Totally Biased Fan Review – Reflection – Ashleigh Dallas

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The Dallas Family are Australian Country Music Royalty, particularly where I come from – Tamworth. Ashleigh is the third generation of the family to win Golden Guitars and to produce fine albums.  Even at her young age, she has already notched up a number of huge achievements and gained much respect and praise from critics, fans and her peers.

As a person, she is much loved also, and that makes reviewing her work so much more pleasurable. She has a stunning gift, which is part inherited and mostly naturally developed. She has worked hard and nothing has been handed to her. As they say, she has paid her dues.

Her life has gone through a fair amount of changes in the last few years and a maturity is present on this album at full throttle. Every album she releases is even better than the last one, and they are all super albums.

There is no mistaking Ashleigh’s roots or her style. She gives a modern twist to traditional country music and bluegrass.

Ashleigh Dallas is always true to her style and her presentation. Her music is always heartfelt, personal and quite frankly, beautiful. A lot of the titles of her songs over the years have reflected a feeling of floating, sailing, drifting, guiding gently or just a laid back feeling, like she is quite content to stop and watch the world turn and relax.

I find it very easy to mellow out to Ashleigh Dallas’ songs, but that doesn’t mean that they are frivolous or bubblegum tunes. Quite the contrary, they are easy fits, like a comfortable old slipper on your feet.

There are some subjects that are sad and deep and others which are just sweet and uplifting. Ashleigh reaches a lot of generations, showing that country music has a broader audience than most folks think. She can make you twist and shout or slow dance or just relax in an easy chair.

The addition to her family of young Harriet, perhaps the fourth generation of the Dallas family to win a Golden Guitar, has obviously had some effect on some of her songs, as it should.

Ashleigh Dallas’s albums are always a joy. There’s never a bum note or a bad song. The musicianship and production is always top notch and they always make you feel something. There are always tears and always laughter and there are always songs that get in your head and stay there.

I am proud to be a Tamworthian when I hear this young one sing and play. She’s a wonderful representative of the new generation of country musos and she always puts 100 percent into everything that she does.

She could quite possibly make it big in America, but I am selfish. I don’t want to lose her and her spirit to a land far away.

Bravo. Ashleigh just keeps getting better. Spread the word and the love.

 

 

Tracks:

01 – In the Water
02 – Slow Motion
03 – Settling Down
04 – Catherine Hill
05 – Floating on the Breeze
06 – Vacation
07 – Candles Burning
08 – Life on Repeat
09 – Childhood Diary
10 – Two Sides
11 – Harriet’s Lullaby

 

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Everything I Feel – Blake O’Connor

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Blake O’Connor won the Toyota Starmaker Award this year and he was a well deserving winner. The fresh faced young man can belt out a song with the gusto of a much more seasoned and mature performer.

His songs offer up a variety of styles from funky, to soulful to blues to acoustic country. This guy is 18. Yes, not 40 or 50 or even 30. His songs are lived in and real. There’s nothing plastic or fake about this young fella, he’s the real deal. He has been in the good hands of Adam Eckersley and that McClymont Sister, wife, Brooke, which would be a good thang.

This album is very polished and offers up something for just about everyone who likes good music. He has been on the road a bit, which would help his delivery, you can hear the performance quality on here, it is not just a singer singing songs.

Worth a little more, Nobody Else, Keep Rollin’ and If that’s what you need are my favourites, but they are all good quality songs.

It is a big ask to produce an album of this standard at such a young age, especially when it is your first. Having the variety, the voice and the musicianship of Adam and his band and some fine tuning from Nick DiDia, a Grammy award winner, no less, who mixed the album was a smart move as well.

Blake, of course, produced an EEP last year which was high quality, too and made my ears prick up and ready for more. It will be interesting to see what direction he takes in country music over the next few years, as he could go a few ways.

We are blessed in Australia, right now, with lots of young performers and producers who are making the future in country music very exciting to think about and look forward to.

Blake is one to watch.

His album will be launched at the Hats Off Festival in Tamworth this weekend.  Enjoy.

 

Tracks:

Let Me Be

Beautiful As You

If You Wanna Get To Heaven

Worth A Little More

One Way Street

Learn How To Love

Keep Rollin’

Nobody Else Can

Ain’t So High

If That’s What You Need

Totally Biased Fan Review – Wild Heart – Emma Beau

 

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Most of these tracks were penned by Emma. This album was produced by the amazing Michael Carpenter.

I have known Emma’s music for a long time, so long that her name was not even Emma Beau when I first knew her. She has supported so many amazing artists from various genres over the years. And she is still very young. As a back up fiddle player, support artist and multi faceted muso and singer, she has learned her craft with some of the greatest Aussie artists of all time.

It is finally time for her to shine. She has travelled many roads to come to this point. It is hard to believe that she has been around for so long and yet she is still so young and on the precipice of her own new adventure.

Her music is such a fusion of styles. She covers a lot of the 79 types of country music here. I guess that it is mainly a mix of alt. country, folk and country rock. Her voice is so melodious and complexed. Think a mixture of Tori Forsyth, Imogen Clark, Katie Brianna and just a touch of Kate Miller-Heidke to confuse us and delight us all. Mainly though, Emma is Emma. She has always followed her own path, an original who is not afraid to learn from others and stay true to herself at the same time.

The beauty of country music today in Australia is that most artists are not afraid to push boundaries, to test the waters and to mix genres. They can do all of this without going to the totally pop circuit that some Americans are doing. Good music is good music and this album exudes that. I only go down this path if I think that it is worth it. I have been a fan of Emma’s for a long time and I am willing to flex my country music muscles to include her into my country music world, because she is quality. She has the ability to embrace even the most hardened country music fan, because she can draw in the most sceptical of country music fans with quality music.

She can also draw some young folks and music lovers outside the country music genre by breaking down boundaries and  making her music not totally twang.

I am a sixties Aquarian child, so of course I am attracted to the folk side, the addition of one of the only unoriginal tracks here with House of The Rising Sun which is actually older than the 60’s, we just relate to it there because of Bob. I actually think that this is Emma’s forte. I would be directing her in this style if I was in charge, it is her strength.

Her vocal gymnastics are a trip. The musicianship of this album is polished and worth the price of admission.

She would fit in very well to the Alt. Country Music scene in Melbourne, should she ever decide to head south.

Emma is in good hands, she is not afraid to try new things, different things. You should feel the same way.

This is a long awaited album. Bravo to all who contributed to getting this album up and running.

I am sure that Jon English is looking down on earth and cheering. Go Emma.

 

Track Listing

Wild Heart
Leading Me Astray
Poison
Bridesmaid
Guilty Gun
Dark Eyes
Stars
Lost in You
Down to the River
House of the Rising Sun
Waitin’ on the Time

Totally Totally Totally Biased Fan Review – House of Cards – The April Family

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The April Family’s first album was my very special magic gift in life. I rated it number 11 in my favourite Australian Country Albums of all time. I still play it over and over. Bob Browne and I flogged it on 2GLF in Sydney.  This album has been a long time coming…not as long as it took Michael Bryers but it was getting there. I knew a few songs before I finally had the album.

I am unashamedly and amusingly known as the fourth member of the April Family, even though I can’t sing and can’t play anything other than air instruments. Together with Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes, they are the most influential bands in country music as far as I am concerned.

Michael Carpenter is a bloody genius and such an amazing producer and collaborator with so many others.  What he brings to this album and to the wonderful trio is on another level again. I am not just talking about his musicianship and his production techniques but just his touch of magic…the original X Factor, if you will.

My Tamworth Brother, Casey Atkins is the quiet achiever in this trio but the ultimate star on this album, is Kylie Whitney. She was a rising star on the last one, but this is her album. She really comes to the fore.

Every song is different, with a different brand of country and attitude on each song.

I am not sure why, but I haven’t heard Adelaide LIVE yet, and it is actually my second favourite song on the album, and only by a nose to the amazing Blue Had You.  I heard that last song just after we lost a dear friend in the country music family to The Black Dog, and it meant even more to me after losing Tom.

Adelaide is extraordinary.  Friends like These is fun.  I ain’t lonely yet is an amazing, soulful song.  When My Life is also one of my favourites. I actually drifted away on this song. What are these guys doing to me. …..they actually didn’t play all of these songs at the gigs on the weekend….oh boy.

The April Family were worried because I loved the first album so much. They worried that I wouldn’t like this one. Oh wow, it is just outrageously good. I was upset that the first one didn’t rate a mention at the Golden Guitars (despite winning several Kazzies), but if this one isn’t there then I may just commit Hari Kari. I am so in love with this album that I may never stop playing it….it is definitely Kazzie bound.

It gets off to a rousing start with One Trick Pony.  The album offers a balance of mellow, catchy, dance along, singalong, cryalong songs.

The One to Set Me Free is awesome. I have this song in my head….always a good sign.

Sorryman is the kind of song that you could hear Patty Loveless singing. It is just one of those bluesy, soft swinging country songs that you just want to mellow out to.

Poor Girl’s Blues is just one of those foot stomping, thigh slapping (Laura) songs, America, catch on to this, you would swear that it was born in the deep south.

Champagne has already been released as a single and will be a singalong song at gigs (it already has been) – even for a shocker of a singer like me. Never broke my, broke my heart….easy…

There is not a bad track on this album and as much as I adored the last album, this one is just as good, and just as easy to sing along to, and embrace.

People, please buy this, play this and love this as I do. You will not be disappointed. It is a bloody rippa!

 

 

Tracks:

One Trick Pony

Friends Like These

Blue Had You

The One to Set Me Free

Sorryman

Adelaide

Poor Girl’s Blues

Champagne

I ain’t lonely yet

When My Life

This Road

All songs written by Michael Carpenter and Kylie Whitney

Produced by Michael Carpenter

The April Family are:

Kylie Whitney: Lead Vocals

Casey Atkins: Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals

Michael Carpenter: Drums, Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Banjo, Piano, Hammond Organ, Backing Vocals

plus:

Andrew Cavalieri: Harp on Poor Girl’s Blues

Luke Moller: Strings on Adelaide

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Think I’ll Carry It On – Richard Lynch

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Australia’s biggest fan of Richard Lynch is Leonie McClure. To be honest, I don’t think that I would have heard about Richard if it hadn’t been Leonie playing Richard (just once or twice…..) on 2RRR.

I have heard a lot of the songs on this album before because Leonie has played them a few times and I am already fairly familiar with them. My favourite of the songs that she has played is Pray on the Radio and it is probably still my favourite after listening to the full album, but there is a lot here to love.

If you are a fan of Alan Jackson, George Strait and George Jones, and a touch of John Michael Montgomery, then you will love this. All of the songs are original, but they have that old comfortable slipper on the foot feeling like those other male artists.

Although there are officially 79 types of country music, when the chips are on the table, it is always going to be a strong pull back to what many call “real country”. I guess that Richard’s music is in that same groove of the 90’s kind of country sound, rather than any earlier times, and that is my favourite era of country music.

There is no doubt that there is an element of God Bless America, and considering where the music and the heart is, then so it should be in this album.

Richard’s voice is strong and deep and true. The guitars twang in all of the right places and the words ring true to type and fashion. There is a lot of reminiscing on this album, with songs like Back in 1953 (one of my other favourites), The Old Feed Store, You Can’t Stay Here, Daddy’s Guitar and They Don’t Play ‘Em like that, reflecting that feeling.

My young American friend, Buck Ford, sings a similar tune, keeping the rich country sound alive and spreading the word about what that flavour of music values and appreciates most.

This music and the way that Richard delivers it, is honest and tells it like it is. It is feel good music that makes you happy and makes you feel and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Thank you Leonie for introducing me to Richard’s music. I hope to be able to spread the word a bit too.

Have a dance or two, a drink or two and just relax and listen to some good ol’ country music.

Tracks:

We’re American Proud (Richard Lynch)

Love Tattoo with Ronnie McDowell (Richard Lynch, Charles Brisbin and Terry Dennis)

Pray On the Radio (Richard Lynch)

Another Honky Tonk Song with Leona Williams (Richard Lynch)

You can’t stay here (Richard Lynch)

The old feed store (Richard Lynch and Timothy Bennington)

Back in 1953 (Richard Lynch, Timothy Bennington and Robert Lynch)

Keyboard Cowboy with Donna Lynch (Richard Lynch and Donna Lynch)

Fast Times and Easy Money (Richard Lynch)

Daddy’s Guitar (Richard Lynch)

One Breath Away (Richard Lynch)

They Don’t Play ‘Em Like That (Richard Lynch and Timothy Bennington)

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: I Wish You Enough – Wendy Wood – E.P.

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Without a doubt, Wendy is one of my closest friends in Country Music, so forgive me if I am even a bit more biased than normal. I would like to think, though, that despite my obvious rose coloured glasses viewpoint that I also have excellent taste in music and you will agree with me anyway.

We only receive a mini offering this time, from Wendy Wood, but 4 songs is much better than a single or of course, nothing at all.

Wendy and I have very similar taste in music. We love a lot of the same artists and styles. I was told in Creative Writing at uni that you are what you read, the same thing can be said from what you listen to.  In many ways, this is Wendy’s “most country” production to date. Again, Wendy has written the songs, including a co-write with Kevin Dunshea.

All the songs are different.  Wendy has such a beautiful, easy to listen to voice. She makes every song sound like a believable story and easy to visualise. Her songs always connect to people, and they always have a link to family, special places and times and to friends. The words are always important, well thought out and are beautifully phrased. there is sometimes a quirky what if touch in a song on an EP or an album, a different way of looking at something familiar.

I have said for a long while that Wendy Wood and Cathy Dobson are the most underrated female country writers in Australia and I stand by that. They are two women who understand the simple things and the difficult things and they know how to articulate these situations and make them more interesting and relatable.

My Tamworth sister has especially delivered with Library on Livingstone Street, which will not come as a surprise to those who know me and what I do for a living.

I hope that this is just a little teaser and that another album is coming soon. Four great songs to enjoy and experience.

 

Tracks:

I Wish You Enough

Would You Be With Me

Library on Livingstone Street

Little by Little

All songs written by Wendy Wood except track 2 written by Kevin Dunshea and Wendy Wood.

Engineered and Produced by Steve Newton at Enrec Studios Tamworth, NSW

 

Musicians:

Anthony Walmsley – electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin

Matt Parnell – drums and percussion

Andrew McMahon – bass guitar

Steve Newton – keyboards, pedal steel and backing vocals

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Pieces – The Story So Far – Phil Doublet

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Phil Doublet is one of the finest guitarists that I have ever had the privilege to hear. It was in this capacity that the Christchurch Kiwi first entered my country music world via Luke O’Shea and The Medicine Wheel.

Our honorary Aussie (as a dare to raise money for charity once, we made the poor man where Aussie gear and sing True Blue or Still Call Australia Home at Tamworth) we have embraced Phil as a solo artist and also with his work with his equally talented wife, Lana.

As Aussies, we have changed his name from the French sounding cool name to Double It, but that is our way of showing respect, otherwise we would just call him “Hey, you!”

Phil has been through some rough times as a New Zealander on the South Island and in an industry that can be pretty tough. However, he is a much loved member of our Country music family and extremely well respected by true music fans and his peers.

This collection proves his great worth. Standouts for me are Suitcase, Prayin’ for Rain , The Kingston Flyer, Endless Highway, Sometimes and of course, The Day The Spire Fell. Phil’s songwriting abilities have led him to perform at regular Songwriters in the Round in both New Zealand and in Australia.

I was lucky enough to speak with him recently on our 2RRR special with Leonie McClure and he was a surprise guest. It is hard when you only have a short time to talk, there are so many questions that I thought of after. We’ll just have to do it again.

If you haven’t heard Phil’s work before, this is a good place to start. Phil Doublet’s songs are about real events, emotions and real people. He doesn’t mince words, he says it how he sees it and he has a big, kind, heart.

There is a promise of a new album soon with all new material, but in the meantime, kick your shoes off, slouch on the couch and listen to some awesome music from across the ditch, Phil never disappoints.

 

 

Tracks:
1. Endless Highway

3:36
2. The Day the Spire Fell

4:07
3. Suitcase

3:14
4. Keep You Hangin’ Round

3:28
5. Gone

3:42
6. My Surrender

4:11
7. Miss You

4:10
8. Sometimes

4:00
9. Old Hokonui *

4:16
10. How Many Ways?

3:02
11. The Keeper

4:26
12. Blues Devil Live Down Here

2:51
13. The Kingston Flyer

2:25
14. Out in the Country

3:51
15. Prayin’ for Rain

3:49
16. St. Anthony

2:48