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Monday 29 November 2021

Apr 2022

 I’ve been quite a fan of TEEA GOANS since she arrived in Music City from her native Missouri, and she released her first album, over a decade ago. Teea firmly found a home in the traditional old school Country scene, with her appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and on the Country’s Family Reunion TV series. 
Whilst her first four albums were largely covers of classic Country and swing numbers, her new album, “All Over The Map” features 10 songs, which she co-wrote, mostly with producer Jim “Moose” Brown.  But they all fit nicely with the sound that she has developed over her previous albums. 
The album opens with the catchy mid tempo “Enjoy The View”, which is along the theme of enjoy today, as it’s just part of life’s journey. The track features some lovely fiddle & mandolin from Jenee Fleenor, a singer songwriter and player, who was the first female CMA Female Musician Of The Year, back in 2019. Her contribution on this album proves her worth.
I just love the uptempo “swing” numbers like “There’s More To Me”, which features background vocals by Mo Pitney, which is a nice bonus. Pitney also features on “Beat Of A Back Road”. 
“The Detour” is a bright & breezy upbeat road song, which also stood out for me. 
 “Untangled” is one of the simpler ballads that stands out. It has quite a haunting, atmospheric feel to it. “Story Telling Time” is much in the same vein.  Other ballads include “Just Another Day”, which is just Teea with piano accompaniment, and “That’s What I Know”, the beautiful closing track, which  features Vince Gill on harmonies. 
The jazzy, soulful sound that she has featured in previous albums, resurfaces on “What’s A Girl To Do”, which is a bit different to the rest of the album, but really demonstrates Teea’s vocal ability.
I love Teea’s simple vocal deliveries, and hearing her perform on her own songs is a real joy. 
One of my favourite albums of the year. 

TOBY KEITH recently released his first all-new album in more than five years. “Peso In My Pocket” was co-produced by Kenny Greenberg and Keith, and features the highest Billboard Country Airplay chart debut of his career with the lead single "Old School." 
Though Keith has accomplished much since the 2015 release of 35 MPH Town - perhaps most notably in writing the Clint Eastwood inspired "Don't Let The Old Man In" - a new studio album was long overdue. And “Peso In My Pocket” has more than a little to do with the worldwide pandemic. "My whole musical career, I haven't been off the road this long," Keith says, calling 2020, "a reset button I never would have hit."
Also deserving of credit for the collection is Mexico, where Keith has a house he stayed at for the first several months of the crisis. 
As a result, Toby came up with more than a few songwriting pesos in his pocket, as he added outside contributors to the mix. Notable songwriting credits include The Warren Brothers, Ryan Hurd, Maren Morris, Jesse Jo Dillon, Brett Tyler, and Sammy Hagar. 
The title track is a catchy, typical Toby Keith number, which made more of an impact on me than the opening track, “Oklahoma Borderline”.  
Keb Mo joined Keith in the studio on a cover of his "Old Me Better," which was the lead single from the album. I have to be honest, this song didn’t appeal much to me, and I was thinking that I did like the Old Toby better. 
But we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There’s some crackin’ songs on this album.  My favourites would have to be “Days I Should’ve Died”, the pure country honky tonk killer ballad, “She’s Drinkin’Again” and the upbeat tex mex flavoured “Thunderbird”.
Keith also offers a tribute to the late John Prine on the Prine-John Mellencamp co-write "Take A Look At My Heart."
Like Toby Keith’s previous album’s he covers a lot of styles here- some I like, some I don’t, and that consistency remains.  Toby’s fans will love it !
Next is an excellent second solo album from award-winning bluegrass singer/songwriter DARYL MOSELY, devoted to the “Small Town Dreamer”. Throughout the '90s, Daryl toured as lead vocalist/bass player with much-celebrated Bluegrass group The New Tradition, then in 2001, he joined the legendary Osborne Brothers. In 2010, Mosley formed The Farm Hands, which quickly became one of the most awarded bands in Bluegrass. In 2020, Daryl stepped into the solo spotlight with “The Secret Of Life”. Inbetween times, Mosley has written six #1 songs, and been honoured as Songwriter of the Year twice. 
This new collection includes 12 new tracks, all spotlighting the Waverly, Tennessee native’s small town roots and humble upbringing. The record was co-produced by Mosley and The Grascals’ Danny Roberts. 
The first taste of “Small Town Dreamer” came via the lead single “Transistor Radio” which pays homage to the good ole’ days and simpler times. The song gives a shout-out to the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis, Bill Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Motown and other music heroes. 
“Here’s To The Dreamers” is the key inspiration for the album’s title and its empowering lyrics offer an optimistic approach for tough times.
“You Are The Reason” and “Hillbilly Dust” are the strongest Country songs on the collection, whilst “I Cant Go Home Anymore”, “The Way I Was Raised” and “Sing Me A Song About A Train”, are stronger bluegrass numbers.
One of the album’s most interesting stories is “The Waverly Train Disaster,” which has nothing to do with Edinburgh, but rather Mosely’s hometown , and recalls a 1978 tanker explosion that killed 16 people and caused over $1.8 million in damage. 
In addition to straight-forward forays into Bluegrass and Country numbers, the project also features two well-crafted Gospel tunes: “He’s With Me”, which is absolutely beautiful, and “Mama’s Bible.” 
The album from start to finish centres around Daryl’s one-of-a-kind storytelling and his chameleon-like ability to segue gently through multiple genres, whilst the harmonies of Jaelee Roberts and Jeanette Williams are really on the icing on the cake. 
This is my kind of Country music. Simple stories, simple arrangements, and beautiful harmonies. 

STURGILL SIMPSON is considered one of the most daring musical artists around these days. Since his first album back in 2013, he has consistently scored high praise from the media, and high placings across Country, Rock and pop charts, both in America and Europe. 
“The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita” is his third album in the past twelve months, following the success of “Cuttin’ Grass” Volumes 1 & 2. This album written and recorded in less than a week, is a Civil War era story, inspired by grandfather. 
He has used many of the same musicians that featured on the “Cuttin’ Grass” albums, including young Sierra Hull, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and Jelly Roll Johnson. He even pulls in Willie Nelson to play guitar. 
There are so many traditional elements to this album, from the bluegrass sounds of  “Go In Peace” to the Tex- mex feel of “Juanita”, to “ Shamrock” which sounds like it’s right out of a Clint Eastwood movie, and from the Waylon outlaw feel on “Ol’Dude” and “One In The Saddle, One On The Ground” to a Cash/ Haggard  influence on “Played Out”. 
As with other concept albums, there is story setting short interludes, and here we have Civil War marching intro and Epilogues, as well as tribute to “Sam”, a faithful old hound.
I loved this album! Sturgill Simpson is such a talent, and this album has such a traditional sound, that it’s a real winner for me. If you want to go all the way, as well as CD & downloads, it’s also out on vinyl .

LAUREN ALAINA is another of the reality TV created stars. She was runner up on American Idol back in 2011, and came in fourth on Dancing With The Stars in 2019, and has appeared in a TV movie titled after her album “The Road Less Travelled”, and more recently in a TV movie “Roadhouse Romance”.
Musically, her first album, following her American Idol hype was a Top 5 hit in both the Country & Pop charts. It took 6 years for the follow up, which still made No.3 on the Country charts, but only sold a tenth of her debut album sales. 
Now her third album, “Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World” has been released. Like many other girl singers coming out of Nashville, it’s quite poppy. But I do quite like her voice. It’s not as “shouty” as some of the others. 
The album is heavy on pleasant ballads, with the title track, “I’m Not Sad Anymore”, “Change My Mind” and “You’re Not a Cowboy”  being a few of the stand out tracks.
“What Do You Think Of“ is a big ballad number featuring Danish pop band Lukas Graham. Trisha Yearwood duets on “Getting Good”, the only track not co-writtten by the singer, which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. 
There’s another duet, the smoking, “Getting Over Him”, which features Jon Pardi. This is the single released to promote the album.
Of the more uptempo numbers, I really enjoyed “Same Story, Different Saturday Night” which stands out for me.
Alongside award-winning songwriters Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and more, Lauren co-wrote 14 of the 15 songs on the album. 
Quite a pleasant listen.

AMERICAN YOUNG  is made up of singer/songwriters Kristy Osmunson and Jon Stone, both of whom found success in Nashville before joining forces in 2013. 
Prior to launching American Young, Osmunson, a fiddle player and former member of vocal group Bomshel, had songs recorded by Joey + Rory (“Cheater Cheater”), among others; while Stone was an in-demand producer who had cuts recorded by Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and others. Following the release of their self-titled CD which featured the singles “Love Is War” and “Wasn’t Gonna Drink Tonight,” American Young was nominated three years in a row for a British Country Music Association Touring Award, which they won in 2019 solidifying their place as global ambassadors of Country music. Amongst their UK dates was an appearance at the Millport Country Music Festival.
Now they have released their second album “AYII”. 
To preview the album, they released “Happy Again”, a soft harmony driven ballad which I really quite enjoyed and was quite looking forward to the album. 
Unfortunately “AYII” is quite a Nashville pop sounding affair, which will find its place on Country radio stations where listeners tune in purely for background music. It’s all pleasant enough, but very few tracks struck a chord in my mind. The exception, possibly, is “Soundtrack Of Your Life”, which is a bit more uptempo. The other saving grace is a cover of John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind”. I’m not quite sure how this song fits in with the rest of the album, but it is welcomed. 
The album closes with “Country Girls”, another track which just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. It’s quite an R&B number, more rap than Country. 
I was quite disappointed with this album, but, as I say, it will fit nicely into bland daytime Country radio formats.  

Next off, we’re heading for tranquillity of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, where we find a duo called OVER THE MOON”. Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell met when he was hired as a musician at a studio where her, then, band were recording a CD. They’ve been together ever since. 
Their second album, “Chinook Waltz” was recently released, featuring 10 beautifully crafted songs.
The album starts off with “Lonesome Bluebird”, one of five original songs written by the couple. 
They include the title track, which has a lovely old Ian Tyson feel to it, albeit with Suzanne’s gorgeous vocals, and the equally lovely “When She Rides”. 
“John Ware” is a more upbeat ballad in honour of a local legend, who grew up in slavery in South Carolina, and ended up being one of Alberta’s most respected and loved cowboys. 
“I’m Not Cool” is a bit different- a bit of old time swing, but really works well.  
Of the covers, they do a lovely version of near neighbour Ian Tyson’s  “Someday Soon”, as well as Buddy & Julie Miller’s “I Cant Get Over You”.  Their harmonies really come to the fore on “Kentucky”, a really slowed down version of the song inspired by The Everly’s version. They also do a version of the folk classic “Darcy Farrow”, which has been done by everyone from Ian & Sylvia, to John Denver, and our own Colorado.  One song that is very different is “They Cant Blackout The Moon”, which goes back to wartime and bandleader Harry Roy. It’s quaint, and really refreshing. 
Throughout the album their harmonies really shine. I loved listening to this album. 

When you’ve spent the past 40 years having hit after hit, even some of the most popular songs from way back, may disappear off the radar. That may be the reason that REBA has come out with a 3 CD, 30 track selection of hits, which she splits into “Revived Remixed & Revisited”. 
“REVIVED” features new arrangements of fan favourites like “Is There Life Out There” and “Can’t Even Get The Blues” recorded with Reba’s touring band. This disc also features one of my all time favourites, “Whoever’s In New England”.
“REVISITED” produced by the Grammy® award-winning Dave Cobb strips back songs like “Somebody Should Leave” and “How Blue” to let the raw power of Reba’s vocals shine and features a long-awaited pairing between Reba and Dolly Parton on one of the red haired Oklahoman’s most famous duets, “Does He Love You”, which was originally done with Linda Davis back in 1993. 
But it’s the “REMIXED” tracks which takes her more uptempo songs like “Little Rock” and “I’m A Survivor” and spins them in ways like you’ve never heard Reba before. The strangest arrangement has to be the Donna Summer “I Feel Love” influenced beat on “The Night The Lights Went In Georgia”(Eric Kupper remix). I don’t know what audience she aims to appeal to with an arrangement like this. It sounds so strange. There’s a similar upbeat remix on “Does He Love You”, without  Dolly this time. “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter”, “Fancy” and “Turn The Radio On” have similar mashed up sounds. Not for me, I’m afraid. 
Interesting stuff, but whether Reba has stretched her boundaries too far this time remains to be seen. 

After a tumultuous 1967 for JOHNNY CASH, the year 1968 was bookended by what would become his two iconic, highest-grossing albums, “At Folsom Prison” and “At San Quentin”. But now, fifty-three years later, a lost chapter has emerged to enrich and complement the story of that very good year. 
“Bear Sonic Journals : Johnny Cash At The Carousel Ballroom” recorded on April 24th, 1968 in San Francisco, captures the man in black at the height of his charismatic powers. Confidently departing from the more formalised setlist he’d been doing, we hear him in playful and powerful dialogue with his new bride June Carter and his longtime musicians—guitarist Luther Perkins, bassist Marshall Grant and drummer W.S. Holland—connecting with an audience more accustomed to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, who were among the collective of artists who had briefly operated the venue, which later became the Fillmore West.
The 28 track collection includes well known Cash classics like “Guess Things Happen That Way”, “Give My Love To Rose”, “Ring Of Fire”, “I Walk The Line”, and “Forty Shades Of Green”, alongside other songs, made more famous by others, including “Green Green Grass Of Home”, “Long Black Veil” and “Orange Blossom Special”. June Carter is also featured on “Jackson” and “Wildwood Flower”.
The concert was recorded by innovative sound wizard Owsley “Bear” Stanley capturing Cash’s unadorned voice entirely on the right channel and the Tennessee Three all on the left; setting the listener right between Johnny and his band as if they were centre stage at the Carousel. 
The sound is dated, but it’s another amazing piece of Johnny Cash history, which every fan of The Man In Black will want to own. 

WANDA JACKSON is probably best known for her biggest Country hits, “Right Or Wrong” and “In The Middle Of A Heartache” which go back to 1961. But Wanda’s early beginnings were steeped in rock’n’roll, a genre that she returned to in later years. 
She is the subject of the Humphead label’s latest release of golden treasures, with the 49 track “Capitol Country Keepsakes”, which cover her releases for the iconic Nashville label between 1965-1973.  Although she had been with Capitol since 1956, and had those two biggest hits for the label, this collection picks up on her career in 1965. 
Having said that, there are some great Country recordings here, proving that Wanda should have been up there with Patsy, Connie and Tammy. 
“Tears Will Be The Chaser For Your Wine”, “A Woman Lives For Love”, “Fancy Satin Pillows” and “The Box It Came In” were Top 20 Country hits, and all featured here alongside “A Girl Don’t Have To Drink To Have Fun”  and “My Big Iron Skillet”, which I recognised instantly. 
There’s also  covers like Patsy’s “Crazy”, “If I Had A Hammer”, “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello”, “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine”, “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and “Just Between You And Me” as well as early versions of  “Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through)” and “Love Of The Common People”, before they were hits elsewhere.
This is a magical treasure trove of forgotten gems which I really enjoyed listening to. And, as with other Humphead collections. There’s a booklet with a superb biography from Alan Cackett.

Finally, a homegrown album to enjoy.  MALCOLM MACWATT may be a new name to many readers, but he already has 4 albums and 3 EP’s to his credit, since he started recording in 2018.  His latest album, “Settler”, fuses Americana music with a Celtic edge to it, and is released on the US based Need To Know music label.
Hailing from Morayshire with the Highlands and North Sea as a constant backdrop, MacWatt was raised listening to the folklore and music of Scotland. His love for the outdoors saw him spending much of his life as a keen hillwalker, snowboarder and surfer; learning first hand that the Highlands are beautiful and uplifting but unforgivingly harsh if taken for granted. Like many other young men from the area, he worked on the offshore oil rigs where the power of the North Sea was a constant reminder to remain humble in the face of nature. 
“Throughout history the Scots have settled all over the world”, Malcolm points out, “ my family included. I’m a mixed-race Scot with a keen interest in ideas surrounding heritage and identity. Nations were built by people seeking a better life and it is easy to forget our own ancestors were all settlers and immigrants at one time.”  
MacWatt weaves Scottish balladry with Appalachian string band influences to tell stories of loss, injustice and arduous journeys. 
It’s the Appalachian banjo sound which starts off the album with “Avalanche And Landslide”, which features Austin based Jaimee Harris, who is just one of the guest vocalists on the album, from both sides of the Atlantic. 
Whilst the fusion blends the sounds of both sides of the Atlantic, other more Appalachian influenced numbers include “Letter From San Francisco” and “Banjo Lullaby”.
On the Celtic side, NY based Laura Cantrell adds her vocals to “The Curse Of Molly McPhee”, whilst “Ghosts Of Caledonia” is inspired by the legions of Scots who have been “settlers” in places all over the world.  The same theme runs through “My Bonny Boys Have Gone”, a lovely simpler ballad, with some wonderful harmonies from songwriter Gretchen Peters. 
“The Miller’s Daughter”, featuring Eliza McCarthy, “John Rae’s Welcome Home” with Kris Drever, and “Trespass” complete the more Celtic side of the album. 
The album closes with the more Country-ish “North Atlantic Summer”, which is a delightful track, and probably my favourite track.
With the exception of Phil Dearing, who plays bass on the album, and Kris Drever providing electric guitar on one track, MacWatt plays all other instruments.
This is one of these albums which blend Country, Bluegrass and folk music defying all boundaries. I found it a very enjoyable listen.

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