Hot mess Express - Jenn Ford
From the first drum beat, Hot Mess Express from Jenn Ford clarions high energy honkytonk good times and is a tune that might leave you feeling exhausted!
The ceaseless thumping rhythm from the drum and a staccato and lightly overdriven lead guitar is matched by Jenn's energy and her ability to squeeze in lyrics where you don't think they couldn't possibly fit!
Just like the lyrics, there's so much music crammed in to this song. Great lead guitar breaks and a driving drum beats are as relaxed as Hot Mess Express gets. But then Jenn isn't known for her delicate approach to songs.
With all the musical action going on, you may have missed that honky-tonking piano, hammering away in the background.
It was a couple of listens in before I'd managed to pick out the bass, it's so well hidden behind everyone else, so a bit more bass please!. The slowest this song gets is the stop at 9 seconds in, and again at 57 seconds. Musical rests like this are always good to hear and work well in this song, I'd wager they'd look even better on stage.
So there we have it, another cracking tune from Jenn Ford.
Stevie O'Connor - Chaos
A fiddle and Stevie O'Connor, two words you know will make a great song.
The plaintive fiddle draws you in straight away. Joined soon after by drum, guitar and in case you weren't sold already, a dobro.
Chaos is such a beautiful song, the sadness of a conflicted soul, emphasised by the harmonica and dobro, then Stevie's amazing country vocal - full of soul.
Chaos is a deeply rich, warm and soothing song, it's like 3 1/2 minutes of Ovaltine
The drums are so well balanced, ever present but never overbearing.
When you think you're missing the dobro, there it goes again.
Fans of Stevie's signature raspy over-driven vocals have to wait a full 3 minutes before they appear.
Also, the wonderful, but brief choral piece about 3:15 may sends a shiver down your spine.
The ending also, that shouldn't be missed, a handful of notes from a rich and resonant guitar, reminiscent of Mr Campbell's Galveston.
I could rave on about this song, but do yourself a favour, go find somewhere to listen to it, somewhere you won't be disturbed.
Southpaw - Within You
Starting with a piano, followed by a short piece from a plaintive fiddle, Within You, from Southpaw's debut album Unhitched has a soft mellowness to it.
Christine's appropriately soft vocals come in shortly after and start this inspirational tune.
It's not revealed who is being discussed in the song, but it's clearly someone desperate to make the other person feel empowered by the strength of their love.
So 'soft and mushy' yes, but after the year we've had, who amongst us doesn't need an inspiring lift?
Putting aside the story, it's a very well put together modern crossover song. Although not as country as some of the other tunes on the album. Within You provides a gentle break from some of the rockier tunes, so it fits in well.
As much as I'm a fan of lead guitar breaks, drum solos and many other musical tricks, I think in this song, they would have been a distraction from the overall mood. That said, a little more fiddle always goes down well.
And for the linedancers, there's even a dance for you, although looking at the dance, you'll need to be quite flexible.
Lets see if the Southpaw Shake takes off over here!
Emily Lockett - Paint The Town Red
We're taking a listen to Emily Locketts newest release called Paint the town red.
Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room, Emily delivers a vocal which sometimes borders on sounding like the late, great Dolores O'Riordan, of "Cranberries" fame. So it's a very emotive voice and definitely suits Emily's style of country.
Do You Wanna Go Out
Within seconds of the start, you know this is going to appeal to Emily's fanbase. While the structure sounded somewhat formulaic, it did have me listening along with interest to see where it was going musically. It moves around a fair bit, with those all important pauses, minor lead guitar breaks and a driving drum beat that stays with you throughout.
An Unwilling Heart
With a more delicate start to it that the other songs on the album, An Unwilling Heart builds at the chorus and lifts what is otherwise a very soft and soulful song. The gentle swaying rhythm from the guitar and drums break at times, providing great exposure for Emily to demonstrate her vocal ability.
If I Live To 100
If An Unwilling Heart provided vignettes of Emily's vocal ability, If I Live To 100 is a whole scene, there is simply nowhere for Emily's vocals to hide because she's supported only by pared back guitars and a drum. There are a couple of starts of a fantastic lead guitar break, but sadly they were short lived. This is the most emotion loaded song on the album.
Starting with a very contemporary country sounding guitar intro, this is probably the most country sounding song on the album. While it's very modern in it's style, I'm sure it will be quite divisive among country fans, it somehow manages to tread that very thin line between modernity and old fashioned.
Leaning ever so slightly more towards the pop facet of country, That Girl starts well with another modern country sound. It's bright and is reminiscent of sunny days near a baseball pitch. Full of energy, sunny sounds, pauses, lead guitar breaks and dynamism, That Girl can't fail to be popular with her followers.
Overall, Emily's Paint The Town Red EP is shaping up to be a real fan-pleaser.
Tommy Taylor - Sonora
Of all the ways to start a song, a long and beautiful whining slide steel and guitar isn't what I was expecting. Then the drum and bass jump in to check you're paying attention. But you'll have to wait nearly a minute to hear the vocals start up.
So what are we listening to, it's Tommy Taylor's latest song, Sonora, from the album Ghosts. It has a real sadness to it - not surprising when you understand the purpose behind the song.
But it's soft and mellow style draws you in to listen more intently to the lyrics,
This isn't full of musical magic and sleight of hand. It's just a well crafted melancholy mooch. The ethereal harmonies, both emotive and absorbing, fit in so well.
Meanwhile, behind Tommy's vocals, the bass does an incredible job of providing melody and supporting the structure laid down by a very sparse drum.
It feels a lifetime ago since I reviewed Popcorn by Tommy. While Popcorn feels a country mile away musically, Sonora is lyrically just as slick. Fans of Tommy's will be pleased to hear that the album is on Vinyl with accompanying CD, digital download and a story booklet. For my money, I hope Sonora gets plenty of airplay. It's a cracking tune that will have you swaying, nodding and drumming along.
The Highway Women - Dead Man Walking
The low and imposing single E note with the footsteps on gravel, followed by the bright and loud intro vocals grabbed my attention.
Dead Man Walking from the all women quartet that make up The Highway Women, is a song about a failed love and the anger that follows. It takes no prisoners from the outset. Fans of the stronger, rocky side of female country songs will absolutely love this.
If you're hoping for something as musical as God Made Me Right or Shake The Dust, this song might leave you feeling like you've missed out.
Although the harmonies of The Highway Women complement each other well, be warned, Deadman Walking is laden with overdriven guitars and strong drum sections.
For me it didn't reach the crescendo that many songs do, and this is probably due to the fact that the song goes through phases of heavy music and angst driven vocals. But, Deadman Walking is yet another demonstration from The Highway Women that they can knock out a broad spectrum of hits.
Sam Turner - Gods Own Country
Gods Own Country from Sam Turner starts with a beautifully rich and warm guitar intro that tells you it's a country song within the first bar.
Sam's soft and plaintive delivery draws you in completely, so much so, it's hard to write this review because I'm listening to the lyrics so much.
The build that you hear with the second verse was expected and adds depth to the song. God's Own Country isn't loaded with a dozen of instruments, and that works in it's favour, I think in this case, that would detract from the soul of the song.
Fans of country music will be used to hearing places like Shreveport, Dallas Amarillo mentioned in songs, so it feels odd to hear references to such famous places, events and people from Yorkshire, sung about with such an unmistakable and welcoming country sound.
If you're from Yorkshire, you'll get it, if you're not, you'll be left wondering what your missing. Sam does an incredible job of getting that desire across, all wrapped up in a song that is a pleasure to listen to. The label of southern hospitality that sits hand in hand with country music could have no other equal than here in Yorkshire.
As merely an adopted Yorkshireman, I hope I'm not overstepping the mark to say that if Yorkshire had an anthem, it's this.
Caitlin Mae - Country Eyes
A bright sounding guitar and drum intro give a clue as to where on the country spectrum this song sits, Country Eyes from Caitlin Mae is definitely one for the fans of the modern sound.
While Caitlyn's tender years are apparent in her vocal delivery, she holds the tune extremely well, even though the song changes styles several times throughout. Sometimes Caitlyn carries the tune herself, with just a drum, then the guitars and bass join in, then she moves towards a more rap approach, then towards the end it slows down to a fade . So it there is a real mix of styles in here.
With obvious influences from contemporary country, Country Eyes isn't as Country as it might at first appear to be. That said, as an up and coming artist Caitlin has a lot going for her. Her vocal delivery is on the money, and at the moment, her vocal sound suits the modern style she's playing. So it will be interesting to see how she develops as an artist.
Kristian and the Winterkill Band - Prince of Poverty
I've reviewed a song before by Kristian and the Winterkill band, Soul For Soul, well now we're looking at the entire album, called Prince of Poverty.
Their upbeat and rocky sound won't be to everyone's taste, but their style makes a welcome change when you're bored listening to too much middle of the road stuff.
American Fire starts with an intro that will definitely wake you up. It's a full on americana/rock track. 22 seconds in, you have your first expletive, after that you're safe! Like their other stuff, there's SO much going on in American Fire, it's hard to focus on anything in particular. But listen close enough and there some wonderful musical moments hidden amongst the layers.
Don't call me baby seems is a little quieter, but you're soon rocking along as before. I'm only two songs in and I'm already feeling for the drummer. There's just been no let up in that rhythm.
Find my way home is different to the first two, there's much more room for the vocals to stand out. Don't worry, the band have all turned up, but Kristian's vocal delivery is more obvious in this one. There's even a nice instrumental; in the middle where you can clearly hear the bass doing it's thing.
Driving around starts with a fantastic drum shuffle and is then joined by a banjo, so already it's in line for favourite track on the album. Yeah, one and a half minutes in, it's my favourite. Steel guitar twanging away did it for me. And you really get to hear Kristian's gruff vocals. Joined by harmony vocals that make it interesting during the musical pauses.
Soul for soul has been previously reviewed and you can find it further down the page, but ethereal and tuneful, the melody is such an ear worm that's likely to stay with you for days.
That kind of love is another slightly quieter track, there are some great changes in here, such as the one at 1 minute in. There are some other unexpected musical changes in here too, and by that, I mean the song doesn't always go where you expect it to.
They'll remember my name starts with an incredibly evocative bass, guitar and drum sequence. The dual vocals perfectly fit the mood set out in the intro. They'll remember my name is a great example of just how varied the songs on this album are.
Tired of being tired breaks with the tradition of the rest of the album, because it's pared back and musically melancholic. What I mean is, the instruments aren't all fighting over each other, and there's a feeling on anger or frustration in there that's hard to pinpoint.
Warm grave is a mellow and moody number, with lovely haunting lead guitar coming and going throughout. It's a cracking song that shows a level of musicality that's not as easy to hear in some of the other songs. This is up there in my favourites on the album.
Working hands starts at full speed, and just doesn't stop. Loved hearing that banjo plucking away in the mix. There is SO much to like in this song. This song epitomises this bands ability to make good music. It's fast and frenetic, but with enough space in there for the instruments to really shine
When I reviewed Soul For Soul earlier in the year, I do recall thinking how different Kristian and the Winterkill band were to most other bands I listen to. So if you're looking for something to blow the dust off, for an album of varied tunes, you're in the right place.
Braden Jamison - Forever Girl
I can't think of a bad country song that starts with a fiddle, so hearing the intro to Braden Jamison's “Forever Girl”, that got my attention.
Although it's very brief, the intro perfectly sets the tone and mood and, within seconds you're looking forward to what's to come.
Then Braden starts with his smooth vocals and that's it, we're completely drawn in to the song, picturing the white picket fence.
There's an age to Braden's voice that is way beyond his years. He could not have chosen a more appropriate style of music (or maybe the music chose him), but either way, country music and his vocals, well, they just fit.
The instrumental break at 2:40 is awesome, so many instruments showing off their wares, make sure you're paying attention when it happens.
Whilst some might consider his style of country old fashioned, there are some very popular mainstream country artists who are making a huge career out of it. I'm confident that Braden will do the same, with a voice and vocal delivery like his, he simply can't fail.
Forever Girl builds slowly, giving time for the instruments to blend together. This is such a feel good song, if you're not smiling half way through, then that instrumental break I mentioned, that'll do it for you.
Braden Jamison - Playing George
The thumping drum and fiddle intro sets the scene incredibly well for “Playing George” by Braden Jamison.
Then it starts, that wonderful divebar sound, perfect for 2 stepping to with a partner.
Loaded to the brim with fiddle, drum, bass, lap steel. And oh that steel, keep an ear out throughout the entire song.
This is an out and out country song. Listening to it, I was transported back at the Nashville Palace in Nashville.
At 4:22 long, this is a mammoth track. And that suits me perfectly, it gave all the instruments opportunity to shine.
It's hard to review a song when it has everything you want and expect in it. There is simply nothing to not like. So let's take a look at what I did like in there...
First we have the massive array of instruments, they REALLY fill out the entire sound.
The “middle 8” at 1:27 that gives the fiddle a chance, if any were needed for it to shine.
And have you been listening to that steel, of demonstrating why they need to be in every good country song.
The pause at 2:15, amazing how doing nothing builds that anticipation to make an incredible song even better.
Then there's the perfectly formed vignettes and references to King George.
I'm looking forward to hearing what else this young man has to offer.
Aaron McDonnell - Tell The Devil
If the first thing to get your attention isn't the whining pedal steel guitar then you might be listening to the wrong song. Tell The Devil is the latest release from the stalwart of Texas country music, Aaron McDonnell.
The pedal steel starts and, like an old friend, it stays with us throughout the song. The lead guitar weaving seamlessly in and out around it
Aaron starts his typical smooth, effortless and emotive vocal seconds after. At which point, fans will know, you can just sit back and relax into the song.
Tell The Devil is a song about growing up and how priorities change it's easy to think that this melancholic theme is a result of the struggle we're all currently going through, but I think that would be wrong. If you've heard many of Aaron's songs in the past, you know he can play heart strings like an old guitar! So this song is just Aaron at his best.
The guitars and vocals are flanked on either side by drum and bass, and the overall feeling is mellow, warming and as unashamedly country as it gets, Tell The Devil doesn't miss a country beat. I'm so looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
Ben De La Cour - God's Only Son
What an intro. A single strum from the acoustic guitar told you everything you needed to know about this song. The rattle simply confirmed it.
God's Only Son from Ben De La Cour is very much a tune that could fit perfectly in many a good western movie. Perhaps it's the whistling or the plaintive fiddle that does that. It's a typical example of Ben's style. A story about a trouble man, it has it's dark and sinister moments but it appears to be about a desire for redemption, from the aforementioned trouble man.
Ben's lightly gruff vocal adds a realism and truthfulness to the compelling story, helping to keep your attention and, like any good story, you want to see how it pans out.
The rhythm set by the drum also adds an urgency and force to the song from beginning to end. Even when it's not there, you know it's coming back.
This is a very listenable tune, and I can't imagine anyone fast-forwarding past this one.
Harriet Rose – Love me like that
Fans of Harriet will no doubt be chomping at the bit for another song from her. If you liked “Small Town Chains” then you'll be surprised with this one. This is a slower, more emotion loaded song from Harriet. But don't worry, you'll still get to hear the power in her voice.
“Love me like that” begins with a pleasant and melodic picked intro from a guitar. Harriet's soft vocals come in after a few seconds and set the scene with the story about a failed love.
The instruments do a great job of supporting Harriet's vocal intensity, building in intensity and then fading back to nothing, probably without you noticing. The drum only really shows itself at about 1:52, which I think is very late in the song, but but it was worth the wait due to way it appears and for the warmth it added. The double tracked vocals that pop up now and again worked well also and, as the song is introspective and asks a rhetorical question, this adds an air of appropriate dreaminess.
Not a fan of missing out the T's in sitting, she was forgiven for that misdemeanour for the many times she effortlessly switched vocals between delicate and angry.
The brief guitar solo at 2:37 helped signal the change to the music and stripping things away provided a perfect opportunity for Harriet's vocal solo, barely supported by a guitar, her vocal ability is clearly apparent.
“Love me like that” shows again, another side to Harriet's ability.
Belle Velvet – One Less Problem
Belle Velvet is a name that’s new to me, and I heard “One less problem” for the first time last night.
There is a rawness to Belle’s voice that I’m hoping she keeps as her repertoire builds, because it adds depth to a country song. Her youth and vocal ability could allow her to move many ways in the broad classification of country music. Let’s hope she keeps her feet well and truly planted in the traditional style of country music.
While One less problem pushes no musical boundaries, listen close enough and there are some nice touches from the slide and bass.
The middle 8 at 1:56 also helped provide more variation and gave Belle another opportunity, if any were needed, to demonstrate her vocal ability.
With a strong lead guitar missing (unlike One Step Behind, also by Belle), most of the melody was supported by the bass, who did a cracking job moving around. I would have liked to have heard a bright lead guitar playing hooks or counterpoint to complement Belle’s voice further.
I’m looking forward to hearing more from Belle. From what I heard in the middle 8, she’d be equally capable with something slow, pared back and emotive, just as much as up tempo and rocky.
Houston Bernard - People we are
“People we are” is a tune perfect for a drive in Summer. Shame we're in lock-down and it's winter.. But don't let that stop you enjoying this up tempo tune from Houston Bernard.
A brief drum thumping introduction gives way to a lead guitar and then on into Houston's country-rich vocals.
As usual, there is a lot going on in this song. From bold and full on lead guitar breaks, to musical pauses, even a well-hidden banjo. Keep an ear out for the organ too.
For those who haven't heard Houston before, this is typically him. A well rounded song with many layers of instruments all vying for your attention.
I would have loved to have heard more banjo, given that the song's only 2:45 long, a few bars from a banjo would have filled it out more.
A song about Country living, “People we are” is another great tune from Houston that deserves to be played loud, preferably outside so everyone can hear it!
Drew Fish – The devil you know
The devil you know is the first song I’ve reviewed for Drew Fish, and if his other songs are of a similar standard, then they also deserve a listen
The brief guitar intro gives nothing away to this song at all. Not until the honkytonk piano comes in, then we know where we’re going. And if you were unsure, listen to the fiddle. NOW we’re on familiar territory.
Drew’s easy vocal delivery suits this raucous swing number perfectly. While you’re listening to the honkytonk piano and fiddle working hard in the background, you might have missed the drummer. It’s probably not until the those all important pauses when you realise just how much work the drummer is actually doing.
In fact,it wasn’t until the 4th listen through till I picked up on what the bass line was doing during the intro.
This is SUCH a feel-good song, I didn’t think it could get any better until the fiddle and piano both got solos at 2 minutes in.
Mal MacWatt – 3 hours after midnight
I had to pick this song to review because I sympathise with anyone who is awake at 3am.
Choosing an organ to start “Three hours after midnight” was a brave move, it could have gone in so many directions. But seconds in, a natty little drum roll, lead guitar and moody bass show you the way
The deep thumping bass stays with us through the entire song. And welcome company it is too.
I loved the way the whining and emotive lead guitar squeezed itself comfortably into the gaps in the vocals, but it wasn’t overbearing. It also got its own solo too at about 2:25, never a bad thing.
Whlst not loaded with that pure country sound that we all love so much, fans of the country side of blues are bound to love this. There is so much in here to love. It’s rich and bassy, it’s emotive and loud at times, but still somehow light enough to have you rocking along to it.
Look out for more reviews from his 2 part album due out shortly
Gary Quinn – Nobody Somebody
Nobody Somebody begins with a haunting and echoey intro and is joined after a few seconds by Gary’s unmistakable vocals. The brief click track indicating that it’s part of the growing army of modern country songs.
Whilst not as country as some of his other songs like “Dodge your bullet” or “He don’t show her any more”, there is an unmistakable country twang throughout that fans of the modern sound will recognise and enjoy.
Clicks tracks aside, there was a good amount of musical changes in there, Drum pauses and runs, plus a good bass thump at 1:25 (who doesn’t love those) and the odd brief lead guitar solo, all adding in variety and depth
There was something catchy in the chorus too, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I liked it.
The instruments pulling back at 2:10 to allow Gary to start a chorus unaccompanied worked well too, ending with that mandatory drum run back in
But all too soon the song ended, I could have easily coped with a drum or guitar solo and chorus.
Tennessee Tears – Lucky Tonight
Lucky Tonight is a busy and full on tune from Tennessee Tears. The standard intro leads into a rocky, bright, happy and full on love song, that helps blow away any thoughts of Christmas and will have you willing for the days when you can go on a warm summer drive. It wouldn’t surprise me if this song has you air drumming along too.
The rocky attack at the intro remains throughout the entire song Listen close enough and you’ll make out the odd tinkle from a dobro in there, but these were very well hidden. There was simply no let up in the rhythm for the dobro, and other instruments, to stand out. So I would have liked to have seen more light and shade in there. Something like an additional drum solo, interlude or musical pause would have added more layers and musical interest to it.
Fans of guitar solos will also have to wait till near the 3 minute mark for their first fix, then you get three before the end of the song.
So overall, a bubbly little number with a great male/female vocal blend that works well. And one you’re not likely to skip past.
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I half caught Man in the moon the other night and had to review, if only to give me a reason to listen properly. Any song that starts with a strum on the harmonic notes will do that to you.had my full and undivided attention from the get go. Hard to say exactly what it was, it could have been one of a dozen things.
The dobro was exactly as it should be, there in the background, springing up when it gets a chance. The shuffling percussion that never really leaves. There is just so much beautiful layering of instruments.
Fans of bass will need to wait nearly 50 seconds until it really comes in, and when it does, boy does it fill out the background.
And just in case the song needed to be any more perfect, the dobro break in the middle, blending seamlessly into a guitar, absolute class. And oh my, was that a slide steel in there?
Listen to this properly on a good set of speakers and this song may just make your hair stand on end.
Jade Helliwell – Telephone
The simple beginning of this song belies the emotion in store over the next 4 minutes.
Subtle, delicate, haunting… all adjectives that perfectly describe this incredible tune.
Clearly a song about loss which, at Christmas always seems more painful, Telephone is a beautiful song, with a meaning which the listener will bend and form to their own circumstances. But that’s the magic of music, that we can each take from it what we want.
And this song lets you do this in buckets, wrapped in a blanket of haunting dobro, a piano that comes and goes without you noticing, and the arpeggio guitar that catches your ear throughout. There isn’t one instrument that’s wrong for this song. It’s a masterpiece of subtlety.
If you’ve ever loved and lost then, and I won’t spoil it for you, but the lyric about the jackpot may well have you in tears.
Do yourself a favour, don’t listen to this in the background. Find a quiet moment to listen to this song properly.
Kristian and the Winterkill band – Soul for Soul
Fans of Kristian and the Winterkill band will already know how varied their music can be. Country, probably, depends where you’re from, Americana certainly, well Soul for Soul from their 2nd album called Prince of Poverty is as dark and moody as the title suggests. A style echoed by the heavy drum, bass and guitar intro
There isn’t anything that makes this track stand out, and I don’t mean that in a mean sense, but other than the sultry lead guitar at 1 minute, it’s not full of lead guitar breaks, drum solos or percussive stops.
The musical interlude at around 2:30, is the one place where the instruments do get to demonstrate their skills, but it’s such a multi layered musical cacophony, you may need to listen to this on something with a good dynamic range because there is so much going on down at the lower end.
If you’re a fan of some of their other stuff then you’ll love this because it IS typically them. If you’re not a fan then go listen to them, you’re missing out.
Sam Hinds – Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone – “Ooh yes” was the instant and involuntary response when listening to the first few bars of this.
Starting briefly with a snare and bass drum, just before that wonderful mooching bass guitar fires up, then that lovely lead guitar, and all before Sam starts the vocals.
When Sam does come in, his airy vocal delivery keeps your attention focused on the story.
But there so much music going on, move away from Sam’s vocals for a moment, and listen to the lead guitar picking away in the background. Feel that rhythm also from the bass guitar and the wonderful rolls from the drummer. That great drum run up at 1:10 is fantastic to hear also.
Halfway through the song the drummer pulls back to playing rim shots for a moment to let you focus back on Sam, and you find yourself wondering what parts of the story you’ve missed.
If you don’t find yourself trying to singing the lyrics “Running from the cold grey skies in England” then you’re not listening closely enough.
Where a standard tune might finish, Sam’s band keeps going through a false ending, before giving us another 30 seconds. So this song is a mammoth 4:18
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Never be the same – starts with a rapid drum beat intro, leading into a rip roaring country guitar piece. Then Sam’s vocals come in and captivate you with a story, just like every good Country song.
The brief pause at 52 seconds singaled the upcoming change and it worked rather well.
We’re then treated to a cracking lead guitar staccato-esque piece, just before things quieten down again. That staccato piece returns several times throughout the song.
Keep an ear out for the lovely drum, bass and guitar action late on in the song. The musical rumble from the bass at 3 minutes in is stunning and deserves a mention.
Never be the same does demonstrates well, Sam’s ability to sing soft airy, and ramp it up quickly!
Wildflowers – could not be more different. However, it’s soft, light and summery start builds in intensity, but stops short of needing you to turn it down, so don’t worry.
The instruments that accompany Sam’s intro do so with such brilliance that you really don’t notice at the start.
This is at it’s heart a love song, but it’s a country love song, so it’s full of emotion and Sam’s vocal delivery sweeps you up and carries you along. There’s even a musical pause, a flash from the lead guitar, harmony vocal section, it’s just all in there.
Famous – starts rather gently, but don’t be fooled. It’s a song of many musical parts. You can hear that warning when the drum changes at 24 seconds. It’s quiet at times, loud and brash at others, without any real warning. But it works, and lets Sam show what he’s capable of vocally.
There are so many changes in styles on this song it’s hard to keep track, but listen throughout at the bass guitar and drum, they’re doing so much in here.
Whilst arguably not my favourite song on the EP, it’s still far too good to skip! Where has this guy been hiding?
Kezia Gill – Wings
Starting with Kezia’s powerful and emotive vocals and a beautifully sparse guitar whose delivery mirrors the vibrato in Kezias voice, Wings is laid back and mellow, but carries a strong sense of feeling and meaning throughout. Clearly on the pop side of country, Kezia does a great job of carrying the tune until more instruments join in.
If you’re not paying attention, you’ll easily miss the brief but sublime piano and organ piece at around 51 seconds in. The blend of organ playing underneath the piano is a great sound.
Fans of percussion will have to wait a whole minute until any kind of drumming makes itself known. There is in fact, comparatively very little drumming in the entire song, but it’s absence only serves to make it more effective when you do hear it.
Kezia maintains the power and intensity that fans have come to expect. Making it hard to focus on the intricacies of the instruments doing such a good job in filling out the song. But she pauses before a very atmospheric guitar interlude.
Toward the end of the song, Kezia is briefly joined by a choir, adding yet another layer to a beautifully crafted song.
I’m sure that fans of Kezia’s other stuff will love bold and vocal driven number.
Patrick and Donna – Broken Hearted
A well rounded rock guitar intro sets the scene well for this tune, letting you know it’s not going to be subtle and delicate within the first few bars!
Patrick’s vocals start this number, accompanied soon after by Donna. Jordan and Marie’s vocals work together, taking turns in singing solo and the duetting. The mix works very well and doesn’t feel forced or formulaic.
At around 40 seconds in, the heavy guitar gives way to a more melodic tune before ramping up the syncopation (the dancers may love that section).
The musical interlude at 1:35 works well also. Starting with a subtle guitar, then a drum, then the lead guitar fires up, and before you know it you hear the bass supporting that transition back to the syncopation. It’s a cracking piece of production.
Although it’s only around 2 minutes 40 seconds long, I’m sure the dancers will love this tune, as I’m sure the drivers will, and the hook is bound to keep the back seat singers happy too.
Tommy and Biddy – Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas starts with a solo from Biddy, supported only by a piano, the lyrics and piano both telling you it’s a Christmas song.
If you’re wanting the more filled out sound, you’ll have to wait a whole 54 seconds before it really gets going. The delicate Christmas sound then gently finishes with Biddy’s first of many, long note, when an overdriven guitar makes itself known, and isn’t shy about it. Bringing with it that musical depth you’ve been hankering after
We’re then introduced to Tommy’s gravelly vocals, adding even more depth. Even as rocky as this tune is, it still carries that Christmas sound throughout.
Fans of overdriven guitar will be pleased to here it returns for a solo at just under 2 minutes in, before everything fades back as Biddy comes back. And boy does she, but the incredible money note from Biddy at 2:56 isn’t the one to watch for, wait for the second one.
So overall, a rocky, Americana Christmas tune from Tommy and Biddy that’s likely to liven up any Christmas collection.
White Rose Motor Oil
Drunk and lost in Tennessee – is without a shadow of a doubt, a rip-roaring demonstration of this drummer’s stamina. Luckily the vocals do a good job of stopping the whole song derailing because, although it moves at break neck speed, the lyrics help stop it feeling rushed.
The pauses in rhythm help you keep track of where you are in the song. And the bass drum piece at 1:50 not only adds a welcome break to the rapid rhythm, but adds another aspect to the song too.
What may have escaped your attention, until the Bass drum piece, is exactly how much work the guitar does in keeping the entire thing bolted together. So give it another listen and see what I mean.
It’s fast and furious yes, but again, it doesn’t feel rushed. And the lyrics almost serve as a warning against excess, and we all know that feeling! But I think this rhythm fits perfectly well on the album.
Described as a blend of Cow-Punk and Alternative Country, I’m not sure they fit either of these styles. But they’re music has a familiar sound to it so it must be something. What it is , is not mainstream, mass produced Nashville Country. I can all but guarantee there’ll be something on this album you’ll like.
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Whole heart – hits the ground running with Eryn’s vocals. Then the drum comes in and sets the tone with a tried and tested, old-time country 2 step rhythm.
It mooches along pleasantly, the steady and simple drum rhythm, even the mini pause positioned right toward the end of the song. For me, everything works well together to build the tone and mood of the song as a whole. It just makes you want to hit the dance floor with a partner.
Admittedly, a whining fiddle as a middle 8 might have added a nice touch to the song, but there’s nothing TO NOT like about the format of Whole Heart.
You don’t have to listen to many songs by White Rose Motor Oil before you realise the breadth of their musical style. If this is too old-time country for you, try another song.
Brad Cox – Wasted Time
From Brad Cox’s new album called My Mind’s Projection, Wasted Time starts with a simple acoustic guitar and is then joined by a dobro. Now that alone indicates this could be good.
Brad’s vocals come in strong soon after with the beginnings of a story that grabs your attention. Beware however, paying attention to the lyrics, you might not notice several instruments sneaking in. In fact, the chances are you won’t notice until they disappear off into the background at about 1:10, but fear not, they all come back, this time the mandolin plays a more active part
And Oh my, that dobro and mandolin at around 1:13…just perfect
All instruments seem to pull back at various points throughout this song, and this really helps accentuate Brad’s emotion loaded vocal, and let’s you focus on the story.
I loved the way the music DIDN’T come back in with a thump at 2:21. It was signposted, but they didn’t. It was a great musical trick to keep your attention, and it worked.
I think this is an absolutely cracking song from Brad, the changes in volume of the vocals and instruments works really well, they keep you on your toes, whilst Brad’s vocal delivery keeps you humming, if not singing along.
Kirstie Kraus – Thirsty
Right from the intro, Thirsty let’s you know it’s a modern and contemporary song. It begins with gentle and haunting vocals, leaving you wondering where the song is going to go. Before too long, Kirstie is joined by an acoustic guitar.
Her delicate vocals are bolstered by more musical support at 1:12 and this is where we get to hear the bass and drum make an entrance, this gives the song much more depth and adds a smooth and rich feel to it.
Unashamedly modern, fans of the softer style of modern country will love this, it builds well, and doesn’t have crashing drums and an overdriven guitar solos which, given that it’s a love song, simply wouldn’t sound right. The structure of Thirsty provides a handful of musical pauses for Kirstie to demonstrate her vocal ability, and she steps up to this challenge and doesn’t fail.
So if you like your country modern, musical and well-tempered, then take a listen. The chances are, you’ll be tapping your feet along until the lyrics fade.
Brad Cox – Towels
Choreographer’s listen up…With Brad Cox having just released his new album “My Mind’s Projection”, I wanted to review something from his self titled 2018 album simply to introduce you to some of the stuff that you may have missed out on.
“Towels” is not one for the faint hearted. It starts with a fast paced banjo and rhythmic drum piece, heading in to a brief but attention grabbing lead guitar. “Towels” never lets up and I’m sure it’d be a great tune to dance to.
Brad shows off a couple of sides to his vocal ability in this song, changing from almost talking, to hitting the notes at a volume. The instruments have a fun time too, in fact they all seem to take turns in showing off. Even that mainstay of good old country songs, the banjo, has it’s own solo, something you don’t hear enough of.
This song seems to have it all, lead guitar breaks, cracking drum and bass, banjos popping up everywhere.
Then all too soon it’s over. Good news for some dancers maybe, but I could have listened to another minute of that!
Watch out for my next review where I’ll be looking at something incredible from his new album.
Peach and Quiet – California Way
California Way, from peach and Quiet’s upcoming album out on 15th Jan, starts with a simple arpeggio. Heather’s vocals come in moments later, the slightly reverbe'd edge adding a dreaminess to the story she’s relaying.
At 49 seconds in, a subtle introduction from the drummer indicates that things are about to change. And it certainly does, it’s the bass, bringing with it the rest of the band. It’s a great way to bring everybody in. The Bass does a lovely job of keeping things swaying along throughout.
Now, all of a sudden the song has a much more warm and old-time country sound to it. The ensemble probably makes it the most country sounding song on the album. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them all a listen. I know I’m going to, in case there’s something I’ve missed out on.
The musical interlude (the 9 bar ‘middle 8’) at 2:03 has be be mentioned too, it was far too short for me because the balance of instruments made it a joy to listen to.
Listening to California Way, it made a nice change to listen to a song where no one died, or was cheated on, or wrecked their truck.
A warning now for those who fancy jamming along on their first listen, whilst the majority of song follows the 4 / 4 rhythm, there are several tonal and rhythm surprises in there, so just beware!
Corn Nut Creek – Feels Like Travelling Home (EP Album)
The house is falling down – begins with that wonderful plucked banjo sound that country fans love. The vocals start after the very brief intro. Joined shortly after by beautiful sparse and delicate harmonies. A touch of musical genius was that just when you realise that there might be a violin in there, it’s no longer following the vocalist, it’s counterpoint delivery is great to hear. A solid start to this old-time country/folk album.
Baby blue – starts with a much more upbeat and unmistakably happier sound. Again starting just on a banjo, with the lyrics being joined shortly after with harmonies. The full sounding bass adds a subtle but powerful richness to the song, despite it being played barely one note in 4. The quietening down at around 2 minutes sneaks up on you completely and is very effective. This is probably my favourite song on the album.
Chicken in the kitchen – the vibrancy of this instrumental track adds a lighter element to the album. This song is incredibly evocative and after only 30 seconds you are transported to a family party somewhere in the backwoods… you can almost smell the sweet tea. It would be too easy to overlook this tune because there are no lyrics, but don’t, there are some very intricate and subtle musical changes in there that make it an absolute delight to listen to. If you disagree, go listen to it again, because if any track on this album is likely to put a smile on your face, it’s this one.
Belong to you – Starting this time with a harmony vocal hum, this short tune is another slow and evocative number. At first listen, I found it mellow to the point of where I wanted it to pick up a little, but by the time it had finished, I was very glad it hadn’t. It does leave you feeling like it should have been longer, so while it might have been slow, it’s obviously doing something right.
Nowhere to go – From the outset, the suspense that the violins and bass bring to this song is incredible. Then of course there is the syncopated chucking sound that the violin picks out. That musical pause at around 2:20 is just gorgeous. If baby blue was not my favourite track, then this one would be. There’s so much going, your attention switches from the violins and how different they are, over to the bass, then back to the vocals, listen to that bass, oh wait, that violin is back again.
I think Corn Nut Creek have done a great job in managing to stay away from being too dour and miserable with an old time sound like theirs. The melancholy sounds you’d expect from country/folk are all in here, but they’re not overpowering. This album has a homely warmth to it and strikes a good balance.
Justin Wells – The United State (Album)
Never Better – I was captured by the incredible guitar intro with that delicious thumping bass and drum (which plays throughout most of this song). The song is absolutely littered with beautiful little musical artifacts such as that whining guitar popping up at random times and a lovely little touch from an organ, all adding to the overall depth to this fantastic track.
Walls fall down – Like so many of Justin’s songs, there are so many layers to this tune. I love the bass that plays loud and proud throughout. Lucky really because, intro aside, that’s where the tune really comes from in this song. And that small guitar solo in the middle, just… yes! If you’ve only got time to listen to one song on the album, make it this one.
Ruby – A lovely dark and moody tune. Find somewhere to play Ruby loud, you need to hear all of the intricacies in there. The drums play an unexpected rhythm for most of the verses, but boy does it work. For me, this song should have been 17 minutes long. If you have time for two
Just a quick note to say that you should also take a listen to the old time country sounding and 5 minutes long 3/4 time “Just after the fall” and, if you like your country with a little funk to it, try “It’ll all work out”
G F Patrick – One Town Over
Hello and welcome to another review from your friends in all things country, the Nashville Sessions. Today we’re looking at One Town Over by G F Patrick.
I have to say from the outset, that this is the first time I’d heard G F Patrick, and this is one of those rare albums that doesn’t grow on you, simply because you love it from the get go.
If you love well thought out lyrics and your country songs from the heart, then listen up.
Starting with the simple rhythm of the opening song Mud, it draws you in with it’s simplicity and story line. This was a perfect tune to start the album and I was excited by what was to come.
It quietens down at 3 minutes in, and the hiatus is longer than most musical pauses. Patrick still delivering his delicately gruff vocals over a very sparse guitar, snare and tom. But this only serves to build the tension till it comes back in. And when it does, it’s somehow softly abrupt, but perfect.
Next up was Trucker’s song. A rocky sounding lead guitar gives way to a gentle ambling song. The lead comes and goes throughout the song, not overpowering, but doing what it should to support the vocals and add passion and complexity. It’s all too easy for good guitarists to be too in your face, Trucker’s Song is a demonstration of how to play lead guitar well.
The acoustic guitar intro of Refugee’s Plea was one of the reasons this song stood out for me. Overall there’s nothing outstanding in the guitar itself, nothing ground breaking in the shuffling drums, or anything gobsmacking in the vocals… Then I listened to the lyrics. Put that all together and that explains the reason I’ve probably listened to this tune a dozen times today. If you’re listening this far into the review then stop right now, go to a popular online video website and look for “G T Patrick Refugees Plea with Lyrics”, Patrick’s accent sometimes makes it hard to get every word. Trust me, it pays dividends. This is the most powerful song I’ve heard decades years.
Yet another mellow start with One Town Over. A sad tale about the struggles of growing up. Now whilst this song isn’t groundbreaking, it does fit in well with the soulful style and tempo of the album as a whole. Not moody by any stretch, but certainly full of truth and pain. As in the previous tracks, this one is well balanced with nothing vying for the mantle of loudest instrument.
I love the unassuming tinkling arpeggio guitar of Tennessee, then Patrick’s vocals come in before a snare signals it’s presence and joins the fun.
Tennessee is a gentle one, not dark, not sinister, just an unpretentious warm and rambling tale filled with harmonising hums. Does it contain too much humming? You could argue either way and be right. For me, no it doesn’t, because the melody, and the feeling it gives you is worth it.
To mix things up a little, the instruments quieten down at around 2:03 then come back in filling you once again with that warm and homely country feel.
In a departure from the mooching rhythms of the first few songs, The anger of Magdalene is a full on head-nodding drum driven dance track. If any song on the album deserves dancing to it’s this one.
There isn’t a single instrument in here that isn’t working overtime. From the drummer leading the rhythm, driving the entire song, then everyone stopping abruptly, adding in extra character, it all adds a real depth to the song. Listen also to the bass in there, giving it big licks. Then you have the mandolin joining in for good measure. So what’s to not like. Apart from the story, it may upset some folks’ sensibilities.
Butterfly effect is a return to that beautiful mooching rhythm G F Patrick does so well. That said, it’s a whole lot more complex than it might seem, and it might just take a couple of listens to get what I mean, especially when you start picking out what the lead guitar is doing. I’m not sure what that sound at 3 minutes in? Is it a wound down bass string?
What struck me about this song is how there appears to be almost a single note running through the song, but then the instruments and vocals dance all around it.
Next up, a great guitar intro welcomes in James McGovern. But this isn’t your average tale about an old miner. It’s a fast paced tune with lots of angst loaded lead guitar.
The guitar canon makes several appearances throughout the song and this adds a feeling of movement to the entire thing. Listen out for the multi-tracked vocals at around 2:27, inviting the listener into the sense of unity and kinship felt by the character I guess. I loved the overall sound of this song, it’s speed and delivery certainly makes it stand out.
Again this is another contradiction almost, one would expect a song about mining to be dark and miserable, not so this song. But the same can be said for so many of the songs on this album.
In opposition to James McGovern, Blood on the bottle is another wonderfully mellow ambling song. This is another example of Patrick’s ability to despatch with expectation and not align a tune to the a story being relayed.
Again, you’ve had too many spoilers already, so I’m not going to reveal the story!
There is a comforting shuffle to the rhythmic arpeggio guitar and snare drum, bolstered by a piano and a cracking bit of slide steel. Even the long lead guitar piece at 2:06 fitted in perfectly.
6 string direction is an interesting exploration into the relationship a musician forms with a guitar and the struggles they face in the fight to become known for their craft.
The depth that the overdriven guitar adds stands out a mile. It really is a great demonstration of how less more can work so well against each other. Then the drummer, signalling a change of tone coming. I don’t get tired of hearing that.
If you’re not trying to sing the hook by the end of the song, then turn the volume up and try again. I would say that this is my favourite song on the album, but by my reckoning, that’s now 10 favourites I have.
Like Father is a tale about a struggle with alcoholism has a much more dramatic and tense overtone to it, thanks in no small part to the sustained haunting notes that play through. I loved the harmonic strums that were squeezed in there too.
Despite that tension throughout, it never feels overbearing, this is probably due to concentrating on the story. I won’t spoil it by revealing the ending.
Who could fail to like the shuffling snare drum rhythm of Till The Day We Die. Whining guitar starting at :37 then coming in and out throughout, building in strength then dropping back out just before it got too much.
The squeezebox adds a great feel to the song too. At around 2 minutes, the whining guitar returns a couple of more times and provides a haunting and melodic portamento backdrop.
Beauty fades has an almost 90s American Rock sound to it in places. Nice to hear some simple but effective harmony vocals used in the chorus. I would have liked to have had the pause at 2:33 used to greater effect, to signal the volume change at 2:46 for example.
But the entire album is full of musical contradictions, so why start now! Beauty Fades is a song that you can play while driving with the windows down, safe in the knowledge you’re not going to offend anyone.
Listening to the great sounding guitar intro for Water Rising Up, it set’s the tone rather well for what is quite a restrained but still musically very interesting track.
After a brief pause we move into Part 2. Exactly why the two tracks have been joined together is currently a mystery. They don’t appear to be related in any way, either musically or lyrically. Perhaps someone can educate me.
They are both very different. Part 2 is slower and is in ¾ time.
Of the two, I prefer the slow waltz rhythm and gentle vocal delivery of Part 2. The lead guitar and gentle drum providing sufficient support to have you nodding along throughout.
Having listened to both tunes several times, I’m still lost as to their relationship.
This is the first album I’ve reviewed for G F Patrick and for my money, I think he has to be one of best song-writers in recent times.
The whole album is loaded with well thought out and emotive lyricism. Lyrics like “Gas stations don’t pump hope” and “there’s no home for me back home anyway” It’s dark in places, lively in others, and that juxtaposition of the bright and up-tempo song with a dark story behind it – for me, it’s a musical treat that every country music fan should own.
Tim Dugger – You’re gonna love me
The whining intro starts the song well, low and mellow with the heartfelt country sound to it.
Whilst the song is filled with references to generalisations often said about “good ol’ boys”, their love of trucks, music and racing, it’s still a love song from a guy explaining who he is as a person to someone he hopes will fall in love with him.
The first minute is filled with a beautiful whining slide steel, rhythm guitar and simple drums. Then a brief pause for effect before it kicks up a gear.
There’s nothing exceptional in the song at all. And that works very much in its favour because to be honest, if there was, it simply wouldn’t sound right. What “You’re gonna love me” is, is a real feel-good country love song.
By the end of it, you understand the honesty behind the lyrics and, I don’t often refer to the videos as sometimes they can be a distraction from the music, but this time, watch it. It took me 3 or 4 runs through it to pick up on interesting twist.
Houston Bernard – American dream
American Dream starts off with the requisite banjo tinkling away and with what sounds like a guitar in Nashville tuning, before a heavy lead guitar and brash drums come in for good measure. It’s an introduction that will have many country music fans paying attention from the start.
This is a story about a young man who wanted more from life before realising the grass was already green.
American Dream starts, with barely more than a guitar and drum joining Houston’s vocals, but builds into a well-rounded country rhythm, bolstered by a banjo which never really leaves.
A sexy lead guitar and percussion piece at 2:05 signalled a pulling back on the instruments, allowing Houston’s vocals to drive for a moment.
I was expecting a false ending or big drum run at around 3:00, I think that would have finished off for me what is a great summertime song.
Listening to some of Houston’s other stuff, you’re in for a varied treat. Country Crowd to Yoga Pants to All I need, there’s a whole range of songs in there to keep you listening.
American Dream is another great song from Houston. Let’s hope he makes it over this side of the pond when lockdown is over.
Brittany McLamb – Crushing on you
Starting with the ubiquitous clap track keeping time for a staccato guitar, Britanny comes in with her vocals to begin the song proper at around 6 seconds in.
Whilst “Crushing on you” is undeniably more pop-sounding than some of Brittany’s other stuff, songs like “Drop this hoe” or “Dollhouse” certainly have a more country vibe to them, this one has a delicate rock edge to it, if that’s not an oxymoron. Listen to it and you’ll hear what I mean. It’s upbeat and doesn’t hang around which, considering it’s basically a love song about the beginnings of the feelings of love for someone, it seems odd. But as a tune, it works.
Brittany’s vocals carry the tune over the many musical hiatuses. I enjoyed the arty and inspiring, but very brief lead guitar piece at 1:43, shortly before the return of the staccato guitar.
I’ve a suspicion that this song will be popular, simply because it’s got more rock to it than many pop/country cross-over tracks.
Be warned however, at only 2 minutes and 56 seconds, careful you’re not caught out singing over the very abrupt ending.
Kelsey Bovey – Magnetic
From the outset, the electronic organ effect playing in a glissando manner, signals that Magnetic is a fresh and modern sounding tune.
The electronic effects put this song squarely on the pop side of cross-over music. If you can find Kelsey singing this acoustically on youtube, definitely give this a listen. You’ll still hear the composition and chord progressions that place it firmly on the leading edge of modern country sounds.
Magnetic is crammed full of musical pauses, building drum runs and, the aforementioned electronic sounds.
Having listened to other songs by Kelsey, this is the most high energy and engaging of her songs.
It’s evident that her musical influences are from this side on the millenium but, with her self-assured performance and undeniable vocal skill, it doesn’t matter where her songs sit, Kelsey can deliver.
So if modern and electronic is your thing, check the song out, while you’re there, listen to some of her other stuff, I’m sure you’ll like that too.
Jonathan Terrell – Love can find you anywhere
“Love can find you anywhere” is a heartwarming song about how love can sometimes appear from nowhere, even in the most desperate and unlikely situations.
It starts with a brief introduction from a warm and welcoming bit of country guitar strumming and picking, broken into by that mainstay of country songs, the dobro, then almost without noticing, you’re joined by a shuffling drum.
A start like that had me listening intently to the music. A little too intently in fact, I was so busy enjoying the music, I forgot to pay attention to the lyrics. It wasn’t until i heard “pulled from the wreckage, he was barely alive” that I remembered there were words in the song! Such is the power of a good musician to enthrall you, without saying a word. So well done to the musicians for grabbing so much of my focus.
The entire song doesn’t pull any fantastic musical stunts, it doesn’t set out to wow you with vocal acrobatics, but listening to it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling that good songs do. “Love can find you anywhere” is definitely one I won’t skip past in my play list.
Certainly the music would keep some people listening, people like me. But careful not to miss the lyrics, what he says is true.
Rosey Cale – Secrets
Here’s another song in which Rosey demonstrates her ability to create a trail through the forest that is country music.
The short and mellow arpeggio guitar intro, reminiscent of Alan Jacksons “Midnight in Montgomery” was joined by Rosey’s gentle vocals and then a beautifully delicate steel guitar nudged it’s way i n.
Secrets is positioned somewhere between the rocky sound of “Mary Jane” and the ethereal “Whisky than wine”, both great but immensely different songs by Rosey.
On the mellow and lonesome side of the country genre, in this song, Rosey demonstrates her ability to sing low and slow, then take it up into falsetto with incredible ease.
Whilst “Secrets” might sound too dark and dismal, don’t let that put you off. It’s a beautifully crafted journey into the thousand shades of grey that is truth and lies. Looking at the blurb on Rosey’s website, I get the feeling that this is more introspective than she lets on. Either way, when you’re in the mood for something less than rocky, taken a listen.
Actually, whatever mood you’re in, there’s likely to be something in Rosey’s back catalogue that suits your taste.
Hicktown Breakout – Hicktown Breakout EP (Album)
Jo Lee – begins the album with a beautifully musical guitar and drum intro that wasn’t too short, with a lovely little building drum piece making it’s way in. The vocals came in just when you’d expect them, and boy did they come in – bold and brash and in your face, just like the rest of the song itself.
The drum and guitar are present throughout, providing a great support on which to build the rest of the song. Fortunate really because it’s hard to tell whether the vocals are pushing this song or the instruments, so I guess that means they’re well balanced!
Brief lead guitar interludes at 1:22 and 2:31 while well played, are thankfully short, and this helps maintain the energy and tempo. This is my favourite song on the EP.
Drink it down – starts with a very heavy guitar intro, again the vocals come in pulling no punches. Regular readers and listeners will know how pauses in drumming are a favourite of mine, so keep your ear out 28 seconds in. Then the single drum strike to bring it back in is just sublime.
Played with the same energy as the first song on the EP, “Drink it down” is another full on rock/country fusion you could hear in any divebar across the southern states. If Jo Lee, is my favourite, this is a very close 2nd!
Roses – Rather than the high energy start of the previous songs, “Roses” came in somehow with more musicality to it. A softer, wonderfully shuffling number, the syncopated feel to this rhythm is likely to have good choreographers scrambling to be the first to write a dance to it.
A couple of quick lead guitar breaks in there helps to round out what is a great song, equally at home being played driving along, or hunkering down with a loved one.
You Lied – The intro was a departure from the previous songs. The sounds of someone taking a guitar out of a case, it starts with unplugged guitar strumming, listen carefully and you’ll just about hear a dobro in there. The unplugged sound doesn’t last long, you’re soon back in to that loud and rocky world that appears to be a bit of a theme from Hicktown Breakout.
You lied also has overall a much more familiar Southern Rock sound to it.
Hicktown Breakouts EP is certainly one I’ve enjoyed listening to and, if this is an example of what they’re capable of, I’m keen to see what else.
Nobody – Dylan Scott
“Nobody” from Dylan Scott. As it’s Dylan, stoic country fans will probably be turned off straight away. If they haven’t, then hearing the clap track right off the bat, signalling that you you’re listening to a modern country song will certainly do the trick
Dylan’s deep and rich vocals carry the tune completely in what is, at times, a very pared back track. Pared back that is until the drums and guitar unceremoniously jump back in.
Loaded with the trappings of a modern country music song, Dylan puts in the effort vocally and the tune moves around quite a bit.
Fans of Dylan will love this. If you’ve never heard him, then you’ve almost definitely seen him as you’re browsing the internet for new country singers. But you probably rushed straight on past, his polished styling and rugged good looks can be off-putting.
So overall, a typically modern country song which is, as is often the case, another one of those marmite moments, you’ll love this or you’ll hate it, for the exact same reason.
Olivia Lane – Living instead
The deliciously rich guitar and bass intro caught my attention, I could have listened to another dozen bars of that – it also set the tone incredibly well.
Having never listened to Olivia before, I was keen to see how she describes her music. Her website says it has “twists of quirky pop, indie rock, and acoustic-driven bops”. Whilst I’m happy to report that for me at least, “Living instead” didn’t come across as having a heavy pop influence, there was however that musical freedom that the “Indie” label provides. Definitely obvious was a whole load of rock and more than just a little bit of a blues, provided by the regular appearance of a guitar canon.
The multi-tracking of Olivia’s soft but almost falsetto and heavily reverbed vocals were well placed and fitted in well. I’m sure this will be like Marmite to country fans. There is so much in here that has that country sound to it, but some of the chord progressions might be a little hard to swallow for the staunch country fans.
Being a massive fan of country myself, there’s lots in here that say I shouldn’t like it, but the passion in the vocals, the way the drum and guitar worked together, and then the blues sound all built something I’m sure I’ll have in my head for a few days!
Danny McMahon – My Kinda City
Danny was a big hit when he performed live for us at the Nashville Sessions, his stage presence and lyrical honesty, coupled with his delivery of touching ballads had the crowd in the palm of his hands. So reviewing a studio produced song was bound to be a pleasure.
Right from the off, this is a bright and bubbly sounding track. Conjuring images of summer days driving through wide open spaces. Quite an apposite image given than Danny sings with a huge amount of energy and his delivery seems to drive the entire song, but he still finds time in the middle to break just long enough for a nice little interlude from the lead guitar.
Danny’s vocal is naturally quite high, probably higher than most of us mere mortals, so we (and by that I mean me) are reduced to air-drums! Luckily there’s plenty to drum to. I did like the way the drum switches to a solid and unrelenting 4/4 rhythm 0:40. Shortly after, the break in rhythm signals a change back down to a slower feeling tempo.
So if you’re in need of a lift during these “locked down” times, here’s something to do the trick.
Eric Paslay – Heartbeat higher
The mellow twangy sound, joined by a tiny amount of drum belies what’s to come. “Heartbeat higher” starts to come into it’s own at 00:43. Being a big fan of the way percussion can create anticipation out of nowhere, get ready for the drum build up at 1:38 (it made me rewind a little!)
The vocal support by Sarah Buxton adds a great deal to the song, and I don’t just mean the nice harmonies, Sarah’s presence also adds an obvious layer. Suddenly Eric is singing about loving someone while they are singing back to him, so it’s no longer just about him… nice touch.
I do like the dynamic range this song goes through – the arrangement of deep bass drum and delicate tinkling of snares means this song definitely benefits from a good set of speakers. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t a fan on the first listen through, but then playing it again on something with more capability, the song really opened out… so do yourself a favour, and pick a good time to listen to this.
Lockeland – Made for mornings
I was lucky enough to see Lockeland live last year on their UK tour. So I was more than happy to get to listen to their latest release “Made for mornings”.
The brief, guitar laden introduction pulls back and lets in the vocals, joined shortly after with a good old fashioned heavy drum beat.
Definitely at home on the rocky side of the country genre. the vocals and overall structure all move around quite rapidly – quiet and sultry one second, then switching up a gear and giving you more guitar than you’d expect.
I was taken back to their stage performance when I’d made notes about how their vocals worked so well together”, especially the harmony pieces they add in.
Soft and gentle this one isn’t, if you like your country music in your face and pulling no punches, look right here. But don’t be fooled into thinking that loud and rocky is all they do. I’ve seen them play the whole gamut of styles. “Made for morning” is just another facet of this capable band.
Reya Jayne – How good you are
“How good you are” is the second track I’ve reviewed for Reya. The whining slide steel intro led me to expect a more country heavy tune, Instead it seems that, in a similar vein to “Homeless”, Reya has found a position in the middle of the modern style of country – bright, polished and well delivered. Reminding us that the younger generation still have feelings they need to sing about.
Whilst a little too “pop” for my tastes, it can be guaranteed that it will be too “country” for some pop fans! So there really is no winning that argument. Ultimately, artists produce the music they feel they need to produce.
This song does have an unmistakable country heart to it, so here’s hoping that a tune this well put together, can help convince the younger generation that “country” isn’t always for the old folk, and to experiment with their musical tastes.
Tommy Taylor – Against the grain
I looked forward to reviewing something else by Tommy as I’d thoroughly enjoyed “Popcorn”. Against the grain didn’t fall short either. The haunting fiddle and acoustic guitar intro both working so well together, inviting you in – allowing Tommy’s vocals to ring out with that “lived a life” sound that he has. A fitting delivery for this pure and unadulterated country tale of struggle against conformation. A coupe of breaks in the standard 4/4 seemingly proving the point the song makes about non-conformance.
Some of the lyrics will undoubtedly ring true to many a country fan, that is after all, why we love country music. The simplicity of the fiddle and guitar are maintained throughout the song, adding to the overall draw.
It’s not hard to listen to this song and fall completely into it. My only criticism, the very abrupt ending. I could have easily listened to another 30 seconds of that guitar and pitiful fiddle sound.
Fargo Railroad Co. – Bar room band
Absolutely love this one from Fargo. It got me from the outset with the building intro and the classic rhythmic structure. The story that they tell is supported by a raft of musical effects, including a false ending, an organ for good measure, and who doesn’t love a good strong drum beat. It’s like a checklist of things to be found in a good country song.
Telling the story of the trials and tribulations of a bar room band. I’m sure it’ll strike a chord with many musicians, especially those determined to play only their own music.
I was lucky enough to see Fargo Railroad last year when they performed live at the Nashville Sessions, they went down an absolute storm, I’m glad to see that their studio productions don’t detract from the heart they put into their music.
Tenille Townes – Road to the lemonade stand (Album)
Holding out for the one – A modern tune that could hold it’s own against any contemporary country/pop crossover tracks. It has a catchy hook and a sound that takes you on a drive down a Florida coast line.
White horse – A perfect example of thoroughly modern country. A piano and drum lead-in, then joined by a similarly bright guitar sound and claps. Her vocals come in and match the tone set by the instruments. While this one may not be to the taste of die-hard country fans, it’s likely that her age in an indicator to the fan base she is aiming her songs at.
Jersey on the wall – Starting with an ethereal guitar intro, the real start is signalled with a strong drum beat until her vocals come in; matching the ethereal guitar intro. You get to the crux of the song around a minute in, and I can all but guarantee that you’ll then interpret the lyrics in a different way. Interestingly, the drum beat – changing but ever-present throughout, seems to carry with it an anger that the vocals don’t reveal. It’s a great piece of work between the two. On the second listen through I’d realised that I hadn’t noticed any other instrumentation in there – such was the power of the combination of the drum and vocal.
So listening to it a few times, all the requisite instruments are there, but they’re so well balanced and cleverly mixed that they really do just add beautifully to the vocals. The odd tinkle of a piano, a flash of a lightly over-driven guitar, leaving in fret buzz of Tenille’s rhythm guitar, it all added complex layers to what is a beautiful song. Still a modern country sound, but much more of that story telling so ever-present in good country songs.
I kept the roses – In 3/4 time, this soft and old-fashioned sounding tune almost tricks you into thinking it’s from the golden age of country music. The only break in this is the “la-la” bits at 2:50. Luckily they didn’t detract too much from what is otherwise a beautiful old-time song.
Somebody’s daughter – Another perfect example of how someone as young as Tenille can still write songs that strike at heart strings. That said, the overall composition of the song doesn’t necessarily marry with the very deep message of the song. Because the message draws you in emotionally, I found myself wanting to more closely follow the story and found the claps and musical hiatuses distracting.
Stupid Boy – This song, more than any other on the album, demonstrates the ability of Tenille to sing in a more soft and emotive manner. Building the vocals gently and without realising it, before taking it back down. It retains that bright, modern sound throughout.
Come as you are – An upbeat and funky vibe start this track off. Then Tenille’s unmistakable vocal opens proceedings with “Everybody’s always overthinking”.
A real feel good, summertime song, “Come as you are” could easily be a party anthem. But Government guidelines might put paid to that right now.
Social distancing aside, this is exactly what you’ve come to expect from Tenille. So if you like Tenille, you’ll love this one.
Charlotte Young – Blown away
Blown Away from Charlotte Young grabbed my attention at the outset, but for the wrong reason. The first few, hard to classify drum beats caught my ear and made me wonder what was coming next. Then came the guitar, rescuing me; bringing me right back to a great country rhythm. Then Charlotte’s vocals popped in and we were away. I don’t know whether it’s the subtle Lee Ann Womack sound that she weaves delicately in there, but there was a very natural and unmistakably country sound to her vocal delivery. For his earlier misdemeanor, the drummer redeems himself many times over, completely forgiven with the awesome hiatus at 00:43, not to mention what happens at 2:41 – 2:51.
The song is loaded with that loud, modern and bright country sound but thankfully, stays a country mile away from pop – conjuring instead images of a wronged woman driving down dusty old roads, tears flowing down her dusty face. It’s loaded with that barely restrained intensity that will have you playing that dusty old air-guitar or air-drum and singing along in whatever key you can manage. Overall, this was a great track, one I certainly won’t be looking to skip!
Gill Landry – Skeleton at the banquet (Album)
Starting with an irreverent take on the feelings of a new love, “I love you too” opens the album with a sound that you would recognise as typical Landry from the offing. The deep melodic tones we expect from Gill are plentiful in this slower number.
Then comes “The wolf”, an upbeat and mooching drum ridden track. Complete with haunting reverbs and a steel guitar that’s sure to please fans of his Americana/folk style. Probably my favourite track on here. The harmonica adding to an already amazing song.
“A different tune” is, as it’s name might suggest, quite different to the previous songs. A beautiful 3/4 time song about a failed love. Very simple in its structure, but with an unmistakable Irishness to it.
Next, and in stark contrast, was the treacly tango rhythm of “Nobody’s is coming”. An appositely rich rhythm, given that it talks about consumerism, excess and how religion is used by some as a way out.
“The refuge of your arms” is a beautifully strange song with a massive European influence that’s hard to pinpoint.
Listening to “The place they call home”, which has a pleasantly, lilting peacefulness about it, I was struck by how difficult it is to place Gill’s music. I’d take a punt at ‘world music’, but that’s just plain lazy. What it is, for certain, is unmistakable Gill Landry. Anyway, on with the song. This is one that I’m sure you’ll love.
Nothing clever in Angeline. That’s not a criticism, it’s just easy to follow, simple melody with a healthy serving of harmonica. After some of the heavier lyrics, which can take some listening to in order to extract those well hidden nuances, this is just a straight forward cracking tune.
With a dramatic opening, another simple tune followed with “Trouble Town”. A European sounding shuffle – a tale of warning and woe, in typical melancholic misery style.
Those who know me will know that I’m not a fan of a tune based around just a guitarist demonstrating their god-like guitar skills. However, what “Portrait of Astrid” delivers isn’t an ego-stroking demonstration of Gill’s abilities. The pauses, canons and tempo almost telling a story all their own. It builds, then while anticipating a crashing crescendo of guitar wizardry, it fades, leaving me hanging, only to come back in, delicately; apologetically almost, that that’s as far as the finger-shredding picking is going to go.
A long review, I know, but I make no apology. Whilst those who are new to Gill Landry, might think this dour and miserable. Gill isn’t known for his use power chords, doo-waps and soul-less drivel. Life is a thousand shades of joy and pain. This is more than adequately reflected in this release.
This is a very layered album, taking you places you don’t always expect, moving you musically around the world – Gill’s unmistakable rich vocals keeping you company along the way.
Dave Mitch Miller – Boxes (Single)
Dave has a rather unique vocal delivery, switching effortlessly into falsetto in Electric Lights. With some unexpected chord changes, the Dobro trying to convince me it might just be country I’m listening to.
Bad bones is reminiscent of the likes of The Smiths and The Jam. It’s something I would have listened to in the 80s. A absolutely cracking tune and probably my favourite on the EP. “Probably”, just because Fragile is another tune that catches your ear.
Likeable is a slow, mooching and melodic number. Some will like the over-driven guitar toward the end. For me, it distracted from what is a great time.
Let me in started well, with the arpeggio guitar intro it could have gone anywhere. It has an interesting rhythm, somewhere between a floor filler and and end-of-the-night track.
The title track is the most melancholic on the album and is a pleasingly slow song; one for the desperately hopeful. It uses musical pauses to good effect though and is a likeable tune.
A pleasant, inoffensive album (apart from unexpected notes in Electric Lights). Definitely one you could listen to in the background and, at times, rewind it to point out specific lyrics or surprising changes to where it was going.
Reya Jane – Homeless (Single)
Reya’s debut single will no doubt please fans of modern country. Her voice, with that delicate little vibrato that shows itself at times, would suit many genres, but we’re glad she chose country
“Homeless” is a great tune and it showcases her ability and range, with some beautiful, subtle and haunting guitar work adding to the overall country feel. Although I found the drum to be a little too ‘poppy’ for me when it came in at around 1:10, but that’s just me preferring another style of country!
But overall a likeable track and it will be interesting to see where her musical journey takes her. With the voice I’ve heard so far, I hope it’s square footed and proud in the country camp.
Megan O’Neil – Devil You Know (Single)
Starting with several bars of attention grabbing, whining guitar and drum, you join the song mid way through a conversation between Megan and a lover who’s clearly not up to scratch (the story behind many a good country song).
I find that Megan’s voice comes into its own in the lower register – allowing that almost imperceptible hoarseness she uses so sparingly to shine through.
There are elements of the song that clearly lean toward the modern Nashville sound (of which I’m not a fan). That said, the slower, more sultry sections of the song are worth a listen because there will doubtless be other tunes on the album that showcase her vocal range.
Essentially, it’s a nice little tune that I wouldn’t skip over unless I was in a more ‘roots’ country mood.
Steve Kendra – Kendroid (Album)
Steve once described country music as a broad church – his latest album certainly earns that moniker.
In Kendroid, Steve has taken the Americana sound on a long, moonlit stroll through a psychedelic forest of notes – each distantly related to the pentatonic scale.
There are songs somewhat reminiscent of ‘trippy’ Beatles. Then there are others that demonstrate the effortless style of vocal delivery expected from Steve.
With some clever lyrics (always a winner in my book) and rare arrangements, if you’re expecting Steve’s usual country sound, you’d be disappointed. However, if you’re happy to listen to something new, then there’ll very likely be something in here you like.
Benjamin W Pike – Someone Else’s Tears (Single)
Someone else’s tears is a soft and mellow tune from this incredibly versatile musician.
Given the ability Benjamin has to move between styles, he’s clearly getting influences from all manner of music genres. With liberal hints of the vocal portamento feel of Jack Johnson’s ‘better together’ in this track, the slide steel pushes that mild country feel to it. That said, it’s clearly not as country as say his earlier track, Devil on my shoulder.
If you like your country mellow and unfettered by the restraints if societal expectations, then you’re in luck here.
Bob Fitzgerald – Running From The Rain (Single)
The short song intro aside, this one grabs your attention from the get go with a fantastic attack of staccato-esque guitar and drum.
Firmly placed in the rocky side of the country genre, it maintains that guitar and drums throughout.
Definitely a song you want to drive to, the vocal range Bob uses in the song helps keep your ear tuned in too, just in case you miss something.
As you know, guitar solos aren’t my thing, but the one in the middle is brief enough to not detract from what this great tune and, dare I say it, fits rather well. I’m certainly looking forward to what else this guy has to offer British country. I will definitely be playing this one while I drive (once we’re allowed back out of self-isolation).
Twinnie – I love you now change (Single)
The pared back opening builds into vibrant and dynamic tune. Rocky, dynamic and full of attack, you won’t want to play this one wrapped up on a sofa with your loved one.
Glad to say that it’s not reminiscent of anything in particular. While that’s good to hear, it means that it’s difficult to give you an idea of where this track “takes” you. It’s full of the controlled anger of someone happy in their determination to not, as the title suggests, change to please a lover.
So it’s not a “run of the mill” tune, but that said, there is something familiar about that slightly electronic sound that pervades the quieter parts of the song.
To me, it’s one of those ‘marmite’ songs. Contemporary and full of verve, those that love it will love it for exactly the same reason as some people won’t.
Taynee Lord and the Crookes – No God of mine (single)
The guitar intro hinted to a certain Louisiana/swampy sound to come, that certainly got my attention. Then, when Taynee’s vocals seemed to follow suite, I was excited at what the rest of the tune might turn out to be like.
No God of mine certainly has more of a southern feel to it that most songs I’ve listened to of late, yet still manages to sit comfortably somewhere between swampy/southern rock/nashville. The third verse came as a surprise when she rocketed into falsetto without warning. I found that a bit much and grabbed my attention a little too forcefully Fans of the modern nashville sound might like that part of the song, but me, I was happy with swampy and southern!
That aside, her vocals were fantastic and the band seem to know what they’re doing, so lets hope for a little more swampy from Taynee.
Tommy Taylor – Popcorn
Popcorn is not as sweet and innocent as the title would have you believe. An out and out Southern Rock song about the deceased moonshine maker, Marvin ‘Popcorn’ Sutton. Tommy sets the scene with a monologue from Popcorn Sutton himself, then an unassuming guitar canon comes in, building the anticipation, just biding it’s time. Waiting on the overdriven guitar and drums to rock up and grab your attention.
Although not as guitar heavy as I’d expected (not a bad thing) and with a percussion that is somehow strong and pared back at the same time, this song pulls no punches, especially lyrically (unless you’re listening to the radio edit, in which case, shame).
While it’s pure Southern Rock at its soul, there is clearly a tangible Mountain Music feel to it too. While some might find it dis-tasteful, it’s a cracking tune deserves to be heard
Probably not one to play with delicate ears about, but an absolutely cracking and raucous tune nonetheless, definitely worthy of a glass of something alongside, for medicinal purposes of course.
Angela Lewis Brown – Better Man
If you’re lucky enough to hear both the Unplugged and Studio editions of Better man, take my advice and start with the Unplugged version.
The mixed strumming and arpeggio style of the banjo affords a beautiful Appalachian mountain style sound to the song. The vocal delivery is emotive and carries the message well. Although I found the harmonies a little over powering in places, a couple of listens in and they kinda faded to where they should be. Having said that, they definitely add to the feel of the song.
Now listen to the Studio version. This is Blues, ramped all the way up to 11 (Google it). The rich and powerful rhythm from the guitar and drums really drive it, if you aren’t swaying along by the 3rd bar and imagining drinking a cold one in the nearest Dive-bar, then it’s probably not loud enough.
Jake Aldridge – Partners in Crime
Pop rich and electronic, Partners in Crime is the first foray into country music for this award-winning hip-hop artist. The influences of Jake’s previous musical style are not at all hidden in this song. Jake has created an Up-beat and ‘light’ tune, transporting you to a hot sunny day (and night) in a bar by the beach.
Owen Martin – Coiled
Starting with a staccato, percussive guitar intro, Coiled from Owen Martin has an Indie/Folk vibe to it and is what you might call a slow burner.
It builds delicately and slowly in intensity, without actually reaching a crescendo in the way that some songs do. While it doesn’t have an identifiable ‘hook’ that has the listener repeating it over and over, I think the chorus lends itself to being sung along to in a campfire / group of friends / goodtimes kind of way.
The unplugged production adds a natural timbre to the song, this perfectly matches the emotion behind the lyrics. If this is what Owen can produce with just a guitar, I look forward to hearing other tracks with harmonica and maybe a slide steel
Donna Marie – Get Wild
Get Wild from Donna Marie doesn’t wait politely to be introduced, no sir, this one comes straight out of the gate with a thumping drum beat.
Listen closely and you can just make out the banjo working it’s magic throughout. In there too, you’ve got those beautiful little musical pauses that add anticipation and interest.
Despite having what the dancers among you would call “tags”, which in fairness is not beyond the ability of a good choreographer, I’m hoping that this track gets discovered because that full on sound, coupled with it’s classic country rhythm has the potential to be a floor filler.