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Thursday 11 May 2023

May 2023

Well kick off with our home grown album this time around - the second outing for ALEXANDER’S TIN STAR, featuring Alex Mills and his son, Alex II. Called “Back Home”, the collection includes 10 original songs, with all instruments played by the pair, all produced and engineered by Alex II, who you may well have seen around the circuit in Rosemill Kix. 
The title track is a gentle song about the yearning to find the bright lights, where in reality the security of home is more comforting. It’s a well crafted number, which I really liked. 
The album kicked off with “Best Of Days”, which had celtic feel to it, reminding me of the Runrig inspired bands that are doing so well on the Celtic music scene these days. It has a good beat, with a real homely feeling at the same time. 
“Heart On Fire” is one of the slower numbers, with some nice horns, giving it a nice Tex-Mex feel. 
“Get Along” is a nice upbeat number, with a simple message, as is “On This Boat”. “Dad was Right”, is also quite uptempo, which is neatly followed by “Rewind”. 
“Time”, which closes the album, has quite a haunting intro, before developing into a good mid tempo number, 
The production is superb, and, from a radio point of view, I’d have no problem playing this album up against the big production Nashville sounds.

LOUISE MORRISSEY has been one of most enduring Irish Country music artists. Indeed, she is celebrating 35 years in the business, and has just released the aptly titled “35 Years On”. The album features new, and not so new recordings, with a general theme of the memories of her time in the business, and life generally. 
The album kicks off with the evergreen “Katie Daly”, and the old Forester Sisters hit, “Just In Case”. The first original track is the superb “Daddy’s Toes”, written by Jordan Mogey, Nathan Carter & Joe McShane, a great tribute to her dad. 
That’s followed by “All I Have Today”, written by James McGarrity, a song that really sums up Louise, and her part in the Irish music scene. Other Irish written songs, include Nick McCarthy’s “Another Day”, which really shines for me. 
“Love is Forever” has an old time Irish Country waltz feel to it, and the slower “Your Old Rocking Chair” will bring a lump to your throat, and a tear to your eye. 
The covers include “From A Distance”, Heather Myles’ “Who Did You Call Darlin”, and The New Seekers’ “Circles”- another one looking at her life gone by. 
Then there’s her version of “Rise Again”, a haunting number, which I first heard The Rankin Family sing – it’s a song about reincarnation. 
Louise has always been one of my favourite Irish singers- this collection really has her sounding her best. 
Congratulations on your 35 Year milestone, Louse – Here’s to many more! 

CHELSEA EVANS is the latest Irish newcomer on the block. The Donegal colleen has recently released her debut album, “Where I Belong”, and is already being tipped by industry insiders as the next big thing in Irish Country music.
The album, essentially, is a collection of modern day Country classics, like “ Travelling Soldier”, “Jolene” and “She’s In Love With The Boy”. 
But there are a few interesting offerings in the 11 track collection. 
The album includes her own self-penned title track, “Where I Belong”, a bouncy number which really fits in nicely with the rest of the album.  
The collection begins with a cover of “Past The Point Of Rescue” , written by Irishman Mick Hanly, and is followed by the famed “Home To Donegal”, which, being from the county, really has a lot of emotion.
There’s also couple of Scottish connection’s, as she features Maggie Reilly’s “Every Time We Touch”, and Amy McDonald’s “This Is The Life”. The former is a lovely ballad, which I wasn’t too familiar with. The other has quite a celtic-pop flavour.
She also delivers a stunning version of Jenn Bostic’s “Jealous Of The Angels”. 
But, perhaps, the most interesting cover is “Always Remember Us This Way”, written by pop star Pink, alongside Nashville writers Lori McKenna, Natallie Hemby and Hillary Lindsey. It’s a strongly delivered ballad, which Chelsea handles well.
“Where I Belong” is a good introduction to this new Irish rising star. Look out for her! 

Another of the newer names on the Irish scene is young KATIE MCPARLAND, from Bleary in Co Armagh.
Her dad, Charlie, was in many of Ireland’s showbands including The Young Earls, Tuxedo Junction and The Ravens to name a few, so young Katie grew up, steeped in music.  
Her debut album, "Keep Watching Over Me” was recorded at Hillside Studios, featuring a nice mix of self penned songs and Country, Gospel & pop covers. 
The title track, she wrote in memory of her late mum and best friend. “Songwriting and music helped me
come to terms with the grief and has been therapy in my healing”, Katie explains. . It’s a lovely, sentimental, and obviously personal song for Katie. 
She also wrote “Our Love”, a bouncy, infectious little number.
Another single was a lively cover of Porter & Dolly’s “Forty Miles From Poplar Bluff”.
Other covers range from Buck Owen’s “Where Does The Good Times Go”, Juice Newton’s “Queen Of Hearts”, and Carlene Carter’s “Me & The Wildwood Flower”, to Connie Francis’ “Lipstick On Your Collar”, and the evergreen gospel “Old Rugged Cross”. She does a lively upbeat version of Stephen’s Foster’s eternal “Hard Times” too.
I was particularly impressed with her upbeat approach to Victoria Shaw’s “Never Alone”, which is usually done as a ballad, but Katie raises the tempo on it. 
The upbeat style of the album, is ideal for the live dancing scene in Ireland. She should fit in well. 
As well as building up her singing career, Katie also had a presenting role on Spotlight TV for the show Fresh Country, and she also presents her own radio show.

Our next new lass on the Irish Country scene is SABRINA KANE. Originally from Omagh, she now lives in Donegal, which we know, is a good breeding ground for Country singers. 
I don’t know too much about Sabrina, but I know that her new album, “Pick Me Up” is full of traditional Country covers, There are the well covered “Coal Miners Daughter” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, alongside Dolly’s “Salt In My Tears”, Crystal’s “Why’d You Come In Here”, and Buck Owen’s “Close Up The Honky Tonks”, alongside the more recent “Suds In The Bucket”. 
The title track is an old Charlie Walker number, as is “Still On My Mind”.
She does a great job on the “The World’s Biggest Fool”, a Byron Hill song, previously done by Rhonda Vincent & Teea Goans. Teea also previously recorded “Walk Out Backwards”, a song written way back, by Bill Anderson, and “Memories To Burn”, which opens this collection,  There is a distinct Teea influence coming over in Sabrina’s style here. 
I liked Sabrina’s traditional Country sound, which was produced by Brian Kerrigan, at Harmony Studious in Letterkenny. Well worth checking out. 

Born in Texas but raised in Greenville, South Carolina, JAKE YBARRA  started off singing in choirs as a boy, then playing in Rock bands as a teen. Originally dreaming of a career in baseball, an injury forced Jake onto a different path at the age of 15. After high school, he moved on to college at Furman University, where he earned a degree in Political Science and Government, which included a legislative internship at the European Parliament in Brussels. 
After graduating, Jake got serious about songwriting. Inspired by Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, James McMurtry, John Prine and Lucinda Williams, he turned his full attention to creating music. After gaining positive response to an EP he recorded during lockdown, he has now released his debut album, “Something In The Water”.
The title track, hidden away on track 7, is certainly showing Jake’s storytelling talents.  
The album opens up with, what was the first single to be released, “Late November”, which has a catchy , drivin’ beat, which has echoes of Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town”, but with a bit more of a story to it. 
A more recent single, “Bloodfire”, has a similar, but more of smoky, smoldering feel to it. 
The album, whilst influenced by those above, also has an old time Rock’n’roll vibe, most notably on “A Whole Lot To Remember”. 
There are a few more tender songs, such as “Savannah’s Song”, “Disappear” and “Call Me By My Name”. 
“Long Winter” features some lovely effective accordion way off in the background, as well as some nice harmonies. It neatly captures the atmosphere perfectly. 
“No Reason Or Right”, has a bit of different feel to it, being a bit more “Jim Croce”. It’s quite a gentle, piano led number, which takes the listener inside a 100-year-old love story when a homeowner discovers letters written long ago. “Silly Little Things”, has quite a similar feel.
I really enjoyed the album. It’s a bit different, and refreshing to a lot of the music coming out today. 

JORDAN DAVIS was one of the acts who was on the Country2Country bill this past March, and Snakefarm Records, here in the UK released his second album ‘Bluebird Days’, to coincide with the visit. 
With more than 4 Billion career streams to date, Davis has solidified himself in the industry as one of the most in-demand artists and songwriters. Last year, Davis celebrated several milestones including back-to-back sold out nights headlining the Ryman Auditorium, and his breakout song “Buy Dirt” featuring Luke Bryan, winning the CMA Song of the Year. 
The 35 year old from Louisiana, got his record deal in 2016 for MCA, and is currently enjoying his 7th Top ten Country hit with the gentle, but catchy, ballad “Next Thing You Know”, which is features on the album. 
There’s actually 17 tracks on the album, which is great value for money. 
The title track is a pleasant mid tempo ballad, which is one of the stand out tracks on the album. I really enjoyed this track. 
The album kicks off with “Damn Good Time”, quite a Nashville pop number- it’s a drinkin’ song, but it ain’t honky tonk!  Quite catchy though! 
Quite a few of the tracks are modern Nashville pop, but there are some other tracks which do stand for me, like the ballads, “Tucson Too Late”, and the duet with Danielle Bradberry, “Midnight Crisis”.
The award winning duet with Luke Bryan is included. 
“Several of the songs were written with his brother Jacob, but one track, “Sunday Saints” was written with his brother, and sister Benji, It’s a nice ballad, another of the album’s highlights.  
Davis was involved in the writing of all but one of the 17 tracks. The exception, is another of the ballads, which I do prefer, “What I Wouldn’t Do”.
It’s modern Nashville “Country”, which has a huge following these days, as proved by the success of C2C. Jordan Davis, will, no doubt, have won over lots of fans after this year’s festival. This album is for them !

JILL ROGERS AND CRYING TIME play straight-up honky-tonk, 1970’s cross-over country, and elegiac originals. They’ve been packing dance floors, clubs, bars, and listening rooms for a decade in Northern California’s lively country scene. With a beautiful 70’s-era voice, Jill Rogers connects with audiences through her original songs, which are often about love at the edge of dissolution, or a look back at what might have been.
Their 5th album, “Many World’s Theory” was released recently.
It features, mainly original material, and a few classics thrown in, for good measure. They include Del McCoury’s “More Often Than Once In A While”, and “You Left Me A Long Time Ago”, which was written by Willie Nelson, and given a fun Tex-mex treatment here.
The  opening track, “Bird Song”, is a bouncy mid tempo pleasant number.
You can tell that their music is geared to the old time Country dance hall venues, with the elegant waltz tempo , of “California Waltz” and “Tears,Time And Ink”, the western swing beat of the instrumental , “Devil In The Detail” and the polka bounce of “I Only Cry When I’m Drinkin’”.
“Golden Hour”, “Evangeline” are quite catchy and uptempo, and really suit Jill’s vocal style. 
“River Songs” (Lonesome Old River Blues & Big River) is delivered in a really strong Bluegrass style, with a bit of Loretta styled in there too. “The Mess (That Used To Be Me)” is an upbeat, with a strong thumping bass, which showed Jill’s stronger side. 
I really enjoyed this listen. It was a bit dated, but that’s their charm. Music from this era doesn’t get old!. 
Worth a listen.     

And finally, something completely different -  Traditional Country music has often been associated with the cowboys – it used to be Country & Western, after all.  The Western side has much diminished, but there are still a few standing up for the Cowboy Way. 
ANDY HUGHES  is billed as a songster, reciter, storyteller, guitarist, and collector of cowboy songs and poems. The son of an Italian schoolteacher and a rodeo cowboy turned preacher, Andy was born in Lubbock, Texas, in the spring of 1980. He grew up in the small community of Tokio, Texas, where his family paid rent on an old farmhouse by looking after a few head of cattle. It was there that Andy fell in love with traditional music by listening to his father’s cassettes of cowboy songs.
His 4th collection, “Roll On Cowboys” was recently issued. It’s actually a double CD, with a 28 page booklet with a lot of information about the songs, and quotes from the guest artists that appear on the project. 
The 22 track collection features the likes of Brenn Hill, Corb Lund, Tom Russell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Waddie Mitchell, Brigid Reedy, and Michael Martin Murphy. 
Many of the songs are traditional, like “Dodgin’ Joe”, “Little Joe The Wrangler”, “Root Hog Or Die”, “When I Was A Cowboy” and “Rounded Up In Glory”.
Others are from the pens of the likes of Woody Guthrie (“Phildelphia Lawyer”), Andy Wilkinson (“Saddlin’ Up Time” and  “Palo Duro Farewell”) ,  and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (“Makin’ Merry”).
A few of the tracks delve a little deeper into the songs with some archive audio added to the song, notably on “Railroad Bill”. 
Poetry has always been part of western music, and there are a couple of narrations here, including, “Saddlin’ Up Time”, “The Broncos”, and “Passing Of The Trail”. 
Cowboy, or Western Music, is something of a rarity these days. So when a new album appears, it’s always a pleasure to get back to basics, and appreciate the heritage of our Country music. 
I’m really loving listening to this collection! He also hosts a podcast, Cowboy Crossroads which features in-depth interviews with fellow musicians and poets. That’s worth a listen too.  

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