Friday
Oct082010

Barney Bentall 'The Inside Passage' True North

This Canadian singer/songwriter, formally a member of the band The Legendary Hearts, has carved out a solo career with his roots, full band rock and country. He now owns a horse ranch in the Cariboo and divides his time between running that and continuing his recording career. He is also behind the Grand Cariboo Opry which gathers together a host of fellow musicians to play original and classic country songs. Here the sound is broader to reflect a wide emotional landscape. Sending Out A Message To You is the kind of song about being apart that Springsteen might do. By way of contrast On This Beautiful Night is bolstered by brass, with a soulful twist it talks of travel and of finding people and places. The title track has a feel of a classic Jackson Browne song and is again about of reflection and beauty. Elsewhere fiddle and steel play a prominent place in the production, by John Ellis, as on the uptempo Catch That Train or the tender, self-explanatory I Never Meant To Make You Cry. Papa Henry's Boy is a "Seeger Sessions" style sing along with banjo well to the fore. She Ran Away is a fine stripped back song with guitar and some atmospheric dobro and a stand-out here for that reason, and reminds of some classic John Hiatt. This is the sort of album that, with exposure, could easily find favour with a European audience. www.barneybentall.com

Friday
Oct082010

Gary Allen 'Get Off On The Pain' Humphead

Quite where Gary Allen is going with this album I'm not sure. It sounds big and bold and continues the direction of his last album that had a strong mainstream rock emphasis. There are still some country elements at play here, both in the lyrical themes and in the sound on some of the tracks. Steel guitar is included but it is largely subsumed into the guitar, bass and drum sound. It is good to see the name of Jamie O'Hara among the writer credits and his co-writes are some of the best things here. We Fly By Night has a strong melody and Allen, who wrote it with Odie Blackmon and the aforementioned O'Hara, delivers a strong believable performance. Blackmon and Allen also co-wrote several other songs but it is the closing track which Allen co-wrote with Jeff Hanna and Jon Randall that packs the most emotive performance on the album. No Regrets is about deep,dividing loss and will resonate with many who have experienced that lasting pain. There seems to be less bombast here and that this is a direction that really works for him. That he has moved from the more traditional elements of his earlier albums is also evident in the styling, gone are the cowboy hat and western-styled outfits to be replaced by a look that might sit better with what Music Row perceives as a big crossover audience. But then Allen is a co-producer here so maybe he's happy with the direction his music is going. This edition is the deluxe version with 4 additional tracks, 3 of which are live but don't really add a lot to the album other than to show that live he gets a lot of screams and the songs have become singalongs.  A Gary Allen album is always worth listening to and there are some very good songs here but, for this listener, the sound has moved to a place that is a cause for some concern in the long term, but as the current single, Today, is hitting the top twenty maybe not for others.

Friday
Oct082010

Marla Cannon-Goodman 'My Reflection' Chicken Angel

Veteran producer Buddy Cannon is at the helm of his daughters album and he brings his years of experience in the studio to making this album sound as good as it does. Cannon-Goodman has co-written the songs here and sings then with a strong confident voice that brings the emotion and meaning to the songs.The best know of which is Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo, which was covered by Tracy Byrd. It's a very catchy song with a strong dash of humour that makes it a highlight on the album. Elsewhere the heartbreak of Walkin' In The Rain is balanced with the drive and determination of walking out on a bad relationship in I Call It Gone. Another highlight is The Fool a song about cheating that has some fine steel fills. The playing throughout is top notch with players like Mike Johnson, Kenny Greenberg, Joe Spivey and Mickey Raphael involved. The majority of the songs are relationship ballads that suit Cannon-Goodman well and should easily receive major label radio support but, as she is on an Indie Label, may not be the case. An all round enjoyable and satisfying from a member of a musical family that have all contributed to making some good country music. 

Friday
Oct082010

Cam Penner 'Trouble & Mercy' Prairie Boy

Penner is a acoustic troubadour, a rough hewn voice in the wilderness telling tales of living on the fringes, of constant traveling and of low to no income survival. The focus is Penner's voice and his guitar with some subtle additional electric, steel guitar, violin and organ adding to the various songs mood and menace. This is music that evokes a sense of weariness but one that hasn't given up on better things to come. This is all summed up on a song like Tired Of This Town which is gently sung over a sparse accordion backing, it diffuses the romance of the pretend cowboy "you ain't no cowboy... this ain't no Wild West'. It has a insight that comes from viewing the world from the ground up. It has dirt under it's fingernails but warmth in it's heart and is, as a body of music, attractive and inviting. This Canadian singer/songwriter who has tenderness and grit in equal measure and who has made a stripped down album that is a good one. www.campenner.com

Friday
Oct082010

Brooks Williams 'Baby O Red Guitar' Blue Music

Looking not unlike a close relative of John Hiatt Williams shares a sense of raw blues with the former, though his musical palate is less wide ranging. The American singer/songwriter/guitarist recorded this, his 17th, self-produced album in England last year. Williams also has a strong warm voice that matches his skill as an acoustic guitar player on a variety of guitars including resonator and slide. He is accompanied by some accomplished local players including PJ Wright on dobro, electric slide and pedal steel guitars. The songs include some outside material from Son House's bluesy Grinnin' In Your Face to Mississippi John Hurt's Louis Collins to a striking instrumental slide version of the traditional Amazing Grace. Another instrumental, a more in gentle tone with some atmospheric pedal steel is Devil's Punchbowl. His own songs cover aspects of the human condition and fit the overall blues template as with the explanatory Walk You Off My Mind and Last Chance Love. Brooks Williams will appeal to acoustic blues fans and to Americana fans with this well played and produced collection of above average music from someone who understand the form well. www.brookswiliams.com