Totally Biased Fan Review – Sing It Now: songs of Faith and Hope – Reba McEntire

 

rebasingitnow

I went to Sunday School as a little kid, both of my parents were raised in Christian homes, my father probably more so than my mother, though it was my Ma who had more control over that part of my upbringing. They were both pretty heavily involved in church activities and youth groups as kids and teenagers. My parents were involved in more charities and community clubs than anybody that I have ever met. They may not have gone to church every Sunday as they got older but you could not meet two more Christian people than my folks. The door was and is always open to strangers, family, friends and they were always and are always there to lend a hand, even when they didn’t have much themselves. My pa said that he had his own church, that you didn’t need to go to church every week to prove that you were a good Christian or a good person. I think that Pa knew that I liked going to church for two reasons: the stories and the songs. We once surprised my much more religious aunty by singing gospel songs from Tamworth to Mosman in the car. I think that she gained a little hope for my father (her brother) and myself after that.

I am telling you this story so that you will see two things as you read this review. I am not a bible bashing religious, hellfire and brimstone person. I love songs and I love stories. I go to church when I feel like it and as Reba said in an interview, “I tend to talk to God in times of desperation, rather than in good times.” Whether that is wrong or right, I don’t know but if we are honest, it is true for most of us. I would like to believe that there is someone up there watching over us. In the cynical world that we live in, it is an amazing feat to think that “a story” has been carried on for thousands of years. When there are bad things that happen to good people or massive tragedies that happen on a world scale, then you have to wonder where God is. Then there are times when all seems lost and something incredibly amazing happens like when Stuart Diver survived or the Beaconsfield guys walk out of the mine or somebody loves you for absolutely no reason.

Reba sings songs here that are not all sweetness and light. They are songs and stories that question and reflect as well as offer hope and faith and inspiration.

The album is actually two albums: The first part has songs that are very familiar to most of us who went to Sunday School or Church – on a constant basis or irregularly. Some have been sung by many at Carols by Candlelight or commercially. The second cd or part, has a batch of new or newish songs on it.

The two cds are very different, but they cover the same issues, the same thoughts and feelings.

Some fans will only listen to the first album, others will only listen to the second. That is the way of people. I will be listening to them both, and probably when I need some inspiration.

I have wanted to go into one of those Churches in the Deep South in America and hear the wonderful gospel singers do their stuff. Hopefully, I will get there one day. In the meantime, I will be giving this beauty a few spins….and then some.

 

Reba is one of the most multi talented artists of the last few decades. There is not much left for her to do. She is a star of the small screen, the big screen, stage and of course, there is her music. She has covered most forms of country music (the good ones!) and she is a mentor to many. Like Dolly, she is a woman in charge. You don’t have to be a religious or even spiritual person to love this. It is just good music.

 

Songs:

Part 1 (or cd 1) (The classic gospel songs)

Jesus Loves Me – (William Batchelder Bradbury) – Probably one of the first songs that I ever learned at Sunday School. Beautiful arrangement. Piano and strings, awesome.

Oh, How I Love Jesus – (Frederick Whitfield) I had to admit that I couldn’t recall this one but it is probably one of my favourites on the album. Reba triumphs with this one.

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder – (James Milton Black) – I always think of Henry Fonda in Spencer’s Mountain when I hear this song. Check the movie and it will stay in your head, trust me. Reba singing her heart out.

Oh Happy Day – (Edward Francis Rimbault) – I have loved this song since I watched the Woodstock movie, when I was about 13. Quite possibly the best version that I have ever heard. Oh, sing it, Reba.

Amazing Grace – (John Newton) – It wouldn’t be an album of hope and faith if it didn’t have this song on it. I think that in many parts of the world it would be against the law not to put it on an album. Reba was always going to knock this one over the fence for six.

I’ll Fly Away – (Albert E Brumley) – One of those songs that gets everybody singing along. Our own Amber Joy Poulton does a great version of it.

Medley: In the Garden/Wonderful Peace (feat. The Isaacs) – (Austin C. Miles) / (Warren D. Cornell) – I had a feeling that Reba would sing In the Garden (one of the songs that her grandparents loved best).While In the Garden is the dominant song, Wonderful Peace blends in well. Lots of heart in this one.

Medley: Swing Low Sweet Chariot/Swing Down Chariot – (Wallace Willis) – sung in Reba goes Annie get your gun style!  Yee Haa! It doesn’t lose any of it’s spirit, in fact it gains some. And then she brings it home.

How Great Thou Art – (Stuart K Hine) – A beautiful, traditional hymn that was also a favourite of Reba’s grandmother’s. Amazing rendition.

Softly and Tenderly (feat. Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood) – (Will Lamartine) This is my favourite hymn, so I was always going to love it. The fact that it has my third favourite international country female singer (Trisha Yearwood) singing it with her, only adds to the beauty. Kelly is sort of related to Reba, and she is growing on me, she is maturing as an artist. I first heard this song when Debbie Byrne sang it at Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne a fair few years ago now. Dolly has sung it and a few others, but this is a wonderful version.

Part 2 (or cd 2)

Sing it Now – (Michael Farren, Joseph Habedank, Tony Wood) – This is sort of a modern Amazing Grace, it even mentions some of the words. Traditional Rebaesque sound.

Angels Singin’ – (Jessi Alexander, Sarah Buxton, Steve Moakler) – This is more of a streetwise song of faith. I am not sure if you would ever hear this one in a church….unless Whoopi Goldberg was involved.

God and My Girlfriends – (Patricia Conroy, Lisa Hentrich, Marcia Ramirez) – Reba said that she had been chewing over this one for a while. I think that the time is right for her now to sing this, especially. Fits her like a glove.

Hallelujah, Amen – (Dave Barnes, Lucie Silvas, Jeremy Spillman) – Probably the most down to earth, song for every person song on the album. Great song, one that you can listen to over and over. Right on, Sister!

There is a God – (Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley) – This song asks some interesting questions. It is quite powerful and Reba belts it out.

I Got the Lord on My Side (Reba McEntire, Jackie McEntire) – Written by Reba and her Mama. It is a clap along, sing along song. It is a happy song. Now this one I can definitely hear in church.

Back to God (Dallas Davidson, Randy Houser) – This is the single and I think that it is a fair call. It sounds like a regular Reba song with another level going on. It is a bit more of have a bit of faith song than a hymn even though it mentions God and praying. Great guitar work. She’ll have them standing on their feet again after this one.

Angel on My Shoulder (Leigh Reynolds, Amber White, Philip White) – Interesting rhythm. It is bluesy, it is boisterous and it is Reba. I would love to hear this LIVE, it would be totally mind blowing.

From the Inside Out ( Amy Fletcher) – A very honest and heartbreaking song but a song that offers hope.

Say A Prayer (Michael Dulaney, Jason Sellers, Neil Thrasher) – The kind of song you hear as the credits roll on a powerful movie. An offering of hope in people’s darkest days. Who can sing like Reba, really….come on.

(The hidden track is a reprise of Jesus Loves Me)

Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus and Doug Sisemore produced the album.

I was thinking of a few that I would like on here. Country singers have done Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine in a few times, Morning Has Broken and A Time for Every Season have been done a bit but they are all great songs. This little light of mine is cool, but it has been done a bit now. Some great songs on here anyway, and it is a marathon effort by Reba. She has had a full, rich life with some major highs and major lows. Her faith must have been tested many times.

What she delivers here, is something that few singers could deliver. It is pretty much a masterpiece. I stress again that you don’t have to be a believer, it helps, but it is not essential. However, if you are one after listening to this, or go away humming one of the songs….then I won’t be surprised.

Totally Biased Fan Review – Endless – The McClymonts

the-mcclymonts-endless-album-cover

Many years ago, I went to a gig at the Tamworth Town Hall, I think that it was one of the Buttercup gigs where they had lots of different artists on, some known, some not so well known. This one girl came onto the stage, blonde and young and blew the crowd away. They had to fix the roof too. She said that she had a couple of sisters at home in Grafton who liked to sing too. The rest, as they say, is history.

I was a little hesitant about buying this album, because of rumours and because of the fact that I loved their last album so much. The rumours were about their change of direction and that Ronan Keating is involved with the album. I usually write my own review then go and have a search on the Internet to see if there are any credits, interesting quotes (more so from the artists than the critics) and to see if I have captured the album okay.  There were a few extremely harsh reviews, some biased ones from McClymonts only fans and some firm but fair ones.

My Dad (who is strictly a Slim Dusty/Johnny Cash man – though I am slowly teaching him about others – and he thinks Jo Hemara walks on water), actually mentioned to me that he loved those “girls from where Troy comes from” on the Carols in December. Having said that, this is not the kind of album that I would buy for my Dad, but there are a couple of tracks on here that he would give a listen to.

My taste is much broader. I sometimes cringe at the pop approach that a lot of country acts are taking these days, but I am prepared to give it a spin. I am also intrigued why the powers at be give Kasey Chambers’ album a pop rating and The McClymonts a country one. I think that both albums are country, they just explore different areas of country.

You don’t want every album by an artist to be the same, you want them to evolve. You want each album to be technically better than the last and you want the artist and the listener to be challenged. There is no doubt that this album is beautifully produced. Some reviewers said that it was over-produced…..whatever that means. I think that these three could sing my old Maths book through and make it sound beautiful – without any help from technicians. However, the sound of this album is probably the best thing about it. The lovely harmonies of these three amazing singers, the musicianship and the variety of music on “Endless” is enhanced by an outstanding production team. It is quality. Perhaps some reviewers thought that it was too slick, but my ears were happy.

Yes, I loved their last album. I thought that it was not only the best album that I have heard from them but quite possibly one of the best Australian country music albums, ever. That puts a lot of pressure on a new one. They took their time (weddings, babies, life) producing a new one. It is a good album, in many ways, it is a different direction and while it isn’t “Here’s To You and I”, it does have some great moments.

Ronan Keating….hmmmm. He sings on one of the best tracks on the album but I have to agree with the majority of the critics. I will clean up what some of them said but basically they said that he is not needed. (They offered directions of where he could go). I have never forgiven him for what he said about women in Australian Country Music or for ruining two of the best country songs ever written. One reviewer said that he is on the album for so little time that we can just close our eyes and ears and think of the girls and move on. I tend to think that they have one of the best male singers in this country in the family. I am sure that Adam E. would have been happy to sing a few lines and it would have been appropriate….and we also have so many other wonderful country male singers here. We don’t need him on our albums. One evil reviewer suggested that it was a publicity stunt to get people to buy the album…..um, that is just stupid. The pre-sales of this album, alone were record breaking – they always are for these girls.

Enough griping. I like my reviews to be positive….hence the title. I will just kid that Adam sang the Ronan bit.

The McClymonts are one of Australian Country Music’s best advertisements. It is no surprise to anybody when I say that I love their ballads best, that is just my preference. Country Music in Australia offers us a smorgasbord. Check out each offering and savour it. We don’t want to go down the track of other countries and set the genre in concrete.

Songs:

Like We Used To – This is a very country poppy tune and a good way to kick things off.

House – I love this song. It does remind me of early Shania Twain and there is nothing wrong with that. It is very infectious. I will be singing this in the shower a few times.

Nothing Good Comes Easy – If the last one was Shania like, then this one is more Dixie Chicks. Awesome song.

Endless – Best track on the album by dairy I say it…(pun intended), a country mile. Harmonies at their best and it is just perfection.

Chain Smoker – No, this is not an advertisement for a cigarette company. This is more of a poppy/rocky number. Catchy and toe tapping.

Let You Down – Probably another one that Shania would give a shot at. The drummer would have had fun with this. It has a very cool backbeat. Some groovy guitar licks too. It is definitely at the rockier end of the scale.

When we say it’s forever (feat. Ronan Keating) – An incredibly beautiful song – and yes, it will be played at a lot of weddings. I was imagining Adam E or Mike Carr or someone singing it with the girls. Bitterness aside, this song is a star.

Unsaveable – A song which was accused of “following the formula” by some critics. Hell, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. An important song and a good one.

Judge You –  The uptempo angry song that every album needs.

Don’t Wish It All Away – Words are all too true in this song. Beautiful and the Maccas at their best.

Bad for Us – Great way to finish the album. A beaut song.

Totally Biased Fan Review – What We Might Be – Michael Waugh

michaelwaughcover

 

Before Michael Waugh had been nominated for best new talent at the Golden Guitars this year, I had heard of him, but I did not know his music. Then Felicity played a couple of songs on Saturday Night Country and it sounded to me that they had made a good choice for a nomination.

At the festival, I was able to see him three times. Most importantly, I saw him at Songwriters in the Round with Col Finley and Allan Caswell. He more than held his own with these two legends of Australian Country Music. He made us laugh and he made us cry.

This album was released last year, hence the nomination for this year’s awards. He has a new album coming out this year and I am excited about hearing that work. I have been reliably informed that it is even better than this album.

When I was at University, they told me in Creative Writing to write what I know about. Michael certainly does that…..warts and all. He is a very honest songwriter. I have always liked that in a songwriter.

His music is a mix between the likes of Redgum and The Bushwackers and hints of Luke O’Shea and Allan Caswell. These are real story songs about real people. One minute you will be going for the tissue box, the next, you will be laughing.

A well educated lad from the bush. The fusion is interesting – undeniable country songs laced with in depth, well articulated messages and heartfelt lyrics. The songs are sensitively and subtly delivered with some powerful undertones.

Shane Nicholson had a hand in this, so I am informed, and you can tell.

Sorry for the lack of credits, Itunes did not provide them.

 

The Tracks:

Heyfield Girl – This song is about Michael’s mum. It is essentially a love song.  It has echoes of Luke O’Shea’s Listen to the Words in it too. This is the song that got Michael the nomination and it is a beautiful song. I am glad that a love song was written about a girl from Heyfield.

Mafeking Hill – I think that a lot of us can relate to this song – and what we did in our early years – the imagery is very clear!

Paul – We all know a Paul. I don’t really want to dissect this song, I think that you need to listen to the story and the song and soak it up for yourself. This is an important song.

My Dad’s Shoes – change of pace in style. Again, a reflection on his growing up and the focus is more on his father, this time, as the title suggests. The melody is catchy and fit for a slow barn dance.

Planes – A song for debate. It has some good points. I remember wearing my Annie Oakley outfit with pride as a kid in the late 60’s and shooting the bad guys. I think that kids see things differently to adults, and I am a hippy, 60’s Aquarian girl and I grew up a pacifist. Food for thought though, as good story songs should be.

Dairy farmer’s Son – Another family song. Michael paints a true picture of life on the land and his family. Many country people will be able to relate to this song.

Heart of the Valley – Very much an “on Point” song at the moment. This is happening all over Australia and it shouldn’t be. Life is being sucked out of some of our most beautiful and important places.

This Too Will Pass – A toe tapping tune and beautiful tribute to fatherhood. Terrific song. Some wonderful lines.

Brother – Michael tends to mix humour with sadness and above all, reality. This is an honest portrayal of siblings….the good, the bad and the ugly.

Find You – This song hits home for me, as dementia/Alzheimer’s is prevalent in my backyard. Some of the lyrics are very close to my heart. A sad song about a growing problem in society these days. Let us hope that they find a cure soon.

Maffra Under 10’s – Very few things are more Australian than the local kids footy team, no matter what the code. A very colourful picture of something that we all know so well.

 

Michael is carrying on a tradition. I can’t wait for the album. If it is as good as promised and better than this one, then that will be a bottler, because this is a beauty.

Totally Biased Fan Review – Dragonfly – Kasey Chambers

kaseychamberscover

Very few country music artists in Australia have done this: No. 1 album on the Country Charts and the Pop Charts at the same time – and on debut, at that. Kasey was always going to be the one to do what a fair few Americans have done in the USA, in Australia. This album, or albums, rather, are one of the most remarkable feats in Australian music history. Kasey is always challenging herself and her listeners, for that matter. She is always evolving. Her voice can go off into many directions and her music can too. Her recent solo performance at the Golden Guitars made most of the audience fall off their chairs and the roof came off the TRECC. If anyone in Australia covers the 79 different types of country music, then Kasey Chambers does.

Kasey comes from an illustrious family and the family is now extended and has “adopted” a few high flying Aussie musicians.

There is only one Kasey Chambers. Nobody sounds quite like her in any of her guises and she doesn’t sound like anybody else. This is a very unique trip….join me, or more importantly, join Kasey.

Sorry about the lack of credits. I am not sure about Ed’s appearance. One reviewer mentioned him singing the song with Kasey. I had heard rumours. Paul Kelly produced the first cd, Nash Chambers the second. I gather that Kasey had a hand in all of the songs.

A certain major reviewer did a mainly positive review, but sounded like they went to a thesaurus or swallowed a dictionary in order to write it. Kasey is not like that. She writes and sings from her heart, with humour, honesty and no bullshit. One song in particular is basically her autobiography and you laugh at one turn and almost sigh or cry at another. Only Kasey could sing a song like that……and get away with it.

Interestingly, Itunes list this album under pop….seriously? This album is many things. To label it one thing is crazy.

The tracks:

CD1

Pompeii – Italy meets Appalachians. Interesting mix….and it works.

Ain’t no little girl – the single that made everybody stop in their tracks….powerful.

Summer Pillow – Classic Kasey music.

Golden Rails – Back to Poppa Bill’s and Paul Kelly’s more bluegrassy music. Any train song will do me….that’s just the way that I roll.

Jonestown – Vocally at her best on this sad song. A very interesting song.

Romeo & Juliet with Foy Vance – This has a very Celtic feel. As I said earlier, Kasey covers most of the 79 types of country music on this album. Awesome sound and great vocals by Foy too.

Talkin’ Baby Blues – E. Yee Haa! It has the E because it has a little bit of a naughty word in it. Basically, Kasey’s life story….til now. Fun and a little sad too.

You Ain’t Worth Suffering For (E) – More in the pop category…almost Adele like.

Behind the Eyes of Henri Young – Bob Dylanish. Kasey has gone very international on this album….not just in kinds of music but also in the stories.

Hey (with Paul Kelly) – Almost like a Johnny and June song with some swamp stuff and even a little Dylan and Elvis like stuff. Hey yeah……let the air guitar rip!

This is gonna be a long year (E) – If you heard this song without knowing that it was Kasey, then my guess is that you wouldn’t know that it is Kasey. I like it though. Actually, I love it.

CD 2

Shackle and Chain –  Almost Rattlin’ Bones revisited.

Dragonfly – Title track and found on CD 2 and that is how it goes with Kasey…she plays the songs of life to the sound of her own drum. This song works on a few levels. The more that you listen to it, the more you hear other things…..I will let you find your own meaning.

If I died – It mentions Bayou in the first line…..I think that will give you a big hint about the tone and the style of this song. Some interesting guitar work in this one. Sing it sister.

Satellite (with Ed Sheeran)  – Not listed on any Itunes credits or in most reviews, but it is in one notable review that Ed is there….sounds like him. #whenyouwishyouhadthecd. Sounds wonderful, anyway. Great song.

No Ordinary Man (with Harry Hookey, Vika Bull and Linda Bull) – Bluesy/mountain music with a little help from 3 of Australia’s best.

If we had a child (with Keith Urban) – Those two magic words Keith and Urban. How can you go wrong? Close to the best song on the album and these two harmonise beautifully together. To be honest, I think that Kasey is the best harmoniser in the business. She has an amazing way of blending with just about any other voice in any genre. That is a gift and so is this song.

Annabelle – A haunting song.

The Devil’s Wheel (with Grizzlee Train) – back to that Rattling Bones feel again….but a totally different song lyrically.

Ain’t No Little Girl (FM Lounge Version) – Slightly different version of the first single.

Kasey Chambers has had a life and a half and she is still young. This album is close to her best, though I will love The Captain til I die.

I think that she made a lot of young folks sit up and listen to country music and see and hear that it is very diverse and very different to what they thought that it was. This has also encouraged young people into the industry as well. At Tamworth this year, there were more young people on stage and in the audiences than there were older people.

Kasey has not forgotten or abandoned her roots, but she is willing to try new things and to mix it up.

Another winner.

Totally Biased Fan Review – Cross Your Heart – Emma Jene EP

album-front-cross-your-heart

Emma Jene is a very special young lady. We have been mates since a couple of Hats Offs ago. She was 16 when her first album, “Dare to Dream” was released. I was stunned by this album. I am not often speechless, but I was. How incredible. (This review is on my former blog, A Country Hattitude – listed on the side here).

Since then, Emma Jene has worked very hard. She has travelled all over, appearing at many festivals and gigs in lots of Australian places and some overseas spots, too. Her very supportive and down to earth family have worked alongside her.

For someone so young to have such a strong focus and vision, and to have such a great talent at just -turned -18 – this week, then there is no telling where she will end up. She has a great passion for what she does and such a big heart. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

I have compared her voice to that of one of my heroes, Judith Durham of Seekers’ fame, someone that Emma-Jene probably hasn’t heard of because of her age, but there is a definite likeness. I don’t know how to give a bigger wrap than that.

The Songs:

Cross Your Heart (Shaza Leigh/Cil van der velden)– a beautiful song that EJ released last year as a single and the title track to the EP. It will melt even the toughest of hearts.

Yahoo – (Emma-Jene)A slight change of pace, here. Some great guitar work, quite a Yee Haa song….or should I say Yahoo song!

Fakin’ It Just Makin’ It (Shaza Leigh) – A nice and easy song, with a gentle rhythm showcasing EJ’s sweet vocals. There is a stronger message there, though.

As My Memories Fade  ( Shaza Leigh/Emma-Jene)– A song close to my heart and close to home, given its subject matter and Emma Jene’s haunting vocals.

I will always love you  (Dolly Parton) – Probably Dolly’s most popular and most covered song. EJ sings it slightly differently to how I have heard it sung before….a different arrangement and with a different feel.

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) – With Leonard’s recent passing, this song has become even more meaningful. Probably one of the most covered songs in the world, sung by singers as diverse as k. d. Lang, Adam Toms, Rod Dowsett, Damien Leith, and many others. It is a beautiful song, almost a hymn. Given EJ’s faith and her beautiful voice, this was a given.

The Beat of A Drum (Cil Van der Velden/Emma-Jene/ Jarrod Grimmond) – Released last year. This song is a gem and will be played at most future ANZAC Days.

When the Namoi Flows in the Moonbi Range (Shaza Leigh/Billy Wye) – I know the Namoi very well, as I was brought up in Tamworth and I have some great memories of the Namoi and Peel Rivers. Great song, Shaza, and beautifully delivered, EJ.

 

I don’t have the band credits here, but I know that it is out of the LB studio, so great work, musos.

A lovely EP, I am sure that we will hear more of Emma-Jene.