Welcome once again to another dozen new releases. Before I start the reviews can I say a “Big Thank You” to Brigitte and Danny for the lovely presentation they made to me at Craig Tara on Friday 7th November last for my services to CMD Magazine. It’s been my pleasure to contribute over the years. On the same subject thank you for all your good wishes and retirement cards, as well as going away presents and retirement cakes etc etc. It’s always nice to be appreciated. Can I say a special thank you to the Silver Dollar CMC in Hawick who gave me their “Band of the Year” award for 2008 as well as cards, cake, and buffet and lots more. (Photos at www.gerryford.com). Lastly Joan and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy healthy and prosperous New Year.
Now for this months reviews, starting with a great Christmas Cd from….
MICHELLE WRIGHT…A WRIGHT CHRISTMAS...SAVANNAH MUSIC SAV 8124-2
his is a 12 song collection that includes some traditional carols, some of Michelle's own favourite holiday standards, one new Christmas song, and new different and effective arrangements to all the songs, all performed with a warm, rich and expressive voice that has earned Michelle recognition as one of Canada's greatest. From the opening piano notes from Gordon Mote then the outstanding vocal, then the bluesy arrangement, you feel the mood is set to relax with a glass of wine and indeed “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” with that song alone. The new Patricia Conroy song “I know Santa’s been here” with its swing arrangement, gentle fiddle (Larry Franklin) and steel guitar (Dan Dugmore), will become a standard in the years to come. Loved the rocking version of “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer” which is followed by the laid back “Christmas Song” and “Silent night”. The album closes with vocal and piano only on “White Christmas” and while you listen, you are waiting for the rest of the musicians to become involved, but then the vocal delivers you to the piano solo and back to the vocal and you realise the arrangement is just “Wright for Michelle”. This CD is now available here in the UK as Proper Music Distribution released this Christmas on November 10. If you only buy one Christmas Cd this year then it must be this
OTHER SONGS:-Jingle bell rock-Joy to the world-Little drummer boy-Go tell it on a mountain-O come all Ye Faithful.
JAMEY JOHNSON..THAT LONESOME SONG HUMPHEAD RECORDS HUMP 046
When I listened to this Cd for the first time I was reminded of Kristofferson’s song writing, but not his voice, Haggard’s early songs, but not his voice either, Waylon’s songs and arrangements but not his voice either and yet they are all there, in one of the best country albums I’ve heard in modern times, and to quote one of the included songs this is definitely “Between Jennings and Jones”. Great songs, delivered with a vocal that has that unique distinctiveness that makes it stand out and join the best out there.
Given a few radio plays this voice will become instantly recognisable and have longevity that others lack. Here’s a talent that just need exposure, the undoubted talent will do the rest. Clever songs too, like the anti-drugs song the “High cost of living” “Angel”, “Place out on the Ocean” and “ Mowing down the roses” about the aftermath of a broken heart and leaving while “Mary go round” is a story about Mary going astray and “ In Color” an anti-war song if ever… and the demise of the cowboy in “the Last Cowboy”( where Waylon, John Wayne, Gene and Ray get a credit). Then there’s the soulful “That lonesome song” and the satirical and comical “Women” where he just can’t make one stay. The on the road song “Stars in Alabama” has wonderful lyrics and was co-written with Teddy Gentry who also plays bass and sings backup on it. “Hanging out in the bars with the drunks and the stars” is a great line from “Between Jennings and Jones” only surpassed by the closing line of that song “…now to find me in a record store won’t take you long, I’m right there between Jennings and Jones…” clever or what? I remember when I interviewed Willie Nelson (name dropping again) I asked him why he included a cover of “Blue eyes crying in the rain” on his self-written concept album “Red Headed Stranger” and he said “…it just seemed to fit right there…”, well the same could be said about the 2 covers on this album, “The Door is always open” and the wonderful “ Dreaming my dreams” both delivered like “first-time-out” songs.
All the others are co-writes by Jamey with James Slater-Jeff Bates-Jeremy Popoff-Wyatt Beard-Lee Thomas Miller-James Otto -Teddy Gentry and Rob Hatch-Wayd Battle and Kendall Marvel-Jim Brown and Buddy Cannon. The musicians are allowed to express their talents too with a looseness that makes recording fun, but still within the acceptable and the outstanding and the overall sound is brilliant.
Maybe reading this now, you are feeling I’m going on a bit with singing of praises but I just can’t praise this one enough. (Excuse me while it restart the CD again). Jamey is currently on a roll with the “Song of the year award” for co-writing “Give it away” and the 3 No 1 hits by George Strait and Trace Atkins “Give it away” “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and “Ladies love country boys”. someone once said that “… Talent will out…” and here it comes.
For details on how to buy try www.humpheadcountry.com or www.jameyjohnson.com
(13 songs (plus sound effects and voice on the opening track-57 minutes).
KATHY MATHEA…THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION...HUMPHEAD RECORDS HUMP 041
One of country music’s most popular and successful vocalists from the early 80’s to the late 90’s is Kathy Mattea, who notched up a great chart run with 4 No 1s, 15 top 10 hits , and 30 top 40 successes. This CMA “Female Vocalist of the Year” for 1989 and 1990, was a Grammy winner for her hit “Where you’ve been” in 1990 (included here) and has five gold and one platinum CD to her credit. This compilation opens with the 4 No 1 hits “Goin' gone” “Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses” “Come from the heart” and “Burnin' old memories” and is followed by eleven top 10 hits, including some of her most popular and endearing songs like;- “She came from Fort Worth” “Walking away a winner” “Love at the five and dime” “Untold stories” “Life as we knew it” “You're the power” “Train of memories” “Time passes by” “The battle hymn of love”( the duet with Tim O’Brien), “Walk the way the wind blows” and the Grammy winning song “Where you’ve been”. Its interesting to note that all the above (except one) were produced by Allan Reynolds who is credited with discovering her sound and style and producing her recordings until 1991 (when she developed a serious throat problem). Josh Leo produced “Walking away a winner” in 1994 and she was back at No 3. This collection is only available in the UK, nicely presented and packaged with the words of the songs included. If by any chance you have NOT heard Kathy, listen out on radio, I’m sure the Djs will be playing this often, and you will be looking for your own “Ultimate Collection” by Kathy Mattea.
OTHER SONGS:-Lonesome standard time-Standing knee deep in a river-455 rocket-He won’t give in-Street talk-Love travels-Trouble with angels. (22 songs- 77 mins).
THE ORIGINAL CHUCK WAGON GANG…SECULAR AND SACRED SONGS...B.A.C.M RECORDS BACM CD D239
David Parker (Dad Carter) founded this group as the “Carter Quartet” in Lubbock Texas in 1935,with family members Dwight, Jim, Anna and Rose. Their music encompassed, but was not restricted to sacred songs, as they include many traditional songs. Their name was changed to the Bewley’s Chuck Wagon Gang by the boss of a Fort Worth Flour Mill who used them to advertise his goods round a chuck wagon. So they dropped the Bewley part and found fame. This collection is divided by age, recordings from 1936 and 37 then from 52, 53 and 54, and again by style, half secular and half sacred songs. Basic acoustic guitar, with mandolin also on some tracks. Historically important, close harmony in no doubt, but to me it does sound dated, even the 50’s recordings. Still good to listen to. (Thanks to Bryan Chalker for the biography detail). As usual you can order direct by telephone on 01304 205000 or at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com
SONGS:- Take me back to the Renfro Valley-At rainbow’s end-Tale me back to Col-ler-rad-da fer to stay-Carry me back to the mountains-Echoes from the hills-Wonder Valley-I’ll be all smiles tonight-Put me little shoes away-Dear old sunny south by the sea-The engineer’s child-I want to be a real cowboy girl-The little green mound on the hill-Oklahoma blues-Will you love me when my hair has turned to silver-Texas star-Signs by the side of the road-I‘ve changed my mind-I know my Savour cares-All Gods children gonna rise and shine-We’ll be happy all the time-At the dawning-Love leads the way-O why not tonight-I’ve a precious friend.(24 songs-63 minutes)
JIMMY NEWILL& HIS TEXAS RAMBLERS FAVOURITE COWBOY SONGS...B.A.C.M RECORDS BACM CD D236
Jimmy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1911 and was a trained vocalist, but he is probably better known for his roles in B-movies in the 30s and '40s, when he managed to appear in 22, including starring roles in "Renfrew Of The Royal Mounted" series and PRC's "Texas Rangers" movies. He managed to carve a niche for himself during the singing cowboy boom and sang in many of his movie roles. “When The Bloom Is On The Sage” “San Antonio Rose” “Back In The Saddle Again” “Campfire On The Prairie” “Headin' Westward” “Texas Ain't Old Texas Anymore” and “Westwinds” are included here along with 19 other classics. While the vocal is refined to say the least he delivers with great clarity and if you are ever looking for the words to a cowboy song you will get the correct pronunciation with Jimmy. Most enjoyable fare on this collection. Jimmy was a trained singer, Bryan Chalker, who writes the sleeve notes says”…singing cowboys didn't come much more vocally refined than Jimmy Newill, as this timely collection will attest. Jimmy, you may be gone but you ain't entirely forgotten…” As usual you can order direct on the web at www.bacm.users.btopenworld.com or by telephone on 01304 205000.
OTHER SONGS:-The last roundup-My pretty quadroon-Wagon wheels-Strawberry roan-Home on the range-Goodbye old paint- Old Chisholm trail-Boots & saddles-When its springtime in the Rockies -Tumbling tumbleweeds-Empty saddles-Carry me back to the lone prairie-Little Joe the wrangler-Mexicali Rose-Driftin’-Tired of ramblin’-Jog along-Along the Rio Grande-Adios Vaqueros.(26 songs 65 minutes).
SEAN WILSON…A ROAD THAT NEVER ENDS...H & H MUSIC HHCD012
This is Sean’s first new recording in 2 years. This set presents the two sides to his style, CD 1 a collection of 16 Irish and country songs and CD 2 a collection of 10 sing-along medleys. While the song-writers are not listed, Tipperary songwriter Peter Burke provide the songs “Lucky Stars” “The Passing Of Time” and the title track “A Road That Never Ends” on CD 1 . Also included is a duet with Susan McCann on “Send a message to my heart”. The country songs include “Excuse me I think I’ve got a heartache” and “Back on my mind again”. Not a lot of country in this collection, more a reflective collection of popular Irish ( and even some Scottish) songs in the lilting Sean and accordion style. Also included are the 2 duet medleys “Golden Decade medley” and “Those were the days” which are also included in the Susan McCann “Once upon a time”. Special mention for back-up singer Maura Donaghy, fiddler Charlie Arkins and producer, guitarist, bassist and keyboard player John McHugh who all do a great job. Certainly one for the Irish / Country fan. It’s a very pleasant listen, great for the CD player in the car on a long journey, I can imagine the driver and the passengers singing along as the miles fly past on their way home from one of Sean‘s concerts.
OTHER SONGS:- CD 1-It takes an Irishman to sing and Irish song-Tears of an exile-The Preacher-Tender smile once more-My Colleen Malone-Lough Ree-Sonny’s Dream-Auld Lammas Fair-Fiddler’s Green-On the wall:-CD 2- 10 Medleys of mainly Irish and M.O.R songs including 1 medley of Scottish songs. (CD 1 runs for 49 mins, CD 2 for 50 mins).
RAY SANDERS…COUNTRY...HILLSIDE RECORDS 7340
Singer/songwriter Ray Sanders has over 14 chart hits to date. He made his recording and Ole Opry debut in 1959, which led to his 1960 signing with Liberty and Top 20 debut with “World So Full of Love”, “Lonelyville” made it to the Top 20 the following year. In 1969 he charted again with “Beer Drinkin' Music” and then followed with a Top 20 hit “All I Ever Need Is You”. Ray is a good traditional country vocalist with his own style in delivery, faultless production and excellent musicianship with a great country band. He also recorded for Republic, U.A., Imperial, and his own RS Records, but never hit the top ten, another case of a good singer by-passed probably due to lack of promotion. His cover version of “Almost persuaded” “Such a pretty world today” and “Before the next teardrop falls” are all comparable with the originals and his inclusion of “Lovesick Blues” and “My shoes keep walking back to you” all help to give the album its traditional feel. The new songs include “You’re such a pretty lady” (written by Gene Cleamer) “Something called love” and “Piece by Piece” (both written by Dan Mitchell) are all love ballads delivered with great feeling and a little orchestral backing at times. “Reach for me” (written by D. Franer) has a gospel feel with a lovely female choral backing and great lead guitar. The first single from the cd closes the album, a co-write by Ray with Dewey Hollyhand “Heart full of hurtin’” a catchy broken hearted love piece with classy dobro added. Some of these songs have been released before or at least recorded at different times as his voice changes on some but it doesn’t detract from the sound and quality.
Downloads available from www.hillsiderecords.net or cdbay.
(10 songs and from (10 songs - 27 minutes)
JUDY BOUCHER …SUNSHINE AND DREAMS...H&H MUSIC…HHCD011
Judy grew up in St. Vincent, in the Caribbean, listening to Patsy Cline, Saul Cooke, George Jones and Percy Sledge and these early influences are clearly evident on this double Cd collection. Best described as a collection of country, with MOR and reggae songs included, Judy sings with a touch of soul. Her first hit was “Dreaming Of A Little Island” a beautiful reggae ballad and followed up with“Can't Be With You Tonight” (both included here) which became an international best seller. She also includes her very own unique lilting versions of country music hits such as “Help me make it through the night” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend”, “You've Got Leaving On Your Mind” and Vince Gill’s “Trying to get over you”. The infectious beat given to some of the country songs give them a whole different outlook and feel, a new lease of life and broaden the sometimes limited country mind. She also included Richard Leigh’s “Don’t it make your brown eyes blue” and “I’ll get over you” both hits for Crystal., alongside “Hopelessly Yours” (Roger Cook /Curly Putnam/Keith Whitley) and “You’ve got leaving on your mind”. CD 2 titled “Dreams” includes a duet with Winston Francis on “Let it be me” and country standards “All I have to do is dream”, a terrific lilting version of “Sweet Dreams“ and “Am I that easy to forget” with a super bluesy feel, plus 2 more Vince Gill songs ” “Take your memory with you” (with that infectious reggae beat) and “No future in the past”. Judy released six albums throughout her career and these have been unavailable for a number of years but this new collection gathers together all the classic cuts from these early releases. As a country music lover you won’t be disappointed but listen with an open mind and you’ll be surprised how easy you will sing-along with the country songs and the fresh new sound, approach and tempos. A most enjoyable listen.
OTHER SONGS:-A new way to say I love you-Sunshine medley No.1-Crying in the rain-Sunshine medley No.2-Love song medley including It’s only make believe and The answer to everything)-Gospel medley-You-Bring back the ole thyme riddem-Everybody’s talking about the good thing-Mr Dream maker-Tears on my pillow-Make your choice-That night we met-Turn back the time--Stick around. (CD 1-15 songs-64 mins)(CD 2-15 songs-58 mins)
STACY YORK…KENTUCKY IN THE RAIN...BLUE CIRCLE RECORDS BCR-009
Stacy began performing gospel and bluegrass music when she was 3 years old and by the age of 7 was touring with her family gospel band. For the last six years she has been performing with duet partner Joe Isaacs in the band “Joe Isaacs and Mountain Bluegrass”. Traditional bluegrass songs never seem to be out of fashion at any time, and when a vocalist as traditional as Stacy decides to record you can bet that some oldies will be revived and in most cases given the kiss of life. Stacy gets lots of help from the Isaacs, with Rebecca on rhythm guitar, Sonya on mandolin, Joe on Banjo and along with Ben, they all sing back-up vocal at sometime. Joe also co-produces with Stacy, while Jesse Stockman plays fiddle and Curnie Lee Wilson lead guitar and adds vocals. Tom T Hall plays rhythm guitar on “Kentucky in the rain” and David Marshall banjo on “I don’t see what I once saw in you”. There’s 3 Tom T and Dixie Hall songs included, the 2 mentioned above and “No matter how hard I cry” co-written with Jeffrey Orr. The oldies include Bill Monroe’s “Can’t you hear me calling”, 4 Stanley Brothers songs “Remember you in my dreams” “What kind of man” “Trust each other” and “I’ll just go away” and Onie Wheeler’s “Go Home” where Joe Isaacs takes lead vocal and Stacy sings backup. The remaining 3 songs are “Sea of regret” from David & Kenny Sloas, “Where the roses never fade” from Robert & Janie West Metzgar and “I know what it means to be lonesome” from James Kendis / James Brockman/ Nat Vincent. Great picking from talented players, delicate production around a lovely country voice that’s never stretched or strained and always comfortable within it’s correct range and the resulting album is a sheer delight. It’s outstanding bluegrass enjoyment all the way as one has come to expect from Blue Circle Records so check out their site for at www.bluecirclerecords.com (12 songs 36 mins)
CEDAR HILL…POVERTY ROW…...BLUE CIRCLE RECORDS BCR 011.
Lisa Ray sings beautifully and plays fiddle, Frank Ray sings harmony, plays mandolin, co-writes 5 songs, mixes and produces to perfection while Joe Wieneman sings harmony and plays guitars, Rob Collins sings harmony, lead vocal on Johnny Bond‘s “Love gone cold” and plays bass, and Kenny Cantrell plays banjo with resophonic guitar is from Ferrell Stowe. That’s Cedar Hill as they line-up to bring us a well made and presented package of modern bluegrass with a great traditional feel. They add some claw hammer banjo, mandolin and lead guitar from Bobby Minner and harmony fiddle from Molly Cherryholmes. Vince Gill pops up duetting with Lisa and also plays a little mandolin on “Broken Angels”. The Cd opens with “I remember the blues” a fast paced traditional piece co-written by Frank, Lisa and Rob. It include 3 songs from Tom T and Dixie Hall, the title “Poverty Row” “Its only the wind” and “Big blue roses” soft and poignant to tug at your heart strings, as the writer’s know only too well. The traditional “Soldier‘s Joy” and “Whiskers in the sink” are great instrumentals showing the talented musicians at their best while “Call me gone” and “Wasting my time” are fast paced songs worthy of inclusion in any good bluegrass bands repertoire, (written by Frank). Recorded at Tom T and Dixie Hall’s Recording Studios it is available from the web at www.bluecirclerecords.com or direct from the band at www.cedarhillbluegrass.com
OTHER SONGS;- 20/20 vision-blood stained bible.(12 songs 38 minutes)
ONE DAY 40...UNFINISHED BUSINESS…OD40CDOO2
From the ashes of Evangeline rises One Day 40 a four-piece consisting of George Adams on vocals, John Naismith acoustic and 12-string guitars and vocals, Andy Holmes drums and percussion and Billy Matthews bass, acoustic and 12-string guitars and vocals. They are joined by Steven Radziwonik on piano, Hammond organ and keyboards, and Tracey Braithwaite sings backup. They then add 8 additional musicians playing 15 other instruments (plus a vocalist for a duet) to various songs, like tenor sax on band 1 and trumpet on band 9 while the “OD 40 Horns” play on bands 4, 7 and 11. There-in lies the problem, the diversity musically gives the overall sound an overcrowded feel, with some instruments lost in the mix, (for example:- the banjo on band 8 and the steel guitar on band 10) but then again that’s how some people like their sound. I found the songs all top notch, well written pieces covering mainly love, lost love and youth, work and play and a little booze. John and Billy are the main songwriters writing one song each , then another 3 together, 3 with George and the 4 write one song. The remaining 3 are from John and Billy with other co-writers. There’s not a lot of country on this one apart from the heavier sounding Poco /Eagles/Cody sound with a strident electric guitar. I feel that the organ was overused detracting from the voice and lyrics, and given a different mix with more country instrumentation this would have been a great country album. Full credit to the band for the songs and insistence that they record all their own material, but I wonder if the country fan across Scotland and the UK will accept this . I particularly liked the songs “Hometown” “What a fool” “Sad Cowboy” and the “live” additional track that closes the CD “Wings of an Angel” and wish the boys well with the CD and their new direction.
OTHER SONGS:-Doorway-Unfinished business-50 miles-I’m gone-Love ain’t always pretty (duet with Horse)-Always-Love me like you do-Town to town.
KELLY LEE…I CAN DREAM…HALO RECORDS
Her first single “Stay” featuring guitar legend Albert Lee entered the Hot Disc Country Charts on 10th July at lucky 13 and moved up to peak at No 6 on 14th August on the main chart and topped the British Independent Chart for 2 weeks. Her latest single “Lightning” was on the October Hot Disc and this new 10 song Cd includes both songs. Her early favourites include Patsy Cline but don’t think for a minute this sounds like Patsy, more her current influences Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow and Gretchen Wilson. Its guitar driven country with country rock much to the fore, and that not a bad thing either. This is a young lady with a big future and if it’s not in country then its out there in the Pop-MOR-Soft Rock market. Her husky smoky delivery rips through all the songs with great diction and delivery, backed by 4 former members of the Southern rock band Medicine Hat with Albert guesting on 2 songs “Stay” and “First to never know”. Kelly also writes 2 songs, “Lightning” and ”Fireproof friend” and co-writes another 2 with Mark Wright who also writes another 4 songs, all good modern songs too. Faultless production, quality recording, great vocals, great musicianship and Kelly gets my vote as the “Newcomer of the year 2008” without any doubt and if you like your country with bite then seek it out. www.halorecords.com for the record company for more info.It can purchased or at HMV from October 27th
OTHER SONGS: Things that can’t be changed-Empty seats-Mama hear me-Want you real bad-You can’t run-When dream collide.(10 songs-41 minutes)
KAREN LYNNE…THE SINGLES...SHOESTRING RECORDS
When I reviewed Karen’s album “Changes” back in December 2006 I wrote “… Karen’s vocal ability is without question outstanding and her voice reaches a high usually only associated with seasoned American country and bluegrass female vocalists…I am greatly impressed with the quality and presentation but mostly with the voice that must surely be deserving of every award it has already received and the many that this Cd will bring…” I stand by both of the comments and now add more.
Listening to this CD gives you a great insight to her vocal talent as she changes from country through bluegrass to the acoustic sounds and a little folk at times. She moves well from Ruth Frank’s “Roses in the Snow” with traditional bluegrass sound to the straight country cover of Hank Locklin’s “Send me the Pillow”. She sings Crowell’s “This man I love” with an edgy backing and follows that with Ronnie Bowman’s “The healing kind” with acoustic backing dobro, guitars, fiddle and mandolin prominent. Lovely collection from Karen and sure to be a winner across the world with her fans. If you haven’t already joined Karen’s followers now is the time. (Next month I’ll be looking at her new duet Cd with Pat Drummond). This has 3 singles from each of her 5 previous CD albums covering her 20 year career so far, (4 Top 5 , 2 Top 10, and 6 Top 20 singles included here). More details and purchase from www.karenlynne.com
OTHER SONGS:- I’ll just pretend-Everyone was right-Half the moon-This ring-The rush-I don’t know why-Til you ooved me-The corcle is small-You’re running wild-Grandma used to say-The days we were young-Video clip Second wind. (15 songs plus one song as a video clip suitable for your PC…running time 49 mins.)