Reviews by Paul McGee

Kevin Sekhani  'Day Ain’t Done' - Louisiana Red Hot

Country, rock and soul are mixed together into a heady concoction on this debut solo release from Kevin Sekhani, a 20 year veteran of the Austin, Texas music scene. Together with musicians that have played with Son Volt, Patty Griffin and John Mellencamp, Kevin Sekhani ‘s abundant talents deliver a really impressive album  with violin, mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitars blended  with superb musicianship giving a really serious swing to Day Ain’t Done’s twelve songs.

Co-producing with Mark Addison, Sekhani celebrates with both attitude and confidence on tracks like Wrong Direction and Oilfield Tan, a tribute to the Louisiana oilfield workers. Think Steve Earle backed by Old Crow Medicine Show and you will have some idea of the virtuoso playing on display. Jump Right Back is urgent, immediate and performed with swagger. The Ballad of Lonely Clown is a strummed waltz about the life of a social misfit and The Higher I Get is filled with passion and the urge to break free.

Burial Ground is another killer track that jumps right out of the traps and takes hold with a driving beat and great ensemble playing.  Sumner Street ends the album with a Springsteen-esque chorus of celebratory sound. This is wonderful stuff.

Ryan Davidson  'A Wick Burning High' - Self Release

Davidson hails from northern California. Educated in Ireland, his storytelling style shines brightly on these songs with a voice that is clear and strong and commands attention as it leads from the front. He is ably assisted by Miles Pack on cello, resonator, banjo, glockenspiel and percussion with Darius Koski on viola, accordion and organ and Jessie Nieves on fiddle and backing vocals.

Black Socks deals with Ryan’s personal story of being hit by a truck at 13, which left him bedridden for nearly year and facing multiple surgeries. This eventually led to him learning how to play guitar and the rest, as they say, is history. He sings of a friend who suffers from Huntington’s disease on Kay and it is a fine tribute to the fortitude displayed by human beings in the eye of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Whiskey with My Friends is a nod to times past with old friends and has a pleasing Irish feel to the melody. Silver Dagger is a traditional folk song that ends with a death pact and East Virginia Billy is an old time fiddle tune that hints of Appalachian influence in the playing. Catherine is written in memory of his great grandmother who emigrated from Northern Ireland to New York in the 19th century, the life that she experienced and the price she paid. The Haze is a fine tune that deals with getting clear and following your own inner direction and voice, while the title track tells of loss and the hope for a better tomorrow. 

This is modern folk music played with a confidence that bodes well for the future.

Dickie Lee Erwin 'Shadetree' - High Plains

Erwin is Austin Texas based and has been performing and releasing music for the last 33 years. This is his eighth release since starting on his spiritual journey and the songs are well produced by Rob Halverson, who also contributes a variety of parts on various instruments. There is one cover, Gentle on my Mind, which is given a slow tempo banjo and guitar strum. The rest of the songs are created by Dickie Lee Erwin and he delivers them in a laid-back style which brings to mind the easy groove of lazy afternoons spent on the back-porch.

Go Ahead and Rain is a fine song that features excellent mandolin playing from Chris Mietus and the steel guitar of Gary Newcomb. Johnny Said is a song that reflects on the breaks that life brings and the need to ‘walk that line.’   

Abra Moore appears on a number of tracks adding sweet harmony vocals and it is good to know that she is still active on the music circuit. Grindstone and River of Dreams are songs that sail along on gentle arrangements and melodies with some superb ensemble playing from the studio musicians. The final track, Seven Angels, boasts a Johnny Cash-influenced vocal that shows a gospel influence. This is a strong set of songs delivered with confidence.

Reverend Freakchild  'Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues' - Self Release

This interesting artist plays a country blues style of music that is very engaging and bears many hidden treasures. Starting out with All I Got Is Now, a real stand-out song, the Reverend sings of a life philosophy that acknowledges ‘today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday’ and concludes that ‘All I got is now’; simple and sage advice and a code to live by.

The music has an appeal in the melodic arrangements and the fine playing of the musicians. Angel of Mercy is an instrumental played with a restrained groove and great harmonica parts. Other instrumental tracks, Lullaby and Soul Transforming Realisation are equally strong and carry great presence. She Wants My Name is a great slice of swamp blues as is the final track I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down while Tears of Fire is more of a rock groove.

Apparently the Reverend is studying Tibetan Buddhism and this influences his work. He plays resonator guitar and the simple backbeat laid down by Chris Parke and Tugboat Eustis gives the tracks a solid foundation over which the other players can add their parts.  Hugh Pool, who co-produces with award winning Sal Paradise, plays harmonica and lap steel and John Ragusa plays flute. 

3hattrio 'Dark Desert Night' - Okehdokee

The 3hattrio play in a traditional folk style that is defined as American Desert Music. The aim is to create a new music which responds to the natural world of their sacred homeland near Zion National Park in Utah.  They also strive to acknowledge the cultural traditions of generations of people who have worked and lived on the deserts of the American southwest. The subject matter of the songs is rooted in their natural habitat, drawing from the changing light over the distance or the way sound plays off the surrounding cliffs. The music is simple and sublime.

The song arrangements are beautifully understated and played with both reverence and subtlety by Eli Wrankle on violin, Hal Cannon on guitars, banjos, vocals and Greg Istock on acoustic bass, foot percussion and vocals. The interplay between the three musicians is stripped back and produces an acoustic minimalist treat.

Get Back Home tells the tale of a drowning tragedy while Nothing deals with the birth of the land in the great creation. Carry Me Away is a story of deceit, murder and revenge taken from a traditional arrangement. Get on the Bus is a slow blues with some fine violin parts while Sand Storm boasts some jazz-tinged bass playing of the highest order.

The banjo and violin parts on Tammy’s Sister and the soulful vocal of Greg Istock weave a haunting atmosphere and Off the Map follows in a similar vein with a dark study of a desert cowboy who allows jealousy to direct his actions and a future of guilt ridden emotions.

Hal Cannon sings in a weathered vocal style that adds character to songs like White Pressing Down, a song of seasonal reflection while Left Texas is reminiscent of the story telling style of Eric Taylor. An instrumental, Crippled Up Blues closes the record and brings to a conclusion a project that is beautifully delivered. 


Reviews by Paul McGee

My Quiet Companion 'Self-Titled' - MQC

This Swedish trio is Patrick Rydman on guitars, mandolin and vocals, Sofia Ekberg on guitar and vocals and Henrik Cederblom guitar, percussion and vocals. They formed in 2012 and perform original songs in a folk, roots, Americana style.  With their range of acoustic instruments and harmony singing there is an attractive groove to the arrangements. A number of the songs here appeared on an EP released by Sofia Ekberg and previously reviewed by this site.  

The sound is both intimate and light with fine interplay between the musicians. All the Small Details refers to Alzheimer’s disease and is written with a sensitivity that also informs the song Let It Slip Away, a reflection on single parenthood and the need to protect a questioning and vulnerable child.

Today I Woke Up and Circle of Stones are more up-tempo numbers and the closing Goodnight Sally is a quiet lullaby to soothe the uncertainties of life.

October Gold 'Self-Titled EP' - Self Release

This duo is based in Montreal and creates beautiful soundscapes which have been described as "painting your imagination with song."

Singer-songwriter/guitarist Kit Soden is joined by violinist/ pianist, Aliza Thibodeau and the mixture of folk and classical sensibilities merge to create a very pleasant listening experience.

This self-produced EP follows on from two previous full releases, Into the Silence and Bridge of the Sun, and the 5 tracks are performed with the assistance of Evan Stewart on Bass, Thomas Fortner on cello, Erin Schwabe-Fry on french horn, Will Bennet on percussion and Ben Ewing on shakers and tambourine.

The playing is gentle and understated with a mid-tempo pace that does not challenge the listener but rather sets a mood of quiet contemplation. The lyrics are based on poems by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) and Archibald Lampman (1861-1899). This works unexpectedly well with the words complimenting the fluid arrangements with a pastoral air of erudite musings on love’s great mystery. 

Bellstop 'Karma' - Self Release

Where to start with the music that reaches out from the fascinating and rich creative heritage of Iceland? The country has given the industry such musically diverse acts as Björk and The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, múm and Of Monsters and Men among many others. It is a dynamic hotbed of talent for a small population of some 300,000 people.

Bellstop are a folk orientated duo with Runar Sigurbjornsson on Guitar/vocals and Elin Ólafsdóttir on vocals. They are the creative source and have written all 12 songs featured here. They are joined by band members, Andri ólafsson on bass, Eysteinn Eysteinsson on drums/percussion and Halldór Bjornsson piano, organ and programming in addition to producer duties.

The tracks are a real mixture of styles, from the opening, Trouble, with its tribal chant and groove and tight harmonies to the acoustic strum of Moving On. The vocals of Elin Ólafsdóttir are particularly strong and a standout feature, sounding confident and full of rich texture; a cross between Bjork with her intensity and Natalie Marchant on the softer side. The song arrangements are melodic and tight with some nice guitar playing throughout.

Ravens has an interesting dynamic and Red is a brooding track that has human fragility at its core. Friends in High Places and Daylight follow a love theme.  The band describes their sound as folk 'n' roll and I cannot disagree with this - interesting and different.    


Reviews by Stephen Rapid

Don Henley 'Cass County' - Capitol 

The Eagles were never one of my favorite bands. I'd listen to both the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers  but my musical tastes were for something harder at that time. Now some 15 years after his last solo album, Don Henley has reverted to his country roots. While the Eagles edged listeners away from the traditional country sound in their heyday, here Henley revisits that sound. 

The album is named after where Henley grew up in East Texas. Cass Country is full of songs that echo the lives of people who grew up in the 50s and beyond. Henley co-produced the album with former Heartbreaker's drummer Stan Lynch and the duo selected players who bring these songs alive. Milo Deering's pedal steel guitar is both evocative and prominent, the guitarists are such as JT Corenflos and Steuart Smith who can both rock and twang as the song requires. Add to that the rock solid rhythm section of Glenn Worf and Greg Morrow and you have a mighty foundation to build on. Other instruments include mandolin, piano, organ, fiddle and Dobro, but it is the singers who give the album it's depth. 

The opening track (Tift Merritt's Bramble Rose) features Henley sharing verses with Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger. The latter adds harmonica and makes one wonder when the Stones frontman might venture into similar territory, having touched on it both on previous solo albums and with the Stones. The next track, one of many songs co-written by Henley and Lynch, is called The Cost Of Living , something the songs tells us that everybody pays. It features a distinguished vocal from Merle Haggard who brings his usual majesty to the recording. Another highlight is Henley’s duet with Dolly Parton on the Louvin Brothers' When I Stop Dreaming. The other duet is with Martina McBride on That Old Flame. Throughout Henley is in fine voice and indeed, his voice has gained both grain and gravitas throughout the years.There are numerous others joining in on the vocal contributions including Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams and Trisha Yearwood all on harmony. It sounds like one of those recording sessions where a lot of fun was had and a lot of respect felt. 

The range of themes are largely about relationships and regret for mistakes made, a viewpoint that most often comes with the wisdom of age and of lessons learnt. But there are stories of a single woman who waits tables while waiting for something better to come along (Waiting Tables) and the need of a farmer who knows a variety of things are prayed for but that his need is just for some rain in Praying for Rain.

That sense of hard fought understanding of where the truth lies can be found in the touching ballad Younger Man where the subject reflects that the person who seeks his attention should be looking for a younger man, not him. Henley delivers a very believable vocal that sums up the sentiment of the song with ease. On the final song Where I Am Now (there is a deluxe version with four extra tracks) he reflects with energy and attitude that he is at home and happy in his own skin.  The whole album is testament to that understanding and comes down to someone making music for its own sake, having little else to prove other than the music itself.   

Chris Stapleton 'Traveller' - Mercury 

This is the first solo release from the former SteelDrivers and Jompson Brothers singer who has been making a living in Nashville since 2001. He is cited alongside Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell in making inroads into the upper echelons of the Country charts without compromising his ideals or attitude. Stapleton, Simpson and Isbell all have producer Dave Cobb in common and Cobb seems to get the best out of these performers in a studio environment. Stapleton co-produced the album using a tight band that included his wife Morgane on vocals alongside bassist J.T. Cure and drummer Derek Mixon. Additonal players include Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Robby Turner on steel and Mike Webb on keyboards. Though Stapleton is signed to Mercury Nashville he has gone against the grain by using his own band with hand-picked guests and it wasthe most organic way to get the feel right. 

The central instrument is Stapleton's own powerful voice which is equal parts southern rock, blues, soul and country. His voice is as arresting on the guitar and vocal delivery of Whiskey And You as it is on the soul infused full band reading of the Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove song Tennessee Whiskey or Might As Well Get Stoned. You might see a theme developing here, but if so it is one expanded further with songs like The Devil Named Music, a song that highlights the way the need to make music can keep families apart. The subject of constant movement is also echoed in the title track. Of a deeper personal note is Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore, a song inspired by his late father's later life when he didn't say grace before a meal. 

Overall many of these song take a mid to slow tempo that allows the songs a breathing space not dictated by simply making them uptempo workouts. More of You is a song that acknowledges the place his wife has in his life and music. Another cover is a song that was previously recorded by Charlie Daniels Was It 26. The final track, Sometimes I Cry, was recorded live in front of an invited audience; it is a slow blues meditation on finding no other means to express a depth of emotion; it features an impassioned vocal and some deft blues guitar. 

Stapleton's songwriting talents are to be reckoned with. He has already proved that his songs can find a place in the mainstream having had cuts by such major label artists as Thomas Rhett, Jason Eady, Little Big Town, Luke Byron, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney. Indeed the majority of the songs here are co-writes. Stapleton is also an accomplished guitarist, a skill he honed with the more rock orientated Jompson Brothers, who apparently fit somewhere between Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. It is easily to see how easily Stapleton's voice would fit into any of these genres (and more). 

With a running time of over an hour there is a lot to take in on Traveller, but the skill of all involved makes it an easy task. Those more interested in the mainstream or the traditional and retro side of things might not take to it as others will. Stapleton is being seen as part of a resurgence of a more believable and creative section of Nashville's musical output and it's easy to see why, but it remains to be seen just how much success he will have in the long term. However, one has the feeling that Stapleton will be around for quite a while yet as both a performer and songwriter.   

Joe King Carrasco 'Chiliandro' - Anaconda  

Perhaps best know this side of the Atlantic for his association with the Stiff Records single Buena,  but there is much more to the Austin based musician than that. A quick visit to his website will give you an idea of the number of albums he has released. He is an active working musician who leads his band in their delivery of energetic and effervescent Mexicana rock. This album sound s like a party and is relentlessly ‘up’ as witnessed by the wah-wah guitar-underpinned Tequila Revolution. But the point of entry is one of the best rave-ups here. My Ding Dong Daddy (Don't Daddy No Mo). Sung in English and Spanish it is full of songs built around catchy hooks and riffing guitars and percussive embellishments. 

The king is joined by his band Los Side FX who included Leanne Atherton, Rick Del Castillo, guitarist Albert Besteiro, bassist Chuggy Hernandez and Vince Mejia on drums among a bunch of special guests who help keep things interesting. They bring these songs to life in a way that we don't often get to hear over here. At it's heart is a understanding of the way that the culture of rock 'n' roll fitted the Latin sense of making a groove. 

Songs like Who Put The P In Pendejo and the slide guitar blues of Adios Terlingua or the full on power guitar jam of Oakaka are all songs that can't fail to set the foot tapping and make you appreciate the skill of all those involved here. Joe King Carrasco rules his kingdom with a trusty Telecaster, a nifty tune and an amiable attitude. Those who have enjoyed the recent From Dusk To Dawn film and TV series should find themselves right at home here. Carrasco has also made appearances with our own BP Fallon and is one of the featured guitarists on his Live From Texas CD.   

The Delta Jacks 'Trouble Ahead' - Self Release 

Another name to add to the list of credible roots bands in the UK. This quartet are from the same are of South Essex that spawned Dr. Feelgood, Kursaal Flyers and Eddie and the Hot Rods. In their DNA they have roots of these bands especially the latter two. The Rods for the energy and attitude and the Kursaals for the roots influence. Though a great many of the their influences would be more recent. They mention both the Legendary ShackShakers and Silm Cessna's Auto Club as bands whose fans may also like this crew. I don't find the quite the same Southern fervor that exist in both of those outfits, but I can see the point. 

This, their debut, features 11 original songs which feature lots of banjo upfront and centre over a solid uptempo rhythm section. The band are Dominic Bauers, Greg Beager, Trevor Reeves and Ryan Bradshaw. The latter takes the lead vocal duties and plays the harmonica. It is that in some ways which links them to the sound of JD Wilkes and the ShackShakers (as well as Dr Feelgood). But over the drum and bass platform they add touches of mandolin and keyboards into their sound. 

This is, perhaps, best exemplified by the likes of Blackened Heart Blues - a song with a strong vocal presence. The albums closer Go Go Go is a frantic piece of rockin' rhythm and blues that exhorts the listener to rock 'n' roll. There's a touch of Cash style to House of Sin though it is delivered at a pace that relates to Johnny's early kick-out-the-lights middle finger raising that to his latter days. The more sedate Alabama finds them coming up for air and deliver a songs that stands out for that and for Bradshaw's solid vocal. The song Trouble Ahead features more of the banjo and harmonica sound after their nicely balanced group vocals at the start.  

The Delta jacks are an enjoyable and uplifting romp through the roots swamp and make tribute to the music that inspires them without simply imitating those inspirations. They are never going to be tagged as ground breaking originals but rather are infused with a spirit that is engaging and energizing. If there's trouble ahead then it's time to step on the gas.   

Patrick Sweany 'Daytime Turned To Nighttime' – NMR 

Following a couple of albums produced by his friend Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys Sweany has this time decided to work with another guitarist/producer - this time out it's Joe Mahan and a tight group of players including Ron Eoff on bass, Bryan Owings on drums and Tyson Rogers on keyboards. On he cover there's a slightly menacing monochrome picture of Sweany but a happier looking man features on the inner sleeve. The music itself is not dissimilar. Drawing from wide range of musical influences that are essentially akin to some classic soul, roots rock and blues, it has also been described as soulful Southern Rock 70's style. However when you listen to the music it soon forms its own identity. 

There are moments of acoustic slide guitar over the solid rhythm section as in Tiger Pride. A song where he gets some vocal support from Laura Mayo and Alexis Saski. Things get a little more philosophical on Here To Stay (Rock n Roll) in which he reason though his time isn't going to be long that the ubiquitous music will be. More affecting in some ways are songs like Afraid Of You and Sweethearts Together both albums highlightsThe latter a slow and subtle song with keyboards and guitar giving context to a captivating vocal. Somewhat rougher and readier is the more uptempo song Back Home which definitely shows his bluesier rocking' side - though the majority of the songs take a more temperate tempo. All which shows that Sweany is comfortable mixing things up a little but never allows his music get too polished or smooth. This is music with stubble. Music steeped in the blues underdogs, the soul survivors and roots pioneers that finds focus in Sweany's heartfelt delivery and songwriting.  

Patrick Sweany is a noteworthy exponent of authenticity and attitude. Both have to be right and they are here on Daytime Turned To Nighttime.   

Patty Loveless 'Honky Tonk Angel -The MCA Years' - Humphead 

This is another of Humphead’s handy career overviews which takes in Patty Loveless' years at MCA from the mid eighties to the early nineties. Although traditionally minded, these tracks show that her label and producers were keeping abreast of changes and trends in the country charts. Apparent throughout is just how good a singer and interpreter Loveless is. A glance at the writers’ credits reveals that songwriters - no matter how good or successful they might be at a particular time - fall out of favour. Names like Karen Staley, Karen Brooks, Harry Stinson and, especially, Kostas who has nine writing credits here. He is no longer a writer who feature much in Nashville songwriting credits - more's the pity. Of Loveless' own contributions  the still off-kilter sounding Sounds of Loneliness is an interesting highlight alongside the somewhat venomous God Will

Working with producers Tony Brown and husband Emory Gordy Jr (both alumni of Emmylou Harris's Hot Band) she released a series of albums with MCA before moving to greater commercial success at Epic. Never-the-less these 50 songs here are well worth revisiting for (if nothing else) Loveless' pure, twangy, mountain soul voice and obvious love of what she does. These albums also featured some excellent players including guitarists Richard Bennett, Ray Flacke, Albert Lee and Stuart Smith. Whilst others involved in the various sessions included Jerry Douglas, Mark O'Connor, John Jarvis and Paul Franklin. Numerous of her contemporary singers joining her in the studio were such luminaries as Dolly Parton, Russell Smith, Claire Lynch and Vince Gill. Loveless has appeared on Gill's breakthrough 1990 hit When I Call Your Name

With 50 songs to choose from you will have your own favorites, the ones that stand out for this writer include If My Heart Had Windows, the title track from her 1988 album - a pedal steel infused weeper. The more rockin' version of Steve Earle's A Little Bit In Love shows that Loveless was up to and could tackle a whole variety of moods. Her lively and swinging take on the Hank Williams song I Can't Get You Off My Mind is a further example of this. Add to that Blue Side Of Town and the aforementioned Kostas' Timber I'm Falling are all testament to a singer who had a level of success but who should be held in far greater esteem that she is now. This when a time when a song could have the drive and a rock sensibility while still sound steadfastly like it should belong in the country genre.  

A must have compilation for those who might have these albums on cassette or have missed them the first time out. A slightly more prepossessing cover would have helped though.






Reviews by Paul McGee

Krista Detor 'Barely' -Tightrope

Krista Detor is one of the great unheralded American songwriters of the last decade. If we look for a sense of grace in the world and a considered, reflective view of the human condition then there is much to recommend a secretive liaison with her wonderful, literary recordings.

Produced by David Weber and wrapped in understated song arrangements and melodies, Barely is a very brave record in its stripped bare beauty and gentle warmth. Hers is a voice that breathes a seductive, melancholic tone; worldly wise and always open to the possibility of enduring hope. Her ability to capture the appropriate mood is impressive and the insight and vulnerable nature of these songs quite haunting.

Can I Come Over tells of a repentant lover who wants to make up with her partner having broken a bond of trust. Box of Clouds speaks of a former lover who is left behind in the rush of living. Castle in Wales is a lovely memo to a partner to go back and relive a special memory. Barely is a knowing look at a broken relationship but yet a belief that love may endure. From the Pedestal is a song about regret and hurt caused to another while trying to look forward to the future and forget past memories.

For All I Know is a beautiful keepsake in time from a parent to a child and the hope of infinite possibility held in the future of a young life. Too Fast is a superb reflection of lives in motion and the decisions that shape us. The Coming Winter, a duet with Mary Dillon, boasts a beautiful duet that takes sides between two lovers in a fight to have their man return from the war to one or the other. 

Recorded with mainly piano and guitars with guest vocals from Amanda Biggs, Moira Smiley and Mary Dillon and cello from Anne Hurley; this is a quiet, reflective, poignant, personal and honest release. This one is a real keeper and highly recommended.

Joel Plaskett 'The Park Avenue Sobriety Test' - Self Release

Born in Nova Scotia, Joel Plaskett has been making quite a successful career in his native Canada and further afield for the last 15 years now, producing a succession of always interesting releases to mark his musical journey and maturity as a songwriter of note.

His sound is very much in the contemporary singer songwriter arena if we must pick a signpost, but his reach is more than just this with an eclectic array of genres, from blues and folk to rock and country.

This new release is his sixth solo outing, when not playing as part of the more rock orientated Joel Plaskett Emergency. The songs here cover a range of subjects from a nostalgic look at growing up (On a Dime) to a random thoughts scattergun (Song for Jersey) and on to more serious topics such as corporate control (Captains of Industry) and a plea to his nation (For Your Consideration).

The production is shared by Joel and Ian McGettigan and the musicians are drawn from a wide range of players that have worked with Plaskett over the years. Broke sings of not giving up and having fortitude and resolve to endure no matter what the obstacle – ‘I’m broke, but I’m not broken’.

Alright/OK and Credits Roll are relationship songs that discuss the relative health of staying together too long or exiting too early – ‘Don’t you hang around til the credits roll’.

When I Close My Eyes is a fine song of passion and yearning for that special someone and the title track (P.A.S.T.) is a fun romp through our daily lives and the randomness of it all.

The one cover version, Hard Times, (Stephen Foster) is a barometer in many ways for the rest of the project as it pauses among the pleasure of these songs to reflect upon the tears and sorrow of the disenfranchised. It is a terrific version of a timeless classic and shows the mark of the man. This is a really enjoyable listen and recommended to fans, new and old alike.

Kip Moore 'Wild Ones' - MCA

This second release by MCA artist Kip Moore has plenty of label weight behind it. Clocking in at almost 50 minutes however, it strikes me as nothing more than an overproduced, arena-oriented, hit factory approach to being a modern ‘real’ country boy. Is this the future direction of Nashville country music and should we be afraid?

Opening track Wild Ones has a production that includes programmed beats and a slow groove, topped off by chants and hand claps – it could be stadium rock – it could be chart pop – it could be a number of things, but it is not easily slotted into any definition of the traditional country genre. Sure, the vocal is authentic southern boy, influenced by many other artists and the gloss of Come and Get It has airwave hit written all over it; but that is not the point; am I listening to Bon Jovi lite or a Garth Brooks wannabe?

Commercial sound (Magic), upbeat tempos (Girl of the Summer), heart on sleeve lyrics (That was Us), pseudo-anthem chant (Lipstick), Radio Friendly (What Ya Got on Tonight), slow and sensitive (Running for You), on it goes...

The one song that feels truly authentic is final track Comeback Kid which shows what this song writer could achieve if he were to get back to the source of it all, honest songs delivered in a style that strips away all the fluff, programming and junk. 

Melanie Dekker 'Live in Europe' - Self Release

This Canadian artist began recording solo in the late 1990’s and has built a solid career over the years. Live in Europe clocks in at around 50 minutes and the 13 tracks were recorded at 4 concerts in Germany and Holland. Dekker is joined by a group of 4 players on guitars, bass and keyboards as she delivers folk oriented songs that visit a wide range of topics from matters of the heart (Blush, Boomerang) the price of commitment (The Price You Pay, Meant to Be), loss of innocence (Distant Star, At the Junkyard), communication breakdown (Flowers, Stare at the Rain) and philosophical musings (Maybe We’re the Angels).

David Sinclair plays guitars with some aplomb and his reputation as a member of Sarah McLachlan’s band gives him due respect and gravitas. The overall playing is both sensitive and subtle in service of these quiet vignettes of life, but the lack of any audience presence takes away from the fact that it is essentially a live recording. Muted applause and a few clipped song intros, do not add to the feel of the project. However, Melanie sings with a beautifully clear voice and the songs are worth repeated plays.

Jack Tempchin 'Learning To Dance' - Blue Elan Records

A Californian singer-songwriter, Tempchin is best known for his contributions to the Eagles songbook and has also written for a number of other bands and artists including Tom Rush, George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Glen Campbell. Learning to Dance is produced, recorded and mixed by Joel Piper, who does a fine job, and adds the majority of instruments and background vocals.

There is an easy tempo to these 12 songs, as if you were to mix a James Taylor vibe with a sleepy Tim McGraw. Tempchin sings with an effortless, sweet delivery and the production keeps things at a medium pace throughout.

The End of the Affair has a smooth jazz groove and the title track is tailor-made for country artists to cover. The songs are mainly about love and relationship matters, with the slow strum of Ain’t Nobody like You the perfect example. You Can Go Home is a song that visits the past and what gets left behind; it is one of the stronger songs with the reflection that ‘you can go home, but you can’t go back’. 

Finally Found Me is a quiet acoustic strum that speaks of finding an inner peace and Room to Run closes the set with a message to let your children develop their character and identity with only a gentle guiding hand.

This is a fine collection of songs that will appeal to a broad cross section of music listeners.





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