GRETCHEN WILSON - ALL JACKED UP - EPIC RECORDS EK 94169
What’s more important than your 1st hit country album….Your 2nd one. Yes many a career has faltered at the 2nd jump, with a second rate follow-up to a major first outing. And there lies the tale of many a so called “star with a long career”. NOT SO with GRETCHEN WILSON…..have a listen to “California Girls” ( co-written with John Rich) out and out fiddle and steel country “I don’t feel like loving you today ( a great Matraca Berg & Jim Collins ballad) and her sobbing rendition of “He ain’t even cold yet” (Billy Lawson-Cyril Rawson) with crying steel guitar leaning in. There is a lighter side too, with “ One Bud Wiser” an unusual twist to a great leaving song (John Rich and Vicky Mc Gehee), and Merle Haggard guests on “Politically Uncorrect” a mid tempo fiddle led social comment piece that would have been a great hit for Hank Jr. Gretchen also co-writes 3 other songs with John Rich and Vicky Mc Gehee, “All Jacked Up” the outrageous opening song and title track, “Raining on me” a tender ballad and “Not bad for a bartender” a slow shuffle (autobiographical song? maybe). Then there’s the bonus song “Good Morning Heartache” you have to listen out for as it’s a secret track that goes unaccredited and she does a great job singing this blues ballad with guitar, bass, fiddle and light drums only. You’ll find songs with tenderness, attitude, sincerity and soul in this package. Add a great line-up of 16 musicians and 3 backup singers and co production by Gretchen, John Rich and Mark Wright for a real winner on one CD. If, like me, you liked her 1st CD you will love this, her 2nd , and if nothing else, it goes to show that Gretchen is more than a one hit wonder, more like a substantial country star with a long shelf life. Bring on No 3 anytime soon please.

OTHER SONGS:- Full time job-Skoal ring-Rebel child

TOM TRAVIS - BLUEGRASS INCIDENT - A SMALL PATCH OF BLUE
Tom lives just outside Manchester and is one of the most consistent performers on the British bluegrass scene. He travelled to Kilcullen recording studios in Ireland to record this 17 track Cd sponsored by the British Bluegrass Music Association. Engineered by Dave Howard, he mixed the music, played dobro, mandolin and sang harmony. It was then mastered in Nashville. All 17 tracks are written by Tom who sings all lead parts and plays guitar and the variety of songs on the collection is really great. There’s just about every tempo, every style and subject matter covered and this makes for a great listen. The musicians also include Brian Booth on dog-house bass, Bill Forster on 5 string banjo & harmony, Bob Winquist on fiddle and Clem O’Brien sings tenor vocal. The 8 page booklet gives details about where, when and why Tom wrote the songs or music for the instrumentals “Chinese Whispers” and the lovely waltz “Waltz for one”. My personal favourites include the story of bad man “Billy Ralph”, “A Small Patch of Blue” a prison song with great meaning, the tribute songs “Hank Lefty and George” and the closing track “Little does she know” which is a drop between jazz and western swing with super lyrics not drawn from Tom’s personal experiences. As I said it’s a great listen and a good quality British recording that deserves a strong recommendation at least. You can e-mail Tom at [email protected] for more details or to order a copy.

OTHER SONGS:-Hey who said you can’t go home-Oysters on Beale Street-David’s song-Hello!-Cattle feed blues-We will be kind-Way to go!-A room for Jesus-The pickup-Wood smoke-The trouble is (I love the girl).

MONTGOMERY GENTRY - YOU DO YOUR THING - COLUMBIA CK 90558
Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have been on the heels of Brooks & Dunn challenging for the top duo title over the last few years. This is their 4th album release and it follows the format laid out in the previous 3 releases. Strong songs from top songwriters, great musicianship from top musicians, great production, promotion and live performances. So what holding them back I hear you ask, maybe its just the Nashville machine, you know the one, we have a winner….. so let’s forget all the contenders until the champ loses his title by default, know what I mean. This collection is a combination of four producers, who each pick their own list of session players, background singers, studio and production teams. Blake Chancey does 2 songs, including a guest slot for Hank Williams Jr on “I ain’t got it all that bad” while Rivers Rutherford produces 2 more, (and co-writes 3 songs) Jeffrey Steele does 3 tracks (and co-writes 4 songs) and Joe Scaife the last 5. Despite this arrangement the overall sound is outstanding and never varies. You just can’t tell the difference. This is power country, hell raising like it used to be, Hank Jr, Travis Tritt, the Charlie Daniels Band, and all the rest, back in the early 80’s in that Southern Rock style popular then and still preferred today by some country fans who like the heavy end of the sound spectrum. Eddie & Troy are great singers with great range and power and on this outing their vocal dominate. Some of the tracks are bordering on out and out rock, but probably just don’t get there for the real rockers. This is the style that British record companies love to remix for the non-country market here and I’m sure someone will do just that and turn Montgomery Gentry into non country stars in the UK, a fate worse than ……..I like the album as is and you should check out www.montgomerygentry.com

SONGS:-Something to be proud of-You do your thing-If you ever stop loving me-If it’s the last thing I do-She loved me-Gone-All I know about Mexico-I got drunk-It’s all good-I ain’t got it all that bad-Talking to my angel-I never thought I’d live this long.

MIRANDA LAMBERT - KEROSENE - EPIC EK 92026
Among the new names to sparkle in Nashville in 2005 you’ll find Maranda, who signed to Epic records early in the year on the clear understanding that she had full control over all her recording material, and the way she recorded. She hails from Texas where she spent some time touring with her own band and knocking up experiences which she has now transferred to songs for this her debut CD for Epic Records. (I believe she has recorded for an independent in Texas before this one).She writes 6 songs herself, co-writes 5 more with co-writers Rick Lambert, Travis Howard, Heather Little, Scotty Wray, and Travis Howard also writes “I can’t be bothered” with a Texas shuffle, twin fiddles and steel guitar, in that style popular with dancers making up the 12 songs. It’s a radio friendly sound with Miranda shining on the ballads particularly well. She has all the attributes necessary to succeed on radio and tv and with the right promotion of her undoubted talent could become a major country star on this showing. Top session players give their usual best, lovely thoughtful arrangements leaving plenty of room for Miranda’s voice to shine through and what a voice! I would recommend you get a copy and be in at the start of a career that should go on and on for many years to come

.SONGS:-Kerosene-What about Georgia-Greyhound bound for nowhere-New strings-I can’t be bothered-Bring me down-Me & Charlie talking-I wanna die-Love is looking for you-Mama I’m alright-There’s a wall-Love your memory.

WAYNE KEMP - ONE SONG AT A TIME - BSW/CC 2275
Singer-songwriter-guitarist and record producer Wayne Kemp is probably best known as the HIT songwriter of classic country songs like “One Piece at a Time” (Johnny Cash No 1 1976) “I’ll leave this world loving you” (Ricky Van Shelton No 1 1988) and “Love Bug” which hit the top twice (for George Jones in 1965 and George Strait in 1994).His other better known hits include “I’m the only hell my Mama ever tried to raise” (Johnny Paycheck) and “The Fireman” (George Strait) both rerecorded here along with 8 other songs all co-written by Wayne with Mack Vickery, Robert Kemp Patsy Kemp and Bryan Tabor on various songs. This would appear to be Wayne’s 3rd album and this is traditional country, steel guitar and piano through and through. Recorded at Buck Jarrell’s Studio in Hendersonville, it’s mastered and mixed by Buck while wife Kathy and Robert Kemp sing backup. The musicians are not named but the overall sound is consistent , with the balance finely mixed to show Wayne’s vocal to it’s best, particularly on the ballads “Don’t send me no angels” and “Hole in my heart”. The vocals are never overstretched with Wayne probably the best vocalist to sing his own songs, (with the exception of “One Piece at a time” which I feel Johnny Cash made his own). It’s a most enjoyable collection of great songs well sung by the originator and worthy of any country collection.

OTHER SONGS:-Somehow without you-A little bit weaker-Crying for their Mama’s-Pretty boy Floyd-Lesson in love.

BIG BULL BAND - A TRIBUTE TO WAYLON JENNINGS - BSWCD 1505
Tribute bands are all the rage in the UK, and it would appear all over the world. Here is a 5 piece band who admired Waylon so much they recorded a tribute album to him featuring 12 songs associated with Waylon over the years. These are all songs they perform live and Waylon’s music forms a large part of their repertoire. Hans Olaf Kastodden sings lead vocal with a remarkable resonance, spookily sounding like Waylon, as close as one could get to the original. Their choice of sound makes the album sound like a Waylon Greatest hits and deserves recommendation, The musicians include steel, drums, bass, lead and acoustic guitars. It was recorded, mixed and produced by the band in Gvarv, Norway, and mastered in Tennessee. As its on BSW there’s no doubt that it’s country. Ingeborg Simeonsen sings lead vocal on “Storms Never Last”.
Only problem with a recording like this is that the Waylon fans have all these songs by Waylon so why bother to get this copy, and there lies the rub. The efforts of Big Bull Band deserves to be recognised for a sincere and top quality tribute album. Glad I got to hear it and I do have many of the originals on vinyl but this is a worthy compilation on CD. Top marks to the musicians for a good recording.Check out their web site at www.bigbullband.com or the BSW site at www.bswrecords.net

SONGS:-T for Texas-Mamas don’t let your babies-Wrong-Honky tonk heroes- Only daddy that’ll walk the line-Tonight the bottle let me down-Storms never last-Are you sure Hank done it this way-Drinking and dreaming-Working without a net-You went out with rock and roll-Lonesome on’ry and mean.

COWBOY COPAS - ANY OLD TIME - BACM CD D 136
To most country music collectors the name Cowboy Copas will no doubt bring to mind titles like “Filipino Baby” “Signed Sealed And Delivered” and his sixties No.1 hit, Alabam, but there were other successes that never charted, but helped him maintain a healthy career during the 40s and into the 50s. It's from this period that the titles on this album are taken and it appears none of them seem to have appeared on CD in the UK before. Cowboy's real name was Lloyd Copas and he was born in Blue Creek, Ohio on July 15th 1913.His first recording for King Records was “Filipino Baby” released in 1946. It reached No.4 in the Billboard Country Chart and he became one of the biggest-selling names on that label. This led to him joining the Grand Ole Opry. Starday Records took him on after a few years in the doldrums during the late 50’s. This resulted in his biggest hit “Alabam” which stayed in the No.1 position on the Billboard Chart for 13 weeks in 1960. Other hits followed, including Flat Top, Sunny Tennessee and a re-make of his old King success, Signed, Sealed And Delivered. Sadly on 5th March 1963, along with his son-in-law, Randy Hughes, he was a passenger on the plane which crashed killing them both, together with fellow passengers, Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins. None of the above named songs are included here. Copas wrote 10 of the 25 tracks on this CD and other titles include Jimmy Rodgers “Any Old Time”, The Bryant’s “Blue Waltz” and “Party’s Over”, even Irving Berlin’s “When I lost you”. Fine fare from that period and worthy of a listen. Once again its history, nostalgia and old favourites from a country great all in one package. Full marks to BACM for releasing this collection and for the concise liner notes from Jim Marshall partly reproduced above. You can order direct at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com or by Tel:- 01304 205000.

SONGS:- Hope of a broken heart-The Gypsy told me-Return to sender-I’ll waltz with you in my dreams-The postman just passed me by-Doll of clay-Rose of Oklahoma-Tennessee senorita-If you will let me be your love - Blue waltz - He stands by the window-It’s no sin to love you-I’ve grown so used to you-Carbon copy-I’m glad for your sake-When I lost you - Why should I want her - Jamboree (instrumental) - Because of you -Tell me more-Summer kisses - Party’s over - Any old time-Don’t shake hands with the devil-The stone was rolledaway.

DON GIBSON…THE EARLY YEARS - I LOVE NO ONE BUT YOU - BACM CD D 13.
“Without a doubt, if Don Gibson had never made a single record he would still be rated as one of the most important songwriters in the Country genre. His songs caught the mood of the time, and the world of Country Music in general owes him an enormous debt of gratitude” ….. says Brian Golbey opening the liner notes on this CD, 24 songs, over 62 minutes long. He helped form the group “Sons of the Soil” who specialised in songs made popular by their heroes the Sons of the Pioneers. They secured a job over Radio WHOS in Shelby (Don’s home town) and joined Mercury Records where they recorded “ Cloudy Skies” “ I Lost My Love” “Automatic Mama” and “Why Am I So Lonely” an original by Gibson, all of which are included in this collection, though you will have difficulty recognising Don’s voice. Their next recordings were made for RCA Victor in October 1950 (8 tracks from that period included) now known as Don Gibson and his King Cotton Kinfolks. The 2 instrumentals “Carolina Breakdown” and “Wiggle Wag” feature Don on lead guitar. Don was also the prominent vocalist and the session produced the superb “Roses Are Red” which was co-written by Don. In spite of his limited success with RCA, he couldn't make the big time even with Columbia (14 tracks included). Superb though the recordings were he still failed to make the breakthrough. {In 1955 through the auspices of Fred Rose he was signed to MGM and had his first real taste of success with his composition “Sweet Dreams” recorded by Faron Young. Then Kitty Wells had the 1st hit with “I can’t stop loving you” and then Ray Charles broke the mould}. Shortly after rejoining RCA with Chet Atkins Don finally became an International country star and Grand Ole Opry member. This collection only has 4 Gibson compositions and 2 are co-writes. He covers songs from the Louvin Bros, Lunsford Bros, Stuart Hamblen and Benny Martins “Ice Cold Heart” and other lesser known songs from that period. ,after listening to this CD. I have to agree with Golbey again when he asks the question “…Why did it take so long to make it …”. So you can have a listen and see is you can find the reason why? Great collection and full marks yet again to BACM for this great find. You can order direct by Tel:- 01304 205000 or on the web at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com


OTHER SONGS:-I love no one but you-Just let me love you-Red lips, white lies & blue hours-Dark future-A blue million tears-No shoulder to cry on-We’re stepping out tonight-Sample kisses-Let me stay in your arms-Walking in the moonlight-I just love the way you tell a lie-Waiting down the road-You cast me out forever more-Symptoms of love-Many times I’ve waited-Selfish with your kisses.

RONNIE BOWMAN - IT'S GETTIN' BETTER ALL THE TIME - KOCH RECORDS KOC-CD-9884
Ronnie Bowman has spent his life making music, from singing and playing as a youth with his family's gospel group through his stints as a member of “Lost & Found” and “Lonesome River Band” into his solo career. The award-winning singer and hit songwriter has displayed a talent that catches the ear and the listener's heart. He was twice voted Male Vocalist of the Year and a 2-time winner of Album of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1994 and 1998. “It's Gettin' Better All The Time” both spans the range of bluegrass from traditional to contemporary and expands it into neighbouring territories, placing Ronnie at the cutting edge of today's acoustic music scene. The album features seven songs co-written by him including his recent No. 1 hit song for Brooks & Dunn, "It's Getting Better All The Time" as well as three choice covers, his impressive take on the Dolly Parton hit, "Old Flames (Can't Hold A Candle To You), a bluegrass breakdown the classic Webb Pierce hit "Walkin' The Dog" and then Larry Rice's 'Four Wheel Drive." The musicians include members of his group The Committee - guitarist Wyatt Rice, dobro player Andy Hall, singer and fiddler Jeremy Garrett, and impressive harmony singer Garnet Imes Bowman ( also Ronnie's wife) plus special guests Del, Rob and Ronnie Mc Coury, Bowman's former LRB band mate Dan Tyminski of Union Station, banjo master Don Wayne Reno, and top Nashville session ace John Jarvis. In addition to slices of prime bluegrass, the album boasts a splash of honky-tonk with the electric guitar and twin fiddles on "Build A Little Playhouse," summons up near cinematic atmosphere on "The Mountain," and spotlight's his outstanding vocal ability on "It's Getting Better All The Time," backed only by John Jarvis on piano and light string arrangement. More than bluegrass and certainly country, Ronnie should have no problem finding a new record company as Koch have now closed in Nashville. You should look out for this one, highly recommended and a real pleasure to listen to. (Don’t stop the CD after track 11, let it run for another minute and 10 seconds and you come to the surprise bonus track “Mary Bell” a tribute to his Grandma…. Great).

OTHER SONGS:-On my way back home-Crazy train-The epitaph of Lester Moore-Till we meet again-Perfect love.

JERRY DOUGLAS - THE BEST KEPT SECRET - KOCH RECORDS KOC-CD-9847
The Best Kept Secret, is probably a misnomer for an album by Jerry Douglas who is not only known as the foremost master of the dobro but also a multi-talented musician, composer and producer as well as a performer of the highest standard (currently with Union Station ). His talents are widely known, both to his musical peers and to an enthusiastic audience that spans the musical spectrum. He is a recording artist whose output draws upon his gathered knowledge of the musical elements of bluegrass, country, rock, jazz, blues and Celtic music. These elements are all to be found on this new 11 track release. The material ranges from the jazzy bluegrass workout "Who's Your Uncle?" to the funky country-rocker "She Makes Me Want To Sing" to the jazz-inflected title song to the haunting, reflective "Sir Aly B," the latter track a tribute to our own Scottish fiddler Aly Bain. Along with the current line-up of Douglas' band “The Brickbats” guitarist Keith Sewell, bassist Derek Jones, drummer Shannon Forrest and violinist Gabe Vitcher, this CD includes a fine array guest musicians. Derek Trucks, plays counterpoint slide guitar on "She Makes Me Want to Sing", jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, lends his touch to the bluesy "Lil' roro", on bass is Viktor Krauss who also plays on the latter song and Sam Bush and Bela Fleck on mandolin and banjo guest respectively, are featured on "Who's Your Uncle?”. It also includes 2 vocal numbers featuring notable guest singers Alison Krauss with a heartfelt performance on "Back in Love Again," while John Fogerty is in fine form on the rollicking "Swing Blues No.1.". In addition to his expressive dobro work, this also features his equal ability on lap steel guitar on the opener, "She Makes Me Want To Sing", "Ya Ya etc.", and "U R My Flower." An outstanding album of mainly instrumental works by a leader in his field. He may not make many solo recordings but when he does he makes them worthwhile.This is his 10th album release and his first for Koch.

OTHER TRACKS:- A remake you made-Snow’s first fall