Tag Archives: country

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 track 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.

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Charlotte Young : Coffee and Conversations, EP released April 2021

A new EP from Birmingham based indie-country singer/songwriter Charlotte Young, a follow-up to ‘Blown Away’, released last year.

1.Remedy. With its driving melody, crisp production and big chorus this is a strong opener to the EP. Charlotte keeps the lyrical ideas flowing, conversational in style and plainly setting out the emotions hidden behind the words as the band add depth and nuance.

2.On The Loose. Accidently turn up the distant radio speaker introduction and then you suddenly get the full blast of this energetic slice of country rock. Probably my favourite on the EP it is a full road movie in its three and a half minutes, as Charlotte delivers a winning vocal performance, with full credit also to the sparkling guitar and pedal steel from the band.

3.Praying for Rain. With the poignant opening lines ‘….staring at the driveway where you drove away….wondering how we made those same mistakes…’ this is the big ballad centrepiece of the EP, all building to the desperate resolution of the heartbreaking ‘…..I’m just sitting here praying for rain…’. The unexpected guitar solo, middle-eight and quiet restatement of the chorus all add contrasts to this fine song.

4.Early Light. This one moves along nicely, it has a relaxed pace with a subtle but insistent beat. The lyrical atmosphere created ‘…..coffee and conversations as we walk down town…’ sounds very inviting.

5.Whiplash – Acoustic. A new version of a track from Charlotte’s previous EP; it still has a fairly full instrumentation but with the acoustic guitar at the fore there is plenty of space for the vocal. The catchy chorus stays in your mind as this excellent collection comes to an end.

Charlotte Young | Facebook

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Mischa : New Beginnings, EP released February 2021

A track by track review of the excellent debut EP from rising UK country-pop singer/songwriter Mischa.

1.Do You Remember. Released as a single last year this is the most immediate track on the EP; a glorious combination of slow-burning verse gradually rising to a great big title hookline. The nuances of the tune are brought to life by Mischa’s versatile voice and the well-balanced instrumental production features a driving rhythm guitar, duelling with some bluesy lead lines.

2.Won’t Be Long. Slowing down for this ballad, piano and pedal steel set the tone as Mischa shows her vocal range from quiet meditation to soaring above the band.

3.If I Cried. The emotional centrepiece of the four tracks, a stately torch song where the straightforward melody is fully inhabited with a clear statement of heartbreak, ‘…if I cried….would you notice then?….would you stop or do it all again?….’ The powerful vocal performance inexorably draws the listener in to share the sorrow.

4.Moving On. One of the eternal themes of country music, the leaving behind of place or relationship connections to branch out. This track aligns the underlying regret of the verse with a cautious optimism in the punchy chorus. The quieter middle-eight sums it up ‘…you give me no reason to stay…so I’ll just walk away…’, before a final chorus leaves a strong impression of the confident voice and rich production found in these four songs.

Mischa Jankowska | Facebook

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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 : Invitation, LP released October 2020

The fourth album from alt-country duo Ward Thomas sees them infusing their sound with contemporary pop to great effect. Opener ‘Sweet Time’ is as uplifting a track as you could hear; especially with the accompanying video of the sisters and friends cycling on a summer day and when they are singing ‘……sipping on champagne stars and slowing down the speed of light…’ all is indeed well with the world.

‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ and ‘Open Your Mind’ keep the pace up but the waltzing ‘Someday’ stops the show. It is a torch song fully using the gorgeous harmonies that roll up to a summit before fading away then reaching the big string-backed chorus ‘….don’t say you love me yet…darling I’m still too scared…’. Gorgeous.

‘Meant To Be Me’ and ‘Hold Space’ are reflections of aspects of current chart pop with acapella interlude ‘Dear Me’ showcasing the voices again. ‘Wait Up’ recalls aspects of their earlier albums sound while full-on Bond theme ‘My Favourite Poison’ is a sweeping strings soundscape.

The last two tracks are quiet and thoughtful with the sisters delicate and gentle harmonies in the forefront of the mainly acoustic backings.

There is more – three bonus cover versions, starting with ‘Halfway’, a rousing duet with James Blunt and a song reminiscent of Ward Thomas crowd pleasers at their live shows. ‘Human’ with Jack Savoretti is a countrified live rendition of The Killers’ song with an angelic vocal arrangement and the finale of Fleetwood Mac classic ‘Landslide’ is as good as a cover of a classic song should be.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.co.uk/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2020/06/21/ward-thomas-the-space-between-ep-released-june-2020/

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

Invitation
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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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Molly-Anne : California Calling, EP released April 2020

An EP that collects together earlier solo work by Gloucestershire based singer and songwriter Molly-Anne, predating her new band Molly & The Moon. Fusing elements of folk, country and storytelling, these well-crafted songs are uplifted even further by Molly’s top-quality vocals.

1. A San Francisco Story. Starting with just percussive guitar chords and the pure voice this opening track is described by Molly as a live favourite that tells its own story ‘….it was a quarter to eight down by the Golden Gate….I lost my heart in San Francisco…we didn’t care and we wore flowers in our hair…’ The amalgam of real or imagined imagery works a treat and the band rise to the occasion as they gradually join in.

2. Horizon.
A wistful recollection of a past relationship, the narrator looking at the horizon and still hoping in the anthemic chorus ‘…come and find me where the ocean meets the sky…’

3. California Calling. The biggest chorus on the EP is bookended by gorgeous folk stylings in the vocals of the delicate verses. A guitar solo and organ fills out the sound before the celebratory full harmonies at the end.

4. Bristol Boy. Contemplation of a summer romance inspires vivid memories ‘…we’re running over Clifton Common searching for the sun…’, with a hint of melancholy as ‘…times like those keep me reminiscing…’. The song rushes along with urgency, as unfortunately the time passes all too quickly.

5. The Lakes. Alternating between the reverie of the verses and the majestic chorus this is another thoughtful anthem with luminous lyrical reflections ‘….and now the winter’s here and you keep the frost at my door….’. The final minute and a half of instrumental and vocal build-up is a brilliant finale to the EP.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

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Molly & The Moon : Cold Is The Night, single released February 2020

First recorded as a solo acoustic ballad in 2019 by folk country singer and composer Molly-Anne this stunning new version has reimagined and expanded the original and now stands as the first release from the new band Molly & The Moon.

Reassuringly the track has retained the subtlety and understatement; set to a gentle waltz time it is a simple expression of missing a loved one ‘…I think that I love you too much…you’d break my heart if you never came back…’ resolving into the perfectly balanced three-part harmony chorus, ‘….cold is the night without you here….the pain of my heartache as wild as the sea…I hope the wind blows you back to me….’.
The production and performance is relaxed and mellow – with the rich but delicate lead vocal hinting at the depth of emotion beneath the surface.
This new band line-up features acoustic bass, guitar, banjo and cajón and is featured in an atmospheric video recorded at a 10th Century Saxon Barn in Gloucestershire, an appropriately timeless and classic setting for this gorgeous song.

(Molly & The Moon can be seen at the charity Frameshifter II Festival on 21st March, tickets available here )

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/12/22/molly-anne-autumn-leaves-ep-released-december-2019/

Emily Frith : Open Book, EP released January 2020

1. Better In the introduction the vocal and sparse instrumental backing draws us in, before the band fully kicks off on this strong opener. Alternating between the big chorus and back to the quieter moments this is a well-structured song, with a lyric of overcoming adversity ‘…now you’re standing your ground you can’t be torn down…everything that hurt you made you better….’ finally pivoting around a neat middle-eight with the clear statement of hope ‘….and I know rain comes on the sunny days…but it makes your favourite flowers grow…’.

2. Out This is an EP of variety, drawing on pop, poetry and folk influences and here on this track the simple piano accompaniment is infused with the melancholic optimism of the best country music, as a plaintive verse resolves into the positive longing of the chorus. ‘…if life’s an adventure, I wanna go with you…if you’ve got your worries, I’ve got mine too….as long as we’re together, we’ll figure it out……if life’s an adventure, let’s go, go, go out….’.

3. Giving Up on Love The brooding rock background underlines a lyric of the narrator’s emotional questioning and turmoil. The sharp rhythm of drumbeat and electric guitar of the verse escalates into the full-on chorus ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing wrong, but the guys I like end up in all my songs…’ and ‘…I don’t know if I’m doing right…’ ; the only answer seems to be the title phrase. The middle eight is a bit bleak too ‘…once you’re a cheater you’re always a cheater..’ but despite the downbeat sentiments this is still a powerful and involving song.

4. The Blue Currently my favourite on the EP, this is a rolling up-tempo country gem. Like many of the songs in the genre it is about leaving, travelling and arriving as a metaphor for a relationship. With the spirited vocal and relaxed but pacy backing this track must be a highlight in any live set.

5. Want to Love The other four songs have already been singles but this thoughtful piece is a new addition to Emily’s catalogue. Driven by an impressionistic melody and loose instrumentation featuring acoustic and slide guitar the mood is unhurried and mellow. The sentiments of the lyric are delivered with conviction and heartfelt emotion as this excellent EP fades away into the ether.

https://www.facebook.com/emilyfrithmusic/