At the time of writing the top slot on the UK Country chart is held by Ward Thomas. The interesting, and surprising, thing about this is Ward Thomas is Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, 20 year old sisters from Hampshire. With the renewed interest in the genre due to the hit TV show ‘Nashville’ and with the Country2Country festival bringing top USA acts to the UK it would seem to be an opportune time for UK acts to make a dash for the spotlight. Hopefully Ward Thomas will be one of many acts to strike whilst the iron is hot.
The duo have recently released their first album, recorded in Nashville with top session players including Chris Rodriguez (Keith Urban, Faith Hill), Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor etc.) and Bobby Blazier. The cool thing is you might take the girls to Nashville but the end result still has a hometown feel. The closing foot tapper ‘Town Called Ugley’ is a great example as the girls reference ‘Cotton Pickin’ and ‘the Old Kings Head’ in the same song. The twelve songs here are all, obviously, well played and produced with a nice range of styles from the bouncy opener ‘Push For The Stride’ to the ballad ‘From Where I Stand’ which features some really nice guitar work as does ‘Take That Train’ which reminds me of The Allman Brothers ‘Jessica’. At the end of the day the whole album is held together by the lovely harmonies of the two girls as their voices effortlessly merge and complement each other.
To sum up if you’re on the lookout for a traditional Country album with a nice pop edge that you can relate to while stuck in traffic on the M25, as opposed to cruising down the USA highway, then this is a good place to go.
The duo have just completed a UK tour but are out again later this year with follow Brit act The Shires.
When Glenn Frey passed away in 2016 he left a legacy of music of which any artist would be proud. Over the years his work as a solo artist and with the Eagles seems to have divided opinion, for every Eagles fan there seems to be hater just around the next corner, a situation I’ve always found very surprising. ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-75’ (the latter of which is the second bestselling album of all-time with 29,000,000 sales in the USA) are a fitting tribute to Frey and his talents. After forty years I’ll still happily spin 'Hotel California' and those early hits, which I consider to be solid gold classics, and I’m pleased to report the Library of Congress selected the hits album for preservation as "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" so I’m in pretty good company. The 3-CD + 1-DVD set ‘Above The Clouds’ finds us venturing far from those early country rock roots as Frey the solo artist seemed content to follow his muse wherever it took him, generally in a soft-rock / soul / R&B direction. The results, especially looking back in the cold light of day, are uneven but not without some genuinely standout tracks, all of which are presented with a professional sheen when maybe, on occasion, a little grit would have been welcome.
Growing up there was one album that never seemed to be very far from the old stereo in the back room (as we called it) of my family home. That album was ‘Johnny Cash at San Quentin’ and to this day I can’t hear that album and not think of my Dad. There always seems to be a debate over the Prison albums but for me, it’ll always be ‘San Quentin’ that I’ll reach for and Johnny Cash would, in a roundabout way, become the inspiration for Red Guitar Music, but that’s another story. I have a good deal of respect for John Carter Cash and the Cash family who’ve treated the Cash catalogue, in the nearly fifteen years since Johnny Cash passed with great dignity. No signs of mud-slinging and courtroom battles here, maybe the likes of the Zappa and Prince families should take note.
Looking back, It must have been four years ago and the fledgling RGM was just starting to get noticed by Pr companies and labels. It was an exciting time; a review of the self-titled Parker Millsap album would lead to an invite to see him open for Old Crow Medicine Show on their UK tour, at The Roundhouse in London, in support of the ‘Remedy’ album. Parker was excellent and he fully lived up to the promise of his record and Old Crow would be up next. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t really fully aware of O.C.M.S. much beyond ‘Wagon Wheel’ but a very quick spin through the highlights of their back catalogue on the day of the show made me think they could be pretty good. Obviously, as any fan of the band knows, they’re a monster live act with songs and musical dexterity to burn. Needless to say ‘Remedy’ became pretty popular in the RGM office in the days that followed so when ‘Volunteer’ hit the RGM inbox I was very keen to check it out.
Back in October, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the first night of Country Music Week at Bush Hall in London. The act who had the unenviable task of opening proceedings, in the wake of the Las Vegas atrocity the previous day, were Nashville based duo Jordan Walker and Johnny McGuire collectively known as Walker McGuire. The pair got the evening off to a superb start with a bunch of cool harmony-driven songs laced with charm and humour, while still respecting the fallen. A few months on and the boys are about to release their first EP and the results are impressive.
Toronto native Josh Taerk (pronounced Turk) is a new name to me but, with heavy-hitting support on his bio from E-Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, my guess was his new ‘Stages’ EP would be well worth checking out. I’m pleased to report this assumption would prove to be correct as ‘Stages’ is a little gem.
The covers album is a tricky old beast and one that few acts manage to fully tame. It’s an endeavour that can easily expose a lack of direction, an absence of fresh ideas or worse still, an ill-judged excursion into self-indulgence. It’s no small miracle, then, that female-vocal-bluegrass darlings The Wailin’ Jennys have made such a coherent success of Fifteen, their first album since 2011’s highly acclaimed Bright Morning Stars.
I have recently taken up photography as a hobby, not digital, but on film. I am shunning “Auto” and taking time to compose each shot, being choosy about what I take, as the roll is not infinite. As such, each shot becomes treasured, even if it does not come out as expected. Bob Bradshaw’s new album, ‘American Echoes’, has the feeling of a treasured photo album crammed with fond memories and experiences. Indeed, Bradshaw started his journey in America, which has led to the content of ‘American Echoes’, way back in 1989. It is a product of the people, places and venues he has visited and the experiences he has had in his adopted homeland. It draws on classic American genres ranging from country and folk to bluegrass and the blues. The album is a celebration and a document of the dreamers, poets and sinners that he has met on his journey across the nation’s landscape.
Recently the subject of the state of the music business has been the source of much debate in the RGM office...not that we have an actual office, more like a desk really but... The inspiration for much of this chat was a documentary film by Rain Perry ‘The Shopkeeper' reviewed here which explains just how difficult aspects of the business are in 2017. For another side of the modern music business let's take a look at Ron Pope on a one-man mission to demonstrate how to do things in 2017 while remaining fiercely independent.
If ever an album lived up to its title it must be ‘Transatlanticana’ which finds the “Titan of the Telecaster” Bill Kirchen recording an album with the “Godfather of Pub Rock” Austin De Lone. Needless to say the results are pretty amazing and the UK release via The Last Music Company / Proper Records features two bonus tracks.
Jim Lauderdale is one of the most respected artists working in the country / Americana field today. As a songwriter Lauderdale’s credits include some of the greats of the country genre and beyond (Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, Vince Gill, The Dixie Chicks and Elvis Costello) in a career that dates back to the 80’s. His latest solo release is a silky smooth slice of soulful country music that finds Lauderdale working in the UK with Nick Lowe’s band and a host of great players.