nashville releases.

RAB NOAKES is one of Scotland’s foremost singer songwriters. He crosses genres from folk and Country to blues and rock. Long time Country fans will recognise his name from the days when Gerry Ford presented Radio Scotland’s Country Corner. Rab was the producer of that show, and later The Brand New Opry. He was also behind one of Glasgow’s Country music radio projects, Neon Country Radio.
As I say, Rab’s musical style is extremely versatile, so his album, “I’m Walkin’ Here” (Neon)  is not all Country by any means, but there are enough tracks that interested me enough to give it a mention here in CMDS. There is an old time Country feel in places, In others, you’ll hear skiffle & rockabilly undertones.
It’s actually a double CD set, with 26 tracks, and 7 bonus tracks, available by going to the website after buying the album. The first CD is all Rab written songs, whilst CD2 is a mixture of influences that has been working on him over the years.
“I’m Walkin’ Here”, the title track, was apparently inspired by Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. It’s a good catchy number. One that should find itself onto radio.
“Slippin’ Away” is a driving guitar number, in a kinda Neil Young / Cougar Mellancamp style.
Both songs feature impressive harmonies from Jill Jackson.
Roddy Hart guests on “It Happenned All The Same”, a haunting Country ballad, with a big struuming guitar. Quite imposing.
I mentioned skiffle, and the sound comes up to date on “Out Of Your Sight”. I really quite liked the sound. Rockabilly and ragtime come together on a really catchy number called “Where Dead Voices Gather”. It’s good upbeat number, that really shines through.
CD2 kicks off with an old west inspired version of “Button & Bows”, with harmonies from Barbara Dickson. That ol’ west feel also comes over on “All In Down & Out Blues” and “That’s The Way The Whole Thing Ends”, which features a nice duet with fellow singer songwriter Emma Pollock.
He does an interesting version of the old Skiffle song, “Freight Train”. This song features harmonies and guitar from Jimmie Macgregor.
The download tracks include Roger Miller’s “When Two Worlds Collide”.
It’s actually quite an impressive album. So much ground covered in such a small space.

More homegrown material later, but now we’re off to the Nashville scene.
KIP MOORE was one of the new Nashville acts who came over here earlier this year.  At that time, he had only released one album, but did promise that his second album was on the way. And it has arrived.
“Wild Ones” (Humphead) is quite a rocky affair, with a vocal style that reminded me of Scottish born Canadian star Johnny Reid.
The 13 track CD kicks off with the title track. It’s a rather forgettable pop number. “Come And Get It”, which follows on, is quite an upbeat number, which I really quite liked. But it’s certainly more rock than Country. Quite a few of the tracks aren’t what I’d call Country, but, having said that, there were quite a few tracks I liked, and the album got better as we went through it.
“Girl Of The Summer” and “Heart’s Desire” are quite pleasant mid tempo tracks. “That Was Us”, is quite a soft rock, soul & Country song, which recalls a rather dubious past.
“I’m To Blame”, which was released as a single to radio prior to the full album release, is a good song, which probably is my stand out track. “The Comeback Kid”, is the most Country track.
Kip co-wrote all the tracks, and co-produced the album with Brett James.
It’s an interesting listen, and well worth seeking out if you were impressed with him on his shows earlier in the year.

In this reality TV world, where stars are made in a 3 month long series, it appears others take forever to get their music out there. CANAAN SMITH is a 33 year old singer songwriter from Williamsburg, Virginia, who has been in Nashville since 2001, when he enrolled at Belmont University at the top of Music Row. He co-wrote the Top 10  hit,“Runaway” for the band Love & Theft in 2009. In 2011, he signed to Mercury Records, got a couple of singles out, and only this summer, has released his debut album, “Bronco”, released here by Humphead.
It’s an interesting album. Modern, but certainly showing some real strong Country tendencies as well.
Smith co-wrote eight of the eleven tracks.
The title track closes the album, and is the stand out track. It has a very simple arrangement, and really shows Canaan’s voice to perfection.
“Hole In The Bottle”, his current US single, has a good upbeat driving beat, which really suited his Country vocal style. “Stuck”, “Two Lane Road” and “Mad Love” are slower ballads
“Love You Like That” and “American Muscle” didn’t appeal to me at all, but all things considered, it was quite a listenable album.
Thanks to Humphead for giving us a chance to hear him over here.

I recently saw a Facebook picture featuring The Highwaymen. The caption read, “If you don’t know who these guys are, you’re probably listening to Luke Bryan”.  The suggestion was that Bryan, the current CMA Entertainer Of The Year, had no connection to Country music of the past.  He certainly is Country music today. There’s no denying that, with 13 Number to date, he is the man!
LUKE BRYAN won over many UK fans when he visited these shores earlier this year for c2c events in Glasgow, Dublin & London. Now his latest album, “Kill The Lights” (Decca) has been released here.
“Kick The Dust Up”, which kicks off the album, is his latest single stateside.
“Home Alone Tonight” is a rather forgetful track, which features Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town). Other tracks, such as “Razor Blade”, I found equally bland. Most of the tracks are uptempo. “Move” is an uptempo, racey, rocky number, which does have some Country influence trying to break out.
But, I have to say, it’s the ballads that appealed to me most.
“Strip It Down” is an interesting track. The lyrics, and Luke’s vocals come over as very naturally Country, but, I’m afraid the backing just doesn’t fit the bill. It’s a nice track, but just lacked that Country X factor for me.
“To The Moon And Back” does work for me. It’s a lovely ballad, with some nice harmonies. The Country side of Luke Bryan also breaks through on  “Huntin’ Fishin’ And “Lovin’ Every Day”. It’s a bit more haunting, with a shade of vintage Hank Jr shining through.
And the final track, “Scarecrows” wasn’t bad either. Strange that, on a 13 track album, it’s the last three tracks that stood out for me.
The album was produced by Jeff Stevens, who released several really good albums back in the 80’s, as Jeff Stevens & The Bullets. He produced a very different sound back then.
Luke Bryan is Country music in 2015, whether The Highwaymen like it or not.

LOUISE MORRISSEY has always been one of my favourite Irish singers, and that is easily justified by the release of her new album, “Duets & Hits”.
For the album, Louise has teamed up with the likes of Patrick O’Sullivan, Dominic Kirwan, Paddy O’Brien, and even Billy Yates, on a variety of songs. The album kicks off with “September Sky”, a beautiful song, which Louise performed on the recent Irish TV Country Music Awards Show. “I Give You Music”, is also a lovely song, which took me back many years to when The McCarter Sisters performed it at the Morecambe Festival. “Timeless And True Love”, was featured on the same McCarters album, and whilst others have recorded the song since, Louise does a lovely job on it.
Her duet with Dominic is “Islands In The Stream”, whilst her brother Norman duets on “Don’t Let Me Crossover”. Her recent single, “Roses In My Garden”, features Martin Byrne.
She has more guests joining in on “Best of Friends”.
There are a few Irish songs, including “Come Back Paddy Reilly To Ballyjamesduff”, “Carrickfergus” and “Glen Of Aherlow”. And there’s even a bonus track, “Til The Season Comes Around”.
It would appear that this album has been a long time in the making. There are no less than eleven producers over the 17 tracks.
It’s been well worth the wait. A superb album, from one of Ireland’s favourite entertainers.

MICHAEL ENGLISH was one of the budding Irish Country acts back in the Ritz era. He went quiet for a few years, but has bounced back in the past couple of years, and is again a big draw on the Irish scene. Scottish fans will get a chance to catch up with him during his October tour (see gig list for dates & venues). He also has a new album, “Dance All Night”, which like quite a few recent Irish albums, is a mix of pop and Country, dance numbers and sentimental ballads.
That’s the mix that works here. There are six self penned numbers, which include the sentimental songs like “A Million Memories”, and “Mama’s Foootsteps”, and upbeat dance numbers like “Big Blue Tree” and the really catchy “Friday At The Dance”. “The Blacksmith And The Barman” is a good old Irish folk knees up. “Up All Night”, is a bit more pop to my ears.
He also covers a few classics like The Springfield’s “I’ll Never Find Another You”, Ned Miller’s “Do What You Do Do Well”, as well as a superb rendition of Johnny McEvoy’s “Long Long Before Your Time”. I really enjoyed his version of “The Roseville Fair” as well.
There’s a couple of Eurovision type songs, including “Ding Dong, Sing My Song” and the title trach, “Dance All Night”, which I’m sure will keep the dancers happy.
A good variety of music on this album. Welcome back Michael.

JOHN T DAVIS is highly rated as Ireland’s  foremost documentary filmmaker. His highlights have included “Shellshocked” about Belfast’s punk rock scene, and American influenced films like “Route 65”, “Hobo” and “Heart On The Line”. Indeed, America has become a second home for him, and he has expanded filmmaking into songwriting.
He has now released two albums of original material in “Indigo Snow” and “Last Western Cowboy”.
They are real singing cowboy songs. Simple arrangements and impressive lyrics.
On “Indigo Snow”, I particularly liked the uptempo “Hank’s Song”, and “Richards Electric”, his take on Alan Jacksons’ “Little Man”. He even manages some Hank style yodelling on “Heartache On The Highway”.
On “Last Western Cowboy”, as you would expect, it’s a western theme, with a catchy number “Honeymoonshine” standing out. It’s a duet with his daughter-in-law Meghan. There’s an old time feel to “Gas Station Roses”, whilst “Rim Rock Rendezvous” has echoes of “Wandering Star”,
Both feature Richard Nelson on steel, and Crawford Bell and Brendan Quinn on harmony vocals.
Both CD’s were a joy to listen to.

THE GRAHAMS are Doug & Alyssa, husband & wife, who have grown up together since childhood
And have just brought out their second album, “Glory Bound” (12 South Records), to coincide with
an English & Irish tour next month.
It’s a real good time fun record, with Alyssa leading the vocals on most of the tracks.  Their music
blends Country with folk and bluegrass, and more. Recorded in Oklahoma, the album has a lot of
Country spirit, and energy. There are traces of the folk era of the 70’s yet sounds bang up to date.
The album kicks off with the title track, which tells of regrets of growing up. It’s a good uptempo
opening to the album, which is followed by the fun “Gambling Girl”.
Some numbers like “Kansas City” are really fast, with some fast & furious fiddle courtesy of
Byron Berline, whilst others, like “The Wild One” has a bit of a slower soul feel to it.
“Biscuits”, is a simple sounding back porch number. Just so relaxing.
“Mama” has a strong gospel feel to it, whilst the accordion adds something to “Borderland”, as does
the steel guitar to “The Spinner”, a laid back mid tempo track.
The album closes with a wonderful rockabilly/folk/Country fusion trip to “Promised Land”.
I really loved this album. Every track had me hooked.
Certainly one of my albums of the year. It’s a pity they’re not coming north on their tour.

JUDY KLASS is quite a woman. She’s an accomplished playwright and author. Originally from New York, she graduated from Oxford and now lectures at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. And she’s also a singer songwriter. “The Brooklyn Cowgirl Rides Again” (Warp & Woof Music), her new album features 2 CD’s , with 32 songs in total.
There’s quite a variety of material here. From a songwriter viewpoint, there are some songs which are good songs, which other singers may just do a bit better. “Unbreakable” is the prime example.
There are songs, which Judy has made very much her own, however.
“Country Girl” is a really honest self confidential, with a good number of classic Country stars name-dropped. “I Will Remember This Feeling” and “While You Were Out” are more of piano led ballads, which I really liked.
On CD2, “The Good Times” was a really pleasant song, whilst “Drink It Over”, has a beer-drinking honky tonk feel to it. “Mariko” has a free’n’easy feel to it.
There’s some impressive steel on the first of her songs which tackle Music City. “My Pain Ain’t News” has appealing lines like “They tell me New Country don’t make room for no more crying heartache songs”. She may have something there, and has turned it into a superb, “real”  Country song. The next track is called “Been Through the Wars In Nashville”. It’s a song that takes no prisoners about the Music scene. The girl’s on a roll !
Despite the glossy CD package, there is a lack of information re. musicians and backing singers, but, to the average listener, that probably isn’t a priority.
To be honest, Judy doesn’t have the most Country vocals. There’s no southern drawl. It did take several listens to really appreciate this album. But I got there, and quite enjoyed it.

Singer songwriter MARK BROWN grew up in Maryland, and has travelled across the USA, doing different jobs and picking up experiences for his songs. He got his first Johnny Cash record when he was just 6 years old, and was taken to his first Tom Waits concert in 1975.  He’s been writing and playing music for 25 years and has eventually come to our attention with the self released album “Skin & Bone”.
All 14 songs are his own. They’re a mix of slow ballads like “Cried In Your Bed”, “When The Time Comes” and “Pony” (from which the CD title comes), and more upbeat tracks like “See You Next Time” and “Hatchet Man”.
“Granny” which closes the set, is a downhome simple song that works really well. Stand out track for me, however, was “Smashed”, a kind of anti-drinking song. It has a good beat, it works well as a song, but of course, the message kinda fails.
I quite enjoyed this album. I’m sure this wont be the last we hear of Mark Brown.

Next up, a second album from Bedfordshire’s DANNI NICHOLLS, recorded in Nashville. “Mockingbird Lane” features 11 tracks, all written by Danni herself.
Most of the songs are nicely performed ballads. “Back To Memphis” is one of the stronger ballads. She has a smouldering vocal which really comes out in this song.
“Leaving Tennessee” and “Between Forever and Goodbye” are a bit more uptempo. “Long Road Home” is a strong haunting song which opens the album in fine, inviting style. “Travellin’ Man”, is one of the most upbeat tracks, and stands out for me.
“Look Up At The Moon” has a rather bluesy feel to it.
An interesting album, if you like singer songwriters.

Another singer songwriter of note is RITA HOSKING, from California, whose sixth album, “Frankie And The No-Go Road”, will be released later this month, ahead of a tour in November.
It’s an interesting concept album, inspired by a couple of books, and each track is identified in the sleeve notes as being a particular part of a journey.
Most of the songs are simple, acoustic songwriter fayre, but there are exceptions.
“Our Land” is the track that stands out for me. There’s some lovely harmonica, that just inspires the whole song.
If you’ve seen Rita on one of her previous visits, be sure to catch up with her latest music.

Next up, a most interesting album. The Youngbloods were a mid 60’s band which grew out of the Greenwich Village, folk rock scene, which featured Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, and Lowell Levinger, amongst others. Levinger was a bluegrass player, who went under the name of Banana!
The Youngbloods achieved great acclaim, and were signed to both RCA & Mercury Records, but only had one substantial hit, “Get Together” which reached No.5 on the pop charts in 1967.
Now to mark The Youngbloods 50th Anniversary, LOWELL LEVINGER has released “Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics” (Grandpa Raccoon Records).
I wasn’t familiar with any Youngbloods music, but I really quite enjoyed listening to this collection of songs, which, Levinger’s roots being in bluegrass, are very much in that style.
He has some guests, including fellow Youngblood Jesse Colin Young on several tracks. Reviving their Top 5 hit, “Get Together” features Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Pete Rowan and David Grisman. Ry Cooder provides slide guitar, banjo & mandolin on a couple of tracks.
The tracks vary from the catchy & upbeat “Sugar Babe” and the humorous “Pool Hall Song” to the more subdued “Darkness Darkness”. There’s a rather different version of “Stagger Lee”, but the one that catches your attention is “Hippie From Olena”, a parody on Merle’s “Okie From Muskogee”. Two members from Italian Bluegrass band Red Wine also feature on this track.
Well worth a listen, even for those of us who bypassed the Youngblood years!

BETTY SOO is an Austin based Americana singer songwriter, with Asian roots. Her latest album, “When We’re Gone”, is her first for five years, but she has toured here several times in that time.
There’s quite a variety of styles on the album. Songs like “The Things She Left Town With” and “Lullaby” are soft Country ballads. Others are a little bit more upbeat, like “Wheels”.
Listen out for “100 Different Ways Of Being Alone”, quite a mid tempo number,
Some others, are a little less Country. But an interesting listen, nevertheless.

Finally, listen out for Glasgow’s Kevin McGuire. He’s a Glasgow based singer songwriter in the modern Country mould. He began his career at the age of 17, and already played most of Glasgow’s major music venues.  His acoustic EP released last year won many new fans, and was named as Café Nero’s Artist Of The Month. He is planning on expanding his fan base with a new EP, and is currently in talks with label chiefs in LA and Music City, about releasing it on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Alright, Tonight!” is a slow starter but picks up pace nicely. It is a modern country record, which should get a good reaction with Nashville labels. “Back Home” is a bit on the pop side, but it’s interesting how he picks up on the John Denver song of the same title. The third track, “I Belong”, again should find favour with the American fans.


The launching of the new Borders Railway line after 46 years created a lot of excitement in the area and on television too.  Local Country singer, George Inglis marked the event by writing and recording a song, and video, called “I Am The Train”, which mentioned every station on the new line.
The video was featured on both the BBC News and ITV Borders news programme.
George told the BBC, "I was really against the closing of the railway away back in '69 and I think it's great to have it back. I am right behind it, as we all are in this area. It's a very exciting time for us in Galashiels. We'll be linked up to the city - we've been cut off for years."
George, the voice behind the band “Rockin’Horse” is currently hosting his own radio show each Friday night @ 10pm on Galashiels based station TD1, which is heard locally on 106.5FM, and online at

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