LAURA McGHEE is back home in Angus, after spending seven years writing and recording in Nashville, and touring with the likes of John Carter Cash, John McEuan (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and The Nashville Celts. She first headed Stateside after graduating from the RSMAD, and her first gig in America was on the same bill as legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.
But, for now, she’s home, and she’s brought with her a superb album, “Life Is Bigger Than A Dream”, the follow up to her highly acclaimed “Celticana” album, which made the Top 40 on the Americana Charts.
The album brings together the three sides of Laura. Firstly, as a songwriter. She’s worked with people in Music City, like Doug Kahan, Jon & Sally Tiven, Sarah Peasall, Rebecca Moreland, Janie Lidey and Patrick Martin (from The Nashville Celts), and has come up with a good set of songs.
Secondly, Laura’s vocals are well tuned to the songs.
And, finally, as a musician. Laura’s first love was the fiddle, and it’s very prominent throughout the album, especially on the introductions.
The songs range from the impressive title track, one of four she wrote with Doug Kahan (who has written hits for Trick Pony and Deanna Carter), to the softer “Always Tomorrow”.
“How Leaving Feels”, starts off slow, and builds up to a foot tapping down home catchy little number, with touches of blues and bluegrass along the way.
Her celtic influence emerges on “You Make The Moonshine”, which has a soft haunting feel to it, with references to the celtic sky, and making the moon shine.
“Shoulda Come Over” is a really catchy number, especially the fiddle licks. It’s all about a guy jilting the girl, and what he’s missing, whilst “It’s Still You and Me” tells of a strong team that survives all life throws at it.
“I Got My Mojo Back” is more of an upbeat number. It’s a bit different to the other tracks, with a bit more instrumentation, including harmonica from Charlie McCoy.
But as I say, Laura’s earliest foray into music was with the fiddle at the age of 8, and it’s very much in evidence on the album. As well as the co written songs, there’s two instrumentals. The first is a toe tappin’ traditional American tune, “Salt Creek”, which she does a great job on, and the other, a slow lament, “Commemoration”, which she dedicates to the victims of 9/11.
The album was produced in Nashville by Mike Loudermilk (son of the legend John D Loudermilk), who has worked with Crystal Gayle and Chet Atkins.
It has a celtic feel, without being too folky. I really enjoyed it.
This album has been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait.
“Life Is Bigger Than A Dream” is available from online outlets now, and Laura will officially be launching it at the Monifieth Theatre on October 7th.
It was great to read in the last mag, that Jayne Murdoch and Richard Smith, who many readers will remember from the band Hullabaloo, had formed a new duo MONRO, and great to hear their five track EP, “Coming Home” (Smart Indie).
Jayne leads the vocals on all the tracks, which are all quite varied.
The CD kicks off with “Sweet Sorrow”, a catchy number, with more than a hint of bluegrass.
“Let It Go” is another catchy upbeat number, as is “Bubbalee”.
“Walking With Angels” is quite an anthem ballad, and “The Vow” is a beautiful ballad, looking back on how life changes.
Five very different songs, all well produced and performed wonderfully. Jayne has a great voice, and this CD really helps deliver that.
Great to hear Jayne and Richard back. Check them out.
RASCAL FLATTS are one of the longest established “boy bands” on the Nashville Country scene. The trio of Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcos and Joe Don Rooney were formed in Ohio, and first appeared on the Country charts back in 2000. Since then, they have notched up 13 No.1 Country hits.
Now, their 10th studio album (not counting Christmas and Greatest Hits collections) has been released here. “Back To Us” (Big Machine) is a powerful high energy collection of songs from songwriters like Andrew Dorff, Neil Thrasher, Josh Thompson, Luke Laird, Chris Stapleton and Jennifer Hansen.
The trio have a number of writing contributions, but only one which they collaborated together.
That one is “Are You Happy Now”, which also features newcomer Lauren Alaina. It’s quite a pleasant pop ballad.
The album, in general, has quite a Nashville pop sound, the sound you would hear on the radio here, without considering it to be Country!.
“Thieves” is one of the stand out upbeat numbers, with “Love What You’ve Done To The Place” and “Our Night To Shine”, standing out as soulful ballads.
They’ve built up their following throughout the past 17 years, and this album will be welcomed by their fans.
Texan MARK CHESNUTT burst onto the Country scene back in 1990 with “Too Cold At Home”, and followed it up with a string of hits like “Brother Jukebox”, “Old Flames Have New Names”, “Bubba Shot The Jukebox”,”Goin’ Thru The Big D”. “Gonna Get A Life”, and dozens more.
Next month Mark heads for our shores to play The Millport International Country Music Festival, so we thought we’d check out his latest album, “Tradition Lives” (Row Entertainment), and, boy, is Millport in for a real Country treat!
The album kicks off with the catchy “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket”, which is the sort of sound he should be heard all over the radio with. Other upbeat numbers include “Lonely Ain’t The Only Game In Town”, “Look At Me Now” and “Neither Did I”.
His latest summer single Stateside is “Hot”, a kinda bluesy, lazy sunny day sound, which is quite different to the rest of the album.
Other ballads include “Is It Still Cheating”, “Losing You All Over Again”, “You Moved Up In Your World” and “What I Heard”. He still delivers a neat ballad like he did way back on his early days.
There’s no bad tracks on the album, but I really did like “Never Been To Texas”, which could be his take on the current Nashville scene. He highlights and namechecks a number of Country legends, and classic songs, whilst commenting on Music City’s lack of Steel guitars. “If you think Country music is a dying force, you’ve never been to Texas”! Great sentiment, close to my heart.
Mark was always one of the more Country guys on the Nashville scene. Great to see him still sounding just as good’n’Country, if not better than ever.
It’s a cracker of an album. Highly worth checking out.
For the past twenty years, sisters SHELBY LYNNE and ALLISON MOORER have been doing their own thing, and recording no less than 24 albums between them. Now the Alabama raised girls have teamed up on a new album, “Not Dark Yet” (Silver Cross), which is released here on August 18th.
As you would expect, sibling harmonies are the highlight of this album, which was produced by Teddy Thompson.
The choice of material is quite varied, from The Hag’s “Silver Wings” to Nirvana’s “Lithium”, on the way picking up on newer material written by Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires. They also cover Jessi Colter’s “I’m Looking For Blue Eyes” and Townes Van Zante’s “Lungs”.
They kick off with “My List”, which is a cover of The Killers number, and round it all off with their own composition, “Is It Too Much”. In between, the title track is a Dylan composition.
Stand out track for me has to be “Everytime You Leave”. It’s an old Louvin Brothers song, covered by Emmylou on her iconic “Blue Kentucky Girl” album. I think the version here takes inspiration from both.
It’s an interesting collaboration. A must, if you’re a fan of either, or both, of the sisters.
The Honeycutters are an Ashville, North Carolina band, formed in 2007. Now ten years on, the lead singer, and songwriter is taking the front role on their fifth album. It’s simply titled “AMANDA ANNE PLATT & THE HONEYCUTTERS” (Organic Records), and is released here this month to coincide with their tour, which includes dates in Kilbarchan, North Berwick and Peebles.
I was really impressed by their last outing “On The Ropes”, and this new album doesn’t disappoint.
They have a sound that encompasses traditional Country with rock and folk. Amanda’s vocals are gutsy, without stretching the boundaries too far. On some of the tracks there’s a real Dixie Chicks sound coming through! On others, it’s a real down home Country sound that really impressed me.
There are 13 self penned tracks on the CD, opening with the soft mid tempo “Birthday Song”. Other slower tracks include “The Guitar Case” and “Learning How To Love Him”, which reminded me of KT Oslin. The harmonies are strong on “The Good Guys”, whilst “Rare Thing” and “The Things We Call Home” are quite traditional Country ballads.
I really enjoyed “What We’ve Got”. The vocals are really Country, and there’s some nice steel guitar from Matthew Smith throughout the track. On the quite lengthy “Eden”, Amanda really delivers a catchy rural life story song, the kind of thing that Kasey Musgraves has made her mark with. She has a real rival here!
I really enjoyed this album, as I did their previous outing. They will really be worth catching on their forthcoming tour.
We’ve a couple of Canadian Country releases on offer this time around.
OVER THE MOON are the duo of Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignall, who recorded their long awaited debut CD, “Moondancer”, at home in the foothills of Alberta’s Rockies. Neither are strangers to the music scene. Craig is a CCMA award winning instrumentalist on drums & banjo, whilst Suzanne was performing with the family band from the age of twelve, and has more recent toured in a band called The Travelling Mabel’s.
They have a really basic acoustic sound, and according to the sleevenotes, noisy coyotes, cows, and a noisy furnace also added effects to the mix.
Suzanne leads the vocals, and I really enjoyed her contribution throughout the CD, whether from the simple arrangements of the opening “Strangers We Meet” or the heavier “Turtle Mountain”, which tells of a 1903 disaster at Crowsnest Pass.
The duo’s signature song, “Over The Moon” is a sweet sounding 1940’s style swing number, whilst the title track to the album, “Moondancer” comes from the pen of near neighbour Ian Tyson.
“The Hills Of Grey County” is a really soft ballad that tells of the threat of the big city money men who threaten to destroy the rural way of life.
Whilst Suzanne leads the vocals, a couple of tracks feature vocals from Craig, including the catchy swing orientated, “You Don’t Even Know” and “Alberta Moon”.
“By The Mark”, which really displays some beautiful harmonies, has quite a gospel feel to it. It was written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
The duo wrote five of the ten tracks, with “The Hills Of Grey County” being a collaboration between Craig and Steve O’Connor and Darrin Schott.
Together they make beautiful music together. You could say I was “Over The Moon” listening to this CD. I loved it !
VIPER CENTRAL are a group from British Columbia, who decided to shake up the local, and more widespread, bluegrass scene. Although fiddle & banjo remain central to their sound, they also feature steel guitar and various guitar styles in their presentation.
The quintet’s latest album, “The Spirit Of God & Madness” covers an immense range in styles, from upbeat “99 Cents Short” and Gram Parson’s cover of “Luxury Liner”, to the slower, smouldering “Cherry Red”.
The bass influenced bluesy swing opener, “Gold Time” catches your attention with lines like “I Went Down To Nashville”. That track is immediately followed by the Latin flavoured “Losing My Mind”. Contrast that with the sweet, celtic, feel of “I Wont Be Left Behind”, which really stands out for me.
Most of the tracks are lead vocally by Kathleen Nisbet, the exception being “Ned Kelly” and a couple of instrumentals, including “Bloodwin Breakdown” and “Devil’s Reel”, which preludes “Devil’s String”, which features more of a joint band harmony lead. Kathleen’s vocals really tell the story of the songs. A job well done.
Viper Central have a couple of dates in the Highlands, including The Belladrum festival in early August, before touring for the next month across Ireland.
From down in Australia, comes LACHLAN BRYAN AND THE WYLDES, who released their album, “The Mountain” here recently, to coincide with a European tour, which did include a date in Glasgow.
They caused quite a stir when they turned up in Austin, Texas, a media city, renowned for its’ hard to impress reputation.
Their first album was released in 2010. This is their 4th outing, and has continued to gather awards and recognition for the band.
They have a superb sound, especially on the steel infused “The Secret I’ll Take To My Grave”, and the vocally strong “The Mountain”. They have quite a haunting feel on “Dugdemona”, which is a river in Louisiana, whilst “Travelling Companion” is quite an upbeat number, which I liked.
Other tracks, include “View From The Bridge” and the closing “Til We Meet Again” are gentler, but equally pleasant ballads.
Hopefully, we’ll see Lachlan & the team back here again soon.
Now, to Ireland, and a new CD from PATRICK FEENEY, one of the ever growing popular names on the Irish scene. “Step It Out” is his 10th album, by my reckoning, so he is certainly no newcomer. He’s been playing since he was a young teenager, and made a good choice to pursue music, rather than be a farmer, or a salesman for Cadbury’s, which were his planned career paths.
This new album features a wide mix of songs and styles, from the Irish sounding “Step It Out Mary” to Marty Robbins covers on “Carmen” and “White Sports Coat”, to the gospel “Over & Over” and even Ed Sheerin’s “Pretty Little Galway Girl”. There’s “Goodbye and So Long To You”, a hit way back for The Osborne Brothers, Tim O’Brien’s “Like I Used To Do” and Collin Raye’s “Man Of My Word”.
As ever, you would expect a few Irish Country tracks, and you wont be disappointed, with the lovely James McGarrity song, “Irish Home”, PJ Murrity’s “Soldier On” and Tommy Makem & The Clancy Brothers’ classic “Courtin’In The Kitchen”.
Patrick has also translated Scottish west coast band Tide Lines’ “Far Side Of The World” to Irish, by removing references to the Highlands and The Hebrides, but I’m sure our guys wont be too upset by it.
This album has a bit more Irish than your average Irish Country album, but it’s certainly an entertaining listen.
Now down to England for the next couple of albums.
THE DIABLOS are a Brighton based Country five piece band, who are celebrating their 10th Anniversary currently. The band is made up of Chris Nieto, Danny and Terry O’Loughlin, Adrian Marshall and Geoff Ansell. To mark their anniversary, they have released a Double CD, “The Very Best Of The Diablos”, with 16 studio tracks compiled from their previous four albums, and an 11 track “live” set recorded at Conkers Outdoor Arena in Derbyshire.
They have quite an original sound. In the main, they have quite a rocky feel, but in an earthy Country music way. It’s a sound that is quite listenable, and danceable too. The one’s that stood out for me included “Wrong Guy”, “Whisky, Women & Wine” and “Rhinestones & Diamonds”. The most Country sounding number has to be “Continental”.
There’s a bit of Latin (Mavericks) influence on “Get Her Back” and “The Same Old Moon”.
They do have a few slower numbers, most notably, “You’re In There Somewhere”, “Banks Of The Vilane”, “My Wandering Heart” and “Right By Your Side”.
One track appears on both studio and live CD’s. “Don’t Like Country” is hardly an advert for our genre, but I think the guys should win over the doubters during the 4 minute track.
They have enjoyed a lot of airplay in the past ten years, and have topped the Hotdisc charts on six occasions.
The album has a bit of a cinema theme, from the CD cover, to the promotional bag of popcorn, which came with the review copy of the CD. It’s because the guys are featured in a movie called “Beast” which is released this summer. The guys have a cameo role playing a Country band in a bar, and the opening track from the CD, “East Coast Run” is featured on the film’s soundtrack.
It’s not quite traditional Country, but, much more Country than a lot of what some call Country these days.
It’s good, original British Country music!.
THE BARHOPPERS, from Suffolk, were recently on a short tour up here, and they kindly passed on a copy of their CD for review. “Something…Old…New…Borrowed…Bluegrass”.
Although Gabbi and David were touring as a duo, they recorded as a trio, with Tony, who adds some magical steel and banjo into the mix.
The CD features quite a mix, from traditional to modern, and a couple of originals too. Gabbi wrote and performed the lively opening cut “Once Bitten Twice Shy”, and the foot tapping “Fast Train”.
There’s a really interesting version of Rhonda Vincent’s “All American Bluegrass Girl”, with the “All” being replaced with “Non”, and a reference to Suffolk added in.
Gabbi leads the vocals on a wide selection of numbers from “Sea Of Cowboy Hats” and “Down At The Twist And Shout”, to a cover of Larry Gatlin’s “Bitter They Are”, and the Hank Cochran classic, “Don’t Touch Me”.
Tony comes to the fore, with a steel guitar instrumental of “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”, and David leads the vocals on “Miles & Miles Of Texas”, “Who Locks The Door” and “Galway Girl”.
The Barhoppers certainly offer a wide variety of material, and I really enjoyed their versions of these songs, as well as their live sets.
Michigan’s ED DUPAS received great acclaim for his “Garage Country” sound on his 2015 album. Now, he’s back, with “Tennessee Night” (Road Trip Songs), on which he continues the garage theme. The album was recorded over three hot sticky days & nights last July at Mackinaw Harvest Studio’s in Grand Rapids.
The concept of this album was born back in 2015, when Ed took a trip to Nashville, a rather unorthodox trip as it turns out. The experiences certainly gave him some interesting song ideas.
The early tracks on the album are quite upbeat, including the opening “Too Big To Fail”, and “Two Wrongs”, inspired by the closing of the Danville Train line.
He then slows the tempo, notably on “Up Ahead”, “and “Some Things”. The title track, “Tennessee Night” is also quite an infectious ballad.
Cole Hansen provides some nice harmony on both that song and on the catchy “Everything Is In Bloom”. Her vocals really stand out, making it one of my favourite tracks on the album.
I really quite enjoyed this “Tennessee Night”, even if it was from Michigan.
Boston singer songwriter SUSAN CATTANEO has received praise and awards for her first four albums, but her new release takes her to a new level.
Her first three albums were essentially songs she had written in Nashville, very much with the current market in mind. Her last album, “Haunted Heart” was considered the first featuring songs she had written for herself.
Now she’s having a full blown out party. Not only does she have, in the region of, 40 musicians contributing, but she has released a blockbuster of a double album. “The Hammer & The Heart”(Jersey Girl Music), out here on August 25th, shows too sides of Susan, with electric and acoustic discs.
The lead song on both CD’s is a gutsy “Work Hard Love Harder”, the first version with The Bottle Rockers, and the gentler second version from the great named Boxcar Lillies.
The first CD, the electric side, does have quite a punchy, rocky feel to it, including the rockabilly homage to vinyl records on “In The Grooves”, which is a really infectious number. You can’t help getting into it.
She does quite a rocky version of “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”. It’s the same song Lee Ann Womack hit with a few years back, but you’d never recognise it from this rather different version.
She does slow it down on the lovely duet with Bill Kirchen on “When Love Goes Right”.
The second CD, “The Heart”, the acoustic side, is a different sound altogether.
“Ordinary Magic” and “Fade To Blue” are nice ballads.
“Field Of Stone” is quite an emotional take on a new highway’s effect on a local community and families. It’s quite haunting.
“Smoke” is one of the heavier tracks on this CD, featuring Jennifer Kimball. It still works well.
The album rounds off with a rather strange cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Susan’s version certainly fits in quite nicely with the rest of the album.
I like Susan’s voice. She makes music that catches your attention !
Walt Aldridge is an acclaimed Country music songwriter, having written hits for a varied list of stars such as Barbara Mandrell, Travis Tritt, Earl Thomas Conley, Reba, Lou Reed, Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap. Now, his daughter, HANNAH ALDRIDGE is making her mark, especially here in the UK, having spent all of July here on tour, including dates in Glasgow, Stirling, Aberfeldy and at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival.
A native of that southern centre of musical excellence, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Hannah has certainly learned all about songwriting. “Gold Rush” is her second album, and features ten songs, all self penned or co-writes, with the likes of Andrew Combs, Ashley McBryde and Don Gallardo.
She has quite a haunting sound, with good strong vocals, which give her a smoking rock feel. But don’t let that fool you. Her Southern roots really shine through.
The opening track, “Aftermath” really catches your attention, with its’ Country overtones and rock beat. She certainly sets the scene for what’s to follow.
“Dark Hearted Woman” is one of these infectious, atmospheric songs that get under your skin, whilst I also was really impressed with “Burning Down Birmingham”. It features some neat harmonies that really made an impression on me.
The title track, ”Gold Rush”, is one of the more gentler ballads, and really stood out for me. Other ballads include “The Irony Of Love”.
The album was recorded in Nashville, but isn’t the usual Nashville sound. She certainly has created her own, haunting sound, which seems to be working quite nicely for her.
Finally, something a bit different comes courtesy of BILL BOOTH. Although raised in New England, he is well travelled, and currently lives in Norway. But on his travels, he has picked up influences of Irish, Celtic, Cajun and Maritime Canadian, which all come together on his sixth album, “Some Distant Shore” (Wheeling Records). Throughout the lyrics, he visits Dublin, Aberdeen, Nova Scotia, California, Dover, Mexico and even Fallujah.
He’s been called a “Cajun Mark Knopfler”, but also likened to JJ Cale, Dylan, Springsteen and Tony Joe White. There’s also a distinct Van Morrison sound.
There is certainly a celtic influence throughout the album, which I liked.
The opening track, “Wild Geese” has a distinct tale of Irish emigration, and that theme runs into “Cliffs Of Dover”, which has a line about leaving Aberdeen, sailing for Nova Scotia.
“Molly McKeen” has a real old time Country feel to it, yet still has an Irish influence running through it. “Raising Cane” also has quite a southern feel to it.
“City Of Rubble” is an emotional take on war torn areas, and the effect on the people on the ground.
A couple of instrumentals, which nicely round out the collection.
The whole album can be summed up in the track titled “Home Is On The Road”. Wherever you are, if you have music, then that’s home. I really enjoyed listening to the album.