Totally Biased Fan Review – Midnight Carousel – Arna Georgia

City raised country singers are not unusual these days. Melinda Schneider and Amber Lawrence probably led the pack with that movement. I caught Arna at Christmas last year, on the same bill as Catherine Britt. Catherine co-wrote the first song on the EP and there is a similarity in styles. There is no argument about where Arna’s music fits. It is definitely in the deep roots of Country Music. She is absolute torch and twang. When you check out her influences and the people that she has been mentored by, it is no wonder.

This EP is a trip down memory lane. They are all new songs but they are all in that old fashioned country style from what, on the surface, seems a very unlikely source. When Catherine came on to the scene, she was able to draw a lot of a younger generation into the old net, I think Arna will be able to do the same.

Nowhere Else to Fall will be in the running for a Kazzie Award, I think. Definitely the best of a very good pack.  Broke and Single is very close to home….but it is catchy! All the songs are worth a listen. A graduate of the Country Music Academy in Tamworth, Arna will go down well in the Country Music Cap and with anyone who appreciates a good old country style song. San Souci may have its first big country cowgirl star!

Tracks

Midnight Carousel

The Freight Train Song

Flying

The Road That Never Ends

Moving On

Nowhere Else to Fall

Broke and Single

Old reviews – check out A Country Hattitude

Hi gang,

Just a reminder. If you want to check out my old reviews, their is a link to my old blog, A Country Hattitude on this blog. Due to administrative problems, I couldn’t get onto the submission part of the blog, so I had to switch in 2015. You can still look at the reviews and information on there though.

Thanks

Kaz

Totally Biased Fan Review – Never Gets Old – Joe Nichols

A fair few years ago now, I watched some of those American Country Music Awards shows and this tall, dark and handsome cowboy won a few new talent awards. I thought, Hell yeah, amongst all of the young ones coming through trying to turn country into a murder on music row, this young fella is going to keep country, country.

Joe has been in and out of the music business. He tends to have a run then a rest. He hasn’t released an album in 4 years. Thankfully, he returned with this wonderful effort. I think like all real cowboys and cowgirls, he was becoming disillusioned with the way the music was heading in America and he wanted a time out. This album is how it should be. Joe still has his melt the Arctic voice and he is still country, thank his big country boots.

Most reviews that I read agreed with me and they were grateful that Joe returned, perhaps this can turn some tide in America. There are some bonafide Country Artists still around producing amazing music, but the new crop is thin on the ground as far as a real country sound goes. Mo Pitney, Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves and a couple of others are really the only ones of a new breed who are producing that old country sound. Reba, Martina, Clint, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sara, Tim, Faith and all are still punching out Country, but the new kids on the block need a shape up or a ship out.

One idiot reviewer (who shall remain nameless) said that Joe only sings a few country songs on this album. This idiot pushed the envelope even further by confusing Americana with Country Pop. I think that he needs to be schooled.  As a very talented songwriter once wrote: If this ain’t country, what is it?

I own a few Joe albums and I love them. Like our own Adam Hubba Hubba Harvey, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, George Strait and my young mate, Buck Ford and a select few others, his smooth as chocolate voice makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. A great feeling on a cold winter’s night.

There are some standout songs on this album, including the title track, Never Gets Old, I’d sing about you (he mentions Elvis, James Taylor and Willie, that’s good enough for me, right there.) I do agree with the idiot that Billy Graham’s Bible is a fine track (apparently featured on another album in another guise). So You’re Saying is a very cleverly phrased song. Joe handles the rhythmic difficulties of the song brilliantly. It is also very catchy. It is probably too complicated to be a shower song, I would have to practice! This Side of the River has some interesting qualities to its tune and it has  refreshing lyrics as well. Girl in the song is also very Joe. In fact, all of the tracks are great. We all Carry Something is like very early Joe songs. It is very much part of his repertoire. Breathless has taken a bit of flak but I like it. It is perhaps a bit more contemporary but it is still very country and just a damn fine song.

The only one that I’m not overly keen on is the opening track, Diamonds make Babies, ironically the idiot’s favourite. The final song, a cover, with Darren Knight, Baby Got Back is not really to my taste though I am glad that Joe likes big butts, I might still have a chance. Joe often puts in a novelty song, much like Adam Harvey does.

Welcome back Joe. He has always been a favourite of mine and I am sure that he will shake things up a bit with the young ones.

Tracks:

Diamonds make babies

Girl in the song

We all carry something

I’d sing about you

Breathless

Tall Boys

Hostage

Never Gets Old

Billy Graham’s Bible

So You’re Saying

This Side of the River

Baby Got Back (featuring Darren Knight)

The Amizing Jen

 

A couple of years ago, I had a dream year of gigs, including 3 international gigs (I don’t go to many of the big gigs lately – they are just too much on the pocket, even when I am working.) I had to go to these three, though. My favourite female country singer/songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the wonderful Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and the incredible Iris DeMent. My friends, The Weeping Willows had been a support for Iris in Melbourne. I said, bummer, it would have been good if you guys were supporting her in Sydney. Laura said, you will love the support. Her name is Jen Mize. I had no idea who Jen was. I was a total ignoramus.

Onto the stage steps Jen. OMG. Yes, my dear favourite trees were spot on. I loved Jen from the first note. I was going to love that night anyway. One of my heroes was going to walk on that stage and play for me, but a good appetizer is often just as important.

After that, I ran into the Las Vegas come Queenslander a few times, at a sombre occasion (Karl Broadie’s day at Rooty Hill) and at a happy occasion at Petersham Bowlo with those Willows and some up and coming young lady called Fanny Lumsden.

I reviewed Jen’s album, Warnings and Wisdom (which has become one of my favourite albums and then I bought her older album, Fear, Pride and a few Stubborn Angels. Both albums are necessary for your collections.

I have seen Jen a few times this year – a few times at Tamworth in January and also with Lachlan Bryan and Mitch Power at the Django Bar.

I love her new radio show, Three Chords and the Truth on Thursdays with Paddy McHugh. It tackles some meaty subjects and the music is just awesome.

Jen’s music is folky, bluesy, swampy, to the point and beyond and extremely earthy. She has the most incredible voice and her songs are so honest and outside the box. She is not afraid to tackle slightly and not so slightly controversial topics in her songs or off the record.

Jen is a great addition to the Australian Country Music scene. Her gutsy honesty and wholehearted passion for essential “real” music make her a great leader in the Alt. Country movement. I play her albums a lot, especially the the later one. I hope that Jen continues to deliver this kind of music and the home truths that we don’t always like to hear, but we know that they are for real.

To try and describe Jen’s voice or compare her to anyone, would be a grave injustice. Just put an album on for a spin or two and you will realise that her music doesn’t need any explanation.

Just feel, think, enjoy. Thank you for the music Jen, please always call Australia your home…..at least in part.

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – Our Backyard – Amber Lawrence and Travis Collins

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Amber is celebrating her 10th year in Country Music. Travis finally won some GGs. They have been friends for years. They are both crowd pleasers and appeal to all ages. They record an EEP (Extended Extended Play) and take it on tour. Big hits, packed out venues. Yes indeedy. I saw Travis at Tamworth at Tamworth Town Hall when he was so wet behind the ears that they had to mop the stage. Even then, he showed character, charm and above all, talent. I wrote a note to myself – Kaz, this kid is gonna be a big star. As I wrote in a recent article on Ambs, I saw her on her launch at Tamworth. You get to know the ingredients after a while. I have a 95% success rate with those whom I follow. These two went above my expectations….but not by much. I am so proud of them both.

This EEP features seven very strong tracks, all that could be released as singles. They all hit the spot. Our Backyard, the title track, is also the first single. The others will follow because they have that quality.  There are full on duets and others where one dominates and the other does a light harmony.  Some are up tempo, like we would expect from Travis and Amber separately, let alone together. Others are more gentle and easy, as you would also expect from Travis and Amber. Both of them know how to mix it up and they bring those qualities to this joint project.

I heard in an interview that they did not want to go down the track of singing classic duets, they wanted to do their own thing. All of the songs are terrific, there isn’t a dud amongst them. I guess that they made the right decision.

These two will be around for a long time to come. I’ll be on my zimmer frame cheering from the front row when these guys are in their 40th year of country music.

Tracks:

Our Backyard – The title track and the first single. It is about how great the world is but how even greater things are here in good old Australia. An obvious choice for two wonderful young Aussies.

Millionaire –  Up tempo like the last one, some nice guitar work and a story about a guy that we all know. Someone who lives for the moment.

Here I Stand – Ahhhh. Yeah baby. Awesome song. Couple it with Wearing White by Melinda Schneider and Mike Carr and the set is complete. It will be amongst the Kazzies this year. Lovely.

Boxes – This is a wonderful song which is almost an anthem. It has some fantastic lyrics and the messages are loud and clear and spot on. This is the most powerful song on the EEP. A big effort from both Travis and Amber.

Drink – They had to have a song like this on a duets album. What is a country record without a drinking song, anyway. It is kind of a fun song and it will be a crowd pleaser. Both Trav and Ambs have songs that are signature crowd pleasers – ones that make people get to their feet and belt them out….this will be one of those.

How Good You Got It – Travis takes the lead. Strong power ballad. A be grateful for what you have song.

In Reverse – This song with Amber at the lead, is a sad song that offers some hope and which showcases Amber’s lovely lilting vocals. I think that this is the sort of song that Ambs does best. Heartfelt, sweet songs. A nice gentle way to finish.

I put the lady first in the credits, though it is not that way on the album. These two go so well together, like peas and carrots.  Just don’t put them in the stands together at a Parramatta vs Souths game.

The only question is, why did it take so long?

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: From the Bottom of a Well – Brad Butcher

 

This must be the most awaited album of the year…..well one of them. I heard Brad sing a couple of tunes in January at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. I had heard a lot of good things about him and all of those things were right. The singles released, the special on Saturday Night Country and my initial gut feeling all proved the theory right. Brad Butcher has arrived. He actually did a while ago, some of us are a bit slow to catch on.

It is not a surprise that Matt Fell produced this. It has his Midas touch. Brad’s songs are not dissimilar to those of Shane Nicholson.  They have a folky, easy feeling. They have depth and character and they feel familiar like a pair of comfy slippers. They are not just fluff, though. The lyrics form very much part of a bigger story. There’s more to the story, still to come, as Brad would sing.

Brad is from part of a large family and the songs are very much part of the fabric of this album, particularly his late grandfather. Listening to Brad, it is not hard to say, “he sounds like…” but at the same time, that would do him a disservice, as the songs that he sings with that familiar voice are his alone – they are his stories.

In Australia, right now, we have so many wonderful songwriters of all ages in the Alt.Country and Folk field. I am very proud and lucky to be around at a time when all of this amazing music is being produced. It is up to people like myself and other fans and djs to promote it and let the world and our countrymen and women hear these beautiful tunes.

The songs have the earthiness of Springsteen or Dylan but have the gentleness of Donovan or Gordon Lightfoot or our own Doug Ashdown.  It is Shane  and Lachlan and Luke O’Shea like that way – strong stories, heartfelt messages delivered with a handshake rather than a punch.

Tracks:

From the bottom of a well – Appropriate that this is the album title and yes, the first track on the album. A definite favourite on the album. A great way to start.

Crawl, beg and cry – This one has more of my “shower song” candidate feel. It has a rollicking beat that bops around in your head and your toes. Instrumentally, this is spot on too.

More to the story – This one will be requested a lot by gig goers, I am sure. It is easy to hum along to, easy on the ear and the picking is perfection. A country tune for certain. This may be borderline shower song too.

Well Dressed Man  – a standout song. It is a single from the album and thoroughly deserves to be. I don’t often say that, I often think that the wrong songs are chosen as singles, but this is the obvious choice. It is poetry, really. One of my favourite songs of the year, from anybody.

Dreamer’s Curse  –  The easy strumming that starts this track lulls you into that dreamlike state. Of all the songs on the album, I think that this one showcases Brad’s vocals best. As the world’s biggest dreamer myself, it didn’t flow too far from home.

Mark My Words – Another favourite. The words are just so beautiful and the musicianship sweeps you away. Just a lovely, lovely, lovely song. Melt.

Glasgow Train – Goodo, a train song. I can’t go without a train song for long. They always win me over. It mentions Cornwall too, one of my favourite places and I think Andrew Wrigglesworth and Lachlan Bryan will favour this one….have you guys been hanging around together? A great story song.

Monsters (E) – It is hard to pick favourites on this album. Maybe I should just give in and say that I adore them all! Some for different reasons. This is more gritty than the others, the E is for a minor expletive. Nothing that we don’t say every day in Australia. I almost missed it.

Oh Marie  – A very Donovan like song. Such a gentle, moving song.

You can Talk To Me – You have to love a song that starts with that organ music feel. They don’t do that much anymore….I think that may be a Matt Fell touch. A very bluesy, summer day feel to the music but the words are much deeper and more intricate. Sort of J J Cale meets Eric Clapton.

All Said Done – Just as the opening was perfect, so is the ending. This song rounds things off nicely. I actually cried when I listened to this the first time. Wo man.

 

It is fitting that Brad has been touring with The Weeping Willows. It is a good match. I don’t have the hard copy, and at this point, there are few reviews to compare it to and get the details. I will get the cd as soon as I can. I like to give credit where credit is due and I am sure that there are a lot of people to pat on the back with this one. At the heart of everything is Brad. It is a wonderful album. It is right up there with the best of the year and worth the wait.

I’ll remember this here moment and all that I feel.