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Monday 5 August 2019

Aug 2019

DOMINIC KIRWAN celebrates his 30 years as a recording artist, with “Time Of My Life” (Rosette), a 12 track collection of easy listening, generally Country tracks, which is just the sort of music he has been so successful with, over the years.
There are covers from the likes of Kenny Rogers (Lady), Glen Campbell (Southern Nights & Wichita Lineman) and George Strait (The Chair).
He covers Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, and “The Older I Get”, a lovely ballad, which stands out on the album for me.  He even takes on Aaron Tippin’s “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” and The Hag’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”.
Veering away from the Country, “Once In A Lifetime” has quite a soulful feel to it, as does the duet with son Barry, on “The Long Goodbye”, a song written by Paul Brady, Ronan Keating and Kix Brooks.
He also offers an interesting arrangement to Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. 
The title track, the old Green Day hit, is given a vibrant celtic feel, and it really works well.
After 30 years Dominic really knows his audience, and knows just what songs will work. This collection continues the trend. A good mix of known, and slightly lesser known numbers, some strong ballads, together with more upbeat numbers.
It’s another winner from Dominic.

Philomena Begley’s son AIDAN QUINN was well received when he released his album “Overworked & Underpaid”, which instantly established him as part of the Irish Country scene.
It seems incredible that it’s taken Aidan 6 years to follow up with new music.
But it’s certainly been worth the wait. “Home Away From Home” (H & H Music) is a superb album in every way. I really like Aidan’s voice. He can sound so Country one minute, and then his Irish side really comes through on the more Celtic influenced numbers. The production is first class throughout, with no less than three producers, Brian Kerrigan, Dave Arkins and Stephen Smyth being involved in the album.
The album kicks off with “Friend Of Mine”, which was originally featured on the Nashville TV series, although is well suited to the Irish audiences. The next two tracks are Country classics. Firstly, there’s the catchy “Life Of A Poor Boy”, which takes us back to Stonewall Jackson days. That’s followed by the Merle Haggard ballad “What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana”, which has been a popular song for Irish artists to record of late.  Other Country covers include Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord”, Waylon & Willie’s “Good Hearted Woman”, Gene Watson’s “Circus That You Call The Rodeo” and “May The Wind Be Always At Your Back”, which takes us back to Miki & Griff days.
The Irish side is covered by The Murphy’s “Tallulah”, “Josie’s Country Tavern” and the Sean Keane written title track.
He does really spirited versions of “Grace”, “Flying Home From Aherlow” and “Lovely Leitrim” too. There’s a seven song “Country & Irish medley, and it’s all rounded off with a duet with mum Philomena, on Tom Paxton’s classic “Last Thing On My Mind”,
This is a really strong album. Aidan has a great voice, suiting both stone Country and traditional Irish songs.

Not to be outdone, mum PHILOMENA BEGLEY has a “new” release in the form of a double CD, which has a bit of history attached to it.
“Jive Time”, (H & H Music) is on CD1, which is a collection of 10 fast paced medley’s, is a project which has been in the making for 20 years. Recording began on the CD, but changes in record label resulted in the recordings been lost, and forgotten about until now. Recently discovered and completed, the recordings are all fresh, and newly recorded for the project.
There’s a mix of Country & pop songs in the mix, where you have Buddy, Hank & The Beatles in one set, and Shakin Stevens, Johnny Cash and John Fogerty in another. Medley number 2 features “Blanket On The Ground”, “Queen Of The Silver Dollar”, “Ramblin Man” and “Truck Drivin’ Woman”, four of Philomena’s biggest hits, rolled into one recording.
CD 2 is even more of a historic memory. It’s a live set, recorded at The Whitehall Theatre, Dundee, back in 1990 (were you there?). It was originally a TV show, and later made available on DVD, and is now included in the CD package.
Included are songs like the afore mentioned “Queen Of The Silver Dollar” and “Truck Driving Woman”, alongside “Sentimental Ol’ You”, “Route 65 To Nashville” , “One Drink Is One Too Many” and even “The Dark Island”.
And the package is completed by the addition of four more Philomena classics including “Red Is The Rose” and “The Way Old Friends Do”.
It’s testament to Philomena’s longevity, that recordings she made years ago, can be repackaged these days, and still sounds so great. There’s a lot of great music on this double CD collection.
Staying in Ireland, and an Anglo-Irish quartet who call themselves KEYWEST.
Their publicity cites them as being a fusion of rock, pop & folk, but there are certainly tracks on their album, “Ordinary Superhero” (Marshall Records) which will appeal.
All songs were written by lead vocalist Andy Glover and Andrew Kavanagh, and the album was produced by the pair too.
Their story began busking on the cold Irish streets, just to eat and pay the rent, but were soon blocking streets as crowds gathered to hear them play. On the back of these humble beginnings the band sold 150,000 physical CD’s.
They’ve now grown, and play venues all over the UK and Europe, as well as Ireland.
Their new album is certainly going to gain them even more exposure, I’m sure.
The album kicks off with the upbeat “Somebody To Love”, which is really difficult to label. It may well appeal to Country fans, who like their music a bit more edgy. The same could be said of “C’est La Vie”.
“What Are You Waiting For”, a song about young love, could’ve come right out of today’s Nashville scene. Indeed, it’s more Country than a lot of what’s coming out of Nashville these days. The most obvious Country sounding track is “I’m Not Me Without You”
“Wear Your Love” and “Blood Sweat And Tears” are more of a ballad.
“Ordinary Superhero”, the title track, starts off slow, but builds up to be a bit of a repetitive pop number.
“How Did We Get Here?” is a radio friendly pop-rock number, which could really be a chart hit for them.
It’s an interesting album. I could see Keywest appealing to the Country2Country crowd.

RUNAWAY JUNE is an American All-girl trio country music group consisting of vocalists Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland, and Jennifer Wayne (John Wayne’s grand daughter). Two of the girls are from California, the other from Florida, and they met in Nashville a few years back where they wrote their debut single.
Three years down the road, and their debut album, “Blue Roses” (Wheelhouse Records) has been released. It follows on from their Country2Country appearance in London this past March (they didn’t get to Glasgow), and touring the US dates of Carrie Underwood’s tour.
The album features the radio friendly hit “Buy My Own Drinks”, which has really got a good share of radio airplay, giving the girls some precious exposure.
The girls’ biggest selling point is their flawless harmonies, which stands them apart from many of the pop flavoured female vocalists and bands coming out of Nashville these days.
Whilst album opener, “Head Over Heels” is quite poppy, as is “I Knew The Way” and “Trouble With This Town”, I do quite like their sound.
“Got Me Where You Want Me” is a beautiful ballad. It’s one of the songs on the record, which wasn’t written by any of the girls. “We Were Rich” is another, which has a lot of traditional Country values in its lyrics, and has a catchy arrangement, which I really liked. “I Am Too” is a lovely mid tempo number which really appealed to me.
One track which will be recognised is a cover of Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast As You”. Having female harmonies deliver the song is an interesting listen. It really works!
But it’s the title track, and album closure, which stands out for me though. It’s a lovely, haunting ballad, and well worthy of its status as a title track.
These girls have a good modern sound, but as I say, their harmonies place them above many of the other female vocals coming out of Nashville these days. Well worth a listen.

Although ALICE HOWE hails from Boston, she headed west to Bakersfield, California to pursue her musical career, and to record her debut album, “Visions” (Know Howe Music), where she teamed up with FREEBO, whose credits include Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and Crosby,Stills & Nash.
She’s been compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but to my ears, she’s got her own, fresh vocal style, which I really liked from the first listen.
The album features five originals, and five iconic covers.
The covers include Taj Mahal’s “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes”, Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice,It’s Alright” and  Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me”, which are given her own style, not radically changed, but definitely not a straight cover either.
Most of the originals are collaborations with her producer, although “What We Got Is Gold” is a solo write. It’s a simple, homely ballad, which I really quite liked.
The album kicks off with “Twilight”, a gentle, lilting ballad, which has quite a folksy-country feel to it.  It really captures the listener’s attention for what is to follow. In much the same style, “You Just Never Know”, stood out for me. It has a really strong Country appeal.
“Still On My Mind” is a much slower, delicate number, whilst “Getaway Car” is different to anything else on the album, capturing a more upbeat bluesy style.
Throughout, Alice demonstrates a really pleasant vocal styling, which I really liked.
A superb album. One of my favourites of the year so far!

One of the most interesting collaborations of the year, has to be “Hawks With Good Intentions” (Western Seeds Record Company), which sees the Anglo-American union of US duo I SEE HAWKS IN LA and Liverpool’s “THE GOOD INTENTIONS.
They first met a number of years ago at a house party in the chaparral foothills in Sierra Madre, California, and have shared gigs on both sides of the Atlantic regularly since.
The two outfits began some long distance writing, and the result is this new album, which boasts some really neat harmonies and playing.
Peter Davies from the Merseyside end, leads the vocals on five of the ten tracks. They include the opening track, “Blue Heaven”, a breezy mid tempo number which is a nice welcome to the album. Also lead by Peter is the slower “Rambling Girl”, “Flying Now” and “Epiphany On Town Hal Square”.
Rob Waller from The Hawks, also leads vocals on five tracks, one ,“Rolling The Boxcars”, shared with Peter.
Many of Rob’s tracks, like “Things Like This” and “Steel Rails” have a modern, yet, western feel. I also liked “Will You Watch Over Me From Above”, which is a bit slower.
Victoria Jacobs from LA leads the vocals on the haunting “Hills On Fire”, one of only two tracks which were written from the LA side.
This album was a really nice listen. I really enjoyed listening, and can highly recommend both bands.

Once upon a time RACHEL HARRINGTON was touted as the hardest working girl in Americana music, due to her endless touring schedule. But over the last decade, music has given way to horses, health and family life back home in Washington State. That said, she has made touring visits back to the UK a few times over the past couple of years.
And now comes a new album, “Hush The Wild Horses” (Skinny Dennis), her first solo studio album since 2011.
And with the new album, comes a variety of styles, from slow, atmospheric singer-songwriter ballads to upbeat numbers.
Horses feature in both the opening title track, and the closing “If Wishes Were Horses”, which is a beautiful melodic ballad, which I really enjoyed.
Rachel is something of an open book. Last year, after her UK tour, she posted on Facebook, in great detail, the finances of her tour, and quite an eye opener it was. At the same time, she hasn’t hid her battle with the bottle, and is very proud to share her “Dry since March 2018” status.  One of the stand out tracks, and most Country, is “Drinking About You”.
Other vices are covered in the album, from the haunting “Child Of God”, which deals with child abuse, and “Save Yourself” about her brothers woes.
“Mekong Delta” covers the effects of war on individuals, in this case Rachel’s grandparents, and “The Barn”, influenced by her mother’s school sweetheart, who was killed in Vietnam.
“Drop Zone” is pure rock’n’roll, again influenced by war times.
Other tracks include the soulful “I Meant To Go To Memphis”, “Susannah” (inspired by Guy Clark’s wife) and “Get Out While You Can”.
Rachel’s songs are very personal, and even more so on this album.
Release date is September 6th.

TIM GRIMM is an accomplished folk singer-songwriter from Indiana, who has shared his music with a love of travel, farming and acting. Having moved to Chicago and California, he’s back in rural Indiana, which is reflected in his music.
20 years ago he recorded an album called “Heartland” which tracked his move from Hollywood back to Southern Indiana.
His 12th solo studio album, “Heartland Again” (Vault Records) revisits that original theme. His sons, Jackson & Connor were 5 & 7 years old when the first album came out. Now they’re in the band, and Jackson helped Dad produce the effort.
In an album of mainly original songs, two traditional numbers find their way into the mix, The Carter Family’s “Carter Blues”, and the soulful “Sowin’ On The Mountain” which he learned from Rambling Jack Elliott.
The album kicks off with the atmospheric love song, “Staying In Love”. Other ballads include “Better Days” and “Pumpkin The Cat”.
But it’s the bluegrass inspired upbeat tracks which really appealed to me. “This Old Man” is a tribute to his 86 year old grandad, “She Remembers” is all about a farmers widow, and
I love driving songs, so “Too Hard Drivin’” was right up my street, as was “Down The Road”.
“80 Acres” is his nod to Johnny Cash. A song originally a ballad, is given a fresh upbeat tempo this time around. It really works. It may be in Cash’s style, but Tim has his own sound.
Although billed as a folk singer, there’s plenty on this album, which will appeal to Country fans.
Tim also tours with his music, taking fans with him. Last year, he brought a party of 14 fans on a trip around Scotland, from Edinburgh to Skye and Inverness, and he’s planning to do it again in 2020.

ALICE WALLACE is a Californian Country singer-songwriter, who started playing guitar at the age of 10, and by the time she reached her final year in High school, was performing her own songs at the local Borders bookstore. 
In 2017, she won the Female Vocalist Of the Year Award at the California Country Awards, and after four albums, her talent is about to be appreciated on this side of the Atlantic.
“Into The Blue” (JTM Music) was recently released, ahead of a UK wide tour in October, which includes a date in Edinburgh.
The album starts off with “The Lonely Talking”, a slow, soulful ballad, which, I have to admit didn’t appeal to me, but the album certainly grew on me as I listened on. The title track, “The Blue” is one which certainly caught my attention. With its simple arrangement, Alice is able to demonstrate her vocals, which can sound vulnerable at points, and powerful at the same time. There’s also some neat harmonies from her family, including her father, mother & brother.
There’s a haunting western feel to a couple of tracks, including “Desert Rose”, “Echo Canyon” and “Santa Ana Winds”. “Top Of The World” and “For Califia” both shine through as the most Country tracks on the album.
“When She Cries” has a bluesy, soulful feel to it, but it really works well for her. One of the album’s stand out tracks. “The Same Old Song” is another soulful number. But both have enough Country in them to appeal to Country fans.
“Motorcycle Ride” is a bright and breezy number which I really liked.
The album certainly grew on me over time. I’m sure it will on you too.

BROOKSIE WELLS grew up in the Deep South with parents who fought for Civil Rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. She moved to New York City in the 1970s, where the thriving folk music scene heavily influenced her music. 
Bobby Darin discovered Brooksie at the age of 19, and she wrote for years for Chappell Music, with several of her songs used in recordings and movie soundtracks.
She later recorded with John Lennon's band Elephant's Memory and as a singer with Kid Creole and The Coconuts. 
Over her last couple of albums, Brooksie has returned to her southern roots and her new album, “In My Pocket” (Down Home Diva Records) brings us a fresh, downhome, country influenced collection of songs, all but one self penned.
The exception is Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me on The Water”, sung from a woman’s perspective.
The album kicks off with “Love On”, a mid tempo, song inspired by the fight for civil rights, whilst “Elijay” celebrates the strong community of women in the Georgia mountains.
“Maybe Not” is a gentle lilting song about drowning our sorrows. Other down home ballads include  “Willow Rose” and “Honeysuckle”.
“Rappahannock County”, has a quaint, old English folksy feel to it, which really worked for me.
“Bell Buckle” stood out for me. It has a real old timey, fun, bluegrassy feel, as it tells the feelings of a hungover bride to be on the way to the church.
“Captain John” is the story of a sailor’s life, and a woman considering his life.
The title track, which closes the album is another simple down home ballad.
I really enjoyed this album. Simple arrangements, lovely melodies, and a really nice voice.
Recorded in Falls Church, Virginia and Sparta, Illinois, this album is certainly worth a listen.

SI KAHN is a very recognisable name in the folk music world, especially with regards to civil rights and protest songs. He has been recording since the 70’s, and in 1994 recorded the first of several albums for Strictly Country Records, a bluegrass label based in The Netherlands.
This year, as he celebrates his 75th Birthday, he releases a new album for the label, “It’s a Dog’s Life” with a top notch German bluegrass band called The Lapping Brothers.
The album features 13 tracks, all written by Kahn, with three of the songs lead vocally by the writer. The musicianship of the band is superb. Together, they blend into something that is pure magic.
The album kicks off with “Government On Horseback”, a song that goes back to Ronald Reagan’s era, but is just as relevant today. It’s a fast paced banjo led bluegrass number, which really sets the album off & running. “Goin’ Goin’ Gone” is another one that points it’s lyrics towards the White House. There’s also a political point being made on “Hard Times”.
The album title track is another upbeat fun number, as is “Old Country Store”.
 “Gulf Of Mexico” is a medium paced number telling the story of Vietnamese montagnards, who sided with the US during the war there, ending up fishing for shrimp in the Gulf.
Poverty is covered in a couple of numbers, “Baltimore Blues” and “One Dollar Bill”, whilst “Hudson River New York Upstate Waltz”, talks of working class life and factories closing.
Slower still is “Rats In A Maze”, a song about health and safety in working places. 
There’s also a love song, a mid tempo, soft ballad, that’s a bit different to other tracks on the album.
“44 Years” was a song written for a reunion of the band which played on Si’s first album, but now serves to mark the timespan of his career to date.
I really enjoyed the album, as a listen- great songs, with a great band, and all the more amazing that the album blends life & politics across cultures.

Finally this time around, CHRIS RAWLINS is a folk and roots influenced singer-songwriter based in Chicago, IL distinguished by vivid lyrics, rich vocals and unique finger-style guitar playing. After years spent honing his craft in Chicago’s folk and singer-songwriter circles, his debut album, "Bring on the Rain", has just been released here.
It’s an easy listening album of original self penned songs, mostly performed in a gentle James Taylor fashion.
The album kicks off with “Gravity Or Something”, which is one of the more upbeat numbers on the album. It works as a welcoming introduction to what is still to come. Other upbeat numbers include “Almost Anytime”
“Bring On The Rain”, by contrast, is much more of a dark ballad, and the weather theme continues on “Leaves”, and “Cold Night”, which is a shade more mid tempo. 
“Don’t Forget” is the song which makes best use of his finger style picking. It’s quite catchy, whilst sounding like a real lazy summer day sound.
By contrast, “You & Your Heart”, makes good use of Brian Wilkie’s steel guitar, which totally transformed his sound.
It’s a pleasant, nice easy listening album. Worth a listen.

25 Years ago, George Jones produced one of the most iconic songs in Country music history. “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” paid tribute to the real legendary pioneers of Country music, and pondered the question just which stars would tomorrow’s Country performers look up as their heroes.
On hearing Mo Pitney’s more recent version of the song, Canadian Country singer LISA BROKOP realised that there weren't any females mentioned in the song!! So Lisa, got to thinking that it would be fun to rewrite it with the legendary ladies in it. And then came up with a feminine twist to the title – “Who’s Gonna Fill Their HEELS!!"
“I was getting ready to head to Calgary the next day to do a Legendary Ladies of Country Show at the Bow Valley Music Club,” Lisa recalled, “and this idea kept turning in my mind. So I came up with the chorus in the car on the way to the airport and then I wrote the rest of it on the plane. Writing a song on the plane was a rare thing in itself! I never do that!! I usually take a nap or read a book or something. But by the time I landed in Calgary I had it done. And then I decided I would sing it for the folks at the show. Me and the band did a quick little rehearsal of it and we did it for an encore at the end of the night. Everybody loved it”!
“Then two days later I made a recording of it on my phone..back in the kitchen”, Lisa laughs, “posted it on my FB page and before I knew it I had 1000's of views and people really seemed to be connecting with it! So now I'm thinking, well maybe I should record it for real in the studio..? By the end of the week I had a completed full band track of the song and it was ready to go. So I sent it out to radio, posted it on FB and there you have it”.
Next stop was the video, which Lisa shot on her iPhone, featuring some of Nashville’s most iconic buildings and inside The Country Music Hall Of Fame.
It could be argued that the woman of Country, like Loretta, Patsy, Tammy, Dolly and Mother Maybelle Carter, who are all mentioned in the song, faced bigger challenges than their male counterparts in breaking into the business.  But what really makes the song stand out, is Lisa herself.
Whilst everyone that heard George Jones original, considered him to be one of the legends himself, Lisa has more conviction when looking up to her i
dols. She’s been in the business for almost 30 years, with 8 albums to her credit, including releases for several of Nashville’s big record labels. In recent years, Lisa has been touring in a “Legendary Ladies Of Country Music” show. It seems so fitting that Lisa is the one to deliver such a stunning tribute to the pioneering women of Country.
Be sure to check out the video on You Tube. 

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