John returns to Texas to record his latest CD of 10 songs. "Roots" and the title may suggest an acoustic folksy old-timey album, but this is a real modern country recording of older songs. Outstanding musicianship from John and 6 other players including the famed Earl Poole Ball on piano, Herb Steiner on Steel and Red Volkaerd on guitar (currently with Haggard's band). B.B. Moore plays bass, & Paul Pearcy is drummer. Bennett Spielvogel known as "East Side Flash" co produces, recorded, mixed and engineered the sessions at his Austin studios, plays great dobro on some songs and even does the screams on "Marie LaVeau". Other songs include "Whispering Pines" "Chug-a Lug" Saddle Tramp" "Ramblin' Man" "Travelling Man" and "She's Gone Gone Gone" my pick of the bunch. Another great album from John, but I wish the songwriters and publishers were included. It's on the European HITSOUNDS label but you can get a copy from Brigitte at 01294 552094

Currently celebrating his 40th year as a country singer Mel decided to record 12 tracks for this CD at Pete Heywood's Chesterfield Stodio. Pete plays dobro, lead, acoustic and steel guitars, Jon J.Paul accordion, Tony Robinson keyboards and Steve Beighton sax on one song. Theres 3 of Mel's own humorous songs here, "Look at Me in My Line-dancing Shoes", while "I Wish I Could Wake Up and Find You Gone" and "The Groover" & Pete Ryans "The best things in life are Hairy" gets another outing. Theres a string of humour throughout the album, with more from Shel Silverstein, "I Don't do it anymore" "The Three Legged Man" and "Old Dogs". He also includes Ray Stevens "Stuck On You". I like the uptempo version of"Heartbreak Hotel" (including sax), and he rounds out the collection with "You are My Sunshine" and "Let the Rest of the world go by". This is a fine example of a British Country recording and I'm sure this radio friendly CD will be among the nominations come February next year, and deservedly so. You can get your copy from Mel at 01302 771287.

JACK SAVAGE & HIS COWBOYS Little Sweetheart Of The Prairie British Archive of Country Music
How old do you like your country music, the 30's then welcome to the sound of Jack Savage & his Cowboys, running 60 minutes with nostalgia oozing from every track. The lead singers name is in dispute as is the title of the outfit, but their talent is not. Rhythm guitar and fiddle plus one main voice and some rich harmony vocals make up the ensemble. Recorded in New York in 1935 and London in 1936 under various names, (Peaceful Valley Folk, Billy Brown & His Cowboys and Jack Savage & His Cowboys) the songs are all from an era long gone (and sadly missed by many). Among the 20 songs theres "Rocking Alone in an Old Rocking Chair" "Too Many Parties & Too Many Pals" "Empty Saddles in an Old Corral" "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" "Cowboy's Heaven" "Going Back To Texas" "The Passing of Little Joe" & "Sweetheart of the Red River Valley". It's available from the British Archive on 01304 205000 or visit their web site for details at

FRANKIE MARVIN Early recordings 1929-1932 by Gene Autry's No1 Sideman British Archive Of Country Music
So on this one we go back to 1929 to catch the start of Frankie's career with brother Johnny. Frankie sings and plays ukulele and acoustic guitar but made his fortine as a lap-steel player on most of Gene Autry's early recordings and as Gene's sideman in the movies. He was also a songwriter who apparently influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, and he includes 4 of Rodgers songs here "Blue Yodel Nos 1&9" "T.B. Blues" and "In the Jailhouse Now".
Theres 13 of his own songs (some co-written) and the 3 others include "Big Rock Candy Mountain" "Way Out On The Mountain" and "They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree" revived over later years to become real country classics. His own songs include "Dust Pan Blues" "Cowboy's Sweetheart" and "Yodeling Ramblin' Cowboy". All in all a great collection of cowboy songs with the odd yodel thrown in. Available only from the British Archive of Country Music (see above).

Vol 3 continues where Vol 2 left off, and once again includes 20 more songs using the same formula and mix of country and MOR songs aimed straight for the linedancer. It runs for over 68 minutes and includes the dance script for 6 dances in the booklet. But it dosen't stop there, with the interactive CD-Rom section you've got 20 dances to choose from. The country dosen't start until track 5 with "Union Mare" from Easy Rider, K.T.Oslin's "Live Close By Visit Often" and "Jessica" by Kentucky Headhunters. More country from Larry Joe Taylor, Ashley Jay, Ronnie Beard, Paul Overstreet, Billy Curtis, Rick Tippe, Gail Davies, Damon Gray, Jody Jenkins and Nadine Sommers rounds it all off. If you've got Vol 1 & 2 you'll need Vol 3, and if you like line-dancing you should!

Heres an unusual album of songs all written by Jim Bryson who, until I played this CD was unknown to me. An Ottawa born singer songwriter, Jim writes 9 songs for this 36 minutes CD. Theres not a lot of country here though, although there is a steel guitar on some songs (maybe on them all but overshadowed). The vocal gets lost occasionally in the mix, which is the unforgiven sin in recording for singer-songwriters. I did like "Satellite" & "Lately" but little else. Not really my cup of tea and unlikely to get much airplay with country music DJ's, or have I missed something.

CENTREFIRE - COUNTRY CRUSIN' - Sons of Thunder Records (Import)
Heres a 6 piece family band consisting of brothers Mark Epling, Ethan Epling and John Lambert, cousins Chris and Tim Amey and nephew John Staib. With the addition of Kevin Allan on drum tracks & BV they come up with a country gem, an 11 track, 37 minute CD. Recorded mixed and mastered in Nashville, (except 2 songs recorded in Arizona and mixed in Canada) they reminded me of the Charlie Daniels Band at times, with their mix of fast paced rocky country, mid paced songs and ballads. Chris, who also plays steel and bass guitars writes all the songs. It opens with a hard-edged title track, races through "Must be Love", and then eases back for athe ballad "Some Kind Of Lady". It drives along again with "Uncle Sam's In The Middle", drops a notch for "Here in Your Love" and slows again for the sad drinking song "Drinkin's a Temporary Healer". "Two Stepping all the way to Heaven" and "Destiny" are both two steps, while "Drinkin' Man of Me" is a mid-tempo crying-in-your-beer-song. The last 2 country rockers are "Hell Hath no Fury" and "My Loves Gonna Haunt Your Shack". Faultless production and musicianship sure to enhance their expanding career, pity it's only on import.

Once again BSW Records deliver the goods with 11 songs, 37 minutes of stone country. This time it's from Sonny Marshall, a native Texan, who's been performing since he was at school. At 18 he started fronting Freddy Fender's band for ten years. He left Freddy to continue his solo career and this is his debut release. 3 songs were recorded in Nashville produced by Ronnie Light with Sonny and his steel guitarist Steve Palossek. Ronnie, Jennifer O'Brien and Maggie Cates sing BGV on the 3 songs. Sadly the other musicians on all the other tracks are not credited. However don't let that spoil an otherwise great country CD of modern songs. All well written and delivered with conviction. His recent European Single No 2 hit "Sally in Dallas" and his last single "Marriage on the Rocks" are included. These 2 songs plus "Oh-No-Not You Again" which opens the album and the western swing track "Two Stepping Texas Blue" are my pick from an all round solid country CD. Available direct from Peter Holtby, JWH Promotions on Tel No: 01653 658135 or by E-mail [email protected]

Following the sucess of his first CD "The Silence of a Falling Stat" reviewed back in December 2000, Ragnar travelled to Nashville to record his next CD. Mike Headrick produces, engineers, plays acoustic, lead and pedal steel guitars and dobro. Mike also wrote 5 of the 16 songs. Basically it's an album of traditional covers with the addition of Mikes 5 new songs, one new one from Ragnar and two from his friend Kitty Prins. The new songs all blend in with the traditional recording, and don't feel out of place among the standards. It opens with Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man", Jimmie Davis's "You Are My Sunshine", Carl Butler's "If Teardrops were Pennies" and Shorty Rangers "Somebody's Mother". Tommy Collin's "High On A Hiltop" is revived along with Lawton William's "Fraulein" and Hank Williams "I Told a Lie To My Heart". The musicians include Don Helms on steel guitar adding the Hank Williams steel sound and once again Ragnar can be proud of a top quality country album.

Dave Hamel is "Papa" to his friends, and at 74 years of age is one of the best known names on the music scene in Canada. He's been performing there in various guises and styles of music since his teen years. You could call this western swing or country jazz or just enjoyable and forget the music tag. His laid back vocal styling is complimented by lovely lead guitar, fiddle, accordion and keyboards, with just a hint of drums. Theres 11 songs, mainly standards (in Peggy Lee/Perry Como mould), and one instumental (Remington Ride). Dave & producer Don Thompson co-write 2 songs, "I Do" and "Back Here With Me", Marty Robbin's "Is There Any Chance" gets an outing, and Col. Buster Doss contributes 4, including the catchy title tracks "Heads You Win", If you can imagine Perry Como cutting a country album, then you're close to knowing what to expect from this enjoyable CD, originally released 2000, re-issued2002.
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