Reviews by Mel Hague

JENNIFER WEATHERLY
SOMETHING’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN
JK Records - 00031

I get a lot of independent records sent to me and most of them are well under par; some from young wannabes who just haven’t got it and some from old timers who never had it but won’t lie down and concentrate on the day job. Every once in a while I get a gem and this is the one for this year, I guess. A very attractive lady gracing a beautifully packaged album that says “play me and you won’t be disappointed.” I wasn’t and is that an understatement or what?
The album contains 13 tracks running through almost 47 minutes of very classy country and concert style material. I’ve never heard of Jennifer Weatherly but she has a terrific voice handling every thing she tackles with ease and style.
Texas singer/songwriter Clay Blaker produced the album with Jennifer as well as co-writing the title song, SOMETHING’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN. There’s some excellent songsmiths contributing to this album such as, Mark Collie, Even Stevens, Jim Lauderdale, Garth Brooks, Pat Alger, Don Penn and Chips Moman.
I don’t think it would be long before I was picking this gal out from the rest and that’s what being a class singer is all about. I’m going to be enjoying this album for some time and looking forward to the next. If I had a radio programme I would play every track over a five or six week period and some of them more than once, especially the kick off track, HEARTACHES AND HONKY TONKS, that is a belter. The whole album has a modern feel with a real country undertone, best of both worlds and that’s not an easy balance to find. Learn more about her at www.jenniferweatherly.com


JONNY WILLIAMS - WALK THROUGH THIS WORLD - TFI Country Records 2002
Another 12 track album from the Sheffield Rockabilly Kid who sticks mainly to solid country these days and has already made himself a pretty big mark in the country music scene all over Britain. He’s a very personable lad, always turned out well on stage, puts on a good show and if you buy his album after one of his appearances you won’t be disappointed. The content on this latest offering is mainly old country, which Jonny does well and what he very much prefers to sing. There’s not much here for new millennium country fan but I don’t think he really cares all that much when he has the backing of a growing legion of fans who love what he does and that includes the dancers. Just go to one of his shows and you’ll hear plenty of applause from those at the tables as well as those packed onto the floor.
The album opens with a fairly modern THREE MINUTE POSITIVE, NOT TOO COUNTRY, UP TEMPO LOVE SONG and BLESSED OR DAMNED and then into the old stuff like DON’T THE GIRLS GET PRETTIER EVERY DAY, PICK ME UP ON YOUR WAY DOWN, DRINKIN’ WINE SPO-DE-O-DE and the rest.
From a personal point of view I thought his version of Billy Grammar’s GOTTA TRAVEL ON was too hectic and therefore lacked the punch of the original, which was what made it a hit in the first place. Apart from that I can’t really fault Jonny’s choice of material or the way he’s interpreted it. Nice one Jonny and I’m sure this will appeal to your fans and gain you a few more.


SONNY K CURTISS - Sonny Sings C&W & 50s/60s - Self produced CD
This album from Sonny K runs for over 47 minutes through 17 tracks and covers a fair range of material taking in 50s and 60s songs and C&W with country being the overall dominant content - just. Among the country songs are Merle Haggard’s MAMA TRIED, the old Bob Will’s classic DEEP WATER, Don Gibson’s SEA OF HEARTBREAK and A LEGEND IN MY TIME, Hank Thomson’s WILD SIDE OF LIFE, a Jim Reeves medley and an Earl Scruggs medley. Sonny shows of his musicianship with CAVATINA, WALK DON’T RUN/PERFIDIA, DUELING BANJOS and, again, the Earl Scruggs thing FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN MEDLEY plus, of course, the obligatory Shadows tune, WONDERFUL LAND. I don’t think that Sonny would honestly describe himself as the world’s greatest musician but all his instrumental work is tackled with taste and style and the pieces come off extremely well.
Throw in a couple of Buddy Holly songs and three Everly’s and you have a very good mixed bag CD to take home as a souvenir of a good night out with Sonny K Curtiss. Add to this an easy-on-the-pocket price of £4.99 and what more could you want? A nice easy-listening package from one of Doncaster’s own. If you’re out of the South Yorkshire region and you fancy a copy of Sonny’s album give him a bell on 01302 868745.

Country by Mel Hague

I went up-market last week and took myself along to the Civic Theatre in Doncaster to see the legendary Val Doonican in concert. What a treat to sit in a comfortable seat surrounded by people who had come along to be entertained; no thunder of chatter, no clinking of beer glasses and no bingo, absolute heaven. I guess it must be 30 years or so since I was last in the Civic when I took part in a country music evening organised by the enthusiasts of the Bay Horse CMC. I seem to remember that Larry Hinchliffe and his trio were there along with Jack Parkes and his band and Mal Carson’s outfit and about 3 or 4 other bands including the Westernaires and myself. I’m sure I still have a poster from that show somewhere, I must dig it out and have a reminisce.
Meanwhile back in the present:
Although Doonican has been out of the charts for 30 years or more and off TV for over 20 years, the Civic was still over three-quarters full of fans who had paid their £13 to have an evening with a legendary gentleman performer, a class act and no doubt.
I first picked up on Val Doonican back in 1964 when he had a huge hit with ‘Walk Tall’, I still have the 45 single that I bought to learn the song, which stayed in my act for five or six years and was immensely popular. He sang it on the night, but only did a part of the song and I thought he rushed it as though he wasn’t really bothered. A shame, because it was his biggest chart success and I was really looking forward to hearing him sing it as was most of the audience; you could tell from their reaction when he kicked it off. Apart from that and a second rate version of ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ where he got the name of the river wrong, he sang Tallahassee River instead of Tallahachie River, his show was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed my night out. I even stayed to the end, which is something of a rarity for me.
Doonican looked very smart and upright considering his 75 years and certainly proved that his 55 years in showbiz had made him a master of his craft. His voice was very good with only the slightest occasional waver on some of the higher notes, but the depth and richness was still there and the blarney was as clean and sharp as ever. His anecdotes about his childhood in Ireland and some of the characters he grew up with were a joy and everything had a relevance to his show and he knew just when to cut off and get back to singing. I never once had the urge to call out, “Get on with it then.”
What pleased me most about him as an Irish performer was his honest, straightforward delivery; there was none of the smarmy, sugary, over-the-top sincerity, which always comes across to me as anything but sincere. No names and no pack drill, but from the smallest to the tallest, so many Irish performers lay on the ‘I Love You’s’ and the blarney with a trowel and I just have to get up and leave before I spoil my manners. Val Doonican is a world class entertainer, who happens to be Irish and who featured a lot of country music performers on his TV show which spanned a staggering 24 years. Although there was only a sprinkling of country music in his live show on this occasion, I still thoroughly enjoyed being entertained by a lovely, gentle performer. What a great night!

 

© 2004 Country Music & Dance Scotland