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Monday 2 April 2018

April 2018

We’ll kick off the CD reviews this time around, with our own home grown talents.
DEAN OWENS is one of Scotland’s most established Country/Americana singer songwriters. He was part of the iconic group, The Felsons, before breaking out in his own career. Although his focus has primarily been on his own material, he has paid his dues having released albums inspired by both Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
His latest album, “Southern Wind” (At The Helm Records) was recorded in Nashville, featuring fellow Americana singer songwriter Will Kimbrough, amongst others, in the line up.
The title track is a trademark Owens ballad, with some impressive harmonies from The Worry Sisters and Kira Small. “Louisville Lip”, is Dean’s song for his sporting hero Muhammed Ali. It’s a very delicate song, and a wonderful tribute.
I quite liked “When The Whisky’s Not Enough”, a simple ballad that worked really well, as does “Anything Helps”, and “Famous Last Words”.
But there are a number of upbeat numbers too. The catchy “The Last Song”, which, quite inappropriately opens the album, is just one of a number of co-writes with Kimbrough, and is inspired by Ronnie Lane and The Waterboys. Dean calls it his “pub rock song for the end of the night!”
Another upbeat number is “No Way Around It”, which has quite a soulful feel to it. Again Kira Small’s big voice adds to the harmonies. Then there’s almost a reggae feel to “Mother”.
Stand out track for me has to be “Elvis Was My Brother”, inspired by a friend, who felt more in tune with an old Elvis tape than the rest of his family.
Dean covers a lot of ground on this album, but every track is very much his own. He is labelled “celtic spirit, Country soul”.  It’s a sound that serves him well.

The same tagline could also be applied to DAVID LEASK. David was born right here in Scotland, but has made Toronto home for many years now. Through five previous albums, he has encompassed the influences of his homeland with the fresh possibilities of his adopted home. He continues that unique blend of folk,Country, roots rock, celtic and soul on his new CD, “Six in 6/8”.
The CD opens with a mid tempo number, “Indescribable Love”, about the struggle to define love. He does a good job of that here.
He extends the celtic/folk feel on “Red Balloon”, the focus track from the release. It features some lovely flute and whistles, courtesy of Loretto Reid, as well as accordion from Doug Romanov, and dobro from Rob Ikes.
“Caught In The Tide” is more of a Country soul number, with a really catchy chorus line.
“When You Think No One Loves You” is a strong emotional ballad, supported by Jonathan Goldsmith’s well placed piano. That’s followed by “Cant Make It Back Home”, a powerful song which tells of the effects of PTSD on service men and women.
“Between Him & Me”, which closes the CD, is a song which was a long time in the making. Written with his wife, over a 12 year period, the song deals with religious intolerance in world events. A song well delivered.
The CD is quite an album of numbers- just 6 tracks, recorded in 11 different studios, with 10 engineers, with a cast of 19 musicians. Three of the songs are currently semi finalists in the International Songwriting competition. 
David is another great talent Scotland has lost to the world outside. At least we can appreciate his music on this CD.

Regular readers will be aware of a show coming off at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry this month, featuring LIZ CLARKE & Stetsons‘n’Heels. Liz, who also performs under the name of ELIZABETH MACFARLANE, has been a busy part of the Scottish social club circuit for some years, but thanks to exposure on Keep It Country’s Janey Kirk TV show, and her recordings appearing on Soundcloud, people started to take notice of her, most notably in Nashville where T.Jae Christian spotted her potential.
That led to a couple of duets, which appear on her CD, “The Vanishing Breed”.
The title track is one of the duets. It’s a stone Country ballad, which puts the mark on the album. The other duet is “This Feeling So Strong”, which is another ballad, this time sounding a little bit more soulful. There’s also a great version of “Blue Skies Over Georgia”, written by Nashville producer Mark Moseley.
The other tracks are covers ranging from Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”, and Mary Chapin’s “Down at The Twist & Shout” to Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and Tammy’s “Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”.
It’s a good mix of material, and a perfect sampler of Liz’s music. Make sure you catch her at The Opry on the 8th April.

More homegrown Country music, this time from Country club and festival favourites JAMES N WOOD. They have a wealth of musical experience between them, going back many years, and since they combined their talents, they have really become a major part of the Scottish, and UK Country circuit.
Their CD is simply titled “Volume 2”, the follow up to Volume 1, and already Volume 3 is in the works.
This album is a collection of 13 songs, which should appeal to Country fans, whether they are listeners or dancers.
The songs range from classics like The Eagles’ “Take It Easy”, and Willie’s “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and John Denver’s “Somedays Are Diamonds”, to more semi recent hits like “Neon Moon”, “Vertical Expression” and “More Of You”.
There are also a few lesser known numbers, like “Champagne Promises”, a song previously done by David Nail, or “Lonely Drum”, from a Canadian singer called Aaron Goodvin. They even cover the Derek Ryan/Eleanor McEvoy song “Old & Grey”.
I have to say that their version of “Fox On The Run” was particularly appealing, with some neat fiddle standing out. And the closing instrumental of “Ghostriders” is superb.
A good selection of material, all well produced from one of the local scene’s favourite duo’s.
Another home grown group is RAGING TWILIGHT, consisting of Jack Law, Dougie Harrison, JC Danti, Duncan Sloan and Colin Robertson. Law’s musical pedigree stretches back to the folk/rock outfit Greenmantle in the 1970’s.
Recorded in Glasgow, the 12 track album, an all self penned by Law collection, is one of these albums that you just cannot label.
There are tracks which are pop/rock influenced, whilst others lean more to the blues. But there’s also quite a few points of interest to Country music fans.
The addition of mandolin and harmonica add to the catchy “Old Glass Jar”, which has quite a folk/country feel.
“Hope Sails The River” and “The Slip”, both slower numbers, have a real Country influence within them, as does “You Cant Get To Heaven”, after the strange sounding intro.
It’s an interesting sound. You probably wont see Raging Twilight in your local Country music club, but they may be worth catching at other venues around Glasgow.

Moving south of the border now.
DAVE SHERIFF is, by far, the most recorded Country music performer in the UK. This year marks 60 years since his first public performance, at Bradfield Village Hall, playing the harmonica.  Since then he has gained nine entries in the Guinness Book Of Records, for his “one man band”. He began writing and recording back in 1991, and seems to have been constantly releasing material ever since.
His latest release, “Tonight, You Made A Memory For Me” (Stomp) is a brand new collection of 14 of his own songs, recorded in Hemel Hempstead, featuring musicians like Derek Thurlby, Graham Walker, Nicky James, Jon J Paul and Martyn Cooper.
Dave has been around long enough to know his audience, and gives them what they want. Although it’s all new material, the songs are delivered in a style which his fans will recognise instantly.
There are cheery upbeat numbers like “Every Day’s A Happy Day”, “Moving Up”, “When I’m Out Tonight”, “Will Ya Dance”, “Where’s The Party”, and the latin flavoured “We’re Off”. Several of these songs have been recorded in Ireland recently.
There are also gentler ballads, like “Right Place Wrong Time” and “I Can Count On You”.
The title track is another of the softer ballads, whilst “I Think About You” is a bit more upbeat, in a Don Williams laid back style, if you know what I mean.
“Three Scores Years And Ten” is done in waltz time, and finds him in quite a nostalgic mood.
Another reflective number is “I’m Glad I’m From The Country”, one of my favourite tracks on the album, as is “Grampy Tell The Story”.
Dave has to be admired for his continued devotion to the UK Country scene, always delivering good and regular original Country music for his fans.

Music from deepest Derbyshire next, and a lovely album from JOHN STAMP.
John’s musical career had been dormant for 18 years, as he developed his business as a residential childcare specialist. Training in Music & Arts therapy led him to meeting up with singer songwriter Boo Hewerdine in 2012, and the opportunity to do some writing with him.
A couple of years later, he made a short trip to Nashville, where he met up with fellow Derbyshire lad John Hartley, who had contacts with members of Emmylou’s Red Dirt Boys, and Leigh Nash from Sixpence None The Richer.  One thing led to another, and by last year, “Franklin 54” was complete, and ready to hit the market.
As the title suggests, the 9 track album, produced by Hartley, was recorded in Franklin, TN.
The sound is contemporary mix of soft rock, pop, soul, Country and easy listening.
The lead single is “Blowing Me Kisses”, which is a duet with Leigh Nash. It’s quite a poppy, radio friendly number. “Do You Dream” is another quite poppy number, with some nice female harmonies that give it quite a quaint old time feel to it.
It all kicks off with “Stay Calm”, which has quite a southern country rock feel to it.
“The Weather” has a strong guitar intro, but the song itself, is quite a softer ballad. “Words”, “Moon & Stars” and “Hippy Days” are also quite pleasant ballads.
“California”, which closes the album, another ballad, is probably my favourite track. It’s a simple ballad, with some nice harmonies.
It’s a nice listen. Check it out.

Staying down south, and a first album, at the age of 81, for Lancashire raised GARETH OWEN. Throughout his life, Gareth has been involved in poetry, having several volumes of his work published, and was the presenter of the BBC’s long running “Poetry Please” series. He also wrote numerous BBC plays and short stories. It won’t surprise you that it’s a long story in the lead up to the release of “Rolling By”, an all original Country music album.
He was playing Othello in the Shakespeare production in Birmingham, when he met a 16 year old Ruby Turner, and ended up managing her career. That led to his interest in music, and after reading an article in NME about Tom T Hall, Gareth checked him out, and from that moment on, became a convert to Country music.
The songs on here are a life’s work. They tell of life. Although Tom T’s influence has extended into the songs, I detect a certain Bobby Bare style in his singing too.
“Jesse James And The Barber” and “Walk Out The Door” are prime examples of this.
“Lady Whiskey”, which opens the album, and namedrops George Jones, is the story of meeting a woman in a bar, which changed his life. On “Nowhere”, he talks of his wife hanging out the washing, but makes it interesting.
“Ashes And Diamonds”, ”Before I Get To Heaven” and “Dream River” are more gentler numbers.
Recorded in Powys, the album features some top notch musicians, including Matt Park on steel and Ed Begley, the producer, on piano. Throughout, Ruby Turner adds some magical harmonies.
It’s a really good listen. Why has it taken him so long ?

Following in parents footsteps is always a difficult path. It seems that, no matter how “different” many try to be, they can’t shake off the family ties. And to be honest, in many cases, it’s the family link which gets media attention.
ASHLEY CAMPBELL, Glen Campbell’s youngest daughter, is a perfect example. She pursued dancing and acting ahead of music, but as fate would have it, she was asked to play banjo in a play during her senior year at University. That gave Ashley the bug, and the incentive to consider a musical career.
Soon after, she began touring with dad, playing banjo, and as a backing singer. This was during the last couple of years of Glen’s touring, and she found herself firmly in her dad’s shoes through his final years.
The release of her debut album, “The Lonely One” (Humphead) comes just months after her dad’s passing, but I have to say that there’s very little of Glen’s musical influence. She has created her own sound, and her own songs, and is still playing the banjo, which is really going to be her trademark, I think.
The album kicks off with a few tracks, like “A New Year” and “Better Boyfriend”, which I found quite poppy, which will no doubt, have went down well at her Country2Country appearance a few weeks back.
The title track, although not strictly Country, has quite a magic feel to it. It has quite a sway to it. It’s track five, and the first one which really caught my attention. But from there, this album just got better and better.
Ashley has quite a sweet voice, but with simple arrangement’s, her prominent banjo, and self harmonies, she won me over on tracks like the upbeat “How Do I Know” and “Looks Like Time”, the haunting “Good For You”, or the beautiful ballads, “Wish I Wanted To” and “What I’m Doin’ Here”.
There’s also quite a reflective “Nothing Day”, which closes the album, with a few honest truths exposed. 
The banjo features even more on “Carl & Ashley’s Breakdown”, which features her godfather, Carl Jackson. Brothers Cal and Shannon also feature on the record.
Ashley doesn’t have the strongest voice in the world, but this is all her own work. 13 songs all co-written, and playing banjo & guitar throughout the album. 
This album really grew on me quite quickly. Give it a listen!

SOUTHERN HALO are three young sisters from Mississippi :  Hannah, Natalia and Christina Morris, who are making a lot of noise in Nashville at present. They had a couple of visits to Scotland last year, hopefully will get back over in support of their second album, “Just Like In The Movies”, which gets released on 27th April.
The title track was released to radio late last year, and it appeared to mark a shift to a more pop sound, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this album full of lovely harmonies and rich Country heritage.
These girls not only play & sing well, but Natalia is a talented writer for the group, having written or co-written 10 of the tracks on this fifteen track collection.
They kick off with a biographical self titled song, which serves as the perfect introduction to the trio. It’s an instantly likeable number, just like the sisters themselves. It’s the first of four tracks co-written with Louisiana singer-songwriter Roxie Dean.
“My Girls And Me” is quite a smouldering girl power anthem. It kinda reminded me of Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman”, mixed with “Black Velvet”!. “I Think Too Much” and “Famous” are other upbeat numbers, which really worked well. I also enjoyed “Getting Back Up”.
But it’s the softer, harmony driven numbers, like “Notice Me” and “Missing Mississippi” that
really appealed to me. The latter was written by Natalia on her first night in Nashville. Another homesick song is “Comin’ Home”, written on the plane on their return from their first European tour.
There are a few tracks which are a bit too pop for me, including the rather irritating “Hey Boy”, which like “Just Like In The Movies”, didn’t come from Natalia’s pen.
But, with 15 tracks, there’s plenty that I really enjoyed about this album. The girls offer some really neat harmonies, and the production is just right.
Beautiful music! 

LANCO are a Nashville based five piece band, who have been making a lot of noise in Nashville for the past few years, and now their debut album, “Hallelujah Nights” (Arista) has finally arrived.
The band name is short for Lancaster & Company, after lead vocalist Brandon Lancaster. According to the sleeve notes, they wanted to take the influence that Country music had on each of the band members, and blend it with their individual musical influences, and create their own sound, with stories which would reflect their lives. They’ve certainly come up with a sound, which has a modern Country feel to it, without being too way out.
Lancaster has written, or co-written, all 11 tracks on the album, including their No. 1 Country hit “Greatest Love Story”, which has also been featured on the Netflix series, “The Ranch”.
It’s the closest to a Country ballad on the album, and is the stand out track on the album for me.
“Born To Love You”, is their latest US single, and opens up the album. It’s a good upbeat number, and is another of the stand out tracks
Most of the tracks are US Country radio friendly, especially “So Long (I Do)”, and the title track, which has those annoying Music City wails, which is so commonplace these days.
“Middle Of The Night” is a bit different, with strong vocal backings, and a really catchy beat.
Several of the songs are just a bit too pop for me, notably, “We Do”, “Win You Over” and “Pick You Up”.
But all things considered, it’s quite an enjoyable album. Certainly one for fans the modern Nashville sound.

KENNY FOSTER is one of Nashville’s “new breed”, and was listed in the “Ten artists you need to know” by Rolling stone magazine. He’s appeared on the “Nashville” TV series, and Scottish fans got their first chance to check him out at last month’s Country On The Clyde event.  For the rest of us, he has released his new album, “Deep Cuts” for our listening pleasure.
The album features a few upbeat radio friendly numbers, especially “Good Enough”, “Revival” and “Made” which features co-writer Daisy Mallory on vocals.
Then, there’s the simpler ballads like the opener, “Stand”, as well as “Good Ol’ Days”, “Old Fashioned” and the piano driven “Change”.
“Everything” is probably the closest to mainstream Country. It’s a very gentle ballad.
He claims his influences include James Taylor, and Garth Brooks. He’s somewhere in between.
Kenny’s come up with a nice laid back sound, which will appeal to the singer songwriter aficionados among us.

The latest hip genre in music is “Texan red dirt”, and one that falls into that category is the new album from WADE BOWEN. Although a new name to me, and probably a lot of you, he’s been around for a while. He was a member of West 84 with Matt Miller, before going solo in 2001. Since then he has released ten albums, including a couple with Randy Rogers, and two live albums.
His latest, “Solid Ground” (Thirty Tigers) gets a UK release this month, ahead of a visit here in the summer for the Black Deer Festival in Sussex.
The album is produced by fellow Texan Keith Gattis, who had his own shot at Nashville fame twenty years back with a superb album, which, sadly didn’t get the attention it deserved. Gattis most recent claim to fame is having two cuts on George Strait’s “Cold Beer Conversations” CD. Gattis has also four of his songs on this album, three co-written with Bowen. Other writing credits include Charlie Worsham, Angeleena Presley and Jon Randell.
Bowen is known as a rocker and an entertainer, but this album spotlights his talents as a musician and songwriter. He is quoted as wanting to respect tradition, but shake it up.
I’d also say that, whilst keeping the rawness of Texas Red Dirt music, this album stakes a claim on the commercial Nashville scene.
The strangely titled, “Death, Dyin’ and Devilled Eggs”, features Jon Randell is one of the most appealing tracks for me. But there’s quite a lot which I liked about this album.
“Fell In Love On Whiskey” is a good driving upbeat Country number.
“7.30” is a seven minute epic. It’s a soft ballad, not too far away from a John Denver vocal, mixed with Tex-mex accordion. The accordion also features in the latin flavoured “Day Of The Dead”.
By contrast , “Couldn’t Make You Love Me” and “Acuna” have quite a rocky feel to them.
“Compass Rose” is quite a mainstream Country mid tempo number, which I’m sure will get some good radio play.
“So Long 6th Street” is quite a strong Country ballad, and features harmonies from Miranda Lambert and Jack Ingram.
I really enjoyed this album. A good progressive sound, but keeping the tradition intact.

When the news of MEL TILLIS passing reached us last November, whilst appreciating the contribution he had made to Country music, having 77 Country chart hits, including 6 Number One’s, and having written classics like “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town”, and “Detroit City”, I had very little of his music in my collection.
So it’s thank you to HumpHead Records for the release of “Memory Maker”, a 2 CD- 50 track of his music from the early to mid-seventies, when he was with MGM Records.  Whilst he reached his peak a few years later, when he moved onto MCA Records, there is certainly some good stuff on here.
He had a good run of top 3 hits during this time, including “Neon Rose”, “Sawmill”, “Midnight, Me And The Blues”, “Stomp Those Grapes” and the title track to this album. He also had a Number One with “I Aint Never”, a song he wrote for Webb Pierce.  They’re all included on this collection.
The collection includes his original version of “Ruby”, which is very different to Kenny Rogers’ version. Highlighting the banjo, it’s almost a bluegrass version of the song.
The music does sound a bit dated, but is undeniably Country, and an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Arguably, commercial Country music was founded in the East Tennessee town of Bristol, close to the Virginia border back in 1927. That’s when Ralph Peer headed there, on the look-out for new talent from the heartland of America. In 12 days, Peer recorded 50 different acts, with the view to spreading their music across the country. These sessions discovered, amongst other, Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family.
To coincide with the 90th Anniversary of these historic recordings, Middle Fork Records have launched “1927 Jubilee”, with the intention of reincarnating the spirit, and the sound of the recordings 90 years earlier. The project is currently available on pre-release with a planned CD and Vinyl release within the next month.
The New Bristol Sessions features a number of local acts from North East Tennessee and South West Virginia, performing their own, original music. Most are relatively unknown outside the area, although no doubt hoping to be this century’s Carters. Of course, the area gave birth to one of the most iconic Country stars of all time, and Dolly Parton was happy to support the album and donate a song and recording to the project. “Something More”, is a typical Dolly, homespun number, that fits in so perfectly within the album.
The album opens with Issac & Laura Mainer with ”Little Valley”, which sounds like it was right out of the original 1927 sessions. It has real old time charm, with a distinct Jimmie Rodgers influence. That’s followed by some cracking bluegrass from Carson Peters & Iron Mountain and a lovely song from Julie Williams & Fiddle Scene. Her rendition of “Lonely Road” reminded me of an early Nanci Griffiths. 
I’m sure that when Ralph Peer set foot in town, there were no musical labels and genres. It was all just music. And “1927 Jubilee” hasn’t just captured the old time Country sound, but also other genres, which can be heard across the area today.
To that end, Mary Munsey has quite a folksy sound on her “Diamonds”, and  theres’ a celtic feel to “Fireflies” from Dave Eggar and Virginia Ground. There’s also a celtic rock influence to the quite mystical Tuatha Dea. It’s worth checking out their video for “Get Away Home”, whilst there’s a catchy Eagles influence on “Tennessee Gypsy” from Bone Feather. Fritz & Co and 49 Winchester are quite laid back, easy listening, on “At The Border” and “Anchor” respectively.
I really enjoyed “Rebel’s Pride”, from Richie Owens and The Farm Bureau, It’s a good, fast paced number. Similarly, the interestingly named Moose Roberts and Th’ Monkey Paws, add something with the upbeat “Johnny Deluth”. The vocals are quite raw, but the music is quite intense, reminding me a bit of The Devil Went Down To Georgia.
It’s great to hear such an iconic moment recreated 90 years on, with today’s talent. The area had a wealth of musical talent back then, and obviously still has today.  If nothing else, this album, is a great sampler of the talent of the area today.

There’s been a few good Bluegrass releases of late. Heading the pile is a six piece Carolina-grass group called SIDELINE. “Front And Center” (Mountain Home Music) is their fourth album, is will surely cement their popularity in America’s Appalachian music scene, and far beyond.
Sideline’s style has set the pace in Bluegrass for over two decades. Founders Steve Dilling, Skip Cherryholmes and Jason Moore can all claim their own historical significance to the genre as members of highly awarded groups, multiple Grand Ole Opry appearances and years of national and international touring.
What started as a side project for the seasoned players soon moved to the front and centre as the three were joined by talents of Nathan Aldridge on fiddle, Bailey Coe with guitar and Troy Boone playing on the mandolin.
They have the type of sound that is definitely true to the roots of bluegrass, but also captures a sound that is very much part of today’s scene, in much the same way as The Grascals.
Most of the tracks are upbeat, banjo led tracks, like “Thunder Dan”, “Bluefield West Virginia Mountain Girl” and “All Of Me”. There’s also a 100mph version of “Cotton Eye Joe”.
There are a few softer numbers, including the lovely “Frozen In Time”, and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song For A Winter Night”.
This is the sort of bluegrass sound which I really enjoy. Great stuff !

Bluegrass music doesn’t just come from Appalachia, of course. There are some first class outfits on this side of the Atlantic too.
THE OFTEN HERD are based in Newcastle (New-grass ?), led by Robert Hughes and Evan Davies (guitar & mandolin) with superb fiddling from American Niles Krieger, and jazz bassist Sam Quintana.
Three of the songs are originals. “Cool Summer Rain”, which opens the 6 track CD, the slower “Ruined Road” and “Debt To The King” which has a quirky intro, but quickly settles into a driving bluegrass tune.
The covers include Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, the traditional instrumental “Cattle In The Cane”, and “Sail Away”.
Really enjoyable music!

Some of you enjoy the old timey bluegrass sound, popularised in the film “Oh Brother”. If you do, then you may want to check out ALAN BARNOSKY’s “Old Freight”.
Originally from southeast Michigan, but now a resident of Durham SC, Alan has won admirers after playing events like Merlefest, Telluride and the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble, with his downhome vocals and flat picking guitar style. He is joined by only one other musician, Robert Thornhill on mandolin. It really is as stripped down a sound, as you could get.
The songs range from the title track, which sets us on our travels with this album. He travels elsewhere, from “Roanoke Angeline” (Virginia), past “Bowling Green” (Kentucky), to “Gypsy Sally’s (an open Mic venue in Washington DC). Elsewhere he has “No Place To Go”, so heads for the hills in “I Heart Mountains”.
Throughout the album, a fingerlickin’ good selection of old timey bluegrass.

JOHN McCUTCHEON is something of a legend in American Folk circles, but his acclaim crosses various genres of music. “Ghost Light” is his 39th album, as has already been described by critics as “a library of storytelling”. The album certainly has quite a Country influence.
Throughout the CD, there is quite a bright breezy feel, thanks to Stuart Duncan’s fiddle, kicking off with “A Perfect Day”. “This Road” deals with the transformation of rural America, thanks to Mr Ford’s motor car. Kathy Mattea and Tim O’Brien are also featured on this track, and also on “The Machine”, a deep, emotional account of a war veteran’s view of the Charlotteville events last August.
“Unaware” is the one track, which features McCutcheon’s trademark hammer dulcimer, and adds some magic to the sound. 
“Big Day” is quite a mainstream sounding number. It’s upbeat, and quite radio friendly.
“She Just Dances”, “Me And Jesus” and “Dark Side Of This Town” are a bit more folky, whilst “Burley Coulter At The Bank”, is a slow, piano led ballad about a man, a bank, and changing times.
The album closes with the catchy bluegrass number, using a Woody Guthrie lyric. Again featuring Tim O’Brien and Kathy Mattea, it rounds off a highly enjoyable album.
I really liked it.

Next up is an interesting band from Regina in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, who call themselves THE DEAD SOUTH. They were formed in 2012, and their third album, “Illusion & Doubt (Devil Duck Records) has just been released here, ahead of a tour down south later this month. The album has already found its’ way to No.2 on the US Bluegrass charts, and the Top 30 US Country  I Tunes chart.
The band line up features Nate Hilts, Scott Pringle, Danny Kenyon and Eliza Mary Doyle, with an eclectic array of instruments, including banjo, mandolin and cello.
They have been described as outlaws and modern hillbillies, blending bluegrass and folk music.  The have a quaint, raw vocal style, but the instrumentation really sets the pace.
The album kicks off with a reel toe tapping number, “Boots”, which really sets the scene. That theme continues through “Every Man Needs a Chew”, “Smoochin’ In The Ditch” and “One Armed  Man”.
“The Good Lord”, is a bit more of a mid tempo number, with the added bonus of some nice steel guitar.
“A Hard Day” was particularly enjoyable track. There’s also an instrumental “Delerium”, half way through, which slows the tempo a bit.
It’s quite an interesting album. Some great playing on it.

And finally in this month’s marathon of releases, JEB BARRY AND THE PAWN SHOP SAINTS are based in New England, in the shadows of Arlo Guthrie and James Taylor. But this album draws on a past residency down south.
“Texas, etc” (DollyRocker Recordings) draws on the Lone Star States’ “red dirt Americana” sound, focussing on sparse, acoustic music. It’s a double CD, with 19 tracks, all self penned by Barry. The range from the slow smouldering opener, “Trouble Down In Tennessee” , the catchy “Chainsmoker”, and the bluegrassy “Keep The Devil Away”,  to softer numbers like “Home”, and “Evidence”
It has nothing to do with his Texas living, but simply driven by the Texas nature of the songs, like “Gravel Roads And Whiskey Bars”, “Galveston’92” and “I Cant Live In Houston Anymore”.  It’s not all positive about the state either, with titles like “El Paso Sucks”.
“Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time” stands out for me, helped by the duet vocals from Heather Austin. “Southern Oak”, another of the ballads, was another highlight.
Texan music from New England!

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