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Texas Boogie

Mike Penny & his Moonshiners

Rhythm Bomb

First appearances might be deceiving as this is no straightforward country album as there is a real fusion of sounds throughout ‘Texas Boogie’, which is Mike Penny and his Moonshiners’ latest album. From the opening ‘Hardtop Race’ with its western swing influence spliced with occasional piano boogie to the more traditional swinging jive of ‘Jumping From Six To Six’ suggesting that Mike and his fellow musicians have a broad palette to not only work from but clearly express to (hopefully) a wider audience. This genuine array of talents, however, is what makes this second offering so compelling because despite the wider influences the band manage to rein them in under one cohesive umbrella. Whether it’s the more boppin’ ‘Flaming Mamie’ or the hillbilly tinge of ‘No Muss, No Fuss, No Bother’ before leaping to the more straightforward country influence of ‘Ship Of Broken Dreams’, ‘Texas Boogie’ certainly delivers on more than one level and keeping in line with western swing music.


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Rendezvous

Cow Cow Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

Hailing from Edinburgh but sounding as if they have just stepped out of some southern county stateside, Cow Cow Boogie deliver a rather authentic taste of western swing and country via the Rhythm Bomb record label.

Opening with an uncharacteristic and extremely brief aggressive strum on the guitar, ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come with its western feel and ‘Belleville swinging rendezvous’ dual chorus but minus the trite whip cracking effect that nonetheless can still be heard. Hot on its heels is the lovely lilting ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ detailing a singing cowboy with his own spin on the genre and perhaps a cheeky wink to the purists out there considering the band’s geographical location, whereas ‘Scorched’ is definitely to be applauded as a fine take on Varetta Dillard’s version. ‘Train Train’ via Dolly Parton is an appropriate farewell and no doubt a joy to be heard live, as Cow Cow Boogie build up a steaming momentum before the brakes are finally applied. Judging by the quality shown here, ‘Rendezvous’ is worth an appointment with anyone’s ears.


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Unfinished Business

Wanda Jackson

Sugar Hill

Hot on the heels of the Jack White-produced ‘The Party Ain’t Over’, Wanda Jackson continues her renaissance with new album ‘Unfinished Business’. This time it’s Justin Townes Earle on production duties; even contributing vocally on the quite superb ‘Am I Even A Memory?’ With ‘Unfinished Business’ being a more subtle affair than the aforementioned White project, it would seem that Jackson still has much to offer, and long may it continue, as this resurgence in creativity and recognition is much welcomed.


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Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans

Various Artists

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage is proving to be a major player in the quality stakes when it comes to compiling not only rockabilly but also blues music. In this instance, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ gets the quality control treatment in terms of blues music emanating from New Orleans. As with a lot of the Fantastic Voyage packages, it is not only the well-known artists represented but often more obscure oddities that really wet the listener’s appetite. With everyone from Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner to the lesser known Falcon Trip, Boo Breeding and Snooks Eaglin, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ clearly has something for all fans of blues music.


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Red

Taylor Swift

Mercury

The rise of Taylor Swift’s mercurial star continues to ascend and rightly so with this truly compelling release. ‘Red’ is the kind of album which throws out its pop (yes, pop) hooks from the off and instantaneously grabs the listener by the ears in a quite seductive spell. Despite some remnants of a country sound (‘All Too Well’ ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’), Taylor Swift has gambled with a (near complete) change in musical direction and it’s paying dividends as the opening indie-sounding ‘State Of Grace’ and radio-friendly ‘22’ testify. The supremely addictive ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ solidifies further  this new found direction as does the intriguing choice of duet with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody on ‘The Last Time’. Without wishing Taylor Swift to completely ditch her country roots, one cannot help but feel genuinely moved by this change in direction, whilst not entirely original, as ‘Red’ is proving many doubters wrong.


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The World Explained

Big Boy Bloater & The Limits

Azan

Being on the road for any band can have its drawbacks, especially if you’re Big Boy Bloater. Clearly attesting to such difficulties is the feverish cocktail ‘Leonard Cohen’, as it conjures up a set of memories best forgotten of a tour from the depths of hell itself with only a ‘cheerful’ reminder of Mr Melancholy swinging into focus every now and then. Shimmering next into view is the precarious emotions of ‘Lifetime Money Back Guarantee’ followed by the superb yet longing ‘I Can’t Forget About You’. Clearing out the cupboards further is ‘Stop Dragging Me Back’ casting reflection on a musical past with a firm desire to leave it there. The instrumental ‘Black Sambuca’ showcases Bloater’s guitar wizardry, whereas ‘Insanely Happy’ is a double-edged sword of admission yet brings a twisted smile to the face nonetheless.

At times tearstained, and on other occasions irritated by certain constraints, ‘The World Explained’ is an honest and darkly humorous take on life’s predicaments.


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Family Tree

Eve Selis

Hippy Chick Twang

Eve Selis has really pulled out the trump card with ‘Family Tree’ as it is an album full of intimacy and rich in consistency. The gritty power of opener, ‘Power and Glue’ really states its intentions, and nicely succeeded with ‘Any Day’, which would grace any radio station’s playlist as it has ‘Hit’ single written all over it. The straight up country jaunt of, ‘When Is Everything Enough’ is a topical reminder of the current financial predicament told through the eyes of a love song. But it is the title track itself which really stirs emotionally, as it is a lump in the throat realisation of separation when the empty nest syndrome becomes a reality. It would seem that Eve Selis is at the peak of her powers as ‘Family Tree’ deserves to be a lasting success.



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