Sunday, October 14, 2018

MARTHA L HEALY - Keep The Flame Alight

This month sees the long anticipated new album from Glasgow based singer-songwriter MARTHA L HEALY. It’s been four years since she released her highly acclaimed debut album, “Better Days”. Martha took a life sabbatical two years ago, moving to Nashville for several months, to work on “Keep The Flame Alight” (Frog Eye Records), and the end result is released this month, with a launch party on Saturday afternoon, October 6th at The Glad Café in Shawlands, as part of the Glasgow Americana Festival.
The album kicks off with “No Place Like A Home”, a song she started writing before heading for Nashville. It demonstrates that, despite recording the album in the States, Martha’s roots are from this side of the Atlantic. It’s a strong song which really shows that Martha’s magical vocals. A perfect start.
The title track tells of keeping the balance of chasing creative goals, and personal wellbeing.
“Woman With No Shame” is a light and breezy insight into the life of a high flying female executive, who has it all, yet has nothing.
In a similar vein, “Living Someone Else’s Dream” is a bit more uptempo than the other tracks, but covering a lot of common ground- doing what others want, and not doing your own thing.
“Fall In Love Again” is a strong song, about not letting an old love go.
“We Will Be Okey” is a pleasant song offering hope and promise, whilst “Sisters To Strangers” is a ballad, which shares the pain of family break ups.
There is a celtic feel to several of the tracks. “Unmade Bed” is a good example of this. I love the accordion sound on this one. “Mickey” is another. A slower story ballad telling of an Irish lad, who left the home farm in search of fame in London. It’s a really strong song, and a bit different to anything else on the album.
The album covers a range of personal emotions, some ups and some downs. She counters with the closing track, “Don’t Give Up”, offering inspiration and hope. 
Nine of the album's ten tracks were self-penned and the one co-write is with friend and Nashville artist, Wendy Newcomer, who also brings the background vocals. David Spicher produced, with  a host of Nashville session players, including Bill Cooley, who is well known for his work with Kathy Mattea (guitars/bazouki), Todd Lombardo (guitars/mandolin), Rory Hoffman (accordion, piano), Eamon McLoughlin (Fiddle), Dave Racine (Drums) and Chas Williams (Dobro).
Bringing her Nashville experience home, Martha set up a Glasgow chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, who meet regularly, to collaborate on songs together.
Martha has brought her own Nashville experience home with this new album.
A superb album, from a real shining light on the Scottish music scene.
Highly recommended.


BRANDON McPHEE has really made his mark in recent years. Firstly as a champion accordion player, and also as a fine Country singer. He has brought both styles together on his latest album, “All I Want To Do” (Pan Records).
There’s one original song on the album. “She Wrote It In A Country Song”, which was written by Crawford Bell. It’s probably my favourite track on the album.
The album kicks off with Brandon’s version of “Bubbles In My Beer”, a cover of the Willlie Nelson version. There are a few other covers from “the masters”, including Johnny Cash’s “Give My Love To Rose” and Marty Robbins’ “You Gave Me A Mountain”. There’s also his take on “We Should Be Together”, previously recorded by Crystal Gayle and Don Williams.
Brandon is a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and has included “Someday, Somewhere, Somehow”, alongside “Achy Breaky Heart”.
He also covers Debby Boone’s “Are You On The Road To Loving Me Again”, acknowledging that he found the song on a Gerry Ford LP he found in a charity shop. Gerry’s playing Brandon’s music on his radio show out in Australia, so this is payback. He does a good job on the song.
There’s more Down Under connections, with two songs which he found courtesy of Australian duo The Sunny Cowgirls, The first, “Take These Wings” is quite a beautiful, inspirational number, the other being a Sunny’s original, “Little Bit Rusty”. He even gets one of them, Celeste, to join him on harmonies on the track.
There is Scottish music on the album too, with a couple of dance tunes, a version of “The Dark Island” and his version of The Alexander Brothers’ “Jimmy Shand The Legend”. Brandon is touring with “The Jimmy Shand Story” this month.
Recorded in Wick, the album features local musicians, Manson Grant, Robert Cameron, Alastair MacDonald, Gordie Gunn, Addie Harper and Keith Macleod, with Ireland’s Crawford Bell, The Benn Sisters and Richard Nelson, alongside Nashville based Orcadian Philip Anderson.
Another winner from young Brandon!

KATEE KROSS - Body & Soul

KATEE KROSS is a young lady from Bishopbriggs, who has been making plenty of noise on the Scottish music scene in the past couple of years. She performed twice at last month’s Millport Festival, to add to her list of appearances, which include supporting Seasick Steve at Wembley and the Kelvingrove Bandstand, and working with Barbara Dickson and Sandy Thom, to name a few.
Her third album, “Body & Soul” will be released on Saturday, October 13th at Nice’n’Sleazy in Glasgow.
The album does a great job at showcasing this young lady’s writing and singing talent. Several of the songs have appeared as singles, including the gentle opening track, “Bluebird”, which really is a beautiful introduction to the album. The instrumentation on this track is very simple, and lets Katee’s voice to show it’s full potential. The same applies to “Heart Of Wood”, another stunning song. Other ballads include “Troubled Mind” and “Worried Mind”. 
Of the upbeat songs, another single, “Count To Ten” really stands out. It shows that Katee isn’t just a ballad singer. “Working On The Dream” and “Shadow Falls” are also upbeat numbers, the former having quite a honey bop feel to it.
Although Katee’s music will appeal to Country fans, I think she’s demonstrates a lot of crossover potential. That said, “Old Soul” has particular Country appeal. It has quite a soft Country sway to it, which really stands out for me. And, “After The Show” takes us to another era. With a hint of harmonica, and backing vocals, she conjures up memories of Patsy Cline, without sounding anything like her.
Katee is certainly making an impression with her music, and that can only be enhanced with the release of this new album. Another homegrown talent we should all be getting behind!

THE TUMBLING SOULS - Between The Truth And The Drea

Country music from the Western Isles next, and, yes, it’s a bit different to anything you’ve heard on the mainland.
THE TUMBLING SOULS describe themselves as “Brand new music that sounds old, from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. A super group of local musicians playing cajun, country and folk infused songs”. That sounds pretty accurate to me, if a listen to their new album, “Between The Truth And The Dream” (Wee Studio Records) is anything to go by.
The band is led by Willie Campbell, with Stephen Drummond, Iain Spanish Mackay, David Calum Macmillan, Paul Martin, Keith Morrison, Louisa Maclean Barron and Jane Hepburn Macmillan.
Together they have created a sound, which has a real celtic feel to it, whilst embracing everything from Country and Folk, through to Cajun, bluegrass and even a bit of 60’s pop.
The latter is especially evident on “Heart To My Soul”, with superb harmonies.
The opening track, “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” recreates the sound of Scottish folk – country bands like The Clydesiders, and is a perfect introduction to the CD. 
“City Of Adelaide” is the catchiest folk song on the album, telling the story of a great grandfather sailing with Scottish emigrants down under. It’s a great wee tune. 
“Wishing My Time” has a superb bluegrass style harmony intro, leading into a superb Country foot tapper.
“Dance A Little Better” is a catchy little number, which reminded me a bit of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It has a nice Cajun feel to it. “Rain And Clay” and the closing “Years Go By” are also good catchy upbeat numbers.
 Stand out Country track for me has to be “Torn In Different Ways”, a mid tempo number, which I really enjoyed.
They slow down the tempo on a couple of numbers, including “King Of The Moon” and “My Foundation”, not to mention “Stornoway at 2am”, which is a really strong song.
Recorded in Berneray, with all songs written by Willie, this is a really interesting, and refreshing album. One you should really check out.

LONGSTAY - Calling Me Home

Perth has a long tradition of bands playing original Country Rock music, and LONGSTAY are the latest to join the list. Malcolm Swan and Callum Campbell front the band, with George Staniforth, Cameron McCafferty and Drew Spark-Whitworth. Originally formed as a trio in 2014, they quickly became regulars on the local music scene, and have grown to a 5 piece full country sound with the addition of drums, bass and piano. Despite having this 4 year pedigree on the live circuit, the average age of the band is still only 17!
Now comes their debut album, “Calling Me Home” (Goldrush Records), recorded in their hometown at Clearwater studios, produced by Gavin JD Munro (frontman from The Red Pine Timber Company).
Their musical influences range from Creedence Clearwater Revival through Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, right up to current day artists such as Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. This heady mix is apparent in their own songs which form the core of their debut album.
All but three of the songs were written by Callum Campbell. The exceptions are John Fogerty’s “Lodi” and Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away”, alongside Gavin Munro’s “A Ring Of Fire”.
The album kicks off with “Mariah”, an upbeat, guitar driven number, which is a good opener. Most of the album is quite upbeat. Stand out tracks include “My Turn”, which has quite a rocky beat, but the harmonies really shine through.  The closing track, “Leaving” is also really upbeat, with the addition of trombone and trumpet, courtesy of Chris Small. A bit of Red Pine influence coming through here.
“Too Long” and “Summerton” are a bit more mellow, although not what I’d call ballads.
One song, which is very much a ballad, is “Remember”, from which the title track comes from. It’s piano led, and again features some impressive harmonies. It has quite a celtic feel to it too. A bit different from any of the other tracks, but works well for them.
“Thoughts I Cant Find” is also a pleasant ballad, this time, guitar led.
“Forever”, has an impressive harmony led intro, before developing into quite a radio friendly pop-py number.
It is certainly more Country-Rock than mainstream Nashville, but for a team of Perth teenagers, this is one really strong debut album. We’re certainly going to hear more of them. That’s for sure!

RAYMIE WILSON - Missed Trains, Absent Lovers & Broken Whiskey Bottles

RAYMIE WILSON is something of a Glasgow musical institution. He’s been playing in the city bars since before he was age to get into such places, played on cruise ships, in a Hendrix tribute band, and with The Legendary Ladies of Rock’n’Roll in Singapore. He later found musician roles touring with Joseph And His Technicolour Dreamcoat”, and “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”.
All the time, Raymie was jotting down ideas for songs, and thankfully decided to record his original material on several CD’s & EP’s over the past few years.
His latest collection, “Missed Trains, Absent Lovers & Broken Whiskey Bottles” has just been released. The first few tracks, including on the title track, and “Ward 53”, offer quite a raw guitar sound.
There are two very different tracks with the same title. “Chicago Saint (Pt 1)”, is quite bluesy, whilst Part 2, with a bit of banjo flavouring, sounds a bit more Country.
By contrast, “Boy On A Bridge” is quite a story song, with almost a gospel feel to it.
The banjo is prominent again on “Fallen Trees”, a real bluegrassy number, which Raymie’s gravelly vocals really fit quite nicely.
I also enjoyed “The Preacher And The Hobo”, which had quite an upbeat Celtic feel, mixed with Native American overtones.
“The Last Number”, which conveniently closes the album, is probably the straightest Country number, a well constructed ballad, with some nice steel guitar presence.
It’s an interesting album from Raymie, who Glasgow based readers can catch at The Snafflebit (Oct 13th), Blackfriars (Oct 21st/Nov 25th, or Mondays at The Beer Cellar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

JILL JACKSON - Are We There Yet?

Long time readers will recall JILL JACKSON from her days with bands called Hogtied and Jacksonville. She then went on to pop stardom with Speedway, who had a handful of pop hits including “Genie In A Bottle”, which was a Top 10 hit.
But, as Jill says in the publicity for her new album recalls, “Being signed to a major label is an amazing experience when you are 22. But with a major comes the moulding into something you never intended to be. I was touring arenas when all I wanted was to play at The Bluebird in Nashville”.
She has been involved with several projects over the years, including forming a band called “The Chaplins”, inspired by Charlie Chaplin.
Her new album, her 5th, is “Are We There Yet?” , which not only takes us on a personal journey throughout her life, but also encompasses all the various influences she’s picked up over the years.
The title track is inspired by the packing the car for the annual summer holiday trip from Paisley to Blackpool, with one Buddy Holly tape for entertainment. We’ve all been there, and Jill really captures the mood well. I love the simple solo mandolin intro.
The album kicks off with “1954”, the story of her grandparents, who met that year, and closes with “Goodbye”, a song she started when her gran was sick, and finished after she passed. That’s how personal this album is for Jill.
Every track is different. The most Country tracks include “Worries”, which is so catchy, whilst
“Hope And Gasoline” is a moody number, which takes her back to being 17 years old, leaving school, and wanting to meet the world. This is probably the strongest song on the album.
She does have a few softer ballads, like “Sweet Lullaby”, which features folk singer Kathleen MacInnes. It’s a really sweet number, and their voices blend beautifully.
“Dynamite” is a modern upbeat number, which recalls the effect crippling anxiety had on her.
From her Chaplin influence from an earlier project, Jill has a 1930’s jazzy style on a few of the songs, and, I have to say, they’re really irresistibly catchy. They include “My Baby”, “Needles And Thread”, which she refers to as her “Lindy Hop”, and “Finally” which has quite a swing to feel to it.  This style really suits Jill’s vocals.
Jill has really matured as a singer and songwriter over the years. She displays incredible versatility in the material here, some of it recalling quite traumatic times in her life.  Her voice is so pure, it just melts in your ears, and the production, led by the highly acclaimed Boo Heweredine, is just so perfect.
It’s a wonderful album. I cannot recommend it highly enough! 

THE DADDY NAGGINS - Live At Celtic Connections 2018

Next up, we have a new CD from Glasgow based bluegrass band, THE DADDY NAGGINS. The band originally formed back in 2010, and have had several line up changes along the way.
Currently the five piece outfit features original members Darren Young (guitar), Garry McFadden (banjo), Laura Beth Salter (mandolin), Hazel Mairs (double bass) and Aileen Reid (Fiddle).  They all share lead and harmony vocals.
Their new 10 track was recorded “Live at Celtic Connections 2018”, in two sessions. The first five tracks were performed at The Danny Stage (broadcast live on Celtic Music Radio) at the Royal Concert Hall, and the rest in a live session at Celtic Music Radio’s studios for the “Celtic Country” programme.
The instrumentation is superb throughout, and the harmonies, as I say, are fantastic.
Their song choice is also quite wide. If you think bluegrass music not you’re cup of tea (or moonshine!), then here’s a band who will change your mind.
Yes, they can play mean bluegrass classics like “Roll On Buddy”, and instrumentals like “Flint Hill Special” and “Salt Spring”, but can also breathe new life into The Eagles’ “How Long”, Johnny & June’s “Jackson” and even Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. The also do a cover of the Merle Haggard/Tommy Collins song “Poor Broke Mixed Up Mess Of A Heart”.
The CD opens with Hazel leading the vocals on “Old New Straitsville Moonshine Run”, a good upbeat number, followed by Darren’s bikers song “1952 Vincent Black Lightening”. One track I especially liked was Michael Martin Murphy’s “Carolina In The Pines”.
But I loved every note on this album. A superb album, which shows that you don’t have to travel to East Tennessee or Kentucky to hear first class bluegrass music.


Another home-grown album comes from Glasgow based singer songwriter MICHAEL McMILLAN . Michael is not new to music, having started off playing bagpipes and drums, before discovering The Beatles and The Stones. But it was the American acts like The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen that really influenced him.
He has had three albums released before he released “Cross Country” earlier this year. The album, largely influenced by a coast to coast American road trip, featuring 14 self penned tracks, produced at The Foundry Lab by Graeme Duffin (Wet Wet Wet/Ashton Lane).
The projects kicks off with “Alive Again”, which has been a popular Hotdisc Top 10 single. It’s a good radio friendly commercial number, and it’s easy to hear why radio have picked up on it.
The other track which has stirred some reaction is “Scars And Stripes”, another upbeat number, which tells of the “unseen” homeless population across America. It’s a really well constructed song, with a strong message, which hopefully might just hit a nerve or two.
Michael has made a play on words and phrases, not only on “Scars And Stripes”, but also on the likes of “Forgotten But Not Gone” and “Three’s A Cloud”.
There are quite a few ballads, including “Death By Broken Heart”, “My Best Friend” and “Turn Up The Silence”. “My Son” is one of the slower numbers which really stood out for me.
Amongst the other tracks that really worked for me was the catchy “Miracles” and “The Man”.
I really enjoyed this album. A good set of songs, well written and produced.
A homegrown talent you should certainly check out.

Monday, April 02, 2018

DEAN OWENS - Southern Wind

We’ll kick off the CD reviews this time around, with our own home grown talents.
DEAN OWENS is one of Scotland’s most established Country/Americana singer songwriters. He was part of the iconic group, The Felsons, before breaking out in his own career. Although his focus has primarily been on his own material, he has paid his dues having released albums inspired by both Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
His latest album, “Southern Wind” (At The Helm Records) was recorded in Nashville, featuring fellow Americana singer songwriter Will Kimbrough, amongst others, in the line up.
The title track is a trademark Owens ballad, with some impressive harmonies from The Worry Sisters and Kira Small. “Louisville Lip”, is Dean’s song for his sporting hero Muhammed Ali. It’s a very delicate song, and a wonderful tribute.
I quite liked “When The Whisky’s Not Enough”, a simple ballad that worked really well, as does “Anything Helps”, and “Famous Last Words”.
But there are a number of upbeat numbers too. The catchy “The Last Song”, which, quite inappropriately opens the album, is just one of a number of co-writes with Kimbrough, and is inspired by Ronnie Lane and The Waterboys. Dean calls it his “pub rock song for the end of the night!”
Another upbeat number is “No Way Around It”, which has quite a soulful feel to it. Again Kira Small’s big voice adds to the harmonies. Then there’s almost a reggae feel to “Mother”.
Stand out track for me has to be “Elvis Was My Brother”, inspired by a friend, who felt more in tune with an old Elvis tape than the rest of his family.
Dean covers a lot of ground on this album, but every track is very much his own. He is labelled “celtic spirit, Country soul”.  It’s a sound that serves him well.

DAVID LEASK - Six in 6/8

The same tagline could also be applied to DAVID LEASK. David was born right here in Scotland, but has made Toronto home for many years now. Through five previous albums, he has encompassed the influences of his homeland with the fresh possibilities of his adopted home. He continues that unique blend of folk,Country, roots rock, celtic and soul on his new CD, “Six in 6/8”.
The CD opens with a mid tempo number, “Indescribable Love”, about the struggle to define love. He does a good job of that here.
He extends the celtic/folk feel on “Red Balloon”, the focus track from the release. It features some lovely flute and whistles, courtesy of Loretto Reid, as well as accordion from Doug Romanov, and dobro from Rob Ikes.
“Caught In The Tide” is more of a Country soul number, with a really catchy chorus line.
“When You Think No One Loves You” is a strong emotional ballad, supported by Jonathan Goldsmith’s well placed piano. That’s followed by “Cant Make It Back Home”, a powerful song which tells of the effects of PTSD on service men and women.
“Between Him & Me”, which closes the CD, is a song which was a long time in the making. Written with his wife, over a 12 year period, the song deals with religious intolerance in world events. A song well delivered.
The CD is quite an album of numbers- just 6 tracks, recorded in 11 different studios, with 10 engineers, with a cast of 19 musicians. Three of the songs are currently semi finalists in the International Songwriting competition.
David is another great talent Scotland has lost to the world outside. At least we can appreciate his music on this CD.

RAGING TWILIGHT - Raging Twilight

Another home grown group is RAGING TWILIGHT, consisting of Jack Law, Dougie Harrison, JC Danti, Duncan Sloan and Colin Robertson. Law’s musical pedigree stretches back to the folk/rock outfit Greenmantle in the 1970’s.
Recorded in Glasgow, the 12 track album, an all self penned by Law collection, is one of these albums that you just cannot label.
There are tracks which are pop/rock influenced, whilst others lean more to the blues. But there’s also quite a few points of interest to Country music fans.
The addition of mandolin and harmonica add to the catchy “Old Glass Jar”, which has quite a folk/country feel.
“Hope Sails The River” and “The Slip”, both slower numbers, have a real Country influence within them, as does “You Cant Get To Heaven”, after the strange sounding intro.
It’s an interesting sound. You probably wont see Raging Twilight in your local Country music club, but they may be worth catching at other venues around Glasgow.

JAMES'n'WOOD - Volume 2

More homegrown Country music, this time from Country club and festival favourites JAMES N WOOD. They have a wealth of musical experience between them, going back many years, and since they combined their talents, they have really become a major part of the Scottish, and UK Country circuit.
Their CD is simply titled “Volume 2”, the follow up to Volume 1, and already Volume 3 is in the works.
This album is a collection of 13 songs, which should appeal to Country fans, whether they are listeners or dancers.
The songs range from classics like The Eagles’ “Take It Easy”, and Willie’s “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and John Denver’s “Somedays Are Diamonds”, to more semi recent hits like “Neon Moon”, “Vertical Expression” and “More Of You”.
There are also a few lesser known numbers, like “Champagne Promises”, a song previously done by David Nail, or “Lonely Drum”, from a Canadian singer called Aaron Goodvin. They even cover the Derek Ryan/Eleanor McEvoy song “Old & Grey”.
I have to say that their version of “Fox On The Run” was particularly appealing, with some neat fiddle standing out. And the closing instrumental of “Ghostriders” is superb.
A good selection of material, all well produced from one of the local scene’s favourite duo’s.

LIZ CLARKE - The Vanishing Breed

Regular readers will be aware of a show coming off at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry this month, featuring LIZ CLARKE & Stetsons‘n’Heels. Liz, who also performs under the name of ELIZABETH MACFARLANE, has been a busy part of the Scottish social club circuit for some years, but thanks to exposure on Keep It Country’s Janey Kirk TV show, and her recordings appearing on Soundcloud, people started to take notice of her, most notably in Nashville where T.Jae Christian spotted her potential.
That led to a couple of duets, which appear on her CD, “The Vanishing Breed”.
The title track is one of the duets. It’s a stone Country ballad, which puts the mark on the album. The other duet is “This Feeling So Strong”, which is another ballad, this time sounding a little bit more soulful. There’s also a great version of “Blue Skies Over Georgia”, written by Nashville producer Mark Moseley.
The other tracks are covers ranging from Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”, and Mary Chapin’s “Down at The Twist & Shout” to Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and Tammy’s “Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”.
It’s a good mix of material, and a perfect sampler of Liz’s music. Make sure you catch her at The Opry on the 8th April.


THE RED PINE TIMBER COMPANY are an interesting 8 piece outfit, who hail from Perthshire. The line up is led by Gavin JD Munro and Katie Whittaker on vocals, with instrumental support from Michael McNab, David MacFarlane, Chris Small, Neil J Ewen, Thom Bubb and Ivan Sveda.
They grew up around The Southern Fried Festival, but have spread their wings across the Country since then, appearing from c2c in London, to Skye.
Their second album, “Sorry For The Good Times” was released at the end of January on Goldrush Records.
This is the big band’s follow up to their 2014 debut, “Different Lonesone”, and they’ve come up with a full sound. They have created a sound that stands out, thanks mainly to the impressive horn section- not something that would automatically give them a Country feel, but it works for them here. It really gives them a really original sound.
The opening number is perfect example of this. “If You Want Me To” starts off with some rocky sounding guitars, then the horns, before Gavin’s vocals bring in a good upbeat song that is really catchy.
“Look At The Moonlight” is another upbeat number led by Gavin, “Get It Right With You” is a bit more of a fun number, which the horn section takes the lead.
Slower numbers, including “Hollow Tree”, “After You”, “Dry Your Eyes” and “Bar Stool” really showcase the harmonies between Gavin and Katie. “For The Angels”, is an upbeat number, which show great harmonies too.
Katie also excels at the softer ballads, some with the help of steel guitar guest Stuart Nisbett. Good examples of this would be on the haunting “Tracks In The Snow” and “Put Down The Bottle”
But the stand out track is the fast driving “Cutting You Loose”, which is led vocally by Katie. It’s really catchy, and reminded me of something like Emmylou’s “Luxury Liner”. Indeed, Gavin & Katie do have a certain Gram & Emmylou influence.
The vocal duties are shared throughout the album, which was recorded in Perth, and all the songs are band originals.
It’s a big production number, without leaving the homeplace.
It’s well written, well sung, well produced. A superb album. Made right here in Scotland.


We’ve a couple of homegrown releases this time. The first comes from Glasgow based JAMES EDWYN & THE BORROWED BAND. “High Fences” (Dead Records Collective) is the follow up to the highly acclaimed “The Tower” album, released in 2014.
As well as Edwyn, the Borrowed Band features Emma Joyce, Scott Keenan, Ronnie Gilmour, Ross McLaughlin and Neil McDonald. Together, they have created a sound, which blends rock and folk influences with a Country edge.
The opening track, and lead single, is “Passing San Ysidro”, the most upbeat track on the album.
That’s followed by “Try Not To Think Of Now”, and “Get Back Up”, which both have quite a commercial, soft rock sound, which is likely to get some good radio airplay.
“Starlet” has quite a likeable Country rock feel to it, whilst “Never in A While” is a simple ballad, featuring just James and his guitar. “Pushing Statues” is another of the stand out tracks. It’s a bit more mid tempo, and works really well.
All 10 tracks are originals, written by James and the band, and recorded in Lanarkshire, with the help of The National Lottery and Creative Scotland.


Glasgow born and raised LISA McHUGH continues to one of the most popular of the young artists on the Irish scene, and it’s great to see her spread that popularity back into her homeland, selling out new venues for her, on her recent Scottish tour.
Her latest CD, “Who I Am” continues the formula which has gained Lisa such popularity. It features up beat fun numbers which appeal to the Irish dancing fans, as well as slower ballads for the sit and listen-ers, and some Classic Country, just for good measure.
It all kicks off with the upbeat “Country Girl”, which was written by Lisa and Daniel Martin, and is her latest single. Other upbeat numbers include her last single, “Girl With A Fishing Rod”.
The title track is a song I’ve always loved. It’s also the theme to the TV series “Sue Thomas F.B.Eye”, which started a rerun on the Drama TV channel the same week as Lisa’s album came out. OK, It’s Jessica Andrews doing the TV theme, but still a rather timely coincidence. Lisa gives it a polished, powerful, performance.
There are a few interesting modern covers, including C2C headliners’ Kasey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow”, a catchy number which Lisa does really well, The Shires’ “Daddy’s Little Girl”, and Lori McKenna’s “Happy People”.
But I have to say the two songs which were written by recent Glasgow visitor Brandy Clark, really stand out. “Out Of Heaven” and “Hold My Hand” are both quite heavy ballads, and Lisa delivers!
I also really liked “Dream Of Me”. With quite a down home arrangement, it’s a song which really suits Lisa’s voice.
And for Classic Country, there’s no Dolly this time around, but she does a crackin’ version of Merle’s “Mama Tried”.
It’s another winner from Lisa !

ASHTON LANE - Nashville Heart

ASHTON LANE are a Glasgow based husband and wife duo of Esther and Tim O’Connor, who have had a great year. They appeared at Country On The Clyde, and The Millport Country Music Festival, stepping up to fill the headlining role when Mark Chesnutt was left stormbound in Texas.
Then a few weeks back their single “Breathe You In” was released and went straight to No.1 in ITunes UK Country chart. The single is a hauntingly beautiful mid tempo number, which is certainly on par with much of the music coming out of Nashville.
There is also a brand new festive single from the couple. “Winter Star” is a haunting ballad which is, perhaps, a shade more pop/contemporary, but a nice listen none the less. I’m sure you’ll hear it on the radio in the next few weeks.
They are very much in the Lady Antebellum style, which really seems to appeal these days.
Not that Ashton Lane are new on the scene. They already have 5 albums to their credit, and have over 1.6 million views to their “Kitchen Sessions” online.
A different version of “Breathe You In” is featured on their most recent album, “Nashville Heart”, which we haven’t reviewed here, so will correct right now.
“Nashville Heart” was recorded not in Music City, but in Motherwell, at The Foundry Music Lab. But the studio can capture the heart and soul of the musician wherever that is. In Ashton Lane’s case, the Tennessee capitol certainly got to their hearts, and it shows here.
The title track starts as a slow a smouldering ballad, which shows some nice harmonies.
“Seventeen”, which opens the album, alongside “One In A Million” and “One Night In California”  stand out for their more Country arrangements, helped by Seoniad Aitken on fiddle.
“Legacy” also has quite a down home feel to it, whilst “Coastline” has quite a haunting , folksy feel to it.
“The Light That You Are”, “Moonlight Drifter” and “When We Were Young” are softer ballads, which appealed to me.
They certainly have a Lady A influence running through the album. But within that Ashton Lane have created their own sound, and it’s all original home grown Country music.

BRIAN HUGHES - Angel Room Baby

BRIAN HUGHES is one of the most respected singer songwriters on the Scottish scene. “Angel Room Baby” is his 5th album to date, featuring no less than 12 self penned original songs.
He has captured a good mix of upbeat modern Country numbers, as well as some gentle ballads, which may just be a surprise for Brian’s fans.
The album kicks off with “This Time”, a upbeat modern Country number, which he wrote alongside “Nineteen”, the song he wrote for Raintown, and is followed by “Hillbilly Heaven”, a tongue in cheek dig at the “BroCountry” scene. Other upbeat numbers include the Cajun flavoured “Revival Tent”, “Real Bad Good To Go”, and “A Hundred Thousand Kisses”, a song for Amy.
As I say, there’s a few softer ballads too.
“Coming Home”, also known as “Already Gone”, was inspired by the tragic death of Ben Ford, the youngest British soldier, at the time, to be killed in Afghanistan.
“A Fool I Know” is a gentle ballad which I really liked.
The sound of a steel guitar can make a record for me, and that’s certainly the case on “The Hardest Time”. It’s a beautiful, traditional sounding Country song, with the added bonus of Davie Holland on steel.
The album closes with a gentle ballad, “Another Place” which is another highlight of the album.
With the exception of Davie Holland, and piano players Alan Scobie and Alan Ryden, the whole project is Brian’s. He recorded it at home, with all his own material, yet he has captured a sound that is certainly full studio quality.
One to be proud it.

ROBYN TAYLOR - The Way I Wanna Be

Another homegrown talent is ROBYN TAYLOR, who hails from Cambuslang. Robyn has been performing for the past thirty years, on the cabaret scene here, and in Spain. Her first recording was back in 2005, but fans have encouraged her to sing more Country songs, so another couple of albums followed, leading to competing in the 2013 Euro Country Masters (the Country version of the Eurovision Song Contest).
Her latest album “The Way I Wanna Be” is described by Robyn as her “life in song – The high’s, the lows, and everything in between”. The album was recorded in Glasgow with Greg Friel at the helm.
There’s certainly quite a variety on the album.
It all kicks off with a rather pop sounding “The Last Real Gentleman”, which was written by Robyn. Indeed, all but one of the 11 songs were written by Robyn, mostly with producer Greg Friel.  The exception is a cover of The Judds’ “Turn It Loose”, which she gives a good raunchy performance on.
The title track has quite an upbeat, Raintown type, sound to it. There’s also an alternative “disco mix” (showing my age there!) of the song to close off the CD.
There are some other upbeat numbers, notably “Stop My Heart”, which has quite a jolly feel to it, and really stood out for me. There’s also an acoustic version as a bonus track on the CD. “Better Days” also has quite a bright and breezy feel to it.
But I do have to say that I liked the ballads, especially “In The Arms Of Love”, which was a finalist in the UK Songwriters Contest last year. It is a lovely ballad, which would easily crossover between Country and mainsteam pop. Others ballads include “Memories In The Sky” “You Can’t Love A Memory”, and “Leave Me Behind”, which is the most simple arrangement on the album. It’s a nice slow ballad which works really well.
Most singers that have worked the cabaret and club scene are content singing covers, so it’s really good to hear Robyn developing her own songwriting, and having the belief to put her own songs out there.  I’d describe her style as modern crossover Country, and the new breed of Country fans who go out of their way to support the current crop of American acts, would do well to check out talents like Robyn, much closer to home!

PAULA McASKILL - Kind Of Country

Fort William’s PAULA MacASKILL is one of the country’s busiest performers. Just looking at her venues list for October alone, she was out 23 nights, mainly in residences locally, but also travelling to Elgin, Dundee and Fife.
Her latest album, “Kind Of Country” features 16 tracks of Country covers, which are actually reissues of music from Paula’s previous albums, which are no longer available.
The titles range from Haggard’s “Back In Love By Monday” to Isla Grant’s “A Dream Come True”,  and from Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All” to Pam Tillis “Mi Vida Loca”, and Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes”.
She does a lovely take on “Here, There And Everywhere”, a Lennon/ McCartney song, covered by Emmylou Harris, and also takes on the Connie Smith “Once A Day”.
Paula stretches the boundaries a bit with The Mama & Pappa’s “It’s Getting Better” and The Seekers’ “I’ll Never Find Another You”.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, with a set of songs that will never date. They sound as good today as when Paula originally recorded them.

RUBY RENDALL - Once upon a Time

Back around the 80’s and 90’s, Orcadian RUBY RENDALL was the Sweetheart of the Scottish Country music scene, touring all over the country, appearing on The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and even presenting two weekly Country music programmes for the BBC.
Since those days, Ruby has been busy encouraging new talent with her own music school in Aberdeenshire.
But now she’s back with a long awaited new album, “Once Upon A Time” (Roadside Records), which finds Ruby sounding as good as ever. The album is produced by her son Robbie, and is as much his project, as he plays guitars, bass and drums throughout the album. Original band members from way back, Gordie Gunn and Phil Anderson are back in the fold, Gordie playing fiddle & mandolin, and Phil using his Nashville (where he’s now based) contacts to get Steve Hinson to add his steel guitar into the mix.
There are four brand new songs, including the title track and the opening number, “Mr High And Mighty”, co-written by Ruby and Robbie. They have also paired up together on “Waiting For The Love I Have Lost”, a beautiful ballad which just has a slight folksy feel to it. It’s certainly one of the stand out tracks on the album.
Another “new” song, is one that has been hidden away for a while. It’s a co-write with old Orkney pal Elaine Grieve on “Sunday Morning”. It’s a catchy “leaving” song, that works really well.
There are four of Ruby’s previously recorded tracks, including her signature “Ruby Red Wine”, which is hauntingly unplugged here, and “Time Goes By”, a song I’ve always loved since it was on her “Captured” album back in 1991. The version here is slightly faster.
One upbeat track which really stands out is “Bright City Lights”, which has quite an Irish Country influence.
To complete the album, Ruby has picked four covers, from Sara Evans, Kellie Pickler, Rosanne Cash and Patty Loveless, so you can get a feel for just who her influences are.
With the young Robbie’s influence, there is a slightly rocky style on a couple of tracks, especially “Never Like This Before”, “Red High Heels” and “Rosie Strikes Back”.  But it’s a style that Ruby’s vocals suit.
It’s great to have Ruby back with this new release, which is available from Grooves Records in Kirkwall, or via Chalmers Mackay Music School. Email for details on payment methods. It's also available thru iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MILLS OGILVIE - Yesterday And Today

Coming home, and Tayside’s Joe Ogilvie & Alex Mills are best known on the local Country club scene as duo, Tin Star. But Joe & Alex have been around for many years, and have written a good number of songs between them. Now they’ve put them down on CD for the first time under the name MILLS OGILVIE.
“Yesterday And Today” is a collection of self penned songs, some of which are many years in the process. Some were, perhaps, not written as Country songs at the time, but they all come together in a modern Country sound in 2017.
Recorded in Dundee, the CD features 12 tracks.
Some of the tracks have quite a pop/rock beat, notably “Someone You Don’t Know” and “Lady Of The North”. Others like “Woman’s Eyes” have a big ballad feel to them.
Other tracks are quite melodic, like “Crazy” and “Losing You”, whilst “Good Old Honky Tonk” is just what’s on the label – a good old honky tonk song. I also liked the beat of “How Lucky”, one that’ll keep the feet tappin’ and dancers on the floor.
One of the tracks, “Good Ol’ Memories” was written by fellow Dundonian Les Barr. It’s a stone Country number, as you would expect.
These songs have been kept under wraps for too long. It’s time for them to be heard. The CD is available at Tin Star’s gigs across the country or through Joe on 07924 490194.

LAURA McGHEE : Life Is Bigger Than A Dream

LAURA McGHEE is back home in Angus, after spending seven years writing and recording in Nashville, and touring with the likes of John Carter Cash, John McEuan (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and The Nashville Celts. She first headed Stateside after graduating from the RSMAD, and her first gig in America was on the same bill as legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.
But, for now, she’s home, and she’s brought with her a superb album, “Life Is Bigger Than A Dream”, the follow up to her highly acclaimed “Celticana” album, which made the Top 40 on the Americana Charts. 
The album brings together the three sides of Laura. Firstly, as a songwriter. She’s worked with people in Music City, like Doug Kahan, Jon & Sally Tiven, Sarah Peasall, Rebecca Moreland, Janie Lidey and Patrick Martin (from The Nashville Celts), and has come up with a good set of songs.
Secondly, Laura’s vocals are well tuned to the songs.
And, finally, as a musician. Laura’s first love was the fiddle, and it’s very prominent throughout the album, especially on the introductions.
The songs range from the impressive title track, one of four she wrote with Doug Kahan  (who has written hits for Trick Pony and Deanna Carter), to the softer “Always Tomorrow”.
“How Leaving Feels”, starts off slow, and builds up to a foot tapping down home catchy little number, with touches of blues and bluegrass along the way.
Her celtic influence emerges on “You Make The Moonshine”, which has a soft haunting feel to it, with references to the celtic sky, and making the moon shine.
“Shoulda Come Over” is a really catchy number, especially the fiddle licks. It’s all about a guy jilting the girl, and what he’s missing, whilst “It’s Still You and Me” tells of a strong team that survives all life throws at it.
“I Got My Mojo Back” is more of an upbeat number. It’s a bit different to the other tracks, with a bit more instrumentation, including harmonica from Charlie McCoy.
But as I say, Laura’s earliest foray into music was with the fiddle at the age of 8, and it’s very much in evidence on the album. As well as the co written songs, there’s two instrumentals. The first is a toe tappin’ traditional American tune, “Salt Creek”, which she does a great job on, and the other, a slow lament, “Commemoration”, which she dedicates to the victims of 9/11.
The album was produced in Nashville by Mike Loudermilk (son of the legend John D Loudermilk), who has worked with Crystal Gayle and Chet Atkins.
It has a celtic feel, without being too folky. I really enjoyed it.
This album has been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait.
“Life Is Bigger Than A Dream” is available from online outlets now, and Laura will officially be launching it at the Monifieth Theatre on October 7th.

MONRO - Coming Home

It was great to read in the last mag, that Jayne Murdoch and Richard Smith, who many readers will remember from the band Hullabaloo, had formed a new duo MONRO, and great to hear their five track EP, “Coming Home” (Smart Indie). 
Jayne leads the vocals on all the tracks, which are all quite varied.
The CD kicks off with “Sweet Sorrow”, a catchy number, with more than a hint of bluegrass.
“Let It Go” is another catchy upbeat number, as is “Bubbalee”.
“Walking With Angels” is quite an anthem ballad, and “The Vow” is a beautiful ballad, looking back on how life changes.
Five very different songs, all well produced and performed wonderfully. Jayne has a great voice, and this CD really helps deliver that.
Great to hear Jayne and Richard back. Check them out.


 Heading up our homegrown releases is a wonderful recreation of old American folk songs from REDWOOD MOUNTAIN, a duo that features Dean Owens and fiddler Amy Geddes.
The self titled CD has been built around Alan Lomax’ “The Book Of American Folk Songs”. A friend, Neil May, gave Dean a first edition copy of the book, who became intrigued by the lyrics and characters, and began devoting new arrangements too them.
Dean’s old Nashville pal Suzy Bogguss did a similar project a few years ago, and whilst Suzy choose some of the best known old American Folk Songs, Dean and Amy have gone for much lesser known songs. Throughout the album, Amy’s fiddle and harmonies beautifully contrast Dean’s vocals.
Many of the songs are performed in an old timey, ballad style. Certain songs, like “On The Range Of The Buffalo” had me thinking that Dean’s interpretations were similar to what you’d expect Marty Stuart to come up with.
“Run Boys Run”, is the one track which really shows Amy’s harmonies off, and also the Double Bass, played by Kevin McGuire, the only other musician on the project.
“Fair Thee Well Honey”, has an old English (Greensleeves) feel to it.
The first minute of “East Virginia” needed no instrumentation, before Amy’s fiddle just squeezes in for effect. It’s a beautiful arrangement, and really stands out.
There are a couple of numbers with a bit more upbeat, modern arrangements, like “Railroad Man” and “Rye Whiskey”.
There’s also a couple of fiddle instrumentals, one composed by Dean, the other by Amy.
As was with Dean’s previous Johnny Cash and Hank Williams albums, the project concludes with a Dean Owens’ original. “Take It Easy, But Take It”, is a modern song, but still fits in with the rest of the album. Dean has certainly got himself immersed in this music, and the result is this beautiful album.
He’ll be touring with the project in the summer, including The Southern Fried Festival in July, In the meantime, get the album from his website

ISLA GRANT - I'm A Survivor

ISLA GRANT is one of Scotland’s biggest musical exports. She’s continues to be one of the most popular names on the Irish concert circuit. She’s off on a tour of Newfoundland this month, and in the autumn has a 2 ½ month tour of Australia and New Zealand lined up.
Although Isla is well recognised as a songwriter, having written such well covered songs as “Cottage In The Country” and “It’s a Dream Come True”, her latest 16 track album, “I’m A Survivor” only has three self penned numbers.  This gives us an insight into Isla’s own musical tastes, and quite varied they are.
She kicks off the album with Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”, covers Willie Nelson’s “Alice In Hullaland” and “Nothing I Can Do About It Now” (written by Beth Neilson Chapman), Marty Robbins’ “Fly Butterfly Fly”, and a couple of Lacy J Dalton songs, including the title track, “I’m A Survivor”.
She even has one for the line dancers, with a cover of Rick Springfield’s “Speak To The Stars”.
But one that really sounds close to one of her own composition’s is “The Bridle On The Wall”, written way back in 1936 by Carson Robertson. Boy, has Isla put her own stamp on it. One of the album’s highlights, for sure.
Talking of her own songs, “Love Me” and “A Love That Used To Be” are both nice melodies with lovely lyrics. “Back Home”, is a real Isla style homecoming song. Isla’s done so much travelling over the years, but still calls Scotland home. It’s a really heartfelt homely number.
Elsewhere, I really loved her treatment of “Leavin’ And Sayin’ Goodbye”, originally a hit for Grand Ole Opry legend Jeannie Seeley. A special mention for “They Called It Music”, a catchy number originally done by bluegrass band, The Gibson Brothers. Isla really sparkles on this number.
The album closes with the sensitive “In The Time That You Gave Me”, which is a song, so associated with Joey Feek.
Another lovely heartwarming collection of songs from the wonderful Isla.

NORMAN BORLAND - Moved By The Spirit

Although Irish born, NORMAN BORLAND has been around the Scottish Country music scene for many years now. He has built up a following for playing good solid Country music, and that is what you can expect on his new album, “Moved By The Spirit”.
The album, recorded in Yorkshire, features 16 tracks, all well produced and well performed by Norman.
Whilst an album of covers, Norman has chosen a good mix, with probably “Amanda” being the most recognisable number here. There’s a couple of Vince Gill numbers, some Merle and Cash, a bit of Tracy Lawrence and Clint Black too.
The title track is embedded within “Amen Kind Of Love”, a song previously done by Daryl Singletary, whilst the opening track, “Dreaming with My Eyes Wide Open” was a Clay Walker hit. I liked his version of “Brother Jukebox” and his version of Cash’s “Home Of The Blues” really stands out,
I also enjoyed his version of Paul Overstreet’s “Seeing My Father In Me”, and was impressed with his Sam Outlaw cover of “Love Her For A While”. 
I was also pleased to hear Norman’s version of Shunie Crampsey’s “Morning Sun And Memories”. The song has been around for many years, but seems to have become very popular lately. Norman’s version is one of the strongest I’ve heard.
Real Country, a good mix and well produced.  A real winning formula.
Available from

BILLY HAMMOND - Morning Sun and Memories

BILLY HAMMOND is a local singer in the Alloa area who has played his music in local clubs for many years, with Country music very much featured in his sets.  His latest album, “Morning Sun and Memories” features 14 tracks, which I’d say is very much aimed at the Irish style market.
The title track, of course was written by Shunie Crampsey, and Billy does a nice version of it.
There are a wide mix of Country covers like Billy Ray’s “She’s Not Crying Anymore”, Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Hal Ketchum’s “Tonight We Might Just Fall In Love Again”, alongside The Eagles’s “Girl From Yesterday” and The Searchers’ “Walk In The Room”.
But Billy sounds most at home with the Irish influenced numbers like “Absent Friends”, which kicks off the album and, Pete St John’s “Dreamers & Believers” (most recently recorded by Derek Ryan).
Recorded in his hometown at the Bowmar Soundspace, Billy has come up with a really nice listenable album.  He has a good voice, which suits these songs.


Glasgow singer songwriter RAYMIE WILSON describes himself as “a 50-something singer songwriter”, and his music “an Americana melting pot of Bluegrass, Southern Rock and Pop Country”.
He’s a multi-instrumentalist, who has been around the music business for 40 years, doing everything from being a resident musician at the Glasgow Pavilion, to backing The Supremes and The Shirelles in Singapore. He has been bit writing songs for years, before putting them down in a recording studio. He has previously released an album and an EP, and now comes “Rocky River”, which I think would appeal to a lot of Country clubbers around Scotland.
The 11 track all original album kicks off with the really catchy “I Never Gave Up On You”, which really catches your attention. The title track is also quite commercial. 
“Big Jock’s Gone” brings it all back home, with mentions of working in the shipyards, proving that you can produce Scottish Country music. Then, there’s “Whiskeybones”, with some neat banjo, and, yes, the bones get an airing too.
Most of the tracks are quite upbeat, but he can slow it down too. “Sorrow Is A Friend” is different from the rest of the album. It almost has a church sound to it. And it works well with the song. Other slower numbers include “Aint It Funny” and the Latin flavoured “She Was a Beautiful Girl”.
It’s not a big production album, but the energy in Raymie’s presentation really made a strong impression on me. I think the Country clubs will like his sound.
Raymie hosts an Open Mic night at the Beer Café, in Candleriggs in Glasgow’s Merchant City every Monday. Be sure to check him out.

NORRIE McCULLOCH - Bare Along The Branches

Continuing with our homegrown talent, and to an album by NORRIE McCULLOCH , called “Bare Along The Branches” (Black Dust Records).  This is Norrie’s third album, and he’s slowly building up a following on the Americana scene. In the past year he has played Glasgow Americana, Southern Fried and SummerTyne  Festivals.
This album, recorded in the tranquillity of Stirling’s Tolbooth Auditorium, really features a strong production. Players include Dave McGowan, Iain Thompson, Stuart Kidd, Marco Rea and Iain Sloan. 
And Norrie has a superb vocal style.
The album kicks off with a rather folk-pop flavoured number “Shutter”, which was quite was quite catchy, as is “Never Leave Behind”.
The more sounding Country numbers include the banjo and mandolin infused “Frozen River”, the harmonica intro’d “Around The Bend” and the simple acoustic “me & my guitar” rendition of “Turn To Dust”.
Slower numbers include “Little Boat”, “Lonely Boy”, “This Time” and 7 minute epilogue “Beggars Wood”.
I really enjoyed the album. Nice CD cover too.

Dean Owens - Julie's Moon

DEAN OWENS new single, “Julie’s Moon” (Drumfire Records) was released last month to coincide with Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal.  All proceeds from sales of the single will be donated to the Marie Curie charity.
Dean is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s finest singer songwriters, with fans including Bob Harris, Ricky Ross, Irvine Welsh and Russell Brand.  His songs including “Raining in Glasgow” and “Man From Leith” have been hailed as classics of Scottish songwriting.
In September 2015 Dean’s beloved big sister Julie finally lost her battle with cancer. She was 50. Julie was a huge supporter of her brother and his music, always encouraging him, always at his gigs. Written very shortly after her death, “Julie’s Moon” is one of Dean’s most personal songs, although it was a subject he would have preferred to avoid. But some songs insist on being written, and the final result is lyrically poignant but also characteristically musically memorable.
It’s a beautiful song, with a really nice arrangement. I really like the way that Brian McAlpine’s accordion discreetly makes its’ mark on the song so beautifully.
The single is available from the main download sites.

BRANDON McPHEE -In Country Song

BRANDON McPHEE has many strings to his bow. He’s a champion accordionist, and also presenter of the Caithness Music Television programme each week on Keep It Country TV. He’s also built up quite a following on the Country music circuit, both here and in Ireland, and his new album, “In Country Song” (Pan Records) will surely enhance this side of his career.
The album features Robert, Manson & Keith from The Dynamos, where Brandon has served his Country music apprenticeship, as well as Nashville based Orcadian Phil Anderson, Grand Ole Opry staff fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin, Steel guitarist Steve Hinson and Music city session singer Marcia Ramirez. Bringing all that talent together has produced a wonderful sound, which brings out the best in Brandon.
The choice of material is also impressive. There are some well known covers, like “Harper Valley PTA”, “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”, “Cry Cry Cry” and “Is Anyone Going To San Antone”. But there’s also some impressive, lesser known numbers. Brandon is a big Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and like his previous Country album, he has covered a few Billy Ray numbers, but this time around, he’s chosen some less obvious material.
The title track, is actually the theme to a film that Billy Ray starred in a few years back. It’s a really infectious number that works well here. He also covers “My Everything” and “Bluegrass State Of Mind”, both Billy Ray covers. The album opens with the fun “Milkman’s Eyes”, which was written by Bobby Cyrus (Billy Ray’s brother).
Other tracks include the old Don Williams number, “In The Shelter Of Your Eyes”, Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing At All”, Elvis’ “Burning Love” and even The Woolpackers’ “Hillbilly Rock, Hillbilly Roll”.
There’s a lot of variety on the album, and really enjoyed it throughout. He’s quite a talent.


We told you before about Fife’s HEATHER DICKSON, who recorded her last album in Nashville, then went down to San Antonio to film the video, and got Bobby Flores, no less, to join her on screen.
Well, Heather has been back to Nashville, and recorded a new EP. The first single has been released via the usual digital outlets. It’s a raunchy little number called “Harley Honey”, which really suits Heather. It was recorded at Music City’s Midtown Studios with Nashville musicians.
Well worth checking out ahead of the full release in the new year.

PHIL CUNNINGHAM Christmas Songbook

Now, here’s an album that could really get me into Christmas music. It’s not Country by any means, but really appeals to me. “The Phil Cunningham Christmas Songbook”, features the ace accordion and keyboard wizard, alongside two of Scotland’s most highly acclaimed  Scottish female vocalists, Karen Mathieson and Eddi Reader, as well as John McCusker, Kris Drever, Ian Carr, Kevin McGuire.
It’s a really pleasant easy listening selection of seasonal fayre. Some vocals and some instrumental tracks.
There are interesting versions of “Silent Night”, “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Away In A Manger”.
I loved the originality of “Winter Wonderland” with “The Bluebell Polka”, and “Waltz For Aly”, which blends seamlessly into “Silver Bells”.
The album kicks off with “Santa Will Find You”, written by Mindy Smith and Chely Wright. Mindy also co wrote “I Know The Reason”, two of the tracks that stand out for me.
The album is released in conjunction with the annual tour which kicks off in Stirling on December 16th, then calls at Perth, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Now, this is an album that makes Christmas just that bit special.

JACKIE STORRAR - Behind Her Eyes

Jackie’s legacy CD is an absolutely stunning album.  Her voice sounds wonderful throughout, despite being recorded in the final months of her life. The musical arrangements really suit the style of the songs, and is a real credit to her husband Steve Thiebault and Bones Parker.
When listening to the songs throughout the album, knowing Jackie’s health situation when she was recording it, it’s easy to appreciate how a songs words can be adapted to match the occasion. Take the opening track, for example. “One Night at A Time” has a completely different meaning from Jackie, than it ever was with George Strait. Similarly, “But I Will” was on Faith Hill’s first album, but with lines like “The next time would be the last time, and that time came this morning”, you cant help feel how poignant the song was for Jackie.
The album includes four tracks written by Jackie & Steve, including “The Future’s Ours”, a lovely ballad which was the first song they wrote together.
They also wrote the title track, which Jackie writes on the sleevenotes is about people not being what they seem. Again, with Jackie’s positive outlook during her illness, it fits her legacy so well.
The album does include a few songs that Jackie had released as singles over the years, but had not made it onto an album. Included is “My Angel”, which the pair wrote in 2004 after TV presenter Caron Keating lost her battle with breast cancer. How sad that Jackie would face the same battle.
Jackie’s musical tastes were quite varied, and that is demonstrated on the album, by the inclusion of Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”, and there’s quite a celtic feel to her version of The Killers’ “Human”, and “Wild Mountainside”, written by John Douglas from The Trashcan Sinatras.  She also gives another airing to Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades”, and, in contrast also covers Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”. 
Steve Black wrote “I Stand Gere Tonight”, and she also covers Shania Twain’s “No One Needs To Know” and The Eagles’ “Love Will Keep Us Alive”.
It’s a beautiful album. It’s one that I’d appreciate whatever the situation.
Thanks for the music Jackie. It’s a wonderful legacy for us all to share in. And remember, the main beneficiaries are Maggie’s Fife. 


Another Glasgow girl going places is MARTHA L HEALY.  She’s currently in Nashville working on her second album. But for fans who can wait for the follow up to her acclaimed “Better Days” album, she has released a four track EP, “To Be Free”.
It’s a four track collection, recorded at Glasgow’s La Chunky Studios earlier in the year, featuring two original songs and two classic covers.
What really works for me, is the simple acoustic set up. Martha plays acoustic guitar, alongside Rebecca Brown on fiddle, Sean Thomson on banjo and David O’Neill on Upright Bass. Together, they produce a stunning beautiful sound, which really let you hear Martha’s superb vocals.
The lead track is Martha’s own “To Be Free”, a song which really won me over from first listen. It’s a really strong song, and Martha’s voice really delivers. First Class.
The second song, “Too Much Time” was co-written with her brother Paul, who also provided background vocals on the CD.  The two classic covers are Patsy’s “Walking After Midnight” and Hank’s “I Saw The Light”. The arrangements make interesting listening.
Altogether a very nice EP. I don’t know if it will keep her fans satisfied for now though. It’ll whet the appetite for more. Don’t be too long with that second full CD Martha!

Dean Owens - Setting The Woods On Fire(Songs I Learned From Hank)

DEAN OWENS has been one of Scotland’s main Country singer songwriters for over 20 years, firstly with The Felsons, and later with a number of solo albums.
Although very much a songwriter, Dean did acknowledge one of his hero’s Johnny Cash with an album called “CashBack” in 2012. Now, to coincide with a select few gigs, including Southern Fried and the Edinburgh Fringe, he has honoured Hank Williams on “Setting The Woods On Fire (Songs I Learned From Hank)”.
With a neat trio, comprising Stuart Nisbet and Kevin McGuire, (The Celtabilly Allstars), they have come up with an effective sound, which recaptures the original styles of the songs, whilst at the same time, sounding perfect for today’s audience.
There are some of Hank’s biggest songs in the 12 track collection, including “There’s A Tear In My Beer”, “I Saw The Light”, “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, alongside a few, perhaps, less obvious numbers like “Alone And Forsaken” and “I Wont Be Home No More”.
As he did on the Cash album, Dean has written one song for the album. This time, it’s “Celebrate The Life”, which could quickly become an anthem for Hank.
Hank Williams music is timeless. Over seventy years on from his death, his songs are still some of the most recognised across all musical styles. Dean does justice to those included here.
A Deluxe version of Dean’s previous album, “Into The Sea” has also just been released.

Lisa McHugh ~ #Country

Glasgow born LISA McHUGH continues to be one of the biggest names on the Irish Country scene. And her latest album, “# Country” (Sharpe Music) will further establish her popularity.
She has established herself on the dance circuit in Ireland with a number of upbeat fun numbers, and whilst there are a number of these included here, including covers of Crystal Gayle’s “Why Have You Left The one You Left Me For”, Alan Jackson’s “Lets Get Back To Me And You”, and her latest single “Satisfy You” (the old Sweethearts Of The Rodeo number), this album does show Lisa’s versatility in mixing in some really traditional Country and folk sounds into her sound. Indeed Lisa says that “the music is slightly more subtle and leans more towards a bluegrass country style than the “comin’ at cha’ songs we’ve done previously”.
There’s certainly some signs of that. Her versions of “Play Me The Waltz Of The Angels” and “I Hope You’re The End Of My Story” are both laced with some lovely mandolin, and “Who’s Gonna Be Your Next Love”, has a good bluegrass drivin’ beat. 
The album kicks off with “He’s A Good Ole Boy”, the old Chely Wright number, which Lisa recalls from her younger days growing up on Glasgow’s South Side. And she goes back to Joni Harms for “That’s Faith” to close the album. Joni, of course, wrote Lisa’s early career song “Old Fashioned Girl”.
She turns in some lovely ballads, including “26 Cents”, and “To Say Goodbye”, which serves as a beautiful tribute to Joey Feek. The song, co-written by Rory, was originally recorded by Joey & Rory.
There’s a duet with Malachi Cush on the old Canadian folk song, “Peggy Gordon”, but for me, stand out track is the old Loretta Lynn song, “Success”. Pure Country.  And not one of the most obvious Loretta numbers to choose.
Lisa’s come up with another winning package of songs, than can only further enhance her career. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Our home grown CD this time around comes from Borders based KATHY STEWART
Although a native New Yorker, singer songwriter Kathy has lived over here for over 30 years. In that time she has been seen performing with the likes of John Hinshelwood, The City Sinners and Another Country (I still have a couple of Another Country’s cassettes in the library!), and she has opened for the likes of Tom Russell and George Hamilton IV, and even had a song recorded by Vince Gill. Her first solo release earned her HMV’s Best Country Newcomer title back in 2009.
Her third album, “Almost Home”(Treehouse Records) has just been released. It’s a really lovely listen, although probably leans more towards folk and celtic than Country music.
Recorded in Penicuik, with Dave Gray, the album features Kathy’s band The Frequent Flyers.
Stand out tracks for me, included “Old Campaigners”, with it’s simple piano backing and the opening track “The Shine On You”, which had echoes of Mary Chapin running through it.
I have to say that I also enjoyed “Leaving (A Ghost’s Lament)”, a beautiful song, with some lovely violin and pipes. But Kathy’s vocal delivery really makes it for me.
Kathy wrote all but one of the 10 tracks on the album. The exception is “First Robin Of Springtime”, written by Canadian Bruce Murdoch. Another track, the rather bluesy “Go To Bed Happy” was co-written with fellow Borders writer Bob Lawson”.
In the main, not a Country album, but, nevertheless, it’s a beautiful listen.


We’ll kick off this time with an interesting concept album recorded in Glasgow by THE CLINCARTS. The main man behind the group, is Davy Clincart, who has a wealth of musical experience, having played with The Dixon Street Soul Band, The Crowdaddies and Brian Hughes’ Loansharks amongst others. The Clincarts did release an EP of original Country & Bluegrass a few years back, but now embark on a totally fresh approach to Country music in Scotland.
Not only is this a new CD, titled “A Taste Of Salt”, but also an audiobook called “The Coffee Grinder And The Green Ray”. The package also includes a printed booklet, if you want to read it for yourself, rather than listen to Shawn Hastings narration.
Musicians on the album include Eddie Brown, Cal McKinlay and Roy Fruede, with Siobhan Glendinning and Brett Hamlyn providing backing vocals.
The story centers around a Glasgow chap who catches his wife cheating, and reacts by heading to London, before landing on his feet in France.
The music, all of it original, fits into the storyline along the way.
The music, itself covers quite a variety. Much of it is Country rock.
It all kicks off with “A Taste Of Salt”, a catchy upbeat number, which set the toes tapping.
Some of the tracks are more pop, notably “Trait 2” and “My Own Terms”. Although quite rocky, I did enjoy “Pandora’s Pain”. It had a good catchy beat to it.
The tempo does slow down on tracks like “The Venom In Me”.
“Just A Smile” and “Flowers By The Roadside” are much more mellow numbers, as the story sees the main character settle into a new life. The main Country interest is with “The Old Cliché”, as he heads out to a Country Linedance festival. The line dance for this song, choreographed by Cathie McAllister, was featured in the last magazine. It’s a really catchy number, and stands out from the rest of the album.
The CD rounds off on quite a rocky beat, with “The Green Bay”.
It’s an interesting concept project, and covers such a variety of genres from Country & line dance to literature.

HAZEL CUMMING - One Step At A Time

Now for some homegrown music, and a new CD from newcomer HAZEL CUMMING.
The Coatbridge based singer went to Ireland to record “One Step at A Time”, and certainly has that happy Irish feel to her music.
The album kicks off with a couple of Dolly covers in “Coat Of Many Colours” and “Backwoods Barbie”. She then goes back to the old Ray Griff song, “Light In The Window”, and Isla Grant’s “Look Me Straight In The Eye”, both keeping up the beat.
After Billie Jo’s “Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song”, she slows it down a bit on the sentimental “Daddy’s Hands”, and the old Barbara Fairchild song, “Teddy Bear”. I really liked Hazel’s version of this song.
After “Let Me Be There”, she really lets rip with Loretta’s “You Aint Woman Enough”. She certainly delivers the message! Then she slows down, and goes way back to Kitty Wells days with “How Far Is Heaven”, before rounding off with “A Mothers Love’s a Blessing” and “Red Is The Rose”.
It’s an album of covers, but the song choice is varied, and will serve as a good introduction to Hazel. As the title says, “One Step at A Time”. She’s in fine voice, and the production is excellent.
Originally from Ayrshire, Hazel launched the album in Kilmarnock in late January, and has been getting some good reaction to it. I hope she gets the attention of the Irish fans with the album. They’ll love it. But I also hope she also gets the support of the fans here, and isn’t forced to follow the likes of Lisa McHugh, and move over there.

GEORGE L GOODFELLOW - A Handful Of Diamonds

GEORGE L GOODFELLOW & THE GLG BAND have just released their sixth album. As before, “A Handful Of Diamonds” (Smallboy Records) is full of original songs, all penned by the Hawick based songwriter, and mainly recorded in Galashiels.
The songs are well crafted.
“My Time” is a catchy number which caught my attention.
“This Letter” also caught my attention. It’s a good upbeat number, with some neat fiddle and banjo, but some of the chords sound rather similar to a certain “Blowing In The Wind”. Hope Mr Dylan does read this.
He shares a little philosophy, on “In A Heartbeat”, with lines like “I’d Rather Die Now For Something (Then for Nothing Later On)”.
Slowing things down, “Make Every Moment Precious”, has some nice lyrics. Other ballads worth a listen include the title track and the opening track, “Sign On The Wall”.
 “Don’t Talk (No Conversation”) may seem a strange title for a song, but it works for George.
It’s an interesting album. All original, and one for the songwriter fans to check out.


We’re kicking off this time with a new album from GEORDIE JACK. Geordie was very much the voice of British Country music in the 1980’s as front man of Colorado. Various attempts to move on from the Colorado days, through name changes to Caledonia & The Jacks, didn’t distract his legions of fans. Having retired The Jacks a couple of years ago, nobody believed that we had heard the last of Geordie Jack.
And, sure enough, he’s back. He’s still got that unmistakable Sutherland accent, and sounding better than ever, on a new album, “Choices” (Pan Records).  The arrangements are quite simple, just sons Kevin & Trevor, and some fiddle from Gordie Gunn.
The title track is the old George Jones anthem, which Geordie delivers well.
The album kicks off with the first of three self penned numbers. “No Can Do” is a catchy up tempo number, which was a little different to what I expected, but worked well.  The other two self penned numbers are “The Bride’s Song”, a lovely song for a wedding, and “Unconditional Friends”, a bit of a life story, the sort of song Geordie has put his trademark on throughout the years (think “Making Friends” and “We’ve Got Something To Say”). He really has a knack of writing life reflecting songs.
There’s a cover of Hugh Moffatt’s “Loving You”, which is suits Geordie’s style just so well.
There’s also covers of Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’ “ , Wendell Atkin’s “Falling For You” and John Anderson’s “Would You Catch A Falling Star”.
Merle Kilgore’s “The Folk Singer” is given an interesting arrangement, with some lovely harmonies from daughter Kim.  Kim also features on a haunting version of the rather tragic “The Butcher Boy”. This song is so atmospheric that you can feel Geordie & Kim sitting in your living room performing it.
Having missed our annual fix of Geordie Jack at the Caithness Festival over the last couple of years, it’s just so good to hear him in such fine voice, performing songs so suited to his vocal style.
It’s a lovely album. One to be proud of.

MARY K BURKE - Sweet Is The Melody

Regular readers will remember MARY K BURKE from her days in popular bands Nevada and Tanya & Sneaky Moon.  She has spent the past few years performing with more of a folk sound, but her new album, “Sweet is the Melody” (MKB Independent Records) sees her return to Country music, albeit with Irish influences.
The album kicks off with a pacey cover of Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish it Would Rain”, and she covers Tanya Tucker’s “Hanging In”, Tom T Hall’s “I Miss A Lot Of Trains”, Patsy’s “Stop The World” and “Here Today Gone Tomorrow”, made famous by Philomena Begley. Mary’s version of the latter is a shade slower and features Joe Davitt. It’s a really nice version of the song.
Being a bit fan of Iris Dement, two of her songs are featured here, the title track, and the wonderful “Mama Was Always Telling Her Truth”.  I just love the old timey, piano arrangement on this song. The song has special appeal for Mary, as it says so much about her own mother, who passed away recently.
The old Rita MacNeill number, “I’ll Accept The Rose” also has the old timey feel to it, which works really well.
One song that really stands out for me us “Broken Stones”, written by fellow Glasgow songwriter Charlie Sharkey. It’s a particularly strong Country number. It’s really catchy, and suits Mary’s Country style to a tee. It’s a stand out track for me.
“Bright Blue Rose”, written by Jimmy McCarthy has an interesting arrangement, featuring some impressive mandolin from Lar Kenny. “The Banks Of Mulroy Bay” has a strong Irish influence, a style that obviously suits Mary.
There are two songs, which Mary was involved in the writing. Both numbers reflect her life, being born and brought up in County Derry, and living over here.  “Ireland I Miss You” is a beautiful homage to her homeland, whilst “Glasgow” is a really catchy song about her adopted home city. It’s a song that the whole city can associate with.
Recorded in Arklow in Co.Wicklow, the sound throughout is superb. She’s sounding great, with a great mix of songs, well chosen & well produced. I thoroughly recommend you check her out, and hopefully we’ll see her back on the Country scene before long.