Reviews by Mel Hague

BURNT WATER - TROUBLES BACK IN TOWN
Burnt Water Music - BWCD 102
I worked with these guys recently and I quite enjoyed their unpretentious and uncomplicated show, as did most of the audience. They consist of Bernie Underwood on keyboards and vocals and Tony Albins on guitar and vocals, although Bernie handles the bulk of the vocals. He has a very pleasant, ‘easy on the ear’ voice and they sing a pretty good selection of songs sticking mainly to traditional and standard material. They don’t set out to blow your socks off, they’re aim is give you a good evening of genuine country music and that’s pretty much what this new CD is all about. 14 tracks of standard but not over-worked country music taking in writers like, Cash, Russell, Simpson and Thompson as well as UK songsmiths like Froggatt and Landsborough and I can honestly say that none of the above would be the least bit upset at Burnt Water’s treatment of their songs. Both guys are good musicians on stage and on record and they’ve turned out a very credible recording with ‘Troubles Back In Town’. There’s some tasty picking on here and if you’ve seen the guys and bought this CD then I know you won’t be disappointed. Also available is their first album entitled ‘Beyond The Sun’ and you can find them on www.burntwater.co.uk. Nice one, lads and I’m sure you’ll do very well with it.

KASEY CHAMBERS BARRICADES & BRICKWALLS
EMI Australia & Virgin Records - 7243 8 12423 2 2
I’ve had this CD for a while and it kept falling to the bottom of the pile, unintentionally, I assure you but nevertheless there it went. Kasey is an attractive young lady but not in the ‘beautiful, belly-button brigade’ style that flows out of Nashville in ever increasing numbers. Her picture is on the cover but it’s clear that all she’s selling is her music, most of which she writes herself, which endears her to me right off. The voice is a bit like Iris DeMent in as much as it’s the kind of voice you will take to or you won’t and I’ve grown accustomed to it to the point where I actually like it now. There’s a blend of soft rock, folk and country in her voice and her songs and the whole thing comes out leaning towards honky tonk. The title track is a belter and it compels you to listen to the rest of the album and I did.
If you buy this album be sure to let the last track run on a bit because there is a hidden song that comes in about a minute after the 13th track finishes. It’s called Ignorance and the royalties are being collected and sent to an orphanage in Vietnam. Like me you may be a bit sceptical about these charity donations through royalties but I believe this is genuine because Kasey is already sponsoring a child in Cambodia and another one in Vietnam. When she sings about the state of the world and the suffering of children - she means it. Do your bit and buy the record. You’ll be buying yourself a damn good record and doing some real good with your money www.kaseychambers.8k.com/

VERNON OXFORD .. “THE OXFORD TOUCH”

Old Homestead Records OHCD - 3005
Back in the early 70s I picked up a compilation album and one of the tracks jumped right out at me and I guess I must have played it dozen times or more during my stint on BBC Radio Sheffield. The song was “That’s The Way I Walk” by Vernon Oxford and it was so ‘down-home country’ from the fiddles and steel guitars to the gritty Hank Williamsy voice of Oxford and it was a breath of fresh air amongst all the outlaw music that was prevalent then. Vernon Oxford toured Britain in the 70s and collected a lot of fans and became a regular visitor and hall filler. Although he had a similar voice to Boxcar Willie, he didn’t crack it over here quite as big and that’s a shame but I believe a lot of his old fans will remember him and be very pleased that he has a new album out.
There’s nothing new here, it’s still the same old Vernon singing in the same old style with the same old real country backing but that’s what he’s best at and I’m sure that’s what his old fans would expect and want. Nothing new is not quite right because the 12 songs are all new, mostly written by Everett Corbin who is promoting Vernon with this new real country album.
If traditional country music is your bag, it’s certainly mine, then you won’t be disappointed with this new collection from Vernon Oxford. I don’t if there are plans to release the album here so I would suggest you contact Everett Corbin at [email protected] or Vernon himself at [email protected]

WILLIE NELSON & FRIENDS - STARS & GUITARS
Lost Highway Records 170 340-2
Willie Nelson has recorded with everybody but my dog and on this album he’s actually found some more folks to duet with and some of the most unlikely but no surprises after his record with Julio Iglasias (I think that’s how you spell his name). This 18-track, 75-minute epic was recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and listening to the crowd it sounds like it was done in Wembley Stadium and it’s a bit more than I can take at one listening. That beat-up old guitar of his drives me up the wall as he wanders all over the place in his solos and the damn thing always sounds out of tune to me, maybe it’s just the way he plays it. Amongst the artists appearing with him are Sheryl Crow, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack, Jon Bon Jovi????, Richie Sambora (who?), Hank Williams III, Keith Richards (Ugh!), Emmylou Harris and Aaron Neville; I hate Aaron Neville. I’m up to track four at the moment and I’ve suffered through an indifferent Whiskey River with Sheryl Crow, a very sloppy Good Hearted Woman with Toby Keith, a quite good Maria (shut and kiss me) with Rob Thomas and a tasty Mendocino County Line with Lee Ann Womack who sounded a lot like Alison Krauss. I thought Ray Price was great on Night Life and Norah Jones excellent on Lonestar and thankfully I didn’t hear much of Keith Richards on the Jagger/Richards song Dead Flowers. Aaron Neville crucified the Hoagy Carmichael classic, Stardust but then I expected him to. His strangled, wobbly vocals dragged the whole album to its lowest ebb. Come back Tiny Tim all is forgiven. I’ve never been over-impressed with Patty Griffin but I thought she made a good job of Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground and I’m not too fond of Vince Gill but he made a credible effort with Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and then introduced Willie and Emmylou to sing Till I Gain Control Again and as usual Emmy showed them how it should be done. She proved once again that in today’s market she’s a shining beacon in a sea of dross. I shall probably lift this track and the Norah Jones track off the album and put them on a little compilation for myself and chuck the rest out the window. Strictly for Willie fans but for me, it’s over-blown, over indulgent, over-long and over into my wheelie bin. Aren’t you supposed to mellow when you get older?

TOM PACHECO .. THERE WAS A TIME
Appleseed Recordings - APR CD 1067
Haven’t heard anything from Tom Pacheco for quite sometime so it was a pleasure to have a new album to review. Tom is a singer/songwriter who most certainly deserves the title and he wrote ten of these songs, co-writing the eleventh with Roland Moussaa. If it occurs to you that eleven tracks is not a lot these days then you’ll be pleased to know that the album runs for nearly an hour - if value for money is your thing.
This is a theme album although it wasn’t meant to be but the songs steered the recordings in that direction. Pacheco lost friends and family in the year of 9/11 including the loss of his mother and the gradual deterioration of his father and the songs came out reflecting his many tragedies. Despite his own loss of direction brought on by his many losses, Pacheco pulled it together and found his way forward once again. But it’s not meant to be a depressing album, Pacheco always looks forward and that’s what he hopes will be detected as the theme.
This is most definitely an album to sit quietly and listen to without any distractions, preferably with the headphones on and your eyes closed, ensconced in a comfortable armchair with your feet up, a glass of your favourite sipping tipple close at hand. As is so often the case, Tom Pacheco is not the greatest singer in the world but he puts his songs across with a sincerity and depth of feeling that better singers probably couldn’t match. The over-all effect is a magic album from a most talented singer-songwriter. A must for the most discerning music lovers.

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