& HORNS - DOLLY PARTON -
Sanctuary Records - SANCD126
I’ve been waiting for some time to get my hands on Halos &
Horns because I think she’s brilliant and I can’t let
a single album of Dolly’s get past me. Dolly has been dropped
by the major labels in favour of the new ‘blond-belly button-babes’,
who are being churned out like steel washers with as much talent and
staying power as a J cloth. Well, ok, some of ‘em are pretty
good and one or two may hang around a year or two, but none of ‘em
will have a quarter of the career that Miss Parton has enjoyed.
Halos & Horns is another landmark in a career littered with landmarks
and is a prime example of the lady’s endless talents. She produced
this excellent 14 track CD that runs a couple of minutes short of
an hour, wrote 12 of the songs and gathered a bunch of singers and
pickers around her who compliment her to the hilt, none of whom are
famous like artists she’s used in the past. There’s no
Emmylou Harris or Linda Ronstadt in the background just a talented
and hand-picked crew of people who have given their all for Miss Dolly.
It’s not an album you can chuck in the CD slot and sing along
or dance to right off; it’s a collection of songs that you must
listen to. You need to soak up the stories and then pick out the songs
you want to sing or dance to. A lot of stars have fallen by the wayside
when they were dropped by the major labels, some have survived on
minor labels and some are doing ok through internet sales, but Dolly
Parton saw the punch coming and rolled with it and counter-punched
with better-than-ever performances both live and on record. The songs
she didn’t write are the classics ‘IF’ by David
Gates and ‘STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN’ by Jimmy Page and Robert
Plant, which she gives a tasty bluegrass-type treatment to; who would
have even thought of doing that? There’s a rich blend of country,
bluegrass, mountain music and folk in the music of this album but
most of all it’s Dolly Parton music.
HALOS & HORNS deserves to become a classic album and I can’t
say much better than that.
COFFEY - WHEN YOU LIE NEXT TO ME - BNA/BMG Records - 74321 956102
Kellie Coffey is a completely new name to me but she’s been
around since ‘97/98 singing background for Barbra Streisand
on her Millennium album and Las Vegas New Year’s 2000 show,
doing vocal jobs for the Disney Organisation and network TV. She co-wrote
seven of the eleven songs on this her first album produced by the
multi-talented Dan Huff. Her writing talent is substantial or a major
label like BNA wouldn’t let her record that many of her own
songs on one of their productions. She’s also a very talented
singer handling both soft and powerful vocals with great style but
I’m afraid we have the common latter-day problem; I wouldn’t
be able to pick her out from any bunch of female country vocalists.
I hear bits of every other female country singer of the past five
years in her voice so as good as she is I wouldn’t recognise
her until I’d heard her a few dozen times and her music doesn’t
grab me that much.
As modern country goes this is as good or better than most I’ve
heard this year and that’s about as much as I can say.
FOSTER - LABOUR OF LOVE - Gravity Records 74321 955462
Radney Foster looks more like an intern at a local hospital than a
country singer but I really like is voice and although it’s
not particularly distinctive it’s a stand-out country voice
in this modern country wasteland. This 12 track, 46-minute album was
originally released in 1995 according to the press release but it
doesn’t say why they’ve put it out again although I agree
with them when they say it’s worth another shot. It has the
modern drums up front sound for dancing but not enough to blow the
singer or the other musos off the stage like so many modern albums
do. This was Radney’s second album following in the highly successful
footsteps of Del Rio, TX 1959 that provided him with several Top 20
hits. The Dixie Chicks recorded his song Never Say Die so he would
have done all right out of that.
For lovers of real country music who want to keep up with the times
they should give Radney Foster a listen because, distinct or not,
this guy is a real country singer and there’s no mistake about
Fave tracks would have to be Willin’ To Walk, Broke Down and
the clever Everybody Gets The Blues But I Know How To Keep ‘Em.
Good ‘un, worth digging into your pocket.
PAUL MATEKI - SO STRONG 7 Mountains Records -
Paul Mateki was born in Leeds, but moved to Texas at a very tender
age so I guess he’s much more American than British although
his voice does sound quite British to me. Maybe that’s a part
of his success in country music - the voice is different from
most and he has been very successful both in his ‘native’
America and when he’s toured over here. Of all the places in
the world I would like to visit or live I think Texas has been top
of my list forever - well, maybe one day - dream on.
Paul Mateki has written most of the songs on this new 12-track collection
and he’s dedicated the album to the new love in his life -
Helen, who has become his ‘rock’.
He has a light voice which he uses to great ability tackling a terrific
variety of songs so the listener doesn’t get bogged down with
too much of one style, but he manages to retain his own distinctive
vocal sound throughout.
The dedication to Helen has set the standard for the album where most
of the songs are actually written to her rather than about her, a
very personal recording which I’m certain will appeal immensely
to the ladies - my wife likes it very much and she ain’t
easy to please and I think it’s a damn good country record.The
lad is going great guns in Europe; getting regular airplay and topping
the European Radio Charts on a regular basis and that can’t
be bad. He also came third in the Major/Indies chart for most plays
in the month of August. I do believe we’ll be hearing a lot
more of Paul Mateki and I’ll be making the effort to catch his
show when he tours over her next year.
SHELLY-ANN MORGAN 8 Track Demo CD
This young lady contacted me by email a few months ago and asked my
advice on starting out in country music and I didn’t know what
to say to her because I knew she’d be more interested in New
Country as the media have labelled it and I’m not too enamoured
with the new stuff. It all sounds the same to me; the singers all
sound the same, the songs all sound the same, the production is immaculate
but samey and the whole mess is swamped by drums. And I don’t
particularly like it - it’s not real country music to
me. But I digress and I don’t want my acid rhetorical views
to reflect badly on young Shelly-Ann because I think she’s somethin’
The gal is from Bradford and don’t we have some good stuff here
in Yorkshire? Sorry about the little brag - I couldn’t
She’s worked the Northern WM Clubs under a the name of Ebony
Jordan doing pop, big ballads and some country and her success has
covered the area like honey on home-made brown bread but she has always
had a love for country and wants to take her career to another level.
This 8 track CD is as good a demo as you’re ever likely to hear,
in fact if she added 4 more songs it would make a cracking debut country
album. Ok, new country but I still like it because she has a very
distinctive voice covering a wide range, the production is modern
country but tasteful and not overpowered by drums although there’s
no loss of punch when it’s needed. Sure I could nit-pic but
this is her first foray into recorded country music and I don’t
to detract from an over-all cracking collection of songs that she’s
given her all to. Her harmonies are breathtaking in places and I’m
sure the radio jocks will jump all over this when they finally get
a copy. All the songs are co-written by Nashville songsmith Kevin
Johnston and if you don’t recognise his name, he had a substantial
hit, especially on radio, with ROCK’N’ROLL (I Gave You
The Best Years Of My Life). I still have it 45rpm and I intend recording
it myself one day.
So, keep a lookout for Shelly-Ann Morgan and go and see her because
if she’s anywhere near as good live as she is on disc then you’re
in for a treat. I’ll be there.
DUNCAN - LAST TRAIN
…..The Johnny Duncan Story From Tennessee to Taree Rollercoaster
Records - RCCD 3045
This is a bit of a blockbuster carrying 29 tracks and running just
over 70 minutes of a guy who was something of a legend in Britain
in the late 50s and early 60s. Originally from Tennessee over the
pond, he came to England and settled here having several hit records
on the British charts; most notable being Last Train To San Fernando
and Footprints In The Snow. Part of his touring and recording team,
known as the Blue Grass Boys, was Denny Wright one of the finest British
guitarists in any genre although his main love was jazz.
Duncan died on July 15th, 2000 of bowel cancer in Taree, Ireland where
he’d settled. I remember him working the NorthEast clubs in
the mid-sixties when I was working the region with my outfit The Westernaires.
We actually had a bit of a run-in but it wouldn’t be fair to
elaborate on that now. His two main hits were massive radio favourites
and were played for many years after their chart success so for quite
some time Johnny Duncan was a household name and you can’t do
much better than that.
Of the 29 tracks on this collection there are four new songs at the
end that were recorded in 1999 in Taree, Ireland and they are pretty
good when you consider the old boy was 65 and not in good health.
This collection is a fine legacy to a man who was a genuine bluegrass
singer who wouldn’t compromise his style no matter what the
trends. A classic, and nicely packaged CD with photos past and recent
and an excellent 32 page booklet with a very comprehensive biography.
….and last, but not least…..
A COUNTRY MUSIC GHOST STORY by Dennis Knight
I played The Chestnuts in Glentham, Lincolnshire recently and I was
approached by a gentleman by the name of Dennis Knight. I’ve
written a couple of western novels and I’m currently writing
my third one and I think that’s why he wanted to talk to me
because he’s written a short story called A Country Music Ghost
Story. Dennis has included three well-known British country music
performers in this tale of a ghostly train journey and has left a
few clues as to the identity of each one.
Dennis has done a lot of work for charity over many years including
country music concerts and of course a lot of country acts have donated
their services along the way.
I’m not sure if the proceeds from the sale of this story will
be going to charity but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were.
It’s nicely put together in a softback, A5 format and I’m
sure it’s worth a pound of anyone’s money. To get your
copy of this spooky little tale write to Dennis Knight at Middle Cottage,
Highfield Terrace, Glentham, Market Rasen, LN8 2EN or give him a bell
on 01673 878701, he’ll be delighted to hear from you and don’t
forget to enclose a cheque or P.O. for a pound. Support your country
music whatever the form.
...ATTENTION ALL WESTERN ENTHUSIASTS...
‘TO HELL WITH THE
BADGE’ & ‘DEATH ON A ROPE’
by Mel Hague
Modestly priced at £5.00 plus £1.00 p&p
Cheque or Postal Orders to: Mel Hague,
37 Wroot Road, Finningley,
Doncaster, DN9 3DR.
Tel. 01302 771287
“I sat up
all night reading TO HELL WITH THE BADGE and I haven’t
done that in years, I couldn’t put it down. Brilliant!”
Jack Slade, Broken Barrel CMC, Leicester.