Totally Biased Fan Review: Acoustic Classics – Rodney Crowell

RodneyCrowellAcoustic

 

I was late learning about Rodney Crowell. I knew his songs, I just didn’t hear them from him. I heard others sing them and have big hits with them. Ironically, Making Memories of us has been covered by two Aussies: Keith Urban and Brett Clarke. Bob Seger had a huge hit with Shame on The Moon, Tim McGraw had a big hit with Please Remember Me and so forth.

I was a big fan of Rosanne Cash, and knew that she had been married to a bloke called Rodney Crowell, but that was all that I knew…..and of course, Johnny would then be his father in law.  They have since divorced and moved on but remain friends and have enormous respect for each other’s work.  So that was my first intro to Rodney Crowell and then, like a movie fan scrolls the credits after a movie, I began seeing all the songs that he had written on my albums of other artists. In the late 90’s,  I did a library technician’s course in Newcastle and I borrowed a heap of great cds from the library there, including an album of Rodney Crowell’s, and the real lessons were learned.

I was fortunate enough to see Rodney, not so long ago with Emmylou Harris and that was just awesome.

As you go through the titles here, apart from the new one “Tennessee Wedding” which he wrote for his youngest daughter’s wedding,(from his son-in-law’s perspective) – you will notice the hits…. when you hear them you will say, I know that song.

I am always a fan of acoustic versions of songs. There is nothing more natural and raw than hearing music in its most pure form. If you have the other albums with these songs on them, it is still very much worth your while to buy this album, because the songs are delivered in such an earthy, real way.  It is like hearing some of them in a brand new way, some of them are similar to the originals.

Rodney was struck down with a pretty awful illness last year and he had to stop touring for a while. He had time to think about this project which is kind of a best of but the songs are reworked, similar to the way that Kristofferson’s Austin Sessions delivered.

For us mellowed out, ballad loving country music fans, this is a delicious treat.  Like an all day dessert.  I have always loved I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried and After All This Time.  They sound even better on this. Please Remember Me and Making Memories of Us are fabulous songs. They are all fantastic.

I have already listened to this album half a dozen times and it is just so easy to listen to. It is like honey flowing onto a crumpet, mixing with the butter.

I have heard this phrase spoken by a lot of musicians lately, but it is very true in the case of Rodney Crowell….these are songs that I wish that I had written.

This is a real charmer.  One for the ages.

 

Tracks:

1. “Earthbound”
2. “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
3. “Anything But Tame”
4. “Making Memories of Us”
5. “Lovin’ All Night”
6. “Shame on the Moon Redux”
7. “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried””
8. “She’s Crazy for Leaving”
9. “After All This Time”
10. “Tennessee Wedding”
11. “Ain’t Living Long Like This”
12. “Please Remember Me”

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Morgan Evans self titled E.P….or EEP (5 tracks)

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Morgan Evans is doing okay in the U.S. of A, these days. Scored a number one this week over there and all is looking good. For people who love Keith Urban, they naturally will follow Morgan too…there are a lot of similarities.

I have even seen them in concert together…..in Australia.

This EEP (I consider 4 tracks to be an EP and anything between 5 tracks and 9 tracks to be an Extended, Extended Play….10 tracks and over is an album. That’s just me.) – is a good summary of what Morgan can do…..and do well.

The first two tracks are fairly high energy and boppy. Then you have I Do, which I DO really love. It is mushy and catchy and sweet….of course, I will like it. Kiss Somebody is very Keith like, and very commercial. It is, like all of the tracks, easy to listen to, catchy, hummable, My personal favourite is the last track, Young Again which is almost sounding like an Anthem.

This EEP goes down fairly easily. It goes fast, it almost makes you drunk with all the references to drinking and being on a high.  Of course, Morgan is freshly married and madly in love and I think that this EEP is mainly a reflection of more of a state of euphoria and being drunk on love….a phrase used a bit here.

I like it. It is a well polished EEP instrumentally, well produced and nicely delivered. You easily get caught up in Morgan’s happiness and it is indeed, a happy, fun, offering. There are no hidden meanings here, it is pure fun.

 

Tracks:

Day Drunk

American

I Do

Kiss Somebody

Young Again

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Lioness – Beccy Cole

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Beccy Cole, the greatest entertainer that I have ever seen on stage, (and I have seen a lot) –  had to pull out a really sensational album after her last solo effort “Sweet Rebecca”, in my top 10 Australian Country Music Albums of all time – it was a hard act to follow. In between, she released a duets album with fellow awesome Aussie and good mate, Adam Harvey.

I remember reading Beccy’s trepidation about admitting her sexuality to her audience and her surprise when the majority of her crowds embraced it and just wanted her to sing and perform. She said above all: “Aussies believe in honesty” or words to that effect. Beccy’s music has always had that effect on me….she has always been very honest in her songs and in her performances. What you see is what you get and she puts it all out there, leaving no stone unturned….well, maybe one or two to give them a little mystery….until later.

This album is extremely honest, writing about her family again – wife Libby, grandmother Gloria, mother Carole, and son Ricky. She also injects humour into some songs and points a finger at a few in some songs. Beccy always has you laughing out loud one minute, nodding your head in agreement the next and sometimes have a quiet cry in others.

This album brings on a few firsts. On its release yesterday, not surprisingly, it went straight to number one – the first, I think, was that wife Libby O’Donovan, had the no. 2. album! That has to be a world first on many levels!  This album is 100% female produced, featuring some awesome female musos and singers and produced by Julz Parker from Hussy Hicks.  Ali Foster, Clare O’Meara, Libby O’Donovan, Taylor Pfeiffer, Leesa Gentz, Shireen Khemlani, all feature.

Beccy also plays guitar on a studio album for the first time. This is hard to believe, if you have been to one of her gigs, where she often plays every instrument on stage at some point.

The title song offered up a first too, the first same sex video clip recorded. It is a wonderful song and a great video.

Lyrically, it is one of her strongest albums. I have all of them and Sweet Rebecca is still my favourite, for many reasons, but this is pretty close.  In an era in Australian Country Music where women are probably dominating the charts and hearts of music lovers, Beccy still leads the pack with fellow stalwart, Melinda Schneider, who release a very powerful single earlier in the year and a new album is coming up soon.  There are so many great women singer/songwriters in this country and this is a wonderful example of the treasure that is out there.

Beccy never lets me down. It is like when you go to one of her shows, you don’t want to leave, you always want the show to start again…it is the same with her albums.

 

The Tracks:

1 Lioness          – Powerful song, about the power of two, rather than one, (i’m a scaredy cat sometimes but I’m a Lioness with you) – It is a very uplifting song….the music alone sends you soaring.
2 Coromandel Valley – Another reference to home, where she grew up and all of that nostalgia that goes with it. A beautiful trip down memory lane and beautiful harmonies. Beccy doing what she does best. A reference to her mother as well.
3 Wine Time – There’s the sweet songs, then there are the sassy ones. This one falls into the latter category. Funny and cheeky, Beccy sings a song here that will be a crowd pleaser, using her gift of imitations and her love of “Mummy’s Medicine”. Fun song.
4 Are You Coming Over – The female version of Adam Harvey strikes in this song….always need a good old drinking song on a country album. Nice picking and fiddling here.
5 They Won’t Call It Cheating – A lying, cheating, hurting song that Beccy does so well with a bluesy, almost 1960’s soul train sort of song. Aretha and Gladys would be proud. One of my favourites on the album.
6 My Wife’s Got Balls – Libby is the focus in this song too, but in a different way to the first song. People will sing along to this one at the gigs. I can just hear them now in the chorus. A gutsy, tongue in cheek song. Funny and profound at the same time.
7 My God – Obviously a glimpse at the recent gay marriage debate and at Beccy and Libby’s relationship. Love is love. It is a rare commodity. Embrace it, own it and treasure it. “My God won’t let me listen to the haters” – great song.
8 Look Ma I’m On CMC – Apparently, Beccy sang this live a few years ago at the CMC awards and folks requested her to record it and put it on the album. It is a fun song and can be taken a few ways.
9 I’m So Excited – The old Pointer Sisters classic is the only non-original song on the album, played a little bit differently to the original with young Taylor Pfeiffer banjoing away.

10 The Milliner – A tribute to Beccy’s 99 year old grandmother who has been a huge part of her life and some of her best songs. This is about her earlier days, rather than her latter days as featured in other songs. This is co-written with Libby, which is a nice touch. I think most of us Beccy fans feel a great affection for Gloria, she has been introduced to us through Beccy’s songs and stories.
11 Our Souls – This one takes a few listens, as it has a fun sound but a deep message. A lot of Beccy’s songs are like that, you bop along and hum along and then you think about the words and you have those aha moments.  Sing this one in Church gals….
12 I Believe In You – And there is Ricky. Beccy’s son who is all grown up now. Most Mums will be able to relate to this. A beautiful, gentle way to end the album.

This is an incredible album. Honest, brave and true….and at times, bloody funny.  Thank you Beccy.

 

All songs written by Beccy Cole except for:  Track 9 – The Pointer Sisters and Track !0 Beccy Cole and Libby O’Donovan.

Produced by Julz Parker

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Roots and Branches – Kristy Cox and The Weeping Willows: Sale Greyhound Club, Sale

Kristy, Andy, Laura, Josh and Hughiekristy, Andy and Laura

A perfect example of showing how a good old Aussie gal can make it in the big time to little or no fanfare and come back to our shores and knock ’em dead and go to places outside the big cities to do so. Kristy Cox is the real deal. She hit the ground running from Nashville on Thursday and has performed every day since she arrived. She is in Bendigo today. She is mixing it on this tour with The Weeping Willows, who can bend to just about any style of music, including the 79 types of country. Our Bluegrass Queen, with the Prince and Princess of Alt. Country/Americana. Match made in Heaven.

The Weeping Willows opened the show with some of their hits off their two fine albums and a couple of newies. One that I had heard, the other one which I hadn’t, and I think that it might be their biggest hit yet if they release it as a single. Can’t wait for album number 3!  They sandwiched this tour in with the European trip that they just did with Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes and Imogen Clark and an American Tour in a litlle while, which will feature a couple of gigs with Kristy.  Their gentle humour, amazing chemistry and beautiful harmonies, together with Andy’s fine pickin’ and Laura’s expert thigh slapping and egg shaking, make them a pretty special pair. Of course, I am totally biased.

Kristy sang a few off each album with great aplomb. I really don’t know how she did it,  looking awesome and singing and playing with gusto.  I would be off my face after all that jetlag, travelling and performing!  There was a lot to choose from in Victoria last night, but I wasn’t going to miss Kristy.  No big ego here, and God knows, she has a reason or two to be proud and excited about all of her achievements in the U.S.A. and here.

As a fan, I am very proud. As an Australian, I am even prouder. With Hugh and Josh along for the ride and The Weeping Willows doubling up to back her up on guitar and vocals, it was a pretty great combo.

I was sitting at a table with fellow rowdy country and bluegrass fans, and we were probably the loudest in the crowd, with Kristy’s folks and a dancer who showed us a step or two.

The Sale Greyhound Club is quite a lovely set up, with a beaut room to have music in. The crowd was pretty strong in numbers considering that there was lots on.  They were a bit quiet, but I hope that was just because they were taking the music in.

We were very lucky to have such quality folks come to sing and play for us in the country.  This tour is on the back of Kristy’s recent release, Ricochet. It has some awesome songs on it, including my favourite which Kristy sang, Sweet English Rose, a collaboration with Allan Caswell.

I reviewed this album earlier in the year on Country As, which you can go to by following the link on the side here.

It was a shame that Kristy’s hubby, Travis List couldn’t be there too, but their young daughter Adelaide has had a whirlwind few days and he was on parent sitting duties!

Kristy is a Golden gal, The Weeping Willows are a Golden Couple. There was a lot of sun shining down on us last night, despite the chilly wind and rain outside.

Thank you for the music. Happy travels, Kristy.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Travis Collins – Brave & The Broken

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I have followed Trav since he was a green kid singing “Leave them in the Long Yard” at the first Tamworth after Slim’s death.  A Travis gig is always a joy and all of his albums are likewise. I absolutely adored his last album, one of my fave Australian Country Music albums ever. It was always going to be a hard act to follow. I know that he had that magnificent interlude in between these two albums with Amber Lawrence on a very successful album together, but it was always going to be a tough challenge to come up with the goods after the last solo album.

This album is certainly different to the last. Trav co-writes every song on the album. It was produced in America with a lot of co-writers and musicians from O.S. playing on here. Trav’s music has always been diverse. It is not the kind of music that can be pigeon holed or just limited to the Aussie music sound. It is universal.

It kicks off with Happy, which I think sums up his mood over the last few years.

I love the single, High Horse, If I was me, Over Me, Unsung and days with you most.  it is a very polished, mature sounding album. I would have added the song Church of Rock and Roll if I hadn’t heard Maren Morris’s My Church…it has some similar lyrics….still a good song, though.

I think that the country music in Australia is evolving. Travis gives us the best of both worlds here. As long as Australian Country music evolves, this young fella will too.

It is an album to enjoy and savour.

Tracks:

1. Happy  (Collins/Veltz)
2. Road Warriors  ( Collins, Barton, White, Matthews)
3. High Horse (Travis Collins and ?)
4. It’s Just Music (Collins and Leith)
5. Unsung (Collins, Duke, Thow)
6. Who We Are ( Collins/ Turnbull)
7. Straight Up Fire ( Collins/Brooker)
8. If I Was Me  (Collins/Goldsmith)
9. Summer Daze (Collins/O’Donnell)
10. Over Me (Collins/Duke/Yurchuck)
11. Church Of Rock n Roll  (Collins/McAlister/Woodford)
12. Days With You (Collins/Hill)

Totally Biased Fan Review: From The Back Country – Graeme Connors

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Matt Fell, the man who produces more than Olivia Walton, produced this latest contribution from Australian Country Music Icon, Graeme Connors. I think of two things when I think of Graeme Connors…..a voice that sounds like nobody elses and all things a little further north from here.

The debate is out whether this is his 18th or 19th album….even according to an interview that he did this week on television. I am prepared to say – no matter what number it is – that it is his best. There is such a mixture of styles on here. The tempo of each song differs from slow paced to much faster pace.

Like Dean Perrett, whose album I just reviewed (and a fellow Queenslander), he writes about Australia and the things that effect us as Australians, but in a different way. He also goes beyond our borders, writing songs about others, including the very catchy, South Africa, which will no doubt be used by a travel company.

Graeme has never been afraid of tackling an issue. He does it with subtlety, always, rather than hitting you over the head with a sledge hammer. The brilliant American Friends is a wonderful example of this.  Ghost Towns is a wonderfully haunting ballad which makes you feel the circumstances of these towns and what they are going through.

There are some toe tapping songs, some bluesy little numbers and some love songs. Instrumentally, Graeme mixes it up as well with some non traditional arrangements and more jazz and blues instruments.  There is always a song with a tropical punch and there is one on this album.

There has been a bit of a gap since his last album of originals, he has been working on other projects and best ofs and tours, so he has not been idle. This album is not his last but it gives the suggestion of being a vehicle for an older statesman of country music in Australia and a look back on how things have been and where they are going to.

He has had a stellar career, mentoring younger artists, contributing to the works of older artists and having a stand alone unique approach to the genre. He has indeed, taken the road less travelled and he has crossed bridges that not many other artists in Australia, in any genre, have traversed.

A wonderful mix of songs and styles and one that has already had many spins on my player.

 

Track Listing:

  1. One Life
  2. Kimberley Frontier
  3. Black Mountain
  4. Stay Where You Are
  5. One Love At A Time
  6. South Africa
  7. Ghost Towns
  8. Sail Away
  9. On The Factory Floor
  10. My American Friends
  11. The Top End Of Town

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Dean Perrett – Earn Your Spurs

Dean Perrett Earn Your Spurs

Frankly, I don’t think that you can get anything more Australian than a Dean Perrett album.  The thing that makes them so authentic is that Dean has lived most of these songs. He knows all about the land, horses, cows, drought, flood, et. al. He is a farmer, a horseman and he knows how it all goes down. When Dean sings these songs, you can believe them. If he hasn’t lived them, he knows folks who have.  You can wipe the dust off your arms and feel the sun on your back and if you close your eyes, you can see the sunsets and sunrises and all that goes on in between rivers and mountains and old dirt roads.

If you are from the country, like I am, you can relate to the stories. The tunes are uncomplicated. They are simple country tunes with three chords and the truth. The words are a bit more complicated, poetic, reminiscent of some of the folks that he sings about: Lawson, Patterson, etc.

I don’t have the credits, so I can’t go into great detail but I can detect Caswell and a few others in the lyrics. Uniquely, Dean has already won a Golden Guitar for one of the songs, Henbury Blues, or as I would rather call it, I’d rather be in the territory….it is what I sing in the shower, anyway!

Earn your spurs is a great title for an album and a wonderful song, in the vein of songs like Adam Harvey’s Shake of A Hand and others. I guess it is one of those songs that form the part of the original Aussie philosophy that you have to earn respect and you don’t get anything valuable in life without working hard for it and treating others the way that you would like to be treated yourself.

Dean’s songs often work on two levels. You can listen to the stories and perhaps learn a thing or two about the diversity of our country and its people or you can just clap or tap along to the easy delivery and tunes. Or, if you are like me, you do both.

Writers of Renown is a song that will do pretty well at the Golden Guitars, I think, mentioning the names of lots of our country music and bush poetry writers. The Bushman and His Lady is a beautiful, gentle song. As usual, you are guaranteed songs about drovers, horses, the land and its beauty and toughness, kangaroos and legends and would be legends.

Dean is consistent. You can pretty much rely on an album per year, sometimes two. Considering the busy life that Dean leads (including getting married recently and running a farm as well as going to festivals, etc), that is no mean feat.

He has musicians and co-writers who understand his view on life and the way that he delivers the songs. He has people who appreciate the simplicity and the complexity of what he wants to say.

There is no mistaking Deano’s albums for anything less than down to earth country music. If you lived in another country, there may be a line or two that is so Aussie that you may not understand what he is saying or if you haven’t seen our diverse land of deserts, mountains, lush pasture and rugged grounds, then you may not fully appreciate a Dean Perrett song. You would learn a lot about Australia by listening to his stories, though. And that is essentially what Dean sings: stories.

Dean appeals to many generations of Australians, because he tells it like it is. I guess the best way to put it, is that Dean is Fair Dinkum. He has also been very generous, giving us 14 songs.

Tracks:

01 – Earn Your Spurs
02 – My Little Bay Mare’s Mother
03 – Drovin’ On
04 – Henbury Blues
05 – The Bushman & His Lady
06 – Ringer’s Life
07 – Writers Of Renown
08 – Through The Air & On The Land
09 – The Land Of The Kangaroo
10 – Born A Rolling Stone
11 – Sons Of The saddle
12 – The Saddle By The Door
13 – Shepherdson & Boyd
14 – He Talks Of Going Back