Totally Biased Fan Review: Marie Hodson:Walking The Floor Over You

 

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Marie writes in her liner notes: I’m not a writer and I feel it best to leave it to those who are truly remarkable at their craft. Technically and traditionally, I am a singer/songwriter advocate. However, I can count on one hand those in country music who can truly sing somebody else’s song and sing it to perfection. Marie Hodson is one of them. The Kiwi with Scot and Irish heritage and who now lives a stone’s throw from the Country Music Cap. in Australia, Tamworth, at Werris Creek, devours torch and twang like I do a bowl of icecream.

Well known for her awesome tributes to the likes of Patsy Cline and Reba McEntire, Marie can sing traditional country music songs like very few others can. I have been fortunate enough to see Marie LIVE quite a few times now, and she sells a song like it is a Broadway play.   Perhaps in the last life or the next she was/will be an actress on the stage.

Some of these songs are well known, some aren’t. Modern Country Music hero, Joshua Hedley, has two songs featured on here, and he is the real deal, (see my reviews). I saw him in Melbourne this year, and he is part of the great country music revival in America. I love Marie’s version of Funny How Time Slips Away.  The Alabama song, Feels So Right is fantastic too. The Kiwi connection is strong, with my Dad’s favourite gal, Johanna Hemara featured, and Camille Te Nahu and the Blue Smoke song there. I particularly like the opening track Forget Him, written by Camille and hubby Stuart French. I was busy picking up song titles and lines, a bit like I did with Luke O’Shea’s Listen to the Words! The duet with Anthony Taylor, After the Fire is Gone is pretty much necessary, considering their similar styles and Anthony and Marie’s mutual admiration for each other’s work.

Although Marie sings other’s songs, she doesn’t always make obvious choices in songs, just songwriters. Nobody’s Darlin’ but Mine fits her like a glove. There had to be a Merle song, there just had to be….I didn’t mean to love you is a great choice. The title track is a classic that every country music fan should know, if they don’t, they should seriously consider following another genre, it is known to those outside country music circles. It is probably the most covered song on the album. I would love to know why Marie called the album this, however, considering the meaning of the song. I would have perhaps chosen I Didn’t Mean to Love You or Funny How Time Slips Away (considering that it is supposedly her last album).

Bill Anderson has written some great songs, it is nice to see him featured on here. Walkout Backwards is a song that my Dad often played when I was a kid. It has some great lyrics.

If this is Marie’s last album, it is a Hell of a way to go out. Say it isn’t so!  I know a lot of people who love listening to Marie sing and perform LIVE. They are from all walks of life and they are all ages. That is unusual, considering that Marie sings the more traditional style.

As usual, she gets the balance right. That is not easy. Thank you for the music, Marie.

Tracks:

Forget Him  (Camille Te Nahu and Stuart French)

This Time (Joshua Hedley)

Funny How Time Slips Away (Willie Nelson)

Mr Jukebox (Joshua Hedley)

Feels So Right (Randy Owen)

I Got Lucky With You (Emily Miller)

Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine (Jimmi Davis)

After the Fire is Gone (Duet with Anthony Taylor) (L.E. White)

Walking the Floor Over You (Ernest Tubb)

I Didn’t Mean to Love You (Merle Haggard and Red Lane)

Walkout Backwards (Bill Anderson)

Blue Smoke ( Ruru Karaitiana)

Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Newton (Enrec Studios)

Co-Producer: Marie Hodson

Musos: Stuart French, Jason Roller, Greg Franks, Brad Bergen, Ron Mahony, Justin Branum, Michel Rose, Mike Johnson, Liam Kennedy, Andrew McMahon, Artie Taylor with Johanna Hemara and James Craswell on Harmonies and Anthony Taylor

 

 

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Things That We Drink To – Morgan Evans

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Recently, I reviewed Aussie export, Morgan Evans’ EEP, which is integrated into this album, five tracks: Day Drunk, American, I Do, Kiss Somebody and Young Again.

By far the best song on this album is Dance with Me, the duet with his wife, Kelsea. The reviews that I have read are mixed. I try not to be too swayed by other reviewers, as I am not a critic, I am a fan who does reviews of her favourite music.  Some reviewers were quite savage, extremely brutal. While this album is probably a bit more poppy than my taste, there are some good moments and it is very polished.

There are a lot of likenesses between Morgan and Keith Urban, some for obvious reasons, others because they do sound alike on lots of their songs. The songs on the EEP gave you a taste for what you would expect on the album. It is a continuation on many levels, themes, sound, style, etc.

Morgan has a very strong, solid voice. Sometimes, I think that the songs he chooses are not good enough for him. I think that he could do much more with his voice and obvious talents. The title track showcases his voice a bit more. It is a tribute to Rob Potts, someone who was very special to the Australian music industry and of course, to Morgan.

There is a sameness about the songs on this album, which is probably the biggest criticism that I see, what others have said has been a bit cruel. There is one review which totally rubbishes everything on the album and that is not fair.

Essentially, I like Morgan and I am proud of what he has achieved. It is not easy for an Aussie to go over to the big time in America and absolutely smash it. Morgan has done that.

This album obviously comes at a time when Morgan is at his peak overseas….hit singles, an awesome and successful wife and everything is clicking for him. When the majority of country music in America these days has a pop edge, he fits right in.

In Australia, we have a more broad sense of country music….covering those 79 different types of country music. I hope that Morgan tries a few more of the types and does not get bogged down by one type. He is better than that.

Tracks:

American

Kiss Somebody

I Do

Song for the Summer

Day Drunk

Dance with me (feat. Kelsea Ballerini)

Me on You

Things that we drink to

We Dream

Everything Changes

Young Again

Totally Biased Fan Review: Greatest Hits – Troy Cassar-Daley

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A few years ago, Troy released Born To Survive, The Best Of….but a lot has happened since then and there are 42 tracks on this album. Troy Cassar-Daley is one of the most loved Australian Country Music artists. He has a following beyond country music, and he is definitely one of the most genuine, down to earth blokes that you could ever meet. He has not always had a smooth ride in life or in his career, with some health issues in recent years that would force most into retirement.

One of the most endearing qualities about Troy is his ability to keep it country, in an ever changing and evolving music genre, which has 79 well celebrated and glorious types. He is true to himself and to what he loves most. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t willing to try a few different things or collaborate on a few things that traditional country artists may find difficult.

His songs are mostly about Australia and/or Australians. There are also songs like Slim’s Biggest Disappointment, Ramblin’ Man and River Boy as well as Bird on a Wire that he has made his own, teaming up with some legends to sing them.

Troy and I had a bit of a yack at Rooty Hill RSL a few years ago about trains…they feature in a lot of his songs, and they have featured a lot in his family and his life….I didn’t want to hog his company, so I let the poor man move on to the next fan, but we could have talked for hours. These songs are of course on this album.

All of your favourites are here….Little Things, Ladies in My Life, Lonesome but Free, Freedom Ride and Bar Room Roses and many others.

Troy will be 50 next year and that is hard to believe. The boy who went to busk at Tamworth as a kid will be half a century. I think that this magnificent collection from a man who has won just about every award that you can in country music in Australia and a man who is more Aussie than most people that I know, has only just begun to show us what he can do.

Above all, he has won the hearts of many fans, a bloke that you are proud to sing from the rooftops or from the top of the tallest tree that he is a fellow Aussie or to just shake his hand and cop one of those smiles or talk trains with.

Thank you, Troy for the music and for being such a great Australian.

A fabulous collection of some wonderful songs.

Forgive me for not typing up the 42 song titles….you know what they are!

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Live from the Ryman – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

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For quite some time, a lot of my Aussie music heroes have been telling me that Jason Isbell is the bees’ knees, the Country Music Messiah and the modern day answer to all of our American Country Music legends from the 90’s.

I have only ever heard a few tracks from Jason. I don’t listen to a lot of American Country Music these days, though this year has produced probably the best that we have heard from there for a while. I tend to concentrate more on homegrown talent, because I believe that it is closer to my heart, my head and my taste. I also want to promote my own country’s music and those who don’t get much of a go.

I thought that the best way to get to know Jason’s music was probably this latest offering, a LIVE album from probably the best known country music venue in the world. I always listen to the words first, particularly in these times, as I can usually tell whether I want to like the artist or not from what they are saying in songs. The melody is secondary to me, though it often helps me like the song. I guess that is the would be poet in me and the fact that I am a product of the 60’s and a lover of folks like Dylan, James Taylor and the like.

For those who know me, will not be surprised that the song that hooked me first was Flagship….with both words and music, White Man’s World, is an important song….which Jason concludes with the spoken words….thanks for listening.

I had heard 24 Frames before, which is lyrically one of the most interesting tracks.

Of course, the versions on this LIVE album are bound to be slightly different to the studio tracks. I can only judge by what I am hearing here.

Something More Than Free is probably one of the most honest songs on the album, though Jason tends to tell it like it is in most of the songs. A lot of working class men and women will be able to relate to this one. It is a real down to earth, gritty song.

I can see why a lot of my singer/songwriter friends like him. I guess that he is one of the modern day outlaws….the way that Waylon, Willie, Merle, Kris, Johnny would have written in current times….the way Willie is still writing.

He also has some original phrases and he plays with words that a lot of modern songwriters from America would not know the meanings of.  I would go so far to say that he is a thinking person’s songwriter, but at the same time, he writes about the average joe and the afflicted and the effected. Elephant is a great example of that.

A lot of his songs seem to express anger or anguish. I guess, technically, they are about the human condition…and how us human’s deal or don’t deal with the situations that we are in or exposed to.

Some have a very high energy value, full on guitars and percussion, others have the lilting sound of strings or soft guitar strumming.

Last of My Kind seems to be the singalong song which often means that the audience relates to a song more than others or that the anthem-like repetition and message seems to stick in a crowd’s head. I think that Jason speaks for a lot of us in this song. It is funny how often we think that we are the only ones that feel a certain way, until we share that thought with others and find out that we are not alone in that way of thinking.

Cover Me Up is probably one of the most “country” songs on the album. It has some conflicting musical variations. The tune is sweet and low, Jason’s voice goes from mellow to soaring. The words are sometimes borderline savage and then plunge into romantic notions. The crowd goes a little wild in this song, cheering on certain lines, either congratulating or agreeing with the singer/songwriter.

The beginning of Super 8 sounds like the start of a Status Quo song…..I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be about Rugby Union or racing cars and then I remembered where this guy comes from….it is about motels.  I guess it is a bit wild for me, but I can see it’s appeal.

The last song, the one about the Vampires…..had been mentioned to me before. In the old tradition of never judge a song by it’s title came to mind. I had been hesitant. A country song about Vampires? Most of my friends had said, no Kaz, you will like it. And of course they were right. It is probably one of my favourites on here.

I am glad that I gave this album a listen. It actually took me a few listens to get into it, but I am happy to say that my friends were right. If this LIVE album is anything to go by, I will be listening to more of Jason.

I’m clapping with the crowd.

Tracks:

Hope the high road

24 Frames

White Man’s World

Flagship

Cumberland Gap

Something More Than Free

The Life You Choose

Elephant

Flying Over Water

Last of My Kind

Cover Me Up

Super 8

If We Were Vampires

Totally Biased Fan Review: Take me to town: An Australian Alternative Country Collection – Various

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A few years ago, prolific and legendary Australian Country Music singer/songwriter, Allan Caswell entered his extremely country album in the Alt. Country category in the Golden Guitar Awards. I am not letting out any secrets here, Allan later mentioned this on Saturday Night Country on ABC radio, but he told me and SNC that the reason that he did it was because he thought that his music didn’t sound like any of the music nominated in the country sections.

Alt. Country or Americana, as it is known in the U.S.of A, is more traditional than a lot of the more pop country that is going on these days, but then, Allan has always been ahead of his time. Many of the artists that are featured on this 3 cd set (featuring 47 tracks and 47 artists) have co-written or performed with Mr Caswell.  In fact, Lachlan Bryan and some of his Wildes, Jen Mize, The Weeping Willows are on his current album with him.

This album just scratches the surface of alt. country in Australia. Many could be on another album of 3 cds….and perhaps another 3 cds.

Even this mad alt. country listener, could name at least a hundred that are not on here and there are ones on here that I didn’t know. Dan Brodie probably started this genre for me, though, technically, James Blundell probably did, we just didn’t know what to call it at the time.

Dan, together with Adam young, William Crighton, Michael Carpenter, The Weeping Willows, Jen Mize, Den Hanrahan, Peta Caswell (yes, Allan’s awesome niece), Matt J Ward, Rich Davies, Lachlan and The Wildes, Not Good with Horses, Bill Jackson, Cruisin’ Deuces, Sam Newton, Katie Brianna, Peasant Moon, Mitch Power and Belle Harvey and Bill Chambers and Helen Townsend are all ones that I know and have had the pleasure of seeing LIVE and/or I have their albums. That still leaves a lot of artists on here that I hadn’t heard of or I hadn’t heard their music.

Of the ones that I hadn’t heard, there are many here to want to hear more of. Special mention to James Thomson and the Strange Pilgrims. Love the track on here, I hope that is an indication of other stuff that they play.

Lachlan Bryan has tried to explain Alt. Country a few times. I guess that it basically comes down to a fusion of a few types of country music. (we all know that there are 79 types, hey?)……I guess that it is a mix of my favourite types: traditional, folk, bluegrass and Cajun. In moments, there are some that get a bit rocky or bluesy and that’s okay too.

To be honest, I tend to stray away from compilation albums, mainly because I tend to buy albums rather than singles and I have so many of these wonderful artists’ albums that it is doubling up. For those uninitiated with the genre, ones eager to learn more or those who can’t afford to buy the thousands of albums that I buy instead of paying the electricity bill, this is one for you. It is indeed, an eclectic mix and a great introduction to the genre.

One of the reasons that I moved to Victoria was because of the awesome alt. country music scene down here. It is hard to pick a favourite track. I love David Garnham and The Reasons to Live – Worst House in The Best Street, and obviously all of the ones that I have already mentioned.

There really isn’t a track that I don’t like. It is probably the best value album of the year, not just because of  the amount of tracks for your buck, but the quality and variety of them. I will definitely be looking up some of these folks that I don’t know much about and hopefully, I will hear much more of.

It takes a while to play all three cds, but it is worth every minute. A rippa of a collection…I am already listing the songs to put on the next three…..

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – Susan Lily at The Mantra, Yarraville, Sunday 14th October, 2018, 2pm to 5pm – with special guest, Craig-Lee Smith

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My dear friend and very talented Singer/Songwriter, Susan Lily, rounded off her Victorian tour with a very relaxed Sunday arvo at The Mantra, the café/studio/bar in Yarraville run by Patsy Toop and David Baird, best known to Country Music Fans as The Long and The Short of It.

Susan, who has been based in Adelaide for a while now, is the girl from Hay in New South Wales and has also spent a lot of time in Victoria over the years. Susan is a natural comedienne, and it comes across as she tells her stories and goofs around with the crowd. Most of her songs are quite serious, but she peppers them with intended and unintended moments of giggles and silliness that are very endearing.

She sang songs off both of her albums, Butterfly and the current release Free Spirited. as well as her EP, Daisy Jane. She also sang some covers, some well known, others that were interesting choices. Susan is of the belief that most songs have country in them when you strip them back. Certainly, the songs that she sang proved that theory.

She was joined on stage by Craig-Lee Smith for my favourite song off her current album, Tough as Geranium. She also sang another one of my favourites, Miss You Much. With the lightness of the afternoon, she didn’t sing some of her heavier songs like Broken, but she mixed the songs well, with a bit of everything.

You always feel that you are sitting in your living room and Susan is just having a giggle with you, singing you her songs and having a conversation. This lazy Sunday afternoon at The Mantra was no exception to that rule.  The food, company, humour and music provided a 10 snort and a 10 star afternoon from Susan Lily, entertaining the crowd in her usual make-you-feel-at-home style.

Check out my reviews of Susan’s albums on this and other blogs featured in the side bar over the years. She is a great character and a fine singer/songwriter.

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Coming Home – James Van Cooper

 

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A few years ago, I caught James at a few gigs in Tamworth. He was beautifully dressed, more like a man on a catwalk than a muso in a pub at a country music festival. Everything about him oozed class and style.  He was very young. He still is. When he was younger he was more into a kind of music that is as far from Peel Street and cows in a paddock as rain has been in recent times.

Then he met a bloke called Bill Chambers, probably one of 10 of the most influential people in Australian Country Music, and the rest, as they say, is history for this young singer/songwriter.

To describe James’ music is probably best to term it as Alt. Country. It is definitely country, there is no mistaking it as anything else. His songwriting is so mature for someone so young. His songs are thoughtful, tender and easy to listen to. There are a few surprises, with mixes of tempo and style  with a possible shower song nomination in the making with Midnight Love, an almost boppy number.

James is getting a lot of interest from pockets of the music community that would probably not always listen to country and that is a good thing, again, they are hearing that there is more to country music than one type.

His image is a bit different to others, he has a way of carrying himself that is not the norm with country music singers and his voice is not traditionally country….though his music has  very much a strong country vibe.

I think that the younger market will definitely be curious about this 21 year old. Older fans will appreciate the musicianship, the variety and the quality of the production of the songs. They will hear things in the music that are reminiscent of artists who were around long before James was even thought of . He is a bit of an old soul with a young head and heart. There is something very unique and exciting about an artist such as James Van Cooper. I was pleasantly surprised the first time that I heard him and this album just cements my faith in that thought.  I really love this album. It is full of golden moments.

Lights Don’t Shine reminds me of Donovan, one of my favourite singer/songwriters. It is my pick on an album full of songs that shine.

Tracklist:

1. Passing Through

2. Younger Then

3. Coming Home

4. Midnight Love

5. Car Crash

6. Goodbye My Friends

7. Lights Don’t Shine

8. Don’t Say It’s Over

9. Demolition

10. Kew