Audrey Auld 'Tonk' - Reckless

" I have lived my whole life to get to this point" Audrey Auld states in the accompanying press release and Tonk is,  indeed,  a career highpoint. In some ways it places her right back to the territory of her first release Fallen. This is the most directly country-orientated release she has done in some time, in what has been a varied and interesting career that has seen her play folk, roots, singer/songwriter with hints of blues and more - Americana in general. All of it has been believable and honest. It comes from a Tasmanian and Auld has listened, loved and learned this music both from the outside looking in and the inside looking out.

She has always managed to mix the hard facts of life with underlying humour and hope. The songs move from the considered pain of Crying the Blues (written by Willie P Bennett) to a funkier upbeat dissertation on her current home town Nashville. There are two songs bearing that city's name: The first is upbeat and the second a fiddle-led lament for the fate of a singer trying to find fame and fortune in Music City. Rack Off is a riposte to those who may not understand her or generally manage to displease or annoy the fiery feminist. There is a another version of this song available as a download and one side of a 7" single where Rack is replace with another four letter word beginning with F. You have been warned. You mess with this lady at your peril.

Her home in East Nashville has meant that she had been able to call on the city's finest to play with her on this album and given their strengths and talent she has delivered perhaps her finest vocal performance to date. But when you stand in front of Kenny Vaughan, George Bradfute (the album's co-producers) and such players as Fabulous Superlatives Harry Stinson and Paul Martin to steel players Chris Scruggs and Gary Carter along with Andy Leftwich, you bring your game face.

The album title is endorsed by songs like Drinking Problem, Lonely Town, Broken Hearted Woman and Sweet Alcohol. The latter the album's second cover song,  written by Terry McArthur. This is balanced by the humour of Your Wife and Bury Me at Walmart. It sees the  lady wishing to be interred in a certain spot in the store so that the object of her desire can see her everyday. Auld is adept at getting these emotions into a song in a direct way that leaves no doubt to what the song is all about.

This is an all round great album. It is rooted in traditional country music but is never backward looking. The playing and the singing are focused and sharp. The songwriting is well thought out. However it is, above all, great fun. A great listen. It certainly honks my tonk. 

Kenny Vaughan 'V' Sugar Hill

For his debut solo album Mr Vaughan takes on a journey across the country music map and he makes no stop at Muisc Row. Drawing from a range of musical styles this album, as you would expect from a Tele-master has great playing at it's heart. Using, essentially, his band mates from the Superlatives including Marty Stuart this is not unlike the albums that have come from that fine outfit. Along the way Kenny Vaughan has absorbed a lot of musical influences which inform his country playing. Everything from country pickers Luther Perkins, Don Rich and Roy Nichols to touches of blues, jazz and rock. Whatever the source the songs are a joy to hear, they sound vibrant and full of the verve you get from players who are making the music for the right reasons. Hot Like That is cut from the same cloth as BR5-49 and features Chris Scruggs on steel, while the other steel-like sounds were provided by Marty Stuart using Clarence White's B-Bender guitar. The opening Country Music Got A Hold On Me is a statement of authenticity and absolution. A companion piece to Mike Henderson's Country Music Made Me Do It from some years back. There are crafted instrumentals like Minuit Sur La Place. Another side to Mr. Vaughan's talent is shown in his writing as he has penned all the songs here, including two co-written with Stuart. Production is handled in a clear, concise and captivating way by Brendan Bell, Carmella Ramsey and Vaughan himself. While not know as a vocalist Vaughan holds is own on these songs and when joined by The Oak Ridge Boys on Okolona, Tennessee is a distinctive vocal presence on the songs. The late night feel of Mysterium with his twanging guitar over the jazz keyboards of Charles Treadway sounds like theme for a undiscovered film noir narrative. The closing track, the high-spirited gospel Don't Leave Home Without Jesus affirms the spirited support of his superlative band mates and V confirms Kenny Vaughan not only as a renowned player but also as writer and singer who can only develop these skills alongside his guitar mastery. One can hope that V will soon be followed by V1. Country music, in all it's forms will survive as long as people like Marty Stuart and Kenny Vaughan love and breathe life into the music that still inspires them, as their music does this listener.