Happy New Year to you all and I hope you have a healthy and prosperous one too!
Thank you to everyone who sent us cards for Christmas, hope Santa was good to you all….I'm starting 2007 with some great CD from Hal Ketchum (soon to be in the Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow on 18 th March,), Rodney Atkins, Billy Yates, Erin Hay, Robin English, newcomers Lantana, Dean Station and Jessica Blake, oldies from Porter Wagoner, Jean Shepard and Tommy Collins.
I'll start with 4 new British releases………………………
BEST OF BRITISH COUNTRY 2006...VARIOUS ARTISTES…SILVER HEART RECORDS SHR2006
This is the eighth Best of British CD and features 14 singles from 12 artistes, released over the last year. It features home-grown music and every song appeared in the Top 10 British Hotdisc Chart. Dave Sheriff is a singer-songwriter producer and musician "Beautiful Day" won the Hotdisc Track Of The Year by being the most successful British single on the charts in 2006. Last year's winner Chris Harris has his successful song “I Think I'm Falling In Love” included. Scotland is well represented with Paula MacAskill covering “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You” and a medley “Dreaming Of The 50s”, Jackie Storrar includes her lovely self-penned song “Which one takes the blame” from her forthcoming CD while Audrey Kelly has 2 Alex Birnie songs “Something funny going on” and “This may be life”. Tom Laverty covers Rodney Crowell's “Ridin' Out The Storm” and Travis Logan covers “I Wouldn't Want To Live” while Dane Stevens continue to go from strength to strength with his self penned album title “Blue letter Bluae day”. Dan Wesley sings the self-penned “From A Jack To A Joker” . Bryan Chalker's “Widders Of Bowling Green” is here and it's great to know he is still recording good, honest, traditional music. Stu Stevens career is parallel to Bryan, though not as traditional with “What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana”. The only UK band on this album Root'n Toot'n who revive “Cry Cry Cry”. There's plenty to enjoy here from traditional to modern and it's all from the UK! Once again this CD salutes the talent and showcases it to best advantage. It's available from the artistes at their gigs and direct from www. hotdisc .com
SPEED LIMIT…COUSIN NORMAN…M. J. MUSIC MJMSL0601
Speed Limit, Angie & Tony, have built their well deserved reputation on a mix of good country songs well played and presented in a warm and friendly way. They have an undoubted talent for picking quality songs, recording them to the highest standard, using top musicians and making quality albums. This latest CD follows the same pattern, recorded with Wayne Golden playing all guitars, John Permenter fiddle, Scott Newsted on piano, keyboards etc, Tony playing steel and Angie lead and all harmony vocals. A tight group recorded produced and engineered by Mervyn J Futter at his Oasis Studio. The songs include Lefty Frizzell's “Always late”; “We work it out “ and Louisiana hot sauce” co-written by Joni Harms; Crowell's “Making memories of us”, Heather Myles' “You're taken me places I wish I'd never been” and Carlene Carter's “Heart is right”. This is another in a great series of CDs from Speed Limit who only enhance their career further with every release. It's available on-line from www.mjmusicshop.co.uk or check out www.mjmusic.org.uk/speedlimit
OTHER SONGS;-Cousin Norman-Do you still wanna buy me that drink Frank-Was it good for you-I found Jesus on the jailhouse floor-I just want my baby back-Unlove me-What's a girl gotta do.-(13 songs-40 minutes).
BETH NAVARO…SANCTUARY...HALO RECORDS… HALOCD14
Beth's musical background is diverse, starting at the Arts Educational School in London she studied singing, dance and drama from the age of 13 then worked as a session singer, actress and lead singer with several touring bands in bars, clubs and universities over the past few years, earning the reputation as a true professional. Beth joined forces with singer / songwriters Alex Scott and Alan Morgan and decided to produce this original album. Alex and Alan co-write 12 songs, “You are the reason” is written by Beth, and the song “Words” is by Mike Hedrick. Alex and Alan co-produce the album with Dave Hayward and they play guitars with Shaun Murray. Dave also plays steel, keyboards and the programming. The vocal really shines through and is quite outstanding at times, like on “Your are the reason” “Back where I belong” and “Cherrywood” crystal clear with a lovely country lilt. Beth carries every song here and the production lacks nothing. There's also great variety in song with tender ballads, punchy dance tunes and strong mid tempo songs. It's certainly worth seeking out, I'm sure you will be as impressed as I was. Check out the web at www.navaro.co.uk and www.halorecords.co.uk
OTHER SONGS:-High wind on the water-Just passing through-Another love song-Riverblind-Opposites attract-Polly-Count on me-Life behind the wheel-Linedancer-Words-Sanctuary.(14 songs over 50 minutes).
STEVE LARKMAN…WORD GAMES...FOREVER RECORDS FR001-2006
Steve released his first solo album in 2003 and quickly followed this by releasing a second album in mid 2004. From these two albums came the singles Chasing Rainbows (April 2001) and Saved By Rain (January 2005). Steve came to the notice of Jeffrey Kruger MBE (founder of Ember Records and C.E.O at TKO Records) and a new stage in Steve's career has begun. They joined forces on this album of songs written by some of the finest lyricists and composers in the industry. Over the last two years they have worked together with the lyrics, phrasing and composition to capture the essence of each individual song. The result is “Word Games” a collection of powerful and timeless love songs that fully engage the listener. Apart from one or 2 songs though, the album falls short in country content. Production, musicianship, vocal ability, presentation all deserve great credit and one cannot find fault. Ray Griff's song “I wish I'd never asked” Ray Pennington's “Don't stop in my world” “A Chance to prove my love” (currently on Country Hotdisc) and the title track are the nearest to country and will pick up lots of air-play from Country Djs. Check www.stevelarkman.com and www.foreverrecords.co.uk
OTHER SONGS:-A bad time to stop loving me-Don't let me go-Hard to say goodbye-A world of love-No love but your love-Another morning-Love was what we had-We love but once,(12 songs 33 minutes).
HAL KETCHUM…ONE MORE MIDNIGHT...CURB RECORDS CURCD225
Curb have decided to release this CD on 5 th February 2007 to coincide with Hal's forthcoming UK & Irish tour starting in Ireland on 22 nd February and playing in Glasgow on 18 th March. This is Hal‘s first recording in 2 years and starts with “One more midnight”, a great modern up-tempo trucking song and “Just this side of heaven” (1 st single entered Billboard Charts in January) continues with great rocking guitar & steel, while “Travelling Teardrop blues” continues with a softer (Allan Reynolds produced) sound, developing the travelling theme and “Save tonight for me” slows the tempo with a great ballad and powerful delivery. Then its stirring guitars, bass & drums, laying the punchy track for “Gonna start livin' again” followed by soft acoustic and mandolin intro to the Gary Burr song “Alamo”,( …a great place to make a stand…”) Great song! Then Hal spends nearly 15 minutes telling the wonderful story of “Poor Lila's Ghost” featuring guests Andrea Zonn and Tony Joe White. “My love will not change” is a bright love song while “Forever Mine” is a love ballad (written by Hal and Gina ). Katie Cook duets on “One of the Things” a catchy love song, “The moment”, continuing the love theme, is another power ballad. “Little Red Dress” is a fun song taking us to keyboards and voice only on “Medal of Honour” a patriotic tribute to John D. O'Conner closing this great album. Overall this faultless production can only take Hal to a greater level as a singer of great songs, delivered with sincerity and strength. Classy varied collection of country songs from top writers played by top musicians and various producers, never losing sight, or sound, of the country edge. www.curb.com & www.halketchum.com for more. (13 songs 57 mins)
RODNEY ATKINS...IF YOU'RE GOING THROUGH HELL...CURB RECORDS CURCD222
Rodney's big breakthrough came in 2006 when the catchy single, "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)," climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's country airplay chart for 4 weeks. 6 of the songs are by Rodney as co-writes with top songwriters and the 20 musicians include co-producer and co-engineer Ted Hewitt who also plays guitar. Rodney is very “hands-on” with his recordings as co-producer and co-engineer in his own home studio. The result is quite an outstanding recording giving credence to the oft suggested “he's got a long shelf-life”. This is “steel-guitar-fiddle-and-southern-down-home-country” in the softer Hank Jr/Travis Tritt/early Garth mode. The Miami Herald called Atkins “a gifted storyteller, capturing small town life, parenting and relationships with a keen eye and wit.” If you have any doubt about the quality of song here, have a listen to “Wasted Whiskey” “A Man on a Tractor” “ Invisibly shaken” or “If you're going through hell”. I think I've said all I need to say except, get a copy, I bet you'll enjoy all the great songs, musicians, arrangements, style, production, quality, variety and voice… I know I did. Check out the web at www.rodneyatkins.com for more about him or www.curb.com
OTHER SONGS:-These are my people-About the south-Watching you-Cleaning this gun-In the middle-Angel's hand. (11songs 36 minutes)
TOMMY COLLINS…THINK IT OVER BOYS…B.A.C.M. RECORDS CDD165
Tommy Collins started recording for Capitol in 1953, and is nowadays sited as being the initial “sound” that later became “The Bakersfield Sound”. Tommy was first, along with Buck Owens playing the high Fender lead on Tommy's recordings on this CD. The collection focuses on songs written by Tommy and only 3, “I wish I had died in my cradle” and “I guess I'm crazy” and “Wait a little longer” were written by Max Friedman/Lew Brown, Werly Fairburn and Jack Rhodes respectively. This album is a showcase for his achievements as a country songwriter and is a cross section of styles; the funny, frivolous novelty pieces that made his name and continues his memory; the sad songs found in the styles of his idols Jimmie Rodgers & Hank Williams and the Country Gospel songs like “A Man we all ought to know” and “Are you ready to go” plus 2 gospel duets “Upon this Rock” “and “Feet of the Traveller” with wife Wanda. His songs topped the Country Charts in the 5 decades between 1953 and 2003, and I'm sure someone somewhere will top the charts again with one of his songs, maybe from this collection, recorded between 1953 and 1956.Wanda also duets on “Let down”. You can order direct at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com or by Tel:- 01304 205000.
OTHER SONGS:-Let me love you-I always get a souvenir-High on a hilltop-Boobilak-No love have I-That's the way love is-I love you more & more each day-I'll be gone-There'll be no other-What kind of sweetheart are you-Love me s'il vous plait-Those old love letters from you-Smooth sailin'-I'll always speak well of you-Think it over boys-I think of you yet-Untied.(25 songs 64 minutes).
PORTER WAGONER…DIG THAT CRAZY MOON…B.A.C.M. RECORDS CDD166
Porters career is well documented since his early radio days in Springfield, Missouri. He was with RCA Victor in 1952 and the tracks here, start then. They cover until 1956 when Porter had already had his 1 st top 5 with “Satisfied Mind”. His real chart successes where through the 60's and 70's both solo & duetting with Norma Jean, Dolly and others. This Cd is a mixture of A & B sides from early singles with other tracks. The songwriters here include Porter, Cy Coben, Cindy Walker, The Bryants and even Hank Williams. Porter could pick hits later in his career and this was his grounding back then. There's novelty songs like “Hey Ma” “Bringing Home the bacon,” “I'm Stepping out tonight” “Lets Squiggle” with a fair share of ballads like “ Beggar for your love” “Born to Lose” “Ivory Tower” and “Flame of Love”. Its obvious that after the success of “Satisfied mind” the recordings that followed tried to recreate the hit sound and harmony as seen here. It's a lovely collection of early Wagoner and while I would have preferred the sleeve notes to dwell on the recording sessions and the musicians more, it doesn't detract from the CD. You can order direct at by Tel:- 01304 205000 or www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com on the web.
OTHER SONGS:- I cant live with you I cant live without you-Taking Chances-That's it-Trademark-Dig that crazy moon-Bad news travels fast-My bonfire-Tricks of the trade-I like girls-How quick-Livin in the past-A good time was had by all-How can you refuse him now-Trying to forget the blues-I've known you from somewhere-Seeing her only reminded me of you-I guess I'm crazy.(25 songs 63 minutes)
JEAN SHEPARD…THIS HAS BEEN YOUR LIFE…B.A.C.M. RECORDS CDD170
Country Star Jean (Ollie Imogene) Shepard started singing country when she joined “The Melody Ranch Girls” a five-piece all girl band as bass player & vocalist. In 1952 she impressed Hank Thompson who arranged a contract with Capitol's Ken Nelson and in September '52, he produced her first single “Twice The Lovin' In Half The Time” and “Crying Steel Guitar Waltz”. In '53 Jean recorded “I'd rather die young” (not included) with “A Dear John Letter” as a ‘B' side duet with Ferlin Husky. Radio flipped the single, gave Jean her first No. 1 for 6 weeks & reached top 5 on the pop charts. It sold a million and introduced the “Jean Shepard Sound”, interplay and unison-play between the steel and lead guitars. “Forgive Me John” (reached No 4) and “Why Did You Wait” followed. “You'll Come Crawlin'” and another version of “Why Did You Wait” come from a session 6 days later and “Glass That Stands Beside You” b/w “Two Hoops And A Holler” from just before Christmas. Next in April '54, 3 songs and only “Don't Fall In Love With A Married Man” released while “Please Don't Divorce Me” “Did You Tell Her About Me” “Don't Rush Me” and “You Sent Her An Orchid You Sent Me A Rose” came from Jean's session in August 54. Her next in April '55 gave her a Top 4 hit with “ Satisfied Mind” (voted Most Played Record 1956) and top ten with “Beautiful lies” plus “Take Possession” and “I Thought Of You” with the Bill Woods Orchestra. The next 6 songs are from December 1955 (another 2 with Bill Woods). “Be Honest with me” is from a 1956 session and the closing song “I didn't know the gun was loaded” from a radio transcript circa 55. These songs were all released before Jean made her first album in late 55, the concept “Songs of a love affair”. This is a collection with a promise of what was to come in later years, a sound and style, with that great voice, that keeps Jean continually touring with her band and with her "Grand Ladies" Show and doing the Opry whenever she's in Nashville. Oh Yea, I also did the sleeve notes. You can order at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com or by Tel:- 01304 205000. (25 songs 65 minutes).
OTHER SONGS:-You're calling me sweetheart again-He loved me once and he'll love me again-This has been your life-Just give me love-Thank you just the same-I learned it all from you.
BILLY YATES…FAVOURITES...M.O.D. RECORDS..34479 40407
I have been an admirer of Billy since I first heard him in Feb 2001 on the Country Hotdisc. He returned to the Hotdisc in Sept 2001, both singles then on Columbia Records. He asked out of his contract to set up his own record label and this is his fifth CD since. He returned to the Hotdisc in Jan 05 with “Anywhere but Nashville” and started a run of hit singles in Europe. His new single “Too country & proud of it” will surely top the charts. He sings the kind of songs country radio like to play, fans like to listen to and singers like to sing. The content of every song is different, and can be on any topic, any country style and tempo to cater for both the listener and the dancer. This album has only 3 new recording, a duet version of his hit song “Choices” with George Jones, a re-recording of “Flowers” and the hit single “Better every beer”. The rest are Billy's own choice, 4 songs from “If I Could go back”, 5 from “Country”, 6 from “Dreaming of Nashville” and 3 from “Harmony Man ”. The secret of his success to my mind is quite simple, GREAT Songs (all co-writes with top songwriters), GREAT Voice, GREAT Arrangements and Musicians and Country through & through. If your country clock stopped when Hank died, get it fixed ASAP , and rewind it to catch up with Billy Yates!!! Another great value for money album and another that must ranks as one of the best "Country" Collections of the Year. You can buy the CD or most of the songs for MP3 on-line at www.billyyates.com or try www.cdbaby.com
OTHER SONGS:- In the light of day- A better place-Daddy had a cardiac Mamma's got a Cadillac-Down at the station-Me, Marie-Daddy's radio-Smokin' grass-Dreaming out loud-My infinite love-Roxanne's bayou-This song doesn't rock-All by my lonesome-The circus is over-Alcohol abuse-The perfect woman- (plus all mentioned above (21 songs-69 minutes).
ERIN HAY…THE COLLECTION...WESTWOOD INT.RECORDS…0602D
This CD by traditional country singer Erin Hay, opens with 5 new recordings from her forthcoming album “Blue Country Song” and then 6 songs taken from each of her first 3 Cds “Honky Tonk Heaven”, “The Circle“” and “Somebody's Angel” making this value for money. In fact I'd even venture to say you get your money's worth in the first 5 songs and the rest is a bonus. This must rank as one of the best "Country"Collections of the Year. They don't come any more “steel and fiddles country” than this. The mixture is a sure-fire winner with country fans with the inclusion of country standards like “Harper Valley PTA” “Take Me Home Country Roads” “Don't Worry Bout Me” “Farther Along” “If Teardrops Were Pennies” “Walk On By” “My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You” (her latest US single), “There Goes My Everything” “Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad” and “Honky Tonk Girl”, all staying true to the originals, but flavoured in Erin's own style. (“Harper Valley PTA” and “Honky Tonk Girl” could become hit singles, they have the edge). Its a tight production from Lonnie Ratliff, co-producer with Erin, great musicianship from talented musicians and some great songs well sung. Erin co-writes 2 songs with Lonnie who also contributes another 3. My pick of the songs “Leaning On A Rock That Never Rolls” “The Circle” “I'd Be In Memphis” and “Mirror Mirror (On The Wall)”. The album made No.1 on the Roots Music Chart (True Country Genre) in the USA in November/December and there's lots more info on www.ErinHay.com…[email protected] or from www.cdbaby.com
OTHER SONGS:-Midnight At The Old Soldiers' Home -Ten Thousand Teardrops Ago-Givin' Old Memories Away -Somebody's Angel-The Tree-The Circle- False Eyelashes- Tennessee Moon- Honky Tonk Heaven- Honky Tonk Girl -I Got The Blues Again.( 23 songs, 74 minutes)
JESSICA BLAKE …THREE GOOD REASONS …PUFFAFISH RECORDS …PUFFACD 009
Jessica Blake grew up on an Indian Reservation in Florida although born in the UK. It was during her early years there that she absorbed her influences, both country and southern rock. In 2002 she returned to open “Jessie Western” a south western lifestyle shop on Portobello Road, London. She joined producer Ben Wright on a personal and professional basis, they returned to the U.S., and came up with her debut album "Take Your Time. As a songwriter Jessica keeps it simple, which as anyone who writes music knows, is one of the hardest thing to do. “Three Good Reasons” will be released in 2007 in support of her March tour of the UK .The songs are in between her influences, never overpowering to be called Southern Rock and certainly nearer the Americana Country vogue popular with female singer songwriters. There's great guitars, fiddle, steel guitar, bass and drums although the musicians, backup vocalists and production details are not included. The punchy “Don't try this at home” and “Dancing with the dead” and the gentler “Show you it's true” are my 3 picks from this most enjoyable CD. Check out www.puffafishrecords.com for more.
OTHER SONGS:-You go your way-Colorado, New Mexico -Sangre de Cristo-Who do you love-You're a new sky-Sleepy eye hill-Three good reasons-5 o'clock southbound.(11 songs-42 minutes).
ROBIN ENGLISH...ASPIRION/BRASS RING RECORDS 0026A
Robin signed her first record deal in 2000 with Sony/Columbia Records. Sony was so impressed with her production style, they asked her to co-produce an album with several acclaimed producers. Her single, "Girl In Love" came out just three weeks before the tragic events of 9/11. This was followed by various shake-ups at Sony and Robin asked to be released. She continued to write and tour with her band, recently opening for Willie Nelson and in December 2005, signed with Aspirion / Brass Ring Records. Her name is behind 9 songs, some co-writes with family Roy and Angela and she delivers all the songs with a passion only the writer has. It's a quality recording with 27 musicians involved over quite a few sessions. The songs vary in style from the raunchy “Yellow Rose in me” and “Enjoy the ride” to the gentler “ I'm yours” and “Hello me” and from the sparse sound of acoustic guitar and 2 voices on the duet with Angela on “Mission of mercy” to the stone country waltz (with steel guitar) on the clever re-write of Ed Bruce's “Mama don't let you cowboys grow up to be babies”. Robin also plays great harmonica throughout. Overall a delight to listen to and check out www.robinenglish.com
OTHER SONGS:- Baby you're the man-Lion and the Lamb-Cotton field girl-Least I can do-Wake up loving you-Enjoy the ride-Child in me (a Christmas song).(13 songs 52 minutes).
LANTANA…UNBRIDLED...BGM RECORDS 09062
Lantana are a trio of vocalists, Biz Haddock and Karol Ann Delong are native Texans and Dalene Richelle from Edmonton Canada now settled in Dallas, where the trio is based. Their music is country with other influence sliding through the songs. This is an eclectic mix of styles from steel and fiddle country to rocking country and every song holds a surprise for the listener. It opens with their US single, “Country as a city girl can be” a country down-home mandolin and steel offering, followed by the bluesy “Ride`em cowboy” with great harmonica. The bright banjo intro sets up “The juice ain't worth the squeeze” co-written by the trio while “No trespassing” is an up-tempo country rocker with saxophone and great rockin lead guitar. There's also smooth 3 part harmony on “Let somebody love you” their new Euro single is currently on the Country Hotdisc Top 40 charts. “Savin' it up for Saturday night” is another up-tempo fiddles and piano fun song and would make a great single. The album closes with “Feel like rockin' tonight” and it certainly does. Lantana remind me of the Dixie Chicks, (before the Chicks developed their current attitude). This is a cleverly arranged debut album with loads of promise, great songs played by great musicians, with production and vocal ability to the fore. Web pages at www.lantanamusic.com or www.bgmrcords.com for more detail.
OTHER SONGS:- I ain't your jailer-Everything-You know how it is-Give-Roll with the changes-What turns me on, (13 songs-43 minutes)
DEAN STATION ...MT 120147Dean Station are a two-part harmony duo and they draw heavily on folk, country and bluegrass to make a distinct Americana sound rooted in tradition with a modern feel. Levi and Amanda Dean were married in May 2006, just a month after releasing this debut Cd of 12 original songs. Levi moved to Albuquerque in 2004 and formed Dean Station with Amanda. Levi's style is influenced by a diverse group of musicians and songwriters, including Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Band, Led Zeppelin, and David Grisman while Amanda's credits Tracy Chapman, Tori Amos, and Billy Joel as her influences. The songs are certainly folk based with all their influences showing through. The backing is basic guitars, mandolin, a little percussion and bass on some tracks. The overall sound could easily be countrified with steel, piano and fiddles added. If you like yours basic and folksy then this is for you. Their web site is at www.deanstation.com
Songs:-Anybody's guess-Hear me out-Feather-Train rolls off the tracks-Detonation-Yup-Flat footin' girl-Friendly fire-Michael-I don't buy it-Queen on her throne-Go-ahead. (12 songs 42 minutes).