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.
By now his music is recognizable by Lauderdale's increasingly confident singing and his subtle melodic song structures. Something that has given him some devoted fans and admirers if not much opportunity to dent the mainstream. His songs, cover by others - notably George Strait, still hit the charts but Jim Lauderdale, in his own right, seems more of an acquired taste. This new album, on his new label imprint, is another collaboration with former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and is subtle and varied. It covers soulful sounds like Louisville Roll with organ and brass and Patty Griffin on vocal harmonies through to a song like El Dorado with the great James Burton on guitar, Al Perkins on pedal steel guitar and Ron Tutt on drums. Here he gets close to Gram Parsons Cosmic Country Music tag. There are sad reflections in the quiet mood of Far In The Far Away. Or there's the country twang of Between Your Heart And Mine where Patti Griffin again delivers some excellent harmonies. Production is shared between Lauderdale, Doug Lancio and longtime collaborator Tim Coats. Jim Lauderdale is a consummate songwriter who can add a underlying twist to any style he choses to bring to his recordings with the end result being nothing less that Lauderdale music - rootsy, soulful, solidly constructed and open to repeated playing and personal favourites. This patchwork is bright, colourful and will doubtless warm you if you were let it's aura slip around you.
From the opening song Turnout Celia offers a stylized sound. That song and those that follow have a arranged sound that encompasses a wide range of styles that are often uptempo and upbeat. The list of instruments is as wide as the song with clavinet, Hammond, pedal steel, trombone, trumpet, cello, glockenspiel among the featured sounds. The jovial I'm Not Texan has the rootsyist sound with twang guitars and Gurf Morlix on dobro. It's fun, ironic and sure worth a spin. The next song Instant Puppy Love also features Mr. Morlix on this song of instant attraction. After that the songs revert to their more arranged soundscape that is inventive and interesting though you need to be open to non-roots music to take it in. It's kind of a Canadian 10cc type of thing in that the songs cover a lot of territory with some skill, wit and thought. Bug's Apocalypse has a folkier attitude with cello and flute over a light string backing. Running Out Of Time has a Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows feel it the way it experiments with sound and space. Celia is another talented Canadian artist who could well find a bigger audience if he gets the right exposure and playing at this year's Glastonbury Festival may well help. www.davidcelia.com
This is an album that Bentley both wanted and needed to make. On his arrival in Nashville he spent time down in the Station Inn listening and absorbing the welcome harmonies of bluegrass. There it mingled with his love of classic country and righteous rock. He has included bluegrass-styled tracks on his albums before but here he has delivered an album that is rooted in the music he heard delivered by the likes of The Sidemen and while it may not exactly fit the more rigid demands of the bluegrass purist it will delight many. The key however is if it will please those who have previously been very taken with his hi-octane radio friendly country. Dierks Bentley is well aware of the need to grow, to move on and develop his music and Up On The Ridge does that. It does it very well. Now it just needs to sell. With slightly left field producer Jon Randall Stewart at the helm this album has a more organic sound and provides Bentley with the backdrop to deliver his best vocal performance to date. He is surrounded with a fine bunch of players, harmony vocalist and guest singers. They all add much to the proceedings without overwhelming the man whose name is on the cover. Those friends include Bryan Sutton, Del, Ronnie and Rob McCoury. The Punch Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Vince Gill and many more. The songs are a mix of co-writes with producer Stewart, Tim O'Brien and Angelo as well as songs from writers of note such as Bob Dylan, Shawn Camp, Kristofferson and some upcoming Irish band called U2 (Pride - In The Name Of Love). There's a lot to like here with Senor, Fiddlin' Around, Love Grows Wild and Down In The Mine immediately hitting home on what is a very strong and satisfying album that has already gained much critical kudos.