Totally Biased Fan Review: Benn Gunn – Ain’t Nothin’ But a Party

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It’s been a long time between drinks, but the drinks are still on the table. The new release from Benn Gunn is a lot more pumped up than the last one, the drinks are harder, the trucks are bigger and the guitars and the drums are plentiful. At least, that is how it opens. As the album goes on, the songs take on a more mellow country flavour.
Benn is one of our best LIVE artists. He shares some similarities with my other favourite Ben, Ben Ransom. I even mistook one for the other in a facebook pic this year. They have a similar relationship with their audiences, they both work pub crowds well and they do have a similar sound and appearance. Benn is probably more of a cowboy, hence the hat.
There are some standout songs for me on this album. I absolutely adore Unlove Me. It is a great song. I know a little somethin’ about that is a terrific song. Itallstartstoruntogether is very Tim McGrawish, and there is nothing wrong with that! Being a ballad girl, I do like All I need tonight.
Nothin’ but a party will be popular with the crowds, I can see them clapping and singing along to this one.
Beer Weather will be another singalong song, Very Australian, very Tamworth. It will go down well at The Goodies or the Tudor.
The harmonies on Heavensville are great. Catchy and toe tapping. Cool song.
The band is very tight, you can tell that they are all having a good time.
The songs range from toe tapping to sing-along to smooth, to drive along to songs. There is something for everyone here. Benn’s vocals are getting better with age. They were always good, but he smashes some of these songs with a new energy.
I loved Benn’s last album, but this is very different. It does take a few listens to fully appreciate it. It is one that grows on you in all of the right ways. Benn is a very underrated performer, if you see him LIVE, you won’t be disappointed.
This is a very well rounded, polished album that Benn should be very proud of.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Marie Hodson – Chances Are

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Marie Hodson puts a warning on her announcement of the release of her new album on social media: Please be warned, this is pure country. Thank God for that, I say.
Marie is well known for her tributes to Reba, Patsy and the like. The Kiwi from Werris Creek sounds more like a Honky Tonk Cowgirl from Tennessee than a red head from the land of the long white cloud and there is nothing wrong with that.
Marie can mix it up. She has a country quality to her voice that is absolute torch and twang and unmistakeably from another era but she is not afraid to introduce a different string to her bow or a new chord to the truth. However, in a world which is forever working out what direction country is going in, her roots are grounded firmly in what made country music unique and well er, country music in the first place.
The album has classics written by legends like Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Ray Price and Willie Nelson but it also has a wonderful surprise with a song by one of my favourite songwriters, Lachlan Bryan. Many of the songs will be familiar to you, others are more obscure tracks from the famous writers.
The album is beautifully produced and mixed by Stuie French (my favourite guitarist), a perfectionist and a master of handling this type of music. His good wife, Camille Te Nahu, one of the best singers in the universe, does a great job on harmony vocals. With a wonderful band that has some of the best musos in the country, you can’t really go wrong: Brad Bergen, Michel Rose, Ian Lees, Tim Crouch, Chris Hartley and my dear mate, Lachlan.
Oh Lord I’m Tired: (Peddy, Tillis, Price) – Yep, it is definitely country. You could play it on the jukebox in any truckstop cafe.
Chances are: Not the one that I was expecting….I was thinking of the Johnny Mathis song, but this is a beauty too. The title track and Marie at her absolute best. Great song.
Old Fashion Love: I reckon that is Stuie on the guitar there…unmistakeable! Swinging country song.
Don’t Touch Me: Great old Hank Cochran song. The kind of song that my parents used to like to dance to. A song that only real singers can sing and Marie does it justice.
Key’s in the mailbox: A Harlan Howard song. They don’t get much more country than this.
Don’t you ever get tired of me – In my opinion, this Hank Cochran song is one of the best country songs of all time. It takes a great voice to pull it off. Marie does it with gusto. If you don’t like this, then you don’t have a pulse.
A-11 – A different kind of Hank Cochran song. There are a few songs like this, with the same sentiment. This is one of the better ones.
Back to Earth – not a well known Willie Nelson song but if this rendition is anything to go by, then it should be. Beautiful duet with Lachlan Bryan.
Tweedle Dee (or Tweedlee Dee) – I have it as written by Winfield Scott and first sung by LaVern Baker. It has had many reincarnations, often used in 50’s and 60’s tv shows and movies as part of the soundtrack of the era. Jimmy Osmond and Elvis Presley even did versions. It is certainly different to the other songs on the album. It doesn’t hurt to mix it up.
Someone you know so well – written by Lachlan Bryan. It was never going to be less than brilliant, but it is a real rippa. It is a new song written very much in the old style. Made to order.
You’re still on my mind – A great old song. Great way to end the album. I have to get myself a jukebox.
This album is a great tribute to what country music is all about. Keep up the great work, Marie and keep it country.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Steve Deal – Four Rivers

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Steve Deal is a big deal at the moment. Major television and radio shows are cottoning on to his music, thinking that he is a bit novel. Steve is a bus driver who happens to sing very well. What television, social media and radio don’t get, is that just about every indie artist works another job. Some are teachers, some are waitresses, social workers, cooks, childcare workers, farmers, truckies, hairdressers, shop assistants and tradies and are from many other vocations. As they become more successful, some of them can go part time in these areas, or if they are lucky enough, they can be full time musicians and producers. There is even an ex accountant who can flaunt a Gold Guitar at the moment.
This isn’t to take anything away from Steve. He is the real deal, I just think that when people look a bit deeper they will find that he is not on his Pat Malone.
What Karl Stefanovic picked up on the other day in his interview and subsequent hearing of one of Steve’s songs, was that Steve’s music is very Australian and very country. When you see Karl jump up high off his chair at the mention of Cootamundra, then you know that the boy has touched the hearts of true Aussies.
There is much to love about Steve’s music. The first song, Burn it Down, is about America, not Australia, but there is a touch of the Kernaghan about it. The lyrics may mention New York and Tennessee, but it could easily be about heading from Brisbane to Melbourne. Good track to start with.
It Ain’t Love – While it is more up tempo than Vince Gill’s classic song, it has similar lyrics and the same sentiment. (Love never broke anyone’s heart). A guitar and drums driven song.
Four Rivers – The title track and one of my favourites. Mentions rivers in both Australia and the U.S.A, and the effect that they have had on Steve’s life. Great melody and wonderful lyrics.
I can’t take my eyes off you – Gentle rocking country love song.
A beautiful life – Most of Steve’s songs have that drive along on a long road kind of sound, I don’t know if that has anything to do with the fact that he drives a bus, but they have that play in the car sound and this one is no exception.
Southern Aurora – From the title there is no mistaking this one for an Aussie song and a subject very close to my heart. We are on train tracks now and the travelling is back in time. The change of pace is welcome. Train songs always win me over.
Stink – More of a blues approach to this one…almost the swamp music sound. …..then the tempo changes mid stream to something that could be on a Cold Chisel song. I like it. It wasn’t what I expected, but I like it. Pass me the air guitar please.
Let’s Go – back to the highway, but there is a bit more to it. A guitar driven song.
Wider Than the Sky – The banjos are calling on this one, and again the wide open spaces….I don’t think that this boy spends much time inside four walls.
Steal my heart away – One of my favourite songs on the album. It is a bit more gentle and very sweet. Very singalongable. Reminds me of Steve Forde on this one.
I remember you – Not the Frankie song. An uptempo love song and yes it does mention driving.
Overall, this is a great effort. Steve has spent some time in the USA and it shows in his style, but it also is very obvious that he is a proud Australian. He can be very happy with this album.
I hope that Karl jumps off his chair with excitement at the next one too.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Ashley Monroe – The Blade

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I have stated many times that Lee Ann Womack’s There’s More Where That Came From is my favourite country music album of all time. Reminiscent of that wonderful album are two albums which have been released this year. One is Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material and the other is this one. Ashley and Kacey share many of the same attributes that Lee Ann’s album possessed. It is fantastic to know that amongst all of the plastic and bubblegum music which is attempting to pose as country music that the real deal is still alive and well.
Thanks to Felicity Urquhart on Saturday Night Country last weekend, I was introduced to this artist, somewhat belatedly, but better late than never.
The first track, On to something good, is slightly poppy, but only slightly. It has that Womack touch and it is very catchy. It has just that right amount of twang to ground it in the heartland. Some critics have condemned it, saying “ignore the first track and push on”, but I don’t find it unlistenable at all.
I buried your love alive – has that slow dance floor feel…you know when they line up, clap their hands and spin around in those roadside bars. Very bluesy.
Bombshell – Extremely Womacky and I love it. Easy on the ears.
Weight of the Load – Ditto above and all that is good about country music. Listen and learn would be country music singers.
The Blade – the title track and one of the best songs that I have heard this year. The lyrics are clever and the song is pure country. Amen.
Winning Streak – An uptempo, slightly New Orleans/Memphis sound….fast piano and a little Honky tonky. Goodness, it even sounds like the Jordanaires have been revisited.
From Time to Time – Easy listening and interesting vocal aerobics. Her voice is all over this one.
If Love was fair – Interesting lyrics and cool backbeat. Two slightly different styles meshing….and it works.
Has anybody ever told you – Back to slow with a bit of steel guitar and a lot of ticker. Awesome song.
Dixie – Fiddles are a playing, blues are in the house and the Southern Feel is alive and well.
If the Devil don’t want me – From the first few bars, I am sold. I can imagine our own Camille singing this song. It has a Vince Gill sound about it….and Lee Ann and Dolly are definitely strong influences.
Mayflowers – Beautiful country song, reminiscent of Wildflowers.
I’m good at leavin’ – appropriate last song on an album. Harking back to the days of Loretta and Tammy and early Dolly. Awesome.
Ashley Monroe is, along with a handful of others in America, giving us true country music fans some hope for the future of the preservation of traditional country music, with a modern twist and a different angle on an old story.