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Friday, 3 February 2017

Feb 2016

BRANDON McPHEE has many strings to his bow. He’s a champion accordionist, and also presenter of the Caithness Music Television programme each week on Keep It Country TV. He’s also built up quite a following on the Country music circuit, both here and in Ireland, and his new album, “In Country Song” (Pan Records) will surely enhance this side of his career.
The album features Robert, Manson & Keith from The Dynamos, where Brandon has served his Country music apprenticeship, as well as Nashville based Orcadian Phil Anderson, Grand Ole Opry staff fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin, Steel guitarist Steve Hinson and Music city session singer Marcia Ramirez. Bringing all that talent together has produced a wonderful sound, which brings out the best in Brandon.
The choice of material is also impressive. There are some well known covers, like “Harper Valley PTA”, “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”, “Cry Cry Cry” and “Is Anyone Going To San Antone”. But there’s also some impressive, lesser known numbers. Brandon is a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and like his previous Country album, he has covered a few Billy Ray numbers, but this time around, he’s chosen some less obvious material.
The title track, is actually the theme to a film that Billy Ray starred in a few years back. It’s a really infectious number that works well here. He also covers “My Everything” and “Bluegrass State Of Mind”, both Billy Ray covers. The album opens with the fun “Milkman’s Eyes”, which was written by Bobby Cyrus (Billy Ray’s brother).
Other tracks include the old Don Williams number, “In The Shelter Of Your Eyes”, Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All”, Elvis’ “Burning Love” and even The Woolpackers’ “Hillbilly Rock, Hillbilly Roll”.
There’s a lot of variety on the album, and really enjoyed it throughout. He’s quite a talent.

In the 12 years since she first appeared on the Country radio, MIRANDA LAMBERT has made quite an impression, with five highly acclaimed albums, six CMA Female Vocalist Awards, and countless other accolades.
Her sixth album, “The Weight Of Her Wings” (RCA) is a double album set, split into two, “The Nerve” and “The Heart”. I’m sure there is some reasoning between the different CD’s, as they are very different albums. I’m missing something though, as I just don’t get it.
CD1, “The Nerve”, has a really strange feel to it. A few of the tracks, like “Highway Vagabond” and “Running Just In Case” sound like they’ve been recorded with very dated equipment, or techniques. I’m sure it’s deliberate. I just don’t know why.
The one track that did impress me was “You Wouldn’t Know Me”, with it’s driving bass. I also quite liked “Getaway Driver”, which is quite a pleasant ballad.
Her latest single, “We Should Be Friends” is quite an irritating pop number, as is “Pink Sunglasses”.
CD2, “The Heart”, is much more of a conventional album, with some really nice sounds on offer.
“Good Ol’ Days” has a real southern lazy summer feel to it, whilst “Like The Birds” has a really catchy feel good chorus line.
“Tin Man”, which opens the CD, is a really nice ballad, whilst I quite enjoyed the closing track, the gentle driving “I’ve Got Wheels”.
But my stand out track has to be “To Learn Her”. Spencer Cullum’s steel guitar intro just makes its’ mark, but Miranda’s vocals are just so Country on this song too. She’s sounds so natural, and mature, with this type of song, I don’t know why she doesn’t do this type of song more often.
Miranda will be here in August. This 24 track CD package will have to keep you going until then.

One of the most refreshing Irish Country albums I’ve heard for some time comes from family group, THE MURPHYS, on their album, “Breaking Ground” (Sharpe Music). The quartet feature dad Pat, with daughters Cindy, Candy and Katie, and they certainly have come up with an original sound.
Their vocals are strongly Irish, which makes them stand out from the crowd, and all the tracks are original, and self written. Candy and Katie are the main writers, with dad contributing on the rousing “Working Mom”, and self composing “Relatively Speaking”. Pat is lead vocalist on the song,
Derek Ryan added his tuppenceworth to the previous single hit “The Man Who Loved Me First”, There’s also an acoustic version of this song added in, as a bonus track to the end of the album.
Family is obviously important to The Murphys. As well as parents being honoured, there’s one for “Sisters”, whilst “Strong Is The One”, deals with father-son relationships.
With them avoiding the typecast “American accent” vocal style, some of the songs do sound a shade folky, but the arrangements are, in the main, Country. The more folky numbers include the gypsy number, “Nelena”.
One of the quirkiest songs on the album, is “Our Beloved Billy”, a bouncy little number. That’s immediately followed by the slower “When Your First Love Says I Do (But To You)”. Two songs that are linked, yet so different.
Other delicate ballads, include “The Empty Room”, a song that explores the emotions involved with Ireland’s Emigration generation.
I loved the whole album, but “The Streets Of Promise” stands out for me. As does the often recorded “My Connermara Marble Ring”, a song actually written by Candy when she was just 16, and sung by sister Cindy.
It’s a little different, but I like it. A group who are “Breaking Ground”. Check out The Murphys.

Country music fans on both sides of the Irish Sea regularly tune into HUGO DUNCAN’s daily afternoon show on BBC Radio Ulster in their droves. He has recorded too many albums to count, over the years, and has just added another to his collection with “The Singer” (Sharpe).
The album includes 16 tracks, including three originals. Local writer Gerard Dornan contributed two numbers, including the lead single “Wee Susie”, which is about Hugo’s mother. Gerard also contributed the catchy “Way Back When”, which is one of the stand out tracks. Vincent Soye, who penned Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 song, also has a cut on this album. It’s another upbeat number called “Fooled Once Again”.
Elsewhere, Uncle Hugo has recorded a wide selection of evergreen favourites, including Irish favourites like “Isle Of Innisfree”, “Patsy Fegan” and “Forty Shades Of Green”. He also offers quite a relaxing version of “Dirty Old Town”. He does his own versions of John Denver’s “Annies Song”, Tom T Hall’s “One More Last Chance”, and a couple of old Seekers numbers, “Morningtown Ride” and “World Of Our Own”.
I liked the CD sleeve, which has quite a little bit of history on Hugo, as singer and radio presenter. It’s also a nice touch to dedicate the album to the late Gene Stuart, who passed away a year ago.
It’s easy listening at it’s best – The Uncle Hugo way !

Another Irish favourite is ROBERT MIZZELL. He’s actually from Louisiana, but has been living and working in Ireland for over 20 years now. His latest album, “Travelling Shoes” (Dolphin Records) is a stone Country selection of 15 tracks, which should go down well fans.
Most of the numbers are good upbeat tracks like the title track, “She’s On The Way”, “God Bless The Farmer”, “John Deere Beer”, “Gone Gone Gone” and Canadian Gord Bamford’s “Day Job”.
There are ballads too, including Mel Street’s “Borrowed Angel”, and the very simple “Like I Never Loved Before”, a hit for Phil Vasser. One that really impressed me was “He Carried Her Memory”, a beautiful ballad previously recorded by Bradley Walker.
Robert goes back to his childhood in “City Of Shreveport”, and revisits one of his hits of a few years ago. He has slowed “Mama Courtney” down to a ballad. If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s about a remarkable foster mother, who looked after no less than 32 children. Robert feels that the slower version helps get the message across.
This is a stone Country album. No Irish Country here. Just pure Country, and, don’t forget to check out our gig list page, because Robert is here in Scotland in the next few weeks.

NIAMH LYNN has been making quite an impression on Irish audiences in the past year, and brought out her debut album towards the end of 2016. “An Old Fashioned Song” features quite a few songs with an old fashioned, almost rockabilly feel to them. Most obvious of these are “Gotta Lot Of Rhthym In My Soul”, and “Aint No Wheels On My Ship” which is almost rockabilly,  and then several Patsy Cline stringed influenced ballads, “Always”, “He Called Me Baby” and even “Blue”, has more of a Patsy feel to it than Leann Rimes.
The title track is the old Billie Jo Spears hit, and she also does her version of  Connie Smith’s “Once a Day”. An interesting cover is an old Susie Allanson hit, “While I Was Making Love to You”, a good upbeat number, which I enjoyed hearing again.
She can deliver a good ballad too. Her version of “Blue Bayou” is a little bit more upbeat than Linda Ronstadt’s version, leading a bit more towards Roy Orbison perhaps.
There is one original song on the album, written by Declan Quinn. “I’m Missing You” is a big powerful ballad, which Niamh handles well.
It’s a good debut offering, Niamh has a sound that’s a bit different from the other Irish girl singers on the scene today.  

One of the freshest Country sounds I’ve heard from a British outfit for a while comes from a six piece band from the English Midlands, who call themselves THE MOST UGLY CHILD. If their name doesn’t catch your attention, then the lyrics on the first track, including “I could’ve been the greatest Country singer, if it wasn’t for my voice”, certainly will.
Centered around the songwriting partnership of Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison, who have been likened to some of the legendary country duos of yesteryear, the band is made up of some of the finest musicians in the Midlands. Current line up includes Matt Cutler and Max Johnson (The Broomhill String Band), the tightest rhythm section in town, Nicole J Terry (The Rip-Roaring Success) on fiddle and ‘Big’ Jim Widdop (The Sadies, Los Pacaminos, Cold Light Of Day, Buck Shot Soup) on pedal steel and dobro.
Their debut album, “Copper And Lace” is pure Country, with some real lush harmonies, the kind not heard since Gram & Emmylou.
The whole affair kicks off with the lively “What Might Have Been”, which really sets the toes tapping, and the really fast “Golden Gates”. “Lungs” has a neat short banjo intro before bursting into a rather boisterous upbeat number.  
There are slower numbers, like the simply arranged “My Pony”, the romantic “Roses” and the steel laced “Just Another Lesson In Pain”.
Stand out tracks for me include “Queen Of The Honky Tonks”, the catchy “Long Gone Woman Blues”, and the traditional sounding “Today You Said Goodbye”. Then “The Bottle And The Fall” needs no explanation.
The harmonies throughout the album are just superb.
It really is one of the most Country sounding albums to come out of these islands for a long long time.

There’s something about Texas Country music that just makes it rise above everywhere else, especially when it’s live. ROBERT EARL KEEN has been plying his music since 1984 and has 18 albums to his credit. One of the most iconic of these was “No.2 Live Diner”, in 1996, which was recorded at Floors Country Store in Helotes, Texas, just outside of San Antonio.
Now he has returned to the same venue and recorded “Live Dinner Reunion” (Dualtone).  The album really captures the feel of a Texas Honky Tonk, with some superb music.
Guests include Lyle Lovett, Bruce Robison, Cory Morrow, Cody Braun, Cody Canada, and Joe Ely.
Like his famous tune, “The Road Goes On Forever” (the finale on the album, which features Ely),  the gig went on, thus, is featured over 2 CD’s, all beautifully packaged like an authentic café menu, complete with graffiti changing cheesy enchilada’s to greasy!
The music is superb. It’s real raw Texan sound, ranging from the western swing favoured “Ninety Nine Years For One Dark Day”, right through to the rocky “Amarillo Highway”, to bluegrass influenced “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” and ballads like “I’ll Go Downtown” and Robison’s “No Kinda Dancer”.
It’s all great stuff. If you cant get to Texas to savour the sounds for yourself, then this is the next best thing!
Incidentally, the land which is now the town of Helotes, where the album was recorded, was once owned by a Scottish immigrant, Dr. George Marnoch. He had a stagepost and post office here, serving the cowboys enroute from Bandera to San Antonio.

Occasionally an album arrives that is just so Country that it blows you away. California raised AJ HOBBS did just that with his album, “Too Much Is Never Enough”(Booker Records), which gets it’s worldwide release on the 17th February.  Whilst AJ is based on the West coast, he does admit to having a lot of Texas in his music, and that shows. He also has a lot of Haggard in his soul as well.
Although he’s played music in various bands for years, it’s only in 2013 that he formed his own band. His first show was opening for Shooter Jennings.
The 12 track album was recorded in several LA studio’s, and produced by renowned West Coast producer and musician Ted Russell Kamp. He calls his music “Outlaw Soul”, but, as I say, there are solid Country influences, especially Merle and Waylon. There’s even a song about them, and a cover of The Hag’s “The Bottle Let Me Down”.  Several other tracks, notably “The Loser” and the closing ballad, “Tomorrow I’ll Be Hurtin’” also have that Hag stamp on them.
The whole album kicks off with the title track, which has quite a rockabilly feel to it, but the Country feel sets in quite quickly. “Daddy Loved The Lord” is a superb number about fighting the booze, and I loved the swing beat to “Are You Going To Tennessee”, again with more than a little Merle influence.
I was also impressed with the honky tonking “Take It Slow”, a duet with fellow Californian Dominique Pruitti. They sound great together.
“A Whole Lot Of You And Me” shows AJ’s more mellow side, and it works real well.
It’s a superb album. This is Real Country music, and one that real Country fans will treasure. There are a few naughty words slipped in on a couple of tracks. Nothing that wouldn’t be out of place in a live honky tonk, but may prevent a radio play or two.  Otherwise, a brilliant album which proves that Country can still be Country!

Now for some Americana releases.
West Viginians STEVE HUSSEY & JAKE EDDY have an interesting album in “The Miller Girl” (Merf Records). Steve is a well known singer songwriter around West Virginia & Ohio, especially in clubs and festivals, whilst 17 year old Jake is a state flat picking champion on guitar, with second place in banjo and third in mandolin.
Steve wrote the songs for the album, and whilst the arrangements were collaborated on between them.
The album was initially a recording project for Steve’s wedding, but grew into a concept album which follows the life of a man, initially lost, but as the album progresses, love sweeps in, and by the tenth cut, everything is rosy. “Long List Of Goodbyes” really stands out for me. It’s a good upbeat, break up song. The opening track is also quite a catchy little number, which entices you into the album.
The title track, is a gentler ballad, which features some nice mandolin.
The whole album is a really nice listen. I really quite enjoyed it. Already it’s had a lot of airplay in Europe ahead of its’ US release. It’s well worth a listen.

Next we have the teaming up of singer songwriters from the southern states and the west coast. BRIGITTE DEMEYER grew up in California on a diet of soul singers like Etta James and Mavis Staples, whilst WILL KIMBOROUGH is from Mobile, Alabama, heavily influenced by the guitar driven rock outfits like ZZ Top, The Allmans and JJ Cale.
But six years ago, they joined their voices and they were destined to make beautiful music together.
Whilst they have collaborated on a couple of album projects, their first duet album, “ Mockingbird Soul” is released this month here in the UK (BDM Music).
Certainly Brigitte’s vocals lean more to the soulful side of things, especially on the title track, “Rainy Day” and “Honey Bee”.
Her vocal style is a bit more mainstream on “Little Easy”, and the opening track, “Eveything”.
Will is no stranger to Americana fans over here, and leads the vocals on “Broken Fences” and “October Song”. “Running Round” is a bright & breezy number, which I’d have no problem playing on Country radio. I also quite liked “I Can Hear Your Voice”.
An interesting album for Americana fans.

JOHN McCUTCHEON is certainly not a new name on the scene. The Wisconsin native has just released his 38th album, “Trolling For Dreams” (Appalsongs). He is best known as an American folk singer, and master of the hammer dulcimer. His biggest claim to fame is writing the wartime peace song “Christmas In The Trenches”.
On this new album, the songs crossover from folk and should interest Country listeners too.
Especially interesting is “Sharecropper’s Son”, which features Tim O’Brien on vocals, and Nashville musician Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin. The legendary pair also feature on the fiddle infused opening track, “Gone”, and the lilting “The Reason I’m Here”.
“Three Chords And The Truth” is an upbeat catchy Country rock number. “New Man Now” is another upbeat track. “This Aint Me” is quite a catchy mid tempo number.
“Between Good and Gone” and “The Bible” are nice relaxing ballads which I also enjoyed.
I found the album to be quite a pleasant listen.

The one way to get noticed is to have a catchy name. ORDINARY ELEPHANT certainly do that. They are the married duo of Crystal Hariu and Peter Damore, who wrote all the tracks on their album, “Before I Go” (Berkalin Records).
They have quite an old timey bluegrass sound, with some nice fiddle, mandolin and banjo.
“Who Am I” is the best testimony to that. It’s a strong bluegrass number, as is “Washington Said East”.
The upbeat “Railroad Man” also stands out. The simple “Leaving Kerrville” also appealed to me.
“Can I Count On You” is a really nice old time waltz that worked really well, and the title track is an equally pleasant ballad.
Ordinary Elephant have quite a pleasant sound. A really nice listen.

THE GRAHAMS are another married duo, with Alyssa and Doug basing themselves in the Nashville area. We have previously reviewed their “Glory Train” album, released back in 2015. Several tracks from that CD are featured again here on their new album. But they are different recordings. Their new project is titled “The Grahams And Friends (Live In Studio)”, and features guests such as The Watkins Family, John Fullbright, The Milk Carton Kids and David Garzia and Suzzanne Choffel, not to mention Alvin Youngblood Hart.  If you follow the Americana scene, you’ll be familiar with these names.
Some of the music featured here, also features in a film documentary called “Rattle The Hocks” which captures The Grahams relentless journey exploring the relationship between America’s roots music and it’s railroads.
The music is quite varied from ballads like “Tender Annabelle” and “Broken Bottle”, through to swinging upbeat numbers like “Gambling Girl” and “Kansas City”.
“Blow Wind Blow” and “The Spinner” both have quite a traditional feel to them whilst “Mama” has quite a gospel feel to it.
Whilst the couple write most of their own material, they have covered “City Of New Orleans”, in quite an original way. It’s well worth checking their version out.
They have quite an interesting sound. I quite like it. Check them out.

Nashville is a versatile musical city. It’s famous for its’ mainstream pop flavoured Country. In an area just across the Cumberland River from downtown is East Nashville, which is where the Americana scene is all the rage. But even within these parts, there are many different styles all trying to get your attention.
ADRIAN & MEREDITH, by their own admission, are “roughing up the genre’s edges, with the rule breaking spirit of punk , the vintage twang of old timey folk , a shake of carefree rock’n’roll, and even the occasional frenetic bounce of early swing”.  Yes, it’s quite a concoction.
Their album is “More Than A Little” and it’s certainly different. The duo, and their musicians certainly exert a lot of energy into their music. Recorded in a local east Tennessee studio with Mark Robertson, who is well versed in stretching Americana music’s boundaries.
There is a lot of catchy fiddle. Thanks to Meredith, whist Adrian leads the vocals.
Some of the tracks that stood out included the driving “Birthday Cakes”, and the catchy “Southern Call”.  Quite an interesting listen.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Dec 2016

THE MAVERICKS are one of the best named groups ever. They are a phenomenon here in Britain, but  never made the same chart impact in America. Their blend of Latin, Rock and Country provided the most original sounds to come out of Nashville in recent years. And Country fans across the world embraced their hits like “Dance The Night Away”, “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” and “I’ve Got This Feeling”.
In America, they’ve built up a cult live audience, and it’s the live show that is featured in their latest album, “All Night Live Vol 1” on their own Mono Mundo label.
The album, available on CD, and a double vinyl LP, features 16 tracks. Unlike many “live” albums, this isn’t a set of hits, although, I have to say, many of the songs sound the same.
Most of the numbers are upbeat, danceable tunes, but the tempo does slow, on a few tracks like “Pardon Me”, and the cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”.
The first radio single, “Come Unto Me”, is an epic 7 ½ minute Latin number.
The band these days is still lead by Raul Malo, with Eddie Perez, Jerry Dale McFadden and Paul Deakin. This live set also features Ed Friedland, Matt Cappy, Max Abrams and Michael Guerra.
What can I say? It’s a Mavericks album. One that really captures their electric live sound. If you’re a Mavericks fan, it’s one you’ll want to get your hands on.
And they have a new studio album coming up next year as well.

JOHN PRINE is something of a legend across Folk/Americana/Country fields, having recording over 20 albums in his career. But the latest album from the 70 year old, who was discovered back in 1971 by Kris Kristofferson is a real beauty. “For Better For Worse” teams Prine with a delightful team of wonderful female vocalists such as Iris Dement, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert and Amanda Shires.
The songs are really appealing too. They include classic hits like “Storms Never Last” (with Lee Ann Womack), “Cold Cold Heart” (Miranda Lambert) and “Falling In Love Again” (Alison Krauss).  They also include classics that weren’t as big a hit as they should have been. I’m talking of Ernest Tubb/Loretta Lynn’s “Who’s Gonna Take The Garbage Out”, and “Mr & Mrs Used To Be”, both  recreated here with Iris Dement, and “Color Of The Blues”, originally a George Jones hit, covered here by Prine and blues singer Susan Tedeschi. It’s a superb version. The old Buck Owens/Rose Maddox duet, “Mental Cruelty” is re-created alongside Kacey Musgraves.
One of the most interesting covers is a slightly upbeat version of Vince Gill’s “Look At Us”, featuring Morganne Stapleton, wife of singer songwriter Chris.
Prine’s vocal style sounds a bit “lived in”, which works well on these songs. On several tracks, he has a distinct Merle Haggard sound. Indeed, my favourite track on the whole collection, is “Remember Me”, which Merle recorded on the 2014 Buddy Holly Tribute. It’s one of two songs featuring the beautiful voice of Kathy Mattea.
To wind up the album , he has recorded “My Happiness” with wife Fiona, and a solo story song, “Just Waiting” rounds it all off.
The traditional sound of the whole album, recreating hits from the days of Ernest & Loretta, George Jones and Conway, and yet sounding so fresh, really appealed to me.  Forget the CMA’s Forever Country series - this is the real Forever Country album of 2016 !

In a year which we lost Joey Feek, Jackie Storrar and countless family & friends to cancer, it’s good to realise that it can be beaten. British born 70’s singer OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN had her own battle with the illness back in the 90’s, and 22 years on, and cancer free, she endlessly promotes breast cancer awareness.
Her latest project is “LIV-ON”, a collaboration with Nashville singer songwriter BETH NEILSON CHAPMAN and Toronto born songwriter AMY SKY.
This inspiring new project grew out of the three artists’ personal experiences with loss and illness, which they all survived to “LIV ON” and celebrate each day with a depth of gratitude. This labour of love stemmed from the trio sharing their stories together and expressing their deepest feelings from the most difficult to the most celebratory. It’s the hope that this music can uplift hearts burdened by grief while at the same time bring comfort to the listener.
“As a group, it's our intention with this album to create songs with a message of compassion and hope,” said Newton-John. “They are for anyone facing a time of challenge in their life, whether it is grieving a loss - or on the journey to health and recovery.”
The baseline of this album is stunningly beautiful harmonies. The songs are all quite thoughtful ballads. They include Beth’s “Sand And Water” and the upbeat “Stone In My Pocket”, and Amy’s “I Will Take Care Of You”, and a new version of Olivia’s “Grace & Gratitude”.
There are new songs too, like the haunting opening track “My Heart Goes Out To You”, and the rather spine chilling “Immortality”, It certainly gave me goosebumps.
The title track “LIV-ON” is quite an anthem for the trio.
It’s quite a heavy album. It’s one that won’t appeal to some, but will give great comfort to others.
Olivia, Beth & Amy will be bring the album to life, when they visit Glasgow for Celtic Connections next month. That concert will surely be something special !

When the Celtic Connections 2017 line up was announced, the name MARGO PRICE stood out. I wasn’t aware of her music, but decided to check her out. Was I in for a surprise!  
Her album, “Midwest Farmers Daughter” (Third Man Records), released earlier this year, simply blew me away. And it’s not just me. Nashville Scene named the CD “Best Country Record of 2016”. Glad someone in the Music City media recognises good Country music when they hear it.
Originally from Buffalo Prairie, Illinois, she recorded the album in Memphis Sun Studio in just three days.
The 11 track album kicks off with “Hands Of Time”, a real personal journey through her 33 years, and you feel a movie coming on. Boy has this girl lived, and she’s happy to share her story, warts and all, with her audience.
“About To Find Out” has a distinct vintage Loretta feel to it, whilst “Weekender” is a catchy Country number that displays a cute warble that really catches your attention.  “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”, for which the video is on the Celtic Connections website, is a real old fashioned Country Honky Tonk number that I just loved, and  “Desperate And Depressed”, which closes the album, is another simple Country arrangement, but with a bit more of a message to it.
“Since You Put Me Down”, starts out with a real venerable vocal, before the band kicks in with some impressive steel and bass. This one really has a strong Texas beat to it.  The same can be said for “This Town Gets Around”. If I was in any doubt, I’m totally won over now.
By contrast, the rather short “World’s Greatest Loser” is a much softer number, and the vulnerability of her voice returns.
There isn’t a whole lot of Country music coming out of Nashville these days, but this lady is keeping the tradition going, and will be a welcome visitor to our shores at Celtic Connections.

Everybody wants to sing with WILLIE NELSON. At 83 years old, the Texan institution just keeps on going. Hardly a few months go by without a new Willie album. But even with his own status, he still has the respect for other artists that gave him a helping hand all these years back.
Ray Price, who passed away in 2013, was an inspiration to many Texan and Nashville artists. Willie worked with Ray way back in the 60’s, and they have recorded together from time to time throughout the years.
Now, in latest Legacy Recordings release, Willie releases “For The Good Times: A Tribute To Ray Price”. Included are classics like “Heartaches By The  Number”,  “I’ll Be There”, “City Lights” and “Crazy Arms”. He also includes Hank Cochran’s “Make The World Go Away”, which maybe more recognisable as an Eddy Arnold hit, but Ray Price did do the original.
There are three of Willie’s own compositions, “Night Life”, “I’m Still Not Over You”, and “It Always Will Be”. Not a bad deal for Willie – record a tribute, and collect a quarter of the songwriting royalties!
The last of these, was featured on Ray’s final album.  Producer Fred Foster and conductor/arranger Bergen White, worked on that last Price album, and also come together to produce this album, which also features The Time Jumpers on six of the tracks.
It’s a lovely tribute. So many artists would try to emulate their tribute subject, but this is just Willie being Willie, and that’s the way Ray would’ve wanted it.

A few years ago, the crowd at the Caithness Festival really gave a rising star, all the way from Kansas, a very warm Scottish welcome. The young man was RUSTY RIERSON, and he has just released his latest album, “What Happened To My Country”, which should further increase his following.
The album contains 13 tracks, 12 plus an alternative cut. Eight of the tracks were written, or co-written by Rusty.
A couple of tracks have already been radio singles, the catchy “Hey Hey Hello”, and the current “Something Bout You”, a Kevin Welch song, which Don Williams had a cut on. Don just happens to write a few words endorsing the album, and recommended the song to Rusty.
The title track is an upbeat anthem, which starts off about our music, before widening the title to cover America’s woes.
The song which features an alternative take is “That’s How Sure I Am”, which he does a solo version, and ends the album, with the song as a duet with Stephanie Layne, a Minnesota born Country singer, based in Nashville, but very much involved in the equestrian side of things too. The pair really do a great job on the song.
The album is a really good mix of upbeat, and gentler ballads, all Country.
One track which stands out for me is “Faith Ain’t Faith”, a beautiful ballad which really encompasses Rusty’s Christian life. On a more upbeat note, “Rain On My Parade” is a really catchy little number that I really liked.
A bit more downhome, and recalling childhood memories, is the gentle “Life’s Too Short”, which was another stand out track. On a similar note “More” tells of his mid life crisis by approaching 30 !  Life aint even started by then Rusty !
There aint a bad track on the album. It’s a really good listen, and if Rusty left you wanting more after he played in Halkirk in 2014, well this album’s just up your street.

33 year old DEREK RYAN began his career in a pop boy band called D-Side, but for the past ten years has been pursuing a Country career across Ireland and beyond. After six albums to his credit, the last two topping the Irish charts, Derek returns with, not one but two, new albums.
“Happy Man” is a good mix of 14 songs, mostly, but not exclusively, written by the singer.
Amongst the covers are Christy Moore’s “City Of Chicago”, Tom Waits “Jersey Girl”, Billy Currington’s “People Are Crazy” and a couple of Bryan Adams songs, the upbeat “You Belong To Me” and “When You Love Somebody”.
The CD kicks off with the rather pop sounding “Happy Man”, which works well as an opener to set the mood, perhaps more live than on CD. “You’re Only Young Once” and “Stay All Night” are similar.
I was really impressed with “Onto The Whiskey I Go”, a really catchy number, and really Country sounding. “Sax,Drums & Rock’n’Roll” is another really catchy number that I enjoyed. Probably more of a showband sound, but it’s a sound that still goes down well.
He adds some traditional Irish magic on the foot tapping “Won’t Ya Come Down To Yarmouth Town”. More of a folksy ballad is the lovely “Sixty Years Ago”, written by Seamus Doran. Derek explains that the style of this song, is one of his strongest areas, and I wouldn’t disagree.  Another number which has a folksy feel to it is “Carry Me Home”, which Derek wrote with Marc Roberts. Again he really feels at home with this style of music.
His second album release, “This Is Me”, is his Nashville Sessions album, featuring 11 tracks, all written or co-written by the County Carlow native.  The album covers quite a variety in styles.
The title track, written with Eleanor McEvoy, nicely sums up where Derek’s music fits in today. It’s a good strong song, which serves as an introduction to the album, which may be a little different to what his fans have come to expect from him.
“Some Days” and “Fine Line” are quite catchy little numbers, but I did think that “Brand New Day” and “100 Numbers” are quite pop sounding.
“Better Than Being Alone” is a strong ballad that would sound equally at home on US Country radio, or pop radio here.  He also features a new version of his song “God’s Plan”, which has been recorded by several Irish based singers in recent years.
“Connemara Sky” is an interesting number, which I quite liked. It encompassed folk, country and pop/rock vibes, and blended together really nicely.
With so many Irish singers doing a lot of the same material, it’s always refreshing to hear one branching out and doing his own thing.
That said, I think, “This Is Me” may be a harder sell than “Happy Man”. Derek will be hoping one sells the other.

CLIONA HAGAN is this year’s biggest Irish rising star. With 2 ITunes chart topping singles, and her own TV show on Keep It Country, the Country Tyrone lass has certainly made her mark this past year. But she’s no overnight success. She was a finalist on RTE’s “All Ireland Talent Show” back in 2009, and at that time, was billed as an opera singer. She has Scottish connections too, having graduated as a secondary teacher at Edinburgh University.
But Country music was always her goal, and the advent of Keep It Country TV has really helped her career, as now she has her first album, “Straight To You” just released (Sharpe Music).
The title track, “I Came Straight To You”, her current single, is an old Patty Loveless number, but Cliona certainly puts her own stamp on it. It’s a good uptempo number that will keep dancers happy on the Irish scene. Her classical voice training has no doubt helped her reach the range of notes required for “The Cowboy Yodel”. It’s a classic song, but one few can sing. Cliona really excels with it.
For Irish traditionalists, she really adds something to “Let Him Go Let Him Tarry”.  “Happy Heart” and “We’re All Gonna Die Someday” are also catchy upbeat numbers.
I was pleased to see a couple of covers from a generation ago from two of my favourite girl singers. She does a good job on “I Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry” (Janie Fricke) and “Dancing Your Memory Away” (Charly McClain).  Her version of Victoria Shaw’s “Never Alone” is also a winner.
She also has an original song, “Smile” from the pen of John Farry.
There are a couple of more pop sounding numbers on the album, including the earlier single, “Dance On” and the Sugarland cover “Stuck On You”. She also does a rather interesting version of “Travelling Soldier”. I’m a little undecided about Cliona’s take on the Dixie Chicks number. Having heard numerous version, all at the same tempo, Cliona has given the song a quicker beat. I’m not sure it really works, but good to hear someone do something different with the song.
On the whole, though, this is an excellent debut album, and one that can only add the cream on top of a great year for Cliona.

ANDY COONEY was born into a New York based Irish-American family, and has built up a musical career around that. His dozen or so albums capture Irish, Gospel, classics and Country songs.
He has recorded with The New York Tenors, Phil Coulter, The RTE Orchestra, as well as Crystal Gayle and Larry Gatlin.
Indeed he spent time back in the 1980’s writing in Nashville. Some of the songs he wrote are only getting an airing now, in his latest album, “Irish Country Skyline” (Sharpe).
One example, Andy tells us, is “On The Eight Day”, which he wrote 29 years ago. It was shopped around Nashville. And whilst it had a lot of interest, remained uncut until Andy revisited it here.
One of the catchiest numbers is “Country Music Was Born”, which features Mick Flavin and Johnny Brady. Not only that, but Andy wrote the song with Nathan Carter, Joe McShane & John Alexander.
One of the writers he worked with in Nashville all these years back was Sheb Wooley, and there are three of Sheb’s songs on this album. Songs that Andy says are being recorded for the first time. They certainly add the Country to an album, which does tend to lean heavily on the Irish side of things.
Recorded in Co. Longford, the whole production is very polished, and is a really good listen.
If you like your Country & Irish, then you’ll really enjoy this album, I’m sure.

CARMEL SILVER began her recording career at the sprightly age of 77 !  Before that, Dublin born Carmel had been a nurse in her adopted city of Coventry in the West Midlands. After giving up her work, she pursued more artistic avenues, including writing poetry, travelling and music. The latter saw her performing in churches across the Midlands, and as far as Spain, where she sings every St Patricks Day.
Like her previous albums, which sold over 15,000 copies, her new album, “The Colour Of His Love”, was produced by Terry Bradford, who has also worked with Charlie Landsborough and Dominic Kirwan.
The album is essentially an album of songs of hope and inspiration. Carmel has a gentle, pleasant voice, making the album easy on the ear. You’ll recognise many of the songs as gospel standards, like “In The Garden”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” and “Amazing Grace”.
The title track is an original, written by producer Terry, and his wife Susie Arvesen, and features a choir from The Gilbertson Primary School. It’s a very nice track, in line with the rest of the album.
It wont be everyone’s cup of tea, but we probably all know someone in our families who will appreciate Carmel’s music.

Next up, a new name to me, although apparently “Holding Patterns” is AMANDA RHEAUME’s fourth CD release. She’s an Ottawa based singer songwriter, who won a Canadian Folk award for Aboriginal Songwriter Of The Year back in 2014.
Her music is hard to pigeon hole. She has quite a modern sound, a bit of pop, a slight folksy feel, but quite a Country sound too.  And she was involved in writing all 12 tracks on the album.
One of the stand out songs on the album is “Red Dress”, which features Juno Humanitarian Award winner Chantel Krevlazuk. Although a good listen, the song has a deeper message, dealing about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls across Canada.
On a brighter note, “The Day The Mountain Fell” tells the true story about a second cousin, who was labelled “a miracle child”, after surviving a landslide in British Columbia, back in the 50’s.
I liked the driving beat of “Wolf Of Time”, the catchy opening track, “Get To The Heart” and the softer, melodic “This Time Around”.
“Time To Land” and “Beat The Rain” are quite poppy radio friendly numbers, whilst “Dead Horse” and “On Disappearing” are pleasant ballads.
I really enjoyed the album. A little different from the usual Nashville fayre, and all original.
Amanda has been in Europe since the end of October promoting the album, and will be in Edinburgh on January 23rd.  

I always find western swing music really refreshing, and THE WESTERN FLYERS didn’t disappoint with their new album, “Wild Blue Yonder” (Versa-Tone Records).  The trio are Joey McKenna, Katie Glassman, and Gavin Kelso, all individual champions on their own.
The publicity suggests that their music is best savoured where Saturday night meets Sunday morning, and those who slide effortlessly into their groove end up partying like it’s 1949”.
The music here will certainly do that.  You’ll recognise many of the songs, like “Along The Navajo Trail”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”, “Old Fashioned Love” and “Tennessee Waltz”.
There’s also a number of fiddle and upright bass instrumentals to keep the party in full swing.
Using early Neumann, Telefunken and RCA ribbon microphones, and other equipment from the era, it all gives a very authentic feel to their sound.
It’s very much an acquired taste, but it’s a sound I just love. And Marty Stuart does too. He wrote the sleevenotes!

Our next album impressed me from the first track right through to the closing note. It comes from West Virginia raised MARTHA FIELDS. “Southern White Lies” is her second album, and is set for a UK release on December 12th.
She really grew up in a musically diverse family. Her father’s side are Texan/ Okie and her mother’s line is steeped in the traditions of Appalachia. Martha blends both, together with some southern blues, and it makes for a sound which has already won fans at Southern Fried and c2c Festivals, as well as events in Lithuania, Holland and Switzerland. Such is her popularity across Europe she is currently based part of the year in France, and she even has a bilingual website. This girl means business.
The album features mainly original self penned, but there are her interpretations of a varied choice of songs, like the traditional bluegrass number, “Lonesome Road Blues”, Jimmie Rodgers’ “California Blues”, and “Tell Me Baby”, written by Mickey Newbury, and best known as a hit for Jerry Lee Lewis or Brenda Lee. She even covers the Janis Joplin number “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do”.
But it’s her own songs that really make the mark for me.
The opening track, “Soul On The Move” is quite a nice taster for what lies ahead. It’s soulful, with a dash of old timey bluegrass. The title track, “Southern White Lies”, a story of family hardship, has also has quite a Country blues feel to it.  The theme continues on the much the railroad racing “Hard Times”. It’s a real breezy feeling number, a stand out track for me.
“Do As You Are Told”, another upbeat number, this time with a distinct Appalachia feel to it.
On a softer note, her beautiful rendition of the traditional gospel song “What Are They Doing In Heaven” is truly stunning.  The arrangement on her own “Where Do We Go Now”, is also worth a listen.
Hopefully we’ll get to see Martha return to Scotland in 2017. In the meantime, listen out for this album. It’s a cracker, just in time for Christmas !

CHICAGO FARMER, is the moniker of Illinois singer songwriter Cody Diekhoff. His 7th album, “Midwest Side Stories” has just been released. It makes for an interesting listen.
His songs deal with mid west issues, like job loss, long shifts, depression, used cars, skateboards and divided nations. His style is very much like Arlo Guthrie or Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. His voice isn’t the most melodic, but it doesn’t need to be to express the emotions required to get the message across.  Good examples are “Two Sides Of The Story”.
I like the new genre label created for “Farms & Factories”. With a driving drum beat, and some fancy fiddlework, the label “workgrass” really works for me.
“Rocco N’Susie” quite appealed to me. It’s a six minute story of a couple and everything going on around them. I also liked the driving beat of “I’m Still Here”.
It’s a bit different, but The Chicago Farmer is growing on me.

Texan PAUL CAUTHEN was in a wild Texicana group called Sons Of Fathers a few years back, but is now out on his own with “My Gospel” (Lightening Rod Records).  Paul is another singer songwriter who is hard to pigeon hole.  But I did detect a certain Waylon Jennings influence on several tracks, He has the same smokey vocal style.
Despite the title, I wouldn’t call it a gospel album. He has gospel overtones through the songs, but they’re his own, down to earth messages, rather than anything from above!
Having said that “Grand Central” sounds quite “churchy”, It actually tells of low points in Paul’s life, shortly after leaving Sons Of Fathers.
It all kicks off with the Waylon sounding “Still Drivin”, which Paul claims to be his “don’t give up anthem”. It also features some neat Jerry Reed influenced picking. “Hanging Out On The Line”, is another I felt was quite Waylon-ish.
“Once You’re Gone” is quite a catchy number, but does develop into quite a rocky number.
The title track closes the album. Paul has a really captivating voice.
I really quite enjoyed this album. Quite different.

PAUL SACHS is a NYC singer songwriter, who was a new folk winner at the famous Kerrville Festival.
“Love Is A Live” is a pleasant listen. Paul’s voice is quite gentle, but some of the songs on the album have quite a message – even protest songs, but not in an angry tone. Harry Chapin, or Paul Simon comes to mind.
He deals with subjects such as Aids, a father of a new born daughter’s addiction, and subjects of a city shooting. Between the protest songs, are songs of love, like the title track.
“The Killer Inside” is a strange tale of a woman who leaves her family for a man on death row. The song is her story from behind the prison glass.
On “Every Mother’s Son” is about two school friends. One goes off to war, whilst the other stays at home. The subject of refugees is covered in “Families Of The Disappeared”.
Just so it’s not all gloom, the closing track, “The Best Hope Can Do” is a positive closure.
Paul has a pleasant voice, and he handles his messages well.

Another one for those that like their Country mixed with Old Time and Bluegrass sounds. RED TAIL RING are a duo from Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, it’s a real place!), featuring Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp. Their fourth album, “Fall Away Blues” has just been released here.
The 12 track CD of mainly original songs kicks off with the lush, dreamy title track, featuring Laurel on lead vocals.
On “Love Of The City”, Michael leads the vocals, but Laurel’s harmonies really make this sensitive ballad really something to hear.
Several of the tracks have quite a folky feel, especially “Wonderous Love”, “My New Homeplace”, and “Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies”.
Although the music may be old timey in it’s feel, some of the subjects covered are real current. Take “Gibson Town” for example, which covers the mass shooting in their hometown earlier this year. Then, “Shale Town” deals with the fracking debate.
It’s banjo, fiddle, guitar and two contrasting old time bluegrass vocals. It makes for a very interesting listen.

OK, it’s December. Christmas times a coming. But I do feel violated when I get Christmas music in the post – before Halloween!  Lots of Country stars release Christmas albums. This year’s selection includes Garth & Trisha, Rascall Flatts , Jennifer Nettles, Kasey Musgraves and Amy Grant.
But very few get a UK release. CHRIS YOUNG is spreading his Christmas cheer over here this year, by releasing “It Must Be Christmas” (Sony).  
It’s a bit of the usual fayre with Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. Alan Jackson joins him on “There’s A New Kid In Town”, and Brad Paisley on “The First Noel”.
He stretches the Country tag by joining Boys II Men on “Silent Night”, and covering U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”.
He does include two co-written original tracks. “Under The Weather” and “It Must Be Christmas”. Both are rather unenthusiastic songs about the reality of Christmas, ie : Cold weather, long drives to visit family, and all you see is red and green.
It’s quite a listenable album, but one will be forgotten about by New Year!

The next couple of albums arrived too late to be included in the magazine, but couldn’t wait for the next issue.
KASEY MUSGRAVES has become one of the freshest voices on the American scene in recent years. On “A Very Kacey Christmas” she covers a mixture of standards like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Let It Snow” and “Rudolph”, as well as some original numbers.
“Christmas Makes Me Cry” is a simple little sad song, which, for me is probably the highlight of the album. She also wrote “Present Without a Bow”, which features fellow Texan Leon Bridges. This one sounds quite pop to my ears. Getting Willie Nelson on board is always a bonus, and to include him in the title, is one way to do that. “A Willie Nice Christmas” is quirky, and really catchy.
She also features the talented Quebe Sisters on one of the Hawaiian influenced “Mele Kalikimaka”, and also features “Feliz Navidad”.
Kasey claims to be influenced by Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and The Andrews Sisters. She has certainly recreated a real old timey feel to this whole album. She even digs up the fifties novelty number “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas”.
It’s a nice listen, hardly in the same category as her two mainstream, albums.

Now, here’s an album that could really get me into Christmas music. It’s not Country by any means, but really appeals to me. “The Phil Cunningham Christmas Songbook”, features the ace accordion and keyboard wizard, alongside two of Scotland’s most highly acclaimed  Scottish female vocalists, Karen Mathieson and Eddi Reader, as well as John McCusker, Kris Drever, Ian Carr, Kevin McGuire.
It’s a really pleasant easy listening selection of seasonal fayre. Some vocals and some instrumental tracks.
There are interesting versions of “Silent Night”, “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Away In A Manger”.
I loved the originality of “Winter Wonderland” with “The Bluebell Polka”, and “Waltz For Aly”, which blends seamlessly into “Silver Bells”.
The album kicks off with “Santa Will Find You”, written by Mindy Smith and Chely Wright. Mindy also co wrote “I Know The Reason”, two of the tracks that stand out for me.
The album is released in conjunction with the annual tour which kicks off in Stirling on December 16th, then calls at Perth, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Now, this is an album that makes Christmas just that bit special.

Finally, on the home front, we told you before about Fife’s HEATHER DICKSON, who recorded her last album in Nashville, then went down to San Antonio to film the video, and got Bobby Flores, no less, to join her on screen.
Well, Heather has been back to Nashville, and recorded a new EP. The first single has been released via the usual digital outlets. It’s a raunchy little number called “Harley Honey”, which really suits Heather. It was recorded at Music City’s Midtown Studios with Nashville musicians.
Well worth checking out ahead of the full release in the new year.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Oct 2016

This time around, we’ll kick off with some recent releases from our homegrown artists.

JACKIE STORRAR’s legacy CD, “Behind Her Eyes”, is an absolutely stunning album.  Her voice sounds wonderful throughout, despite being recorded in the final months of her life. The musical arrangements really suit the style of the songs, and is a real credit to her husband Steve Thiebault and Bones Parker.
When listening to the songs throughout the album, knowing Jackie’s health situation when she was recording it, it’s easy to appreciate how a songs words can be adapted to match the occasion. Take the opening track, for example. “One Night at A Time” has a completely different meaning from Jackie, than it ever was with George Strait. Similarly, “But I Will” was on Faith Hill’s first album, but with lines like “The next time would be the last time, and that time came this morning”, you cant help feel how poignant the song was for Jackie.
The album includes four tracks written by Jackie & Steve, including “The Future’s Ours”, a lovely ballad which was the first song they wrote together.
They also wrote the title track, which Jackie writes on the sleevenotes is about people not being what they seem. Again, with Jackie’s positive outlook during her illness, it fits her legacy so well.
The album does include a few songs that Jackie had released as singles over the years, but had not made it onto an album. Included is “My Angel”, which the pair wrote in 2004 after TV presenter Caron Keating lost her battle with breast cancer. How sad that Jackie would face the same battle.
Jackie’s musical tastes were quite varied, and that is demonstrated on the album, by the inclusion of Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”, and there’s quite a celtic feel to her version of The Killers’ “Human”, and “Wild Mountainside”, written by John Douglas from The Trashcan Sinatras.  She also gives another airing to Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”, and, in contrast also covers Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”.
Steve Black wrote “I Stand Gere Tonight”, and she also covers Shania Twain’s “No One Needs To Know” and The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive”.
It’s a beautiful album. It’s one that I’d appreciate whatever the situation.
Thanks for the music Jackie. It’s a wonderful legacy for us all to share in. And remember, the main beneficiaries are Maggie’s Fife.

Glasgow born LISA McHUGH continues to be one of the biggest names on the Irish Country scene. And her latest album, “# Country” (Sharpe Music) will further establish her popularity.
She has established herself on the dance circuit in Ireland with a number of upbeat fun numbers, and whilst there are a number of these included here, including covers of Crystal Gayle’s “Why Have You Left The one You Left Me For”, Alan Jackson’s “Lets Get Back To Me And You”, and her latest single “Satisfy You” (the old Sweethearts Of The Rodeo number), this album does show Lisa’s versatility in mixing in some really traditional Country and folk sounds into her sound. Indeed Lisa says that “the music is slightly more subtle and leans more towards a bluegrass country style than the “comin’ at cha’ songs we’ve done previously”.
There’s certainly some signs of that. Her versions of “Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels” and “I Hope You’re The End Of My Story” are both laced with some lovely mandolin, and “Who’s Gonna Be Your Next Love”, has a good bluegrass drivin’ beat.  
The album kicks off with “He’s A Good Ole Boy”, the old Chely Wright number, which Lisa recalls from her younger days growing up on Glasgow’s South Side. And she goes back to Joni Harms for “That’s Faith” to close the album. Joni, of course, wrote Lisa’s early career song “Old Fashioned Girl”.
She turns in some lovely ballads, including “26 Cents”, and “To Say Goodbye”, which serves as a beautiful tribute to Joey Feek. The song, co-written by Rory, was originally recorded by Joey & Rory.
There’s a duet with Malachi Cush on the old Canadian folk song, “Peggy Gordon”, but for me, stand out track is the old Loretta Lynn song, “Success”. Pure Country.  And not one of the most obvious Loretta numbers to choose.
Lisa’s come up with another winning package of songs, than can only further enhance her career.

DEAN OWENS has been one of Scotland’s main Country singer songwriters for over 20 years, firstly with The Felsons, and later with a number of solo albums.
Although very much a songwriter, Dean did acknowledge one of his hero’s Johnny Cash with an album called “CashBack” in 2012. Now, to coincide with a select few gigs, including Southern Fried and the Edinburgh Fringe, he has honoured Hank Williams on “Setting The Woods On Fire (Songs I Learned From Hank)”.
With a neat trio, comprising Stuart Nisbet and Kevin McGuire, (The Celtabilly Allstars), they have come up with an effective sound, which recaptures the original styles of the songs, whilst at the same time, sounding perfect for today’s audience.
There are some of Hank’s biggest songs in the 12 track collection, including “There’s A Tear In My Beer”, “I Saw The Light”, “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, alongside a few, perhaps, less obvious numbers like “Alone And Forsaken” and “I Wont Be Home No More”.
As he did on the Cash album, Dean has written one song for the album. This time, it’s “Celebrate The Life”, which could quickly become an anthem for Hank.
Hank Williams music is timeless. Over seventy years on from his death, his songs are still some of the most recognised across all musical styles. Dean does justice to those included here.
A Deluxe version of Dean’s previous album, “Into The Sea” has also just been released.

Another Glasgow girl going places is MARTHA L HEALY.  She’s currently in Nashville working on her second album. But for fans who can wait for the follow up to her acclaimed “Better Days” album, she has released a four track EP, “To Be Free”.
It’s a four track collection, recorded at Glasgow’s La Chunky Studios earlier in the year, featuring two original songs and two classic covers.
What really works for me, is the simple acoustic set up. Martha plays acoustic guitar, alongside Rebecca Brown on fiddle, Sean Thomson on banjo and David O’Neill on Upright Bass. Together, they produce a stunning beautiful sound, which really let you hear Martha’s superb vocals.
The lead track is Martha’s own “To Be Free”, a song which really won me over from first listen. It’s a really strong song, and Martha’s voice really delivers. First Class.
The second song, “Too Much Time” was co-written with her brother Paul, who also provided background vocals on the CD.  The two classic covers are Patsy’s “Walking After Midnight” and Hank’s “I Saw The Light”. The arrangements make interesting listening.
Altogether a very nice EP. I don’t know if it will keep her fans satisfied for now though. It’ll whet the appetite for more. Don’t be too long with that second full CD Martha!

Now let’s move across the Atlantic.
THE TIME JUMPERS are an amazing band of individuals who have been charming Nashville audiences with weekly jam sessions at 3rd & Lindsey, for the past 20 years. Their music has a distinct Western Swing influence, which is so refreshing to hear in Music City these days.
The main players in The Time Jumpers are Vince Gill, Paul Franklin, Ranger Doug, Larry Franklin, Joe Spivey and Kenny Sears. Kenny’s wife Dawn was also a main player in the band, before her brave battle with cancer was lost in December 2014.
No surprise that their new album, “Kid Sister” (Rounder) is dedicated to her memory. The album was in the works prior to her passing, so Dawn is, indeed, featured on the opening track, “My San Antone Rose”. It’s the last song she sung.
She also sings harmony on the rather personal “I Miss You”, co-written by Vince & Ashley Monroe. The song first saw life as a song that Gill co-wrote and recorded for his most recent album but didn’t use.  On it, Dawn sang harmony.  To give it a proper place in this group album, Gill stripped off the original instrumentation and rewrote some of the lyrics to reflect Kenny’s perspective on missing Dawn and had The Time Jumpers replay all the music.
Kenny, in turn, delivers a heartfelt “This Heartache”.
But it’s Vince who delivers the stunning title track. Just listen to Paul Franklin’s weeping steel guitar. And there’s a lengthy instrumental close to the song, with three fiddles and Jeff Taylor’s accordion. It’s so beautiful. So fitting.
But the album is much more than just a tribute to Dawn Sears.
With the release of “Kid Sister”, the band now has its own official theme song, a scorched-earth romp called “We’re The Time Jumpers.”  Gill, who wrote the tune, name-checks every member of the band in the lyrics, as well as giving a nod to Dawn.
Paul Franklin’s steel guitar-driven “All Aboard” roars with the excitement and inevitably of a runaway freight train as each member takes a turn at pouring on the instrumental coal.
“Honky Tonk”, an upbeat swing number written by Gill & Troy Seals, is given a real authentic delivery thanks to Larry Franklin.
There’s a few long lost gems from the past getting a new airing here.
“I Hear You Talkin’” is a Cindy Walker gem from the 1940s that both she and Bob Wills recorded before Faron Young ran it up the country charts in 1959. Joe Spivey delivers the vocals here.
Another Time Jumpers resurrection is “Bloodshot Eyes,” a slice of comic despair that became a Top 5 hit in 1950 for its co-writer, Hank Penny, and later an Asleep At The Wheel staple.  Gill brings back “Table For Two,” the achingly forlorn lament he and Max D. Barnes first contributed to Loretta Lynn’s 2002 album, “Still Country”. “The True Love You Meant For Me” is a another Vince Gill trademark ballad. His vocals and Franklin’s steel just blend together so beautifully.
Rounding out the list are “Empty Rooms,” sung by Ranger Doug, and Billy Thomas’ veritable trail of tears, “Blue Highway Blues”.
It’s great stuff. The best album to come out of Nashville this year !

It’s not many albums that are so iconic, that they deserve high profile reissues thirty years down the road. But when the albums feature Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, then you can understand what the fuss is all about.
All three were, (and still are) huge stars when the idea of “TRIO” was first muted. They had performed “Light of The Stable” for Emmylou’s Christmas album in 1979, but their busy schedules prevented them recording together again until 1987 when the first “Trio” album was released. That was followed up with “Trio II” in 1999.
Now Rhino Records have released a series of collections to commemorate the iconic recordings of three Country superstars who have sold over 200 million albums between them.
The main release is “The Trio Collection”, a 3CD collection, featuring the two individual albums, together with a 20 track third CD, featuring seven alternate takes from the previous releases, and another thirteen recordings that were unreleased from the original recordings.
An alternative release is “My Dear Companion”, which features 14 tracks from the main package, ten from the original albums, two alternate takes and two previously unreleased tracks.
“Trio II” has been released on LP for the first time, as has “Farther Along”, a double LP of the Unreleased and Alternate takes.
It’s all very confusing, but the music on these collections is such an iconic part of Country music, that every Country fan should have, at least part of it, in their collection.

Now for some new Nashville music. JAKE OWEN is one of the biggest stars of the past ten years since he signed with RCA in 2006. The Florida native has notched up 5 Number One’s to date, including “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone with You”.
His 5th album, “American Love” has been given a UK release (Sony) and features the single “American Country Love Song”.
The eleven tracks have been written by some impressive Nashville writers, including Jared Johnson, Shane McAnally, Hillary Lindsey, Dallas Davidson and Ashley Gorley. Owen, himself has only one co-writing credit, for “LAX”, the most Country track on the album, with some nice steel and female harmonies.
“When You Love Someone” is a soft, piano led ballad, that stands out.
One of the quirkiest numbers that catches the attention is “VW Van”, a tribute to the iconic touring home. Other makes are available of course, so radio may not want to give free advertising to one, however famous. Of course, VW may adopt it.
Most of the other tracks are modern sounding Nashville tracks, the most appealing being “After Midnight” and “Everybody Dies Young”.
It’s a modern Country album, and Jake has found his place with this latest album.

DRAKE WHITE is one of the newest hitmakers from Music City. He did have a self released album before getting a record deal in 2013. That deal only netted one single, but now Drake has emerged on Dot Records (part of Big Machine Records) with “Spark” and it’s already getting him some attention.
He co-wrote 11 of the songs, with established writers like Jason Sellers, Mark Irwin, Shane MacAnally and Shane Minor. In true record label style, the only track he didn’t write, “Livin’ the Dream” is the single release from the album.
The first track, “Heartbeat” was quite a rocky number, but the fiddle intro into the second track, “Story” got me really interested in the album. It’s a good catchy little number, which is certainly radio friendly. I also really liked “Live Some”, it’s another that will stick in your head.  Any song called “Elvis” needs a listen. This one is a bit rocky, and nothing to do with The King. “Waitin’For The Whiskey To Work” is a slower number which is growing on me.
“Make Me Look Good Again” is an interesting ballad that had an almost gospel feel to it. There was a touch of blues on “Equator”, but it was catchy enough to maintain my attention.
It’s an interesting album, with some signs I liked. There’s also quite a few tracks that didn’t appeal to me. Check it out though.

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE are a duo consisting of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly. One comes from Georgia, the other from Florida, which explains the name. They met whilst studying at Nashville’s Belmont University, at the top of Music Row.
Their huge hit “Cruise” established their name across all musical genres in America, and they later visited the UK as part of the c2c Festival.
They are one of the main players in today’s Nashville music, which get plays on Country radio in the USA, but, in reality, have very little country music on offer.
Their latest album, “Dig Your Roots” (Big Machine) isn’t all that bad an album, but it’s just pop music, They include some guests you wouldn’t expect to find on a Country album, namely Bob Marley’s son Ziggy, and 90’s boy band The Backstreet Boys.
They do include Tim McGraw on one track, “May We All”, to try to give the album some Country credibility, but it fails.
The single from the album, “HOLY” isn’t too bad a song, and I really quite enjoyed “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old”, which come along quite late in this 15 track album.
But it’s not what I’d call Country !

JACK TEMPCHIN is one of these multi genre songwriters and musicians that just seem to have been around forever. He is best known for writing several of The Eagles biggest hits, including “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “The Girl From Yesterday” and “Already Gone”, He also wrote an array of hits for the likes of Glen Campbell, George Jones, Olivia Newton John, Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker and Sammy Kershaw.
He’s no stranger to recording either. His new album, “One More Song” (Blue Elan Records) is his tenth release, and is a really pleasant listen. He says that the album honours his coffee house roots, “a guy, an audience and a song”.
It’s a very acoustic album, with the minimal of instrumentation, just guitar, some harmonica, and a sprinkling of other instruments.
The album features some songs from Jack’s past. A few have been recorded 40 years ago by his early band, The Funky Kings. The title track was previously recorded by Randy Meisner, and apparently performed live by Jackson Browne. The 12 track collection kicks off with “Slow Dancing”, a hit for Johnny Rivers. Jack’s own version is extremely slow.
“Circle Ties That Bind”, one of the first songs that he ever wrote, is a really nice ballad. One of the more recent songs is another ballad, “Still Looking For A Way To Say Goodbye”, which he co-wrote with Lisa Angelle for a film score. The song never made the movie, but it makes it on here.
But it’s not all slow numbers. There’s quite a catchy feel, complete with Dylan style moothie  on “Singing In The Street” and “So Long My Friend”.
There are a couple of songs co-written with Bobby Whitlock (from Derek & The Dominoes). “Old River” is a beautiful song, which I really liked, whilst “I Got Her Right Where She Wants Me” is a real tongue in cheek Country number.
Great to hear one of the great writers doing some of the songs we’ve not heard before. A really nice listen.

Another great singer songwriter, producer and musician is MAC McANALLY. He’s a real Nashville legend, He’s written such hits as “Old Flame” for Alabama, “She Put The Sad In All His Songs” (Ronnie Dunn) and “Thank God For You”, one of several for Sawyer Brown.
He’s been the CMA’s Musician Of The Year for the past eight years, and has twelve previous albums, before his latest “Aka Nobody” gets a UK release on Wrasse Records.
There’s a real mix of material on the 15 track self produced CD. He has worked with a number of big name writers, like Al Anderson, Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett and Chris Stapleton.
The one song not written by McAnally is Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi On My Mind”.
Many of the songs have a soft easy listening gulf coast sound to them, an influence he’s picked up by touring with Jimmy Buffett.
I really liked “Coast Of Carolina”, co-written with Buffett. “Proud To Be Alive”, was more upbeat, but still had that gulf feel to it. “Everything” was a bit different. It’s probably the most Nashville track on the album, with just a hint of gospel.
One refreshingly different number is “Zanzibar”. It’s not Country, but really catchy, with its’ 40’s type feel, and instead of The Andrews Sisters, Mac got his McAnally Sisters to do the backing vocals.
A couple of other upbeat numbers, included “Loser Gumbo” and the bluesy “Better Get The Story Straight”, which had quite a gospel feel to it.
I really enjoyed this album. I have a CD he released in the early 90’s, and still play it today. Good to add some more Mac McAnally to my collection.

JASON ALDEAN is one of the biggest Country hitmakers over the past 10 years or so. The Macon, Georgia, native is one of the artists who has blown away Country music’s boundaries, by giving fans a much more rocky sound.
His 7th studio album, “They Don’t Know” (Sony) has just been released here, which will appeal to the fans who saw him at the c2c Festival.
The album kicks off with a typical rocky number, “Lights Come On” and finishes with one called “”When The Lights Go Out”. The album also includes the recent UK radio single release, “A Little More Summertime”. This single is growing on me. It’s a bit more mellow than some of his previous hits.
Indeed there are some interesting songs amongst the 15 tracks on the CD.
“In Case You Don’t Remember” is one of the more pleasant ballads on the album, whilst “All Out Of Beer” and “Any Ol’Barstool” should appeal to the honky tonkers- or maybe not.
But most of the songs are rather samey pop sounding numbers. Amongst them is a duet with newcomer Kelsea Ballerini on “First Time Again”.
Amongst the songwriters credited are Neil Thrasher, Tom Shapiro, Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally and Rhett Akins.
I cannot argue with 17 Number One records stateside, but the guy just ain’t Country enough for me !

Back to the UK now.
ORFILA are a family trio from Kent, with a catchy modern sound that is quite similar to the Ward Thomas/Shires sound, which is getting a lot of airplay these days. “Never Slowin’ Down” (Black Dog Records) is their second album, and features ten self penned original songs. The trio are made up of Abi & Louise on vocals, and Matt on guitars. Abi also adds piano, and they have brought in a number of musicians for the recordings, in both London & Nashville, including BJ Cole on pedal steel, and ex Steeleye Span drummer Liam Glenockey.
The album kicks off with the catchy “Floor It”, but it was the steel intro to track 2, “Just Somethin’” which really caught my attention. “It Would Be You” is a big more upbeat, with some catchy banjo, thanks to Travis Troy. Other upbeat tracks included “Second Wind” and “Raise A Glass”.
They slowed things down on “All Along” and the harmonies between the girls really shone through. Other ballads, where the harmonies really impressed, included “Carry On” and “When You Look at Me”.
A few of the tracks, like “Fine Tooth Comb” and “Hit The Ground Running” were just a little too pop for me.
I liked the album. They have a good modern sound. I’m sure we’ll hear more from Orfila.

THE COAL PORTERS are now an established part of the British Americana scene, although their music does defy boundaries. Listed on wikipedia as “bluegrass”, they can also claim folk, celtic, alternative and indie influences. The band, led by ex Long Ryder Sid Griffin, was founded by Sid when he decided to turn away from the electric music.  They haven’t looked back.
Their latest album “No.6” (Prima Records) is a fine mixture of styles.
The album kicks off with a lament to the era of punk rock. “The Day The Last Ramone Died” is an upbeat bluegrass banjo, fiddle and harmony lead number, which crosses musical boundaries in itself.
That’s followed by Neil Robert Herd’s celtic influenced “Save Me From The Storm”. There’s more Scottish influence on “Unhappy Anywhere”, with mentions of Aberdeen in the same line as California”.
“The Blind Bartender” is an epic 7 minute latin fused story song, which is immediately followed by “Cropping The Garlic”, a wild fiddle instrumental. Now, there’s a contrast in styles !
“The Old Style Music Break” is a really catchy upbeat bluegrass number that really stands out, whilst “Another Girl-Another Planet” is much more of a ballad, with some nice banjo and fiddle.  “Salad Days” is quite a story of the music business. Although starting off accapella, it bursts into a superb banjo led bluegrass number.
There’s also a track written and performed by trained vocalist and fiddler Kerenza Peacock, who has two hit classical CD’s to her credit and currently touring with Adele.

CHRIS WHILE and JULIE MATHEWS are both stalwarts of the English folk scene, but as Wikipedia points out, both girls draw from Country and Americana for their music. Both have worked with various bands and projects over the years, including The Albion Band.
As a duo, “Shoulder To Shoulder” (Fat Cat Records) is their 10th album together.
It’s an extremely pleasant listen, with 11 original songs, written by the pair, with three co-written with Charlie Dore.
“Leap Of Faith” is a lovely song about the ties between mother and daughter, regardless of time or distance.
Other tracks that stood out were the opening track, “The Skin That I’m In”, “Are We Human” and the softer “Pinjarra Dreams”. Some excellent musicians including Danny Hart, who plays with The Mairs Family Band, playing fiddle on several tracks.
A lovely listen. Nice & relaxing.

THE JIGANTICS are an English based five piece outfit, who, I’ve got to say, don’t, to me, sell themselves from their name.  Their name suggests something more of a heavy metal band, than the beautiful music that they actually produce.
“Seconds Out” is their second album, and it really packs a punch, without going over the top.
From the opening beats of “Take Me For Longing”, led vocally by Marion Fleetwood. It’s a bit more gutsy than the Alison Krauss version, but with Marion’s folksy vocal style, it comes over with a completely original feel to it.
More transformation to follow, as they cover Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. You would never guess it was the same song from the laid back easy listening version here.  Another cover of note is the haunting “Blue Side Of The Mountain”, written by Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson, and most notably a hit for The Steeldrivers. There’s also an interesting version of Jackson Browne’s “The Crow On The Cradle”.
I really enjoyed their cover of The Claytones’ “Out On The Road Tonight”. Again with Marion on lead vocals, this time, with a very Country feel to it.
But this isn’t an album of covers. There are four tracks written by the band’s Martin Fitzgibbon, two with fellow group member Mark Cole. Stand Out track for me is “Radio” with it’s driving beat. A real good radio song, I have to say.
I really enjoyed this album which fuses many different styles. There’s Country in there, with a rather folksy feel to it.

Now for some Southern Country Rock, (Southern Britain, that is) courtesy of JERICHO SUMMER, a duo comprising Jay Zeffin and Vanessa Joy. They met twenty years ago, but this is their first album together. Both had been involved in music prior to their meeting. Vanessa had even starred as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Their album “Night Train” (Devil’s Blade Records) features Izzy Stradlin, the original rhythm guitarist for Guns’n’Roses, and bass player Marco Mendoza from Thin Lizzy.
But, to maintain a little Country influence, it also features Albert Lee and Stuart Duncan, who has a long list of Nashville music credits.
It is a very rocky album, in a southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd/ ZZ Top) style. But there are some tracks a bit closer to Country than others, notably the softer ballads “Live For The Moment” and “Lonely Town” and the livelier “Does It Matter” and “Good One Coming On”.
It’s a bit different. One for the rockers !

There are a lot of diverse musical acts on the Irish scene, but none have the stand out gimmick of THE INDIANS. For 45 years they have been entertaining in their full Indian dress. It may detract from the music, but once you sit down and listen to a CD like their latest, “Hello World”, you get to appreciate just how good musicians and singers they are.
Whilst many of today’s new Irish breed do try to maintain some Country music credentials, when you’ve been around as long as The Indians, you know you’re audience and what’ll appeal to them.
The title track, “Hello World” is a catchy upbeat fun number, as are many of the tracks here, including a cover of Tracy Byrd hit, “I Don’t Believe That’s How You Feel”, which is given a catchy TexMex feel to it.
They slow it down with Dan Hill’s classic song, “Sometimes When We Touch” and Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love”.
There’s also “Save The Last Dance For Me”, the old Fureys number “Red Rose Café”, Peter & Gordon’s “A World Without Love”, and even “It’s Alright, It’s OK”, the theme to the New Tricks TV series.
David Sheriff also gets in on the act, by contributing “My Baby’s Never Wrong”
Of course there are several theme songs, including “Indian Lake”, “Indian Love Call” and “Qualalinta”, written by Roger Miller.
It’s a good mix of songs that’ll keep any showband party swinging.

Next up, we have a CD from singer songwriter MIKE CULLISON. Mike came to music quite late in life. Although it was always part of his life, the release party for his first CD, was also his retirement party after 32 years with The Bell Telephone Company. That was in 2004.
As far as I can gather “Front Porch Philosophy” is his 4th full album, which was recorded live at the Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville.
The 11 track album of self penned songs, kicks off with “West Texas State Of Mind”, and that really sets the tone for the whole album. He certainly does have a Texas feel running through the album.
There’s a honky tonk influence on upbeat numbers like “Aint Enough Whiskey” and “The Devil Sitting Next To Me”. Other uptempo songs include “Just That Little Thing”.
Some songs, like “This Disguise” are softer “hangover” numbers.
Other ballads include “Family Man” and “I Cant Throw Stones”, whilst there’s a touch of blues on “Little Bit Country” and “Dorothy’s Shoes”.
It’s an interesting album. Some real Honky Tonk Country on offer. Thanks to Ken MacLeod for passing the CD onto me for review.  

We don’t get too many real Country & Western albums, but when one comes along, titled “Western & Country”, it’s worth a listen. It comes from DENNIS JAY (Linkhorn Music) and produced by Texan legend Lloyd Maines.
Dennis got his musical education whilst in Germany as an Army child, by listening to the legendary AFN Radio. When he returned to the USA, his family settled in Maryland, where he bought an old Martin guitar and started writing songs. He released his first album in 2003. He eventually made it to Texas, and is now based in San Antonio.
This latest album is a lovely mix of old timey cowboy songs, and Mexican ballads. They’re all original, except for the classic “Streets Of Laredo”.
It all kicks off with a jaunty 2 minute instrumental intro to “Texas Skies Shining In A Cowgirls Eyes”.Many of the songs deal with love in the Ol’ West, from the bouncy Mexican beat of “Primcia” to the honky tonk influenced “A Picture In My Wallet”. There’s also vintage Country on “My Baby’s Arms” and the slower “A Cowboy Tune”.
There’s also the stories of personal battles in “The Lights Of Deadwood”, “Right Up On The Edge” and “The Gamble”.
Dennis hasn’t the most convincing voice, but that gives this whole album a real authentic sound. There are duet vocals from Lisa Gamache on a couple of tracks, which blend with Dennis beautifully.
In a world of modern over produced music, this was a breath of clear western skies.

THE HONEYCUTTERS are a 5 piece band from Asheville, North Carolina, led vocally by Amanda Anne Platt, who also wrote most of the songs. Their fourth album, “On The Ropes” (Organic Records) has just been released here in the UK, and it’s a real winner.
With a fresh, in the main, upbeat set of songs, Amanda has a great voice. It’s Country, maybe too Country for Nashville, but really appealed to me.
The one song that Amanda didn’t right is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which is given a fresh upbeat treatment.
It all kicks off with the punchy title tracks, and it really got me interested in listening further.
“The Handbook” is a quirky fun sounding number, which features a trio of ladies from, a group which Amanda also plays with.
Stand out tracks for me include “Lets Get Drunk”, which features some great honky tonk piano and hip harmonica, and the softer “The Only Eyes”.  Several songs, like “500 Pieces” and “Useless Memories” have some lovely steel guitar licks.
The album concludes with a five minute anthem to bar staff everywhere. “Barmaid’s Blues” has a slow a start, but builds up nicely to a superb Country number.
I really loved this album. The Honeycutters play the type of music that puts Nashville to shame. This is the kind of Country they should be producing in Music City.

THE BELLE HOLLOWS are a new bluegrass influenced trio featuring siblings Rachel and Jeremy Johnson and Robert Phaneuf, who first played together in the Nashville based band, The Barrell Jumpers.
Now, together, they release their first album, “Millers Creek” (Elm Hill), which takes us on a musical trip from “The Ocean Song” to the moonshine mountains of “Rebel On The Run”.
Jeremy wrote most of the songs, the exception being “Careful How You Break My Heart”, which was written by Canadian writer Jory Nash.
There is a bit of a Commonwealth thread running through the album. “San Remo”, which closes the album, is a nicely paced banjo infused number, which is inspired by an Australian seaside village. Another of the tracks, “Jonah” was a finalist in a UK songwriter contest. On this track, a haunting “Enya-ish” type number, the trio are joined by the ladies of Harpeth Rising.

FELLOW PYNINS are Dani Aubert and Ian Van Ornum, from Ashland, Oregon, in America’s great Northwest. They previously played in a six piece band called Patchy Sanders, but are now on their own, and have just released an album, “Hunter & The Hunted”, which is released here, ahead of a possible tour here next year.
All the tracks are self penned, and cover stories of childhood memories, shepherding and growing up. It’s all very acoustic, old timey music, relying on banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Many of the songs are quite slow and lengthy (they’re all over 4 minutes long, and two run over 6 minutes).
There’s a quirky bluegrass instrumental, with an even quirkier title, “Henry’s Got Freckles In The Summertime”. It’s really catchy.
One for the aficionados of old timey bluegrass music.

ROGER ROGER are a Canadian sibling duo from Winnipeg, The brother-sister haven’t always played music together. Lucas had played in a local rock’n’roll band, whilst Madeleine was more involved in theatre.
Their debut album, “Fairweather” (MFM) features 9 songs written by the pair, and lead vocals are shared between them.
The title track is a nice pleasant ballad sung by Lucas, whilst rocks it up a bit on “You Came Around”, “Mad Trapper” and “Dead Horse Creek”. The latter is probably the strongest and most Country on the CD.
Madeleine leads the vocals on the opening track, a nice melodic number “13 Crows”. She also leads on “Another Girl’s Shoes”, which is a strong upbeat number, but slows it down on “O Rainy Day” and “Scott Free”. I quite liked the bouncy “Think Of Me”.
A nice sound. Quite a good listen.

THE O’s are a Dallas based roots duo, comprising John Pedigo and Taylor Young. We have reviewed their music before. Indeed, “Honeycomb” (Punch Five Records) is their fourth to date.
I’d describe their music as progressive bluegrass. The banjo is the main instrument throughout the album, but there’s certainly a rocky edge to their sound. Indeed, in pointing out the difference on this album, prom their previous outings, Pegido says, “We used more delay on the banjo, and tried to sing together more”.
Their songs are quite upbeat in the main.
The 12, all self-written, songs kick off with the catchy “Fourteen Days”, and the Country flavoured “Medicine”.
“Halfway Sideways” and “Retribution” are really bouncy banjo and vocal led numbers, which I really liked a lot.
But there’s also some slower numbers, like “Reaper”, and “Wanted”.
Some of the tracks do come over a bit more pop/rock, like “Shooting Star” and “Go Slow”.
There’s a Scottish connection, in that Justin Currie, from Del Amitri, guests on “Woken Up”. The song does have a Del Amitri sound, it has to be said.
Altogether, I really liked the sound of The O’s. Worth a listen.

Finally, CHRIS MURPHY is a talented violin player from New York City, whose latest album, “Red Mountain Blues” (Teahouse Records) is quite a treasure if you like old timey fiddle and bluegrass tunes.
Born into an Irish-Italian family, he grew up immersed in music. He grew up to be a dabbler in various instruments, from mandolin to percussion, but the violin became his forte.
The 14 track collection is all self penned, and features a number of instrumentals from the foot stomping opening title track to the old time waltz of “Wilt Whitman”, and the slow air of “Johnson County”, which is actually labelled here as Western Saloon Music. There’s even some progressive Newgrass on “High Country”, whilst the fast paced “Cast Iron” is a real bluegrass breakdown number.
There are a number of vocal arrangements too, ranging from the traditional “Black Roller” and the fast paced “Dry County” to “Kitchen Girl” and “Meet Me Tonight”, both of which are more straight Country.
He even has Herb Pederson and Tim O’Brien guesting on the album.
Really refreshing. Really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Aug 2016

The NASHVILLE TV series has proved to be popular with readers, and you can look forward to Season 4 in the coming months on Sky. I must admit I haven’t seen the programme, and I’m reviewing two CD’s “The Music Of Nashville” Season 4 Volumes 1 and 2, (Big Machine) purely on their musical content.
The series has produced stars in Sam Paladino, Charles Esten, Hayden Panettiere and Clare Bowen. A number of songs have hit the Country charts in recent years, but they haven’t hit the high positions that you’d expect from TV exposure.
I was pleasantly surprised that the music, whilst, in the main part, was original, and modern, it wasn’t as Nashville pop as I expected. One thing I did note was that I didn’t recognise too many of the writers credited, and there were lots of different writers involved. That can only be good in encouraging new writers to Country music. There are a few credits to the more established Al Anderson, Stephanie Lambring, Gordie Sampson, Maren Morris and Matraca Berg.
Some of the tracks that caught my attention included “Plenty Far To Fall” and “The Rubble” (Clare & Sam), “Only Tennessee” (Clare), “Like New” (Charles), “Sleep Tonight” (Chris Carmack & Jonathan Jackson), “Caged Bird” (Aubrey Peebles)  and “I Want To Do Everything For You” (Connie Britton & Riley Smith).
Mark Collie, who had some sizable hits around 1990 plays Frankie Gray in the series, and contributes “Holding On To What I Cant Have”. That gives the series some credibility, if it needed it.   It would’ve been so easy to have filled the series with established Country music, but they’ve avoided that. There is a version of “Crazy”, and I have to say, it’s not a bad version at all. But the inclusion of Steven Tyler singing it, does raise an eyebrow or two.
If you’re a fan of the TV show, or just want to check out some original Country music, then these CD’s with 17 tracks on each volume, are worth checking out.
There’s also UK only digital package “The Nashville Cast : UK Tour Edition”,

MARTINA McBRIDE has a lot to celebrate this year. It’s 25 years since she got her RCA label contract, which netted her a string of half a dozen number one hits. She has also just a celebrated a “big” birthday.
To celebrate, she has just released her latest album, “Reckless” (Big Machine), produced by Nathan Chapman and Dan Huff.
On my first listen, I thought it was a big on the pop side, but the more I listen, the more I’m really warming to it.
The album kicks off with a couple of poppy upbeat numbers including the title track.
But by the time I got to track 5, I was warming to the album. “The Real Thing” features some nice harmony from Buddy Miller. It dips into today’s manufactured world, and appreciates the past. Then Keith Urban joins in on the smouldering “Diamond”, a mid tempo number which reminded me a little of “Independence Day”.
“What’s The Thing About Love”, is a nicely paced uptempo number, which was really catchy.
There are some nice ballads, like the polished “You And You Alone”, which closes the album. It has a very simple piano accompaniment. “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off” is another very impressive ballad, with some nice harmonies.
“Low All Afternoon” is probably my favourite track on the album. It’s quite a soft, melodic ballad, which really suited Martina’s style.
After 25 years, we’ve got used to Martina’s sound. However “Reckless” she gets, she doesn’t let you down.

Next up, Missouri native DAVID NAIL, who has quietly been building up a Country music career over the past 15 years. He has had a No. 1 (Let It Rain) in 2011, but hasn’t quite managed to become the big name that he deserves to be. Hopefully, his 4th album, “Fighter” (Humphead) may change that.
This album has been described as his most personal ever, and certainly features no less than seven tracks written or co-written by him.
I do have a bit of a mixed view on David’s music. The first couple of tracks are quite Nashville pop. He just doesn’t stand out from the pack on tracks like “Good At Tonight” and “Night’s On Fire”, which was released here as a single back in the spring when he was over for the c2c festivals.
But there are some nice ballads that I’m really impressed with. “I Wont Let You Go” features some lovely harmony from Vince Gill, and the closing track. “Old Man’s Symphony, which is my personal favourite on the album, features Bear and Bo Rineheart from Christian rock band NEEDTO BREATHE.  There’s also a strong full minute piano intro into “Home”, which features Lori McKenna, who co wrote the song.
The title track, “Fighter”, is also a nice ballad, as is “Babies”.
“Champagne Promise”, which features rising star Logan Brill (who is in the UK later this month at the London meets Nashville Festival) is, to my ears, the most commercial radio friendly track on the album, and must be a future single.
I really enjoyed this album, especially the ballads, and hope this album gets him the attention his music merits.

MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER has just performed at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival, and to tie in with the visit, the New Jersey native released her latest album, “The Things That We Are Made Of” (Lambent Light /Thirty Tigers), here in the UK.
I still love her debut “Hometown Girl” album, and some of the tracks on this new album are quite reminiscent of those early days.
I’m particularly thinking of the opening track, “Something Tamed, Something Wild”, and  “The Middle Ages”, both which I’d rate as the highlights of the album.
“Map Of My Heart” is also quite an upbeat number, but came over just a shade on the pop side.
The title track, which closes the collection is a slow emotional ballad.
“What Does it Mean To Travel”, “The Blue Distance” and “Oh Rosetta” are soft melodic ballads, which I quite liked.
Other ballads, like “Livingston”, “Deep Down My Heart” and “Hand On My Back” are soft smouldering ballads, which have become something of an MCC trademark.
I quite enjoyed the album. Some of the old Mary Chapin, and some of the stuff we’ve grown to love her for.
She doesn’t disappoint.

Georgian native JENNIFER NETTLES came to Country music’s attention as part of  Sugarland in 2004. Since 2012, Jennifer and Sugarland partner Kristian Bush have  worked on separate careers. Her album 2013 album “That Girl” sold 165,000 copies, and topped the US Country charts.
Her follow up, released here a couple of months back, is “Playing With Fire” (Big Machine), a modern album, featuring 12 tracks, ten of which were written or co-written by the singer, alongside the likes of Brandy Clark, Lori McKenna and Shane McAnally.
The title track, which kicks off the album is an upbeat poppy number which didn’t really impress me much. But, listening on, there are some more Country numbers, which really showed just how good a voice Jennifer has.
“Unlove You”, one of the eight tracks co-written with Brandy Clark, is a good strong ballad, as are “Starting Over” and “Salvation Works”.  She really handles these ballads well.
Another Clark co-write is “Drunk In Heels”, a catchy upbeat fun number, which did have a little bit of similarity to Brandy’s “Stripes”. This track really stood out for me.
“Three Days In Bed”, a smouldering ballad, written by Holly Williams was a bit different to the rest of the album. Her solo composition, “Way Back Home” is a bit more of a pop ballad.
The album rounds off with the bouncy “My House” which features another Jennifer – Lopez.
Some of the tracks are a bit too pop for me, but the ballads, especially, are well worth a listen. I did quite enjoy the album.

DIERKS BENTLEY burst onto the scene back in 2003. He has been a constant hitmaker ever since, with 14 Country Number One’s to his credit. Now the singer songwriter from Pheonix, Arizona has released his 8th album, “Black” (Capitol) , which is already proving to be a big winner.
According to the album publicity, “Black” is a 13 track album of break ups, hookups, and mess, from a personal perspective. A lot of the songs, apparently, mirror his relationship with wife Cassidy, whose maiden name is Black.
The album features the hit US Single, “Somewhere On A Beach”, which he bravely released in America in the middle of winter, reaching No.1 in April.
The follow up single is “Different For Girls”, which features Elle King. There’s also a catchy little ballad, featuring rising Country singer Maren Morris.
I do feel much of Dierks music is quite samey. Very little stands out from the pack. In his earlier albums, he used to include a traditional or bluegrass track, but he seems to have moved away from that.
He has built up a huge following, including selling out big venues like The Clyde Auditorium, so he must be doing something right.

Humphead Records continue to release superb CD collections on artists that perhaps aren’t heard as often as they should be these days. They have just issued another two brilliant double CD sets of classics from two of the most admired female singers still singing today.
Firstly, JEAN SHEPARD, whose “Country Music : Pure And Simple” is a superb tribute to Jean, who, at 82, is known as The Grand Lady Of The Grand Ole Opry”.  She was a regular visitor to Scotland in the 1970 & 80’s, and introduced the likes of Gerry Ford, Ruby Rendall and Colorado onto The Opry, and, indeed recorded several duets with Gerry.
The Oklahoma based singer notched up 45 Country chart hits between 1953 and 1978, but is still a regular on The Opry nearly 40 years later.
Amongst the tracks on this 50 track collection, you’ll find hits like “Seven Lonely Days”, “A Tear Dropped By”, “Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar”, “Mercy” and “Slippin’ Away”.
There’s also lesser known classics like “Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law”, “Many Happy Hangovers To You” and “If Teardrops Were Silver”.
One surprising omission is her first hit, and only Number 1, “A Dear John Letter”.
But, that apart, this is a wonderful collection. I’ve many of the tracks on Vinyl LP’s but it’s great to get them on CD.
OK, they may sound a bit dated. That’s called nostalgia !
It’s also, as the title says “Country Music : Pure & Simple” !

Also from Humphead comes BRENDA LEE “Sings Country – Ultimate Country Collection”.  Unlike Jean, Brenda was an early crossover star, having started in pop and rockabilly, but Country music was never far from Brenda’s lips.
Indeed, her first Country hit was back in 1957, age 12, when “One Step At a Time” reached No.15. That was two years before her “Sweet Nuthin’s” was a million seller, and got her worldwide recognition as a child star.
She went on to have 35 Country hits, many of them included on this new 50 track collection. They do tend to be from the later part of her career in the 70’s & 80’s.
You’ll find “Nobody Wins” (written by Kristofferson), “Sunday Sunrise”, “Wrong Ideas”, “Big Four Poster Bed”, “Rock On Baby” and “He’s My Rock”, which were all Top 10 Country hits. There’s also a couple of tracks featuring The Oakridge Boys, including the memorable “Broken Trust”.
Brenda is one of Music City’s respected elders, and was called on to announce Randy Travis & Charlie Daniels Hall Of Fame inductions a few months back.
This collection is the ideal way to appreciate her Country music side. She’s perhaps more Country than you may have realised. She did the crossover thing and remained Country throughout.

Our home grown CD this time around comes from Borders based KATHY STEWART
Although a native New Yorker, singer songwriter Kathy has lived over here for over 30 years. In that time she has been seen performing with the likes of John Hinshelwood, The City Sinners and Another Country (I still have a couple of Another Country’s cassettes in the library!), and she has opened for the likes of Tom Russell and George Hamilton IV, and even had a song recorded by Vince Gill. Her first solo release earned her HMV’s Best Country Newcomer title back in 2009.
Her third album, “Almost Home”(Treehouse Records) has just been released. It’s a really lovely listen, although probably leans more towards folk and celtic than Country music.
Recorded in Penicuik, with Dave Gray, the album features Kathy’s band The Frequent Flyers.
Stand out tracks for me, included “Old Campaigners”, with it’s simple piano backing and the opening track “The Shine On You”, which had echoes of Mary Chapin running through it.
I have to say that I also enjoyed “Leaving (A Ghost’s Lament)”, a beautiful song, with some lovely violin and pipes. But Kathy’s vocal delivery really makes it for me.
Kathy wrote all but one of the 10 tracks on the album. The exception is “First Robin Of Springtime”, written by Canadian Bruce Murdoch. Another track, the rather bluesy “Go To Bed Happy” was co-written with fellow Borders writer Bob Lawson”.
In the main, not a Country album, but, nevertheless, it’s a beautiful listen.

Off to Ireland now, JIM DEVINE is another of the rising stars on the scene there. He’s very much concentrating on the upbeat dance scene, if the music on his second CD, “We’re Here To Stay” (De-Vine) is anything to go by.
The album features a variety of Country covers, from “Sold (Grundy County Auction)” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance” to Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”, and “Bob Wills’ “All Night Long”, as well as a couple of Vince Gill songs, “Riding The Rodeo” and “Pocket Full Of Gold”.
He even manages a cover of Bryan Adams “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman”.
From the Irish side, he does a good upbeat “Crooked Jack” from the pen of Pat Gallagher, and a superb version of the ballad, “Destination Donegal”, written by John McCauley. I have to say that these two songs stood out for me.
The production is first class, and Jim can certainly deliver the songs. The Country covers just didn’t make Jim stand out from the pack.
But if you’re appetite is for more new Irish talent, then Jim Devine is one for you.

NATHAN CARTER is the most successful artist on the Irish scene these days. “Stayin’ Up All Night” is his second release for the major Decca label, and has already topped the charts with it.
He proves himself on stage to be a great entertainer, but this album lets him show off his songwriting talents too. He has written eight of the songs featured here. His staple diet is upbeat fun numbers that will keep dancers happy. They include singles “Wanna Dance”, “Temple Bar” and “Skinny Dippin”. Some are collaborations with others like Joe McShane, Don Mescall, his manager John Farry and Canadian Ralph Murray.
He does slow it down on emotional numbers like “Liverpool” (his hometown) “Don’t Know Lonely”, “Island Town”, and “Thank You”, which closes the album.
Nathan has included a few covers, such as Dolly’s “Two Doors Down” and the Kenny Rogers hit “Buy Me a Rose”. He also does quite an original version of the folk classic, “Banks Of The Roses”, which Stephen & Lesley McKenna have composed a line dance for (see the last issue).
Having the freedom to perform his own material, and have the support of a major label is not only good for Nathan, but for the whole UK Country music scene.

For some reason, Jersey has never been a place that you would readily associate with Country Music, but JOHN WORT HANNAM was born on the Channel Island, although is now based in Fort Macleod in Alberta, Canada.
After earning a degree in Native American studies, and teaching on a reserve for three years, he pursued his passion for music. He has a string of Canadian Folk Music Awards, after being influenced by the likes of Louden Wainwright III and Tom Russell.
“Love Lives On” is his 5th album, and was released here to co-incide with a visit here this summer, including The Maverick Festival in Suffolk.
I really enjoyed this album. It has a folksy feel, with a definitive celtic edge to it.
It all starts with the upbeat “Roll Roll Roll”, and the really catchy “Over The Moon”, although he slowed the tempo on tracks like “Chasing The Song” and “Man Of God”.
Although based in Western Canada, his attention was directed eastwards on tracks like “Labrador” and “Good Nite Nova Scotia”.
Stand out tracks for me included the quirky feeling upbeat “Heart For Sale” and the slower “Molly & Me”.
It’s a little different, but I liked it.

TIA McGRAFF is a Canadian singer that has been making waves over the past few years. In fact she introduces herself as a Canadian born of Transylvanian/Scots decent, and married to an American.
She’s been in Nashville since the late 90’s, and it shows on her new album, “Crazy Beautiful” (Bandana Records). It’s a very polished production, recorded in Nashville, Austin and her native Ontario.
Despite her last album, “Break The Chains” getting her recognition on the Roots Music Chart, and various Americana magazines, this album has a much fuller production, and is the sort of sound that Nashville should be putting out.
Edgy, modern Country.
The opening “What A Heart Must Do” is a good uptempo number, as is the catchy “Forever”, but the one that really catches the attention is the rip roaring “Baby’s Got a Banjo”. It is a really commercial radio friendly number.
But there are ballads too, including the title track, “Crazy Beautiful”, the lovely “The One I’ve Waited For”, “Mesa Gold” and the haunting “Wing Walker”.  “Long Ride Home”, which she co-wrote with David Starr and Cynthia Smith Starr, is a really nice track.
And the closing track, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” deserves a special mention too. It has a gospel feel to it, but with just a simple banjo accompaniment, it really stands out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The modern Country sound I do like.

Another Canadian album, this time a bluegrass CD, comes from THE HIGH BAR GANG, which features the vocal talents of Shari Ulrich, Wendy Bird and Kirby Barber alongside musicians Dave Barber and Barney Bentall, with support from Rob Becker and Colin Nairne.
They formed in 2010, and quickly found a legion of fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and nods from both the Juno Awards and Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Their second album , “Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind” (True North) is given a UK release this month. It’s pure, beautiful, bluegrass, rich in harmonies and simple musicianship.
The material is carefully chosen, ranging from Dolly Parton’s “Silver Dagger” and Steve Earle’s “Long Lonesome Highway Blues”, right back to Flatt & Scruggs’ “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky” and Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”. There’s a couple of Pete Rowan numbers too.
There’s even an interesting arrangement of “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” credited to Hank Williams and Norah Jones. I wonder how they managed to collaborate on that one.
I love the sound they’ve created on this album. Certainly one for bluegrass fans.

EVE SELIS is something of a veteran in singer songwriter circles. “See Me With Your Heart” (Hippie Chick Records) is her 9th album, and she has a string of San Diego Music Awards, stretching back to 1999.
The album was released to coincide with her latest European tour, which sadly didn’t include any Scottish dates.
The album offers quite a variety in styles.
It opens with quite an upbeat number, “Fearless Heart”, which sounds so mainstream, and should be ideal radio material.
The title track is a nice slow number, whilst “Cant See Past Myself” is quite a pleasant ballad, as is “The Man He Never Was”.
“While The Night Is Young” is a really strong Country ballad that really impressed me.
The closing track, “Love Has The Final say” is quite a strong power ballad.
She can rock it up a big too. “Little Wars” has a good driving beat to it, and works really well. However, “Still Have A Long Way To Go” is an all out rock number . Too heavy for me, I’m afraid.  “Slow Down” is another that’s just a shade rocky for me.
Recorded in Nashville, she co-wrote all the songs, proving that she is quite a talented lady indeed. Quite an enjoyable listen.

IVAS JOHN is certainly a new name to me. He’s the son of Lithuanian immigrants, born and raised in Chicago. His father was a popular fixture on The Windy City’s vibrant folk and blues scene back in the 60’s.
Ivas carries on that tradition on his album “Good Day’s a Comin” (Right Side Up Records). His music is a pleasant mix of Appalachian old timey music, Merle Travis/Chet Atkins influenced guitar picking, and a touch of southern blues.
The album features 4 self penned numbers, another four co-written with his father, and four interesting covers.
His own songs include the opening “Goin’ Back To Arkansas”, and immediately I was transfixed by the neat Atkins style guitar. It’s a style also evident on his other penned numbers, “Roll Mississippi”, “Payday Boogie” and the slower guitar solo instrumental, “Sunday Morning Blues”, which closes the album.
Of the songs, co-written with Dad, “All Along” has quite a Country feel to it, whilst “Things Aint Been The Same” and “Keep Your Train Movin” are certainly more bluesy.
Onto the covers, and two were songs I was familiar with by female singers, so it was interesting to hear the different style here. Firstly Tom Paxton’s “Cant Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”, I recognised from Nanci Griffiths’ “Other Voices” CD, and Allen Reynolds’ “ Wrong Road Again” was an early hit for Crystal Gayle. It’s a much slower version here though.
His cover of Merle Travis’ “Dark As A Dungeon” is deliberately slowed down, to good effect.  The other track, “Greenville Trestle High” is a catchy bluegrass style train song. I really liked it.
The production has little instrumentation. Just guitars, fiddle, upright bass, mandolin and dobro, with a little light drum. It’s all you need to make beautiful music.
I really liked the whole album. I’m not usually impressed by guitar playing, but Ivas certainly produced a relaxing listenable sound here.

If you’ve any knowledge of American folk music, you’ll be familiar with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. They wrote some of the most iconic songs ever written.
You may not have heard of SPOOK HANDY. And with a name like that, why not, eh!
Spook worked many of the same places as Pete Seeger.  Their paths crossed once Pete began singing one of Spook’s songs, as recently as 2003. Spook’s knowledge of Pete didn’t come through his songs, but more through personal conversations and performing with him for the last ten years of his life. (Pete Seeger passed away in 2014).
This album isn’t intended as a tribute album. According to Spook, it’s about the world we live in today, and the values and concerns embedded in these great songs.
There is, in fact, only one Woody Guthrie song (So Long I’s Been Good To Know You) and four from Pete Seeger’s pen (including “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”). Spook has written four of the songs, including the catchy “Vote”, the song that Pete Seeger picked up on.
There are also updated versions on “My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away”, which both Woody & Pete used to perform.
Most of the songs are upbeat and fun, but the track which really caught my attention was “Hobo’s Lullaby”, written by Goebel Reeves in 1929. “A song Woody taught Pete, and Pete taught me”, according to Spook.
I really liked this album. It’s well produced, well performed, and well put together.

ANNIE KEATING is no stranger to Americana fans. She has played over here several times, including the Glasgow Americana Festival. And the New York based singer songwriter has just released her seventh album, “Trick Star”.
Over the 13 tracks, she covers quite a bit of ground.
The album kicks off with a mid tempo number, “You Bring The Sun”, which is a good start. “Time Come Help Me Forget” and “Creatures” are a bit more upbeat, whilst the title track has a good rock beat to it.
Much of the album is devoted ballads, like “In The Valley” “Trapeze”, “Orchard” and “Growing Season”, but I felt that “Slow Waltz” had a particularly Country feel to it, especially with Chris Tarrow’s infectious steel guitar.
Apparently, the album was born at London’s Barbican Theatre, in a concert featuring The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The inspiration from that experience found Annie writing “Pheonix”, which closes the album, and features the same Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
It’s a totally different sound to the rest of the album.
Hopefully it wont be long before Annie’s back on tour over here.

MICHAEL McDERMOTT has been performing for over 25 years. Initially he was fusing Irish and American folk music in Chicago coffee houses, later releasing material on big labels like EMI, and hitting the Top 40 on the US Rock music charts.
His latest album, “Willow Springs” (Pauper Sky Records) is released prior to a UK visit scheduled for the end of the year.
It’s an interesting album. Michael has a haunting vocal style, and it suits the eclectic mix of material here.
“These Last Few Days” is an upbeat little number which is quite infectious.
 “Getaway Car” has a really strong Country rock feel to it, whilst the catchy “Half Empty Kinda Guy” has more than a little Irish influence in it.
Other songs, like “Butterfly”, “Shadow In The Window” and “One Minus One” are quite mellow.
“Folk Singer” is another ballad which really worked well. One of the stand out tracks.
“Let A Little Light In” was a bit more upbeat and poppy, but, all things considered, I really enjoyed “Willow Springs”. Something a bit different.

Finally this time, some down home music, courtesy of THE LOWEST PAIR, a duo comprising Kendl Winter and Palmer T Lee. Their album “Fern Girl & Ice Man” (Team Love Records) is just one of two albums they have released lately (the other is titled “Uncertain As It Is”).
The duo were formed three years ago after Kendl, who had already released three solo album on a Washington indie label, and Palmer began playing in string bands around Minneapolis, met on the banks of the Mississippi.
They wrote all the tracks on this release between them (individually). They have quite an interesting sound, very much with a vintage old timey feel to it.  Stand out tracks for me include the opening track “The River Will”, “Sweet Breath” and “Stranger”.