Friday
Oct082010

Joe Nichols 'Old Things New' Humphead

There may be some things about Joe Nichols that may remind long term country fans of Randy Travis, this is best evidenced by the title track here, a song written by three men who have been around the block a time or two and understand the reality of a country song. That trio is Bill Anderson, Paul Overstreet and Buddy Cannon. Anderson and Cannon contribute another good song, this time written with neo-traditionalist Jamey Johnson. Cheaper Than A Shrink may have been written with the tongues firmly in cheeks. But given that Nichols had substance abuse problems himself may be somewhat an ironic choice but it works. With A Team players and a Music Row production it is country music with mainstream radio play firmly in mind which means there's a lot of polish and perfection at play here. Nichols has a strong voice and with the right songs delivers a credible performance that finds him on of the more traditional artists currently on a major label and Old Things New is a showcase for where that side of the mainstream is right now. 

Friday
Oct082010

John Miller 'Still Carrying A Flame' Folk 'n' Western

It's often the case that albums, especially independent releases, that receive good critical reviews don't find them translating into actual sales. Rather good reviews can often mean the opposite. Then if your making music is largely associated with a particular country then it's that much harder. But in the end it comes down to the music and John Miller has made the best album of his career, one which goes back to his band Radio Sweethearts who released their debut, New Memories, in 1996. Since then Miller has refined his craft. This new album has twelve original Miller songs that resonate with traditional country themes and musical styles. The band is supportive and praise worthy throughout feature his own band and friends, such as former label boss and Teenage Fanclub drummer Francis MacDonald, guitarist Martin Barrett, as well as the legendary B.J. Cole on pedal steel. The production by Miller and Duncan Cameron is clean, warm and welcoming. The songs those beloved by many traditional fans songs that deal with loss and heartbreak delivered with conviction. My Dreaming Party, Tiny Sweetheart Roses, I Just Can't Live Without You are all personal highlights on an album that is consistently good and one I've returned to many times. There seems to be an feeling among some that anything emerging from the UK can't equal that from the USA. Not true, there are many examples of acts from the UK and Ireland that are more than worthy exponents of their craft. John Miller is one of them and if you want to find out for yourself just go to his my space page and have a listen.http://www.myspace.com/johnmillerandhiscountrycasuals

Friday
Oct082010

Kevin Welch 'A Patch Of Blue' Sky Music Road

Always a strong writer and recognizable singer Kevin Welch has been making his mark for quite a few years now, as a solo artist, as a member of the Dead Reckoners and with Kane, Welch, Kaplan. This new album finds him recording in Texas with musicians like Glenn Fukunaga, Bukka Allen, Rick Richards and his band mate Fats Kaplan as well as his son Dustin Welch. The songs are well up to his usual standard and are all written or co-written by Welch and are set here in a relaxed roots style setting that has that definable Austin, Texas feel. His concerns are exemplified with a song like The Great Emancipation which deals with spirit and belief and overcoming the inevitable hard times. The songs also deal with location, with leaving, with seeking and finding. Andaman Sea has the sonic depth of a cello as a foundation to the accordion and acoustic guitar backing. It is again Welch's worn voice that brings the song it's focus and depth. Something that is true throughout this album. Those who have listened to Welch throughout his career know his worth and are, like me, delighted to have him back with an album of his own, one that is well up there with his best work, sonorous and sensuous. A patch of blue sky in an often increasingly gray sky. www.kevinwelch.com

Friday
Oct082010

Billy Currington Enjoy Yourself Mercury/Humphead

Diversity is the name of the game in Nashville these days with the gameplan deciding most of the major label releases should go for the crossover touchdown. Billy Currington has songs from writers like Shawn Camp and players like Paul Franklin on pedal steel but on the song Love Done Gone Currington co-production with Carson Chamberlain delivers a brass led bright pop sound that is a long way from what I know as country music. He gets a little closer to that sound on Pretty Good At Drinkin' Beer - one of those "I'm a country boy at heart" type of songs beloved at radio these days. Elsewhere the songs look at equating a relationship to the love his dog has for him. Perfect Day has nothing to do with Lou Reed, no this one is about sitting on the beach watchin' the sun come up with a girlfriend. Nice work if you can get it. The rest of the album follows an easy going path with Currington in good voice on both the slow and uptemp songs. A relaxed, sun and fun seeking kind of an album that may well appeal to Kenny Chesney devotees and to his own fans. Bad Of Fishin' again extolls the virtues of more leisure time taking it easy and the music despite the presence of steel and select members of Nashville's A-Team the music is pleasant without ever taking you anywhere special. The closing Lil' Ol' Lonesome Dixie Town written by Billy Joe Walker and Shawn Camp closes the album in a better mode with a uptempo, energetic slice of jukebox playing, beer drinkin' having a fun time but don't let it get out of hand type of fun.

Wednesday
Oct062010

Josh Turner 'Haywire' Humphead

The man with the deep, deep voice is back with his latest album. A solid collection of up beat songs that fits the radio formatting criteria in that Frank Rogers production is robust and rounded with mandolin, banjo and country guitar well placed in the mix of these mainly uptempo songs. The ballads like, Lovin' You On My Mind are big productions, with strings and backing vocals giving the whole song an added layer of gloss. The problem here, for this listener, is that few of the songs have any bite or grit. Many of them could be equally recorded, with a slightly different sound by the likes of Westlife. Turner's co-writes As Fast As I Could and Eye Candy (which is a very catchy song, co-written with tongue firmly in cheek by Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin) are marginally better as one suspects that Turner would like to get his vocal chords around something more substantial. The song Long Black Train is an example of that, and is here in a watered down version as a bonus track on this deluxe edition, but there is nothing here that has the same resonance. Haywire is well produced, played and sung and is an easy listen from one of Music Row's more traditional artists but the whole thing feels like sugar sweet piece of candy rather something more fulfilling.