Tag Archives: country-pop

Katy Hurt : Face to Face, single released 27 August 2021

A gorgeous new single from Katy Hurt; a country waltz full of wistful regret that is another example of her strong songwriting talent.

Starting with a gentle free-form guitar introduction the band ease into the mix with a shuffling, easy rhythm that creates instant atmosphere. Instrumentally this is judged perfectly but the glorious vocal performance from Katy is the show-stopper. As the feelings and tension are only just restrained the listener is pulled into her world of possible heartbreak, ‘…..I’m searching for the rhyme or reason for what’s going on…we’re supposed to be closer than ever before….but somehow we’re further away…’.

It is a track that is at the opposite end of the spectrum to many of Katy’s previous rockier releases such as the pop energy of ‘See Ya Later’ and the road trip narration of ‘Revved Up’. The new track ‘Face to Face’ has parallels with the pensive poetry of her excellent 2019 ballad ‘Unfinished Business’, ‘….there’s a book on a nightstand I’m ten pages in and the spine has already been broken….’, a song full of raw emotional imagery resolving into the melodic grace of the chorus.

https://www.katyhurt.com/

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The Wandering Hearts, LP released August 2021

A new self-titled album from country-rock trio The Wandering Hearts; a celebration of their varied styles built around rich vocals and strong song-writing….

  1. Hammer Falls : As a prelude to the album this one is given a big build-up as a dusty introduction gathers in intensity before the bluesy voices gradually push into the foreground.
  2. Over Your Body : A jumpy pace gives a momentum to this unpredictable track before the combined voices fly fully in the chorus.
  3. Build A Fire : One of my favourites; full of energy with the harmonies setting light to the clear positivity in the refrain.
  4. I Feel It Too : With the dream combination of the three contrasting voices interacting a simple tune is raised to a higher plane.
  5. Gold : Addictive and driving anthem full of rhythm and tension before the big reveal of the catchy chorus.
  6. Dolores : On a par with the ethereal lightness and luminescence of 2018 track ‘Burnng Bridges’, as gentle acoustic guitar and cello form a platform for gorgeous vocals.
  7. Dreams : Pensive and a bit melancholic this is a real grower.
  8. Never Too Late : A strong rhythm pulses through this amiable and rousing pop song.
  9. Tell Me When I Wake Up : Tender and calming, full of longing and texture with a minimal instrumental backing.
  10. On Our Way : The opener to their previously released EP, this is a barnstorming spiritual, reflective and optimistic with a huge chorus.
  11. Stardust : A gradual come-down from the heights of the previous track, with imagery and positive sentiments ‘…we are diamonds in the air…we light it up…’
  12. Lullaby : Showcasing the trio’s vocals for a final time and with only an acoustic guitar to counterpoint the melody, it is a gentle bookend to this fine album.

https://www.thewanderinghearts.com/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/03/03/ward-thomas-junction-cambridge-1-march-2019/

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Kezia Gill : The Mess I Made, EP released June 2021

A new EP from Kezia Gill. a force to be reckoned with in UK country rock..

  1. The Mess I Made. Bold, brilliant vocal from Kezia on this stately rocker framed by searing pedal steel from guest Sarah Jory. An epic track on every level.
  2. All Of Me. Initially the calm after the fireworks of track 1, but soon expands into a glorious slow blues, again filled by the stormy voice and the barely contained restraint of the band.
  3. Country Song. The narrative takes us on a journey ‘…straight into a country song…’. A knowing, fun take on lyrical genre themes, with an upbeat likeable optimism.
  4. Live It Up. Mid-paced rocker with addictive chorus and a clear message ‘…don’t waste another second…live it up like we’ve only got tonight…’
  5. Bad For Me. Probably my favourite on the collection; starting as a piano waltz it all gets a bit dark before the huge chorus delivers the emotional heft. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better a soaring guitar solo duels with Kezia’s rich vocals before the ending drifts away…
  6. The Adventures Of A Travelling Mind. Recorded ‘as live’ this is a raw and dusty blues, the band keeping it tight and tense as the vocal steers the song through the reassuring chord structure, creating a big road movie soundscape…

keziagill.com

Sarah Jory – Sarah Jory / Worldclass Pedal Steel Guitarist

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Lucy Grubb : Waste My Time, EP released June 2021

A new EP from UK country/Americana singer Lucy Grubb; her first since ‘Dear Walter’ in 2018.

1.Waste My Time. A lovely opening track, it is a mellow slice of hill country with an irrepressible momentum pushed along by intricate drumming, interleaving guitar and sustained and rich keyboard notes. Lucy’s vocal is lighter than air; effortlessly portraying the theme of dissatisfaction in the song ‘…I don’t possess the knowledge to read between your lines….don’t hold my hand….I won’t look back….’, before the instruments are giving a showcase at the end.

2.Other Side. A melodic ballad, full of longing especially in the catchy but thoughtful chorus ‘….what’s the weather like on your side?…’. With the Americana atmosphere and haunting middle-eight it is probably my favourite of the collection.

3.You Don’t Do Anything. The pace picks up again for this energetic romp, Lucy smoothly delivers her well-crafted lyric, always returning to the title line dismissal. Sounds like it would be a great crowd-pleaser in a live show.

4.When It Rains. A wistful finale, with a calm footstep tempo and plenty of wide open space in the musical arrangement. Lucy’s vocal leads strongly, supported by emotive harmonies and extra strings. Like the whole EP, it stays in the mind long after the gentle ending…

Lucy Grubb – Home | Facebook

Shannon Hynes : Hide, single released May 2021

‘Hide’ is a new single from Welsh singer/songwriter Shannon Hynes, following on from the seven song ‘Country Words’ collection back in 2020.

Earlier this year she released ‘Standing Me Up’, a smooth slice of up-tempo country-pop that motored along as Shannon’s vocal interweaved with a counterpoint violin line. The catchy chorus lodged in your head and the overall effect was a positive delight, with a thoughtful undertone in the words and music.

From the pensive and sparse keyboard introduction ‘Hide’ is a gentle anthem built around a heartbeat speed and a bold vocal performance of the stately melody. The verse sections have an atmosphere of quiet melancholy which is then contrasted in the retaliation of the chorus, ‘…you want to take me down but I won’t sink down low…’. A guitar line and drums add extra instrumental weight, then backing vocals echo the lead voice until the final fading away.

These two 2021 tracks show different sides of Shannon’s performance and songwriting; both are satisfyingly full of emotion and creativity.

HOME | Shannon Hynes

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Emma Moore : the table, EP released 7 May 2021

An impressive new EP, full of celebration and melancholy, rockers and ballads, all held together by the insightful lyrics and versatile vocals of country-pop singer/songwriter Emma Moore.

1.Husbands or Kids. Strong country-rock opener, the verses stealthily roll along and build up before the assertive big choruses drive the points home ‘….I’m no tick off a list…or somebody’s side piece…tell me this ain’t all there is…’ 

2. Late to the Table. My favourite track on the EP with a moderate waltz time, graceful melody, some unpredictable chord movements and a great vocal performance leading to the hookline each time.

3. Waiting For You. Featuring acoustic guitar and piano, this wistful meditation is beautifully sung with accompanying harmonies and a heartbreaking middle-eight ‘…and I’m so sorryI hesitated….I could have been the one…’.

4. Blinded. A cinematic slice of country pop, with a brooding banjo creating a mood of suspicion ‘….he keeps secrets, you see mystery…he keeps you hidden, you see privacy….’

5. When. With the pedal steel to the fore, this irresistible song embraces two distinct themes of country music; cheating and questioning within a relationship. The uncertainty continues through the lyric ‘….you won’t say that’s what you did…you left one line to cross and now you hide behind it….’, all delivered elegantly in voice and music.

6.Match Made In Hell. Rocking track, sung as a sort of confrontational one-sided duet, ‘….you’ve got your pedestal… I’m the angel that fell….’ but ultimately underpinned with affection. Plenty of raucous noise from the full band featuring steaming slide guitar.

7.Ten Years A Stranger. A bonus on the vinyl-styled CD release, this is a quiet and thoughtful acoustic coda to the EP, allowing Emma’s expressive voice to fully shine through.

Emma Moore | Country Artist | Home

Louise Parker : Living in Silver Linings, LP released April 2021

The debut album from talented UK country singer/songwriter Louise Parker opens with ‘Rear View Mirror’, one of four tracks ‘re-imagined’ from previous releases, in this case expanded from the original acoustic version to a full band rocker, radiating fun and energy. ‘Should’ve, Could’ve, Will’ rolls along with a counterpoint violin in the mix and an assertive message ‘…..and I’m not moving backwards so I might as well focus on where I’m going instead….and next time I will be strong and tell you no….’ then the emotional heft of ‘Lie To Me’ features some gospel chord styling and a vocal giving heartfelt regret to lines like ‘….and I’ll leave your side of the bed made, just in case you come back one day…..’.

The duet with Joey Clarkson ‘If You Want Me To’ is a gorgeous light-touch pop song full of delicate harmonies and definitely one of the highlights of the collection, along with the strong melodic statement of ‘Story of Love’. There is a change of pace for the reflections of ‘I’m Moving to Nashville’, where the narrator finds all is not as expected ‘….there was no gold at the end of rainbow…just people pulling strings at a grandiose puppet show….it’s about who you know, not what you know…..’ before the country pop positivity of ‘Just Friends’ restores the relaxed mood.

I like the way this album is full of style changes and surprises; the voice and piano introduction of ‘Paradise’ moves seamlessly into the full band treatment with Louise’s light and shade vocal powerhouse pushing all before it (and special bonus playout section on the CD version!). It is a rewarding finale to this rich collection of songs.

Home | louiseparkermusic

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Rosey Cale : Breathing Fire, EP released 18 March 2021

A new EP from Welsh alt-country singer Rosey Cale showcases her range of writing and performing styles across four excellent tracks.

1.Mary Jane. An anthemic full band rocker, with an assertive vocal lead, driven by a raw descending chord sequence to echo the resentment and anguish in the lyric, ‘….it’s eleven thirty two he’s still not home….he’s a cheater…’. Playing out with an abrasive guitar solo it is a strong opener.

2.Breathing Fire. To reflect the title this is another big blast of country rock, with more acerbic observational lyrics ‘…you walk in the room think everyone is after you…but you don’t see that everyone is rolling their eyes to your lies…’. The drums and organ fill in the sonic textures before the hypnotic ‘….you took, you stole…‘ refrain builds up to a grand finish.

3.Secrets. Gentle acoustic guitar heralds this folk-influenced ballad. Rosey imbues the timeless melody with authentic emotional resonance,‘…if I could take all of this pain from you I would…’. A subtle and gorgeous highlight of the EP.

4.Keeper. Rosey has previously recorded a Welsh version of this mid-tempo track (‘Ceidwad’) and whatever the language the optimism and spirit of the song shine through, riding on a poppy tune and addictive hookline. The lead slide guitar line duels and interweaves to great effect with the memorable vocal.

ROSEY CALE – Home

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Harriet Rose : Love Me Like That, single released 5 February 2021

The UK Country/Americana scene continues to flourish, with performers like singer/songwriter Harriet Rose in the vanguard. Her previous single ‘Small Town Chains’ was a positive, rousing anthem – a re-assertion of one of the standard themes of country music; leaving the limitations of hometown roots in pursuit of musical ambition. The confident performance with the storyline brought to life in the accompanying video was a convincing debut.

On her excellent new release ‘Love Me Like That’ Harriet has slowed the pace – with the delicate opening setting the framework of the song ‘…sitting in another bar, waiting for it all to close…knowing that you’re out with her…’. The acoustic guitar is joined by a quietly played banjo and the music moves in and out of an almost full band sound.

It is a sombre song, edged with melancholy and questioning ‘….was there something that I could have done?….’. The carefully placed lines continue to build up in layers, overlapping through the loose melodic structure, as does the varied instrumental backing. Harriet’s plaintive, tender vocal lays the emotion out for all to hear, given a break by a short guitar solo before the song quietens again to make the regrets and emotions of the lyrics crystal clear.

Harriet Rose – Official Website (harrietrosemusic.com)

12 Highlights From 2020 : A Sampler Of The Year. | cambridgemusicreviews

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Ward Thomas : The Space Between, EP released June 2020

A new EP from UK country-pop duo Ward Thomas, collecting together some recently pre-released songs and a new gem…

1. Hold Space. As reviewed on this site previously ‘… a well balanced union of a melody that holds the song without over-elaborate instrumentation and of course features the sisters’ sparkling harmonies. A straightforward lyric makes the point very effectively as it describes how to be there for someone who may be struggling emotionally…’

2. Someone to Someone. In many ways this is a low key and mellow EP, with an emphasis on acoustic instruments and the controlled expressive power of the vocals to deliver the thoughtful musings. Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas are joined on this track by acclaimed singer/songwriter Dan Owen, trading lines and sharing harmonies before building up to the big chorus.

3. Landslide. I have heard many live covers of ‘Dreams’ in recent years but in my opinion this is a superior song from Fleetwood Mac’s 70s heyday. This jewel is a stunning version; vulnerable and melancholic with harmonies that pull every essence of emotion from the lyric and leave the listener overwhelmed. Gorgeous.

4. Painted Legacy. After being turned inside out by the poignant mood of the previous track, this is another subtly restrained but very moving piece. The words express both a specific and generalised meditation on losing a loved one and how their whole life can have so much impact.
It is a lovely gentle melody interweaving with choice lyrical phrases ‘….brings alive my memories of how you spun pure gold out of the dust… I can’t bear to see you go somewhere far where I can’t follow….’. Concise and unhurried this fine song brings the brilliant EP to an end.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.com/
https://www.danowenmusic.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/03/03/ward-thomas-junction-cambridge-1-march-2019/

 

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