Category Archives: Music

Records Of The Year 2020

So it’s that time of the year where I submit my Top 10 albums of the year. This year I’ve received the usual 200 plus digital downloads: some of it by famous artists eg. Drive-By Truckers, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and Shelby Lynne but most of it by folk you’ve never heard of or I’ve never heard of! The source has been from my man in the USA at The Americana Music Show, Country Music People and my own purchases. I’ve bought about 60 albums during the year. A few were new releases but most were of earlier years. As a consequence my list below includes these.

  1. Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Came

Enthralling from start to finish. Walker’s comfortable mastery of so many country styles with layered arrangements elevates these fabulous compositions to my No. 1.

2. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions (2020)

My Americana album of the year. Terrific melodies and diverting stories often following his philosophical muse with wry observations. A master at the top of his game. 

3. Will Banister – Everything Burns (2020)

Everything you could hope for in a pure country album. A sonorous baritone linked to a tight band with compelling tunes. Inevitably he was ‘too country’ to dent the US charts.

4. Brandy Clark – Your Life Is A Record (2020)

Humour, philosophy, tearjerkers and love songs. Her lyrics could make a TV box set of every day USA. For me, a journalist highlight was getting complimentary tickets to her Gateshead concert in January to review the gig.

5. Ashley McBryde – Never Will (2020)

Complete ‘ear candy’ as she produces another fabulous set of blue-collar testaments to love, striving and survival over an upbeat contemporary country Nashville soundtrack. 

6. Marshall Chapman – Songs I Can’t Live Without (2020)

Her covers album is an absolute delight with numbers by Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Bob Seger and Carole King. A care worn voice redolent with all life’s experiences and never hurried. Arresting.

7. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (2015)

After having heard one track off a sample CD I eventually bought the album and was captivated by soundtrack about manned exploration flights into space. They caught the majesty, tension and breath taking bravery of man’s endeavours.

8. Pete Atkin – The Colour Of The Night (2015)

I first discovered Atkin playing Ealing Technical College in 1974. From there I collected all his records until his long hiatus. An internet search threw up this fabulous latter day singer songwriter album with Clive James’ words. For me it was like meeting an old friend.

9. Talk Talk – It’s My Life (1984)

A bit like Martin Peters, Talk Talk or Mark Hollis, were ahead of their time. This is elegant and innovative rock with its rhythms and imposing deep vocals. This band should be more lauded than they are. This turned up from a neighbour’s record collection. Result!

10. Ray LaMontagne – Monovision (2020)

He seldom fails with an album and this is a return to form after Ouroboros. Playing all the instruments his gentle ballads serve up a cathartic, melody fest with that staggering voice that captures you from the first track.

You’ll find album reviews of Joshua Ray Walker, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Marshall Chapman , Public Service Broadcasting and Talk Talk on the website. Just click the links.

Record Of The Week #103

Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space

There’s something delightfully quirky and English about Public Service Broadcasting. This three piece band containing two multi instrumentalists and a drummer have embarked on soundtrack albums that use spoken samples from great or profound events over lush and engaging older electronica music somewhere between Jean-Michel Jarre, The War On Drugs and the odd sprinkling of early Pink Floyd. Their last two albums cover the Space race and the demise of the Welsh mining industry.

The album starts with “The Race For Space”. J F Kennedy’s September 1962 speech, in front of 40,000 Texans, is showcased: 

“We choose to go to the moon,” the president said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

It’s an awe inspiring declaration of intent that eventually came to fruition when Apollo 11 touched down in 1969 (long after JFK’s demise). A male voice choir builds from a single note to becomes several, albeit with the same sanctity should they be taking vespers, his important words are wrapped in this precious sound. The choir builds the drama and tension. Next with ”Sputnik” we start back at the beginning of man’s exploration of Space with the Soviet’s successful launch of a craft into space in October 1957. No wonder the Americans wanted to catch up. The soundtrack now depends on a low fi throbbing beat whilst a simple melody, played on keys, swirls around the sampled speech of reports of that enormous leap in the Space race. After this we have a track about Yuri Gagarin’s achievement of being the first human into Space four years later.

The concept and song writing falls to the enigmatically named ‘J Willgoose’. He also writes copious notes on the album sleeve and signs off with the information that as of November 2014 he was 32½! Despite the atmospheric nature of the music the band can cut a rug and change gear throughout the album with brass, female vocals and near Latin rhythms to give a sense of celebration and overwhelming pride.

The album doesn’t stick to the race in chronological order: next we hear of the tragic failure of Apollo 1 where the craft didn’t launch and the astronauts died of carbon monoxide poisoning on the launch pad. The music has a distorted veil over it as if to emphasise the tragedy before we sign off side one hearing about the first Space walk. Side 2 brings Houston’s Mission Control real time dialogue: taking us through the first time craft (Apollo 8) flies behind the moon and, as expected, loses radio contact. The room explodes when the craft radios its return into contact with Earth. Spine tingling. A throbbing beat with electronic percussion sounds whilst a gently picked electric guitar floats like the astronauts. 

“Valentina” is about the first female in space, a Russian cosmonaut, who went up in 1963. The addition of the two female voices of the band the Smoke Fairies creates a light and attractive ambience as they scat sing over a gently picked melody with reserved drums pulsing. “Go” is the song for the Moon landing albeit eschewing the Neil Armstrong quote but dwelling on Mission Control’s contribution to the endeavour. This is the most vigorous track on the album. Weaving the ground control’s instructions to the various members of the team into a driving piece similar to The War On Drugs with a keyboard melody that is picked up by some terrific electric guitar lines whilst the urgency of the percussion informs us the importance of this landing. The sample announces “the Eagle has landed.”

The golden age of manned American space exploration was completed in 1972 with Apollo 17. The last track, “Tomorrow”, reflects this with the words of Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, when he paused as he climbed back up the steps of the lunar module:

“As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

It’s a wondrous release where I feel like a passenger in history. The videos on YouTube are a delight if you want to see the band in action playing these songs.

Postscript

Nothing is as heart warming, for me, as the decision by the youngest man to walk on the moon, Charlie Duke of Apollo 16, to take some music cassettes to the moon. Duke’s friend Bill Bailey, a disc jockey at Houston-area country music radio station KIKK, had enlisted several stars of the time to provide personalised recordings for the astronauts. The tapes were introduced by Merle Haggard, and other country artists included Porter WagonerDolly PartonBuck OwensJerry ReedChet Atkins, and Floyd Cramer.

(Aren’t you just relieved it wasn’t Coldplay, Simply Red, Bon Jovi or U2 who made it up there).

Record Of The Week # 102

Miss Jenny and the Howdy Boys

Jenny Pape leads a five-piece band from Carbondale. Where? This small town is in southern Illinois; I once spent a couple of days passing through on a bicycle. As I did my laundry and got my steed serviced it didn’t seem like a hot bed of roots music, maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough or simply dazed from dodging 18 wheeled coal trucks. Miss Jenny and pedal steel player, Dakota Holden, wrote or co-wrote the 12 tracks on this country americana album. Fortunately the use of the genre ‘americana’ is the ‘get out of jail card’ that covers the fact that you’ll find some tracks of soul, rock and western swing here. 

Pape has a clear, characterful and mellifluous voice that lights up the album; whilst she’s handy on acoustic guitar she’s expertly backed up by a band that includes an upright bass, electric guitar, drums and the afore mentioned pedal steel. We start with I Used To Call You Mine, a country two-step with flashes of pedal steel and a solid rhythm of bass and drums before an easy paced guitar solo by Kyle Triplett complement Pape’s vocals. Years From Now continues the country genre with Triplett gently picking the banjo as the rest of the band play softly in the background while Pape laments her love life. Superb. 

Eventually we get to What Makes You A Fool, a foot tapping western swing tour de force. You’ll imagine a heaving dance floor under the steady gaze of the band on a raised platform. With such a set of splendid tubes it is no surprise when Pape delivers a 60s soul ballad What Took Me So Long. Her heartfelt and passionate vocals are pure Dusty Springfield in their intent as she opens her heart backed by a female chorus. Sweet Release shows they can do something a little edgier as a twangy guitar casts dark shadows over a mysterious voodoo infused rhythm. 

This is a beautifully crafted album where the arrangements, playing and vocals are spot on. It’s hard to place them as regards other acts but Eilen Jewell comes to mind as they cover all bases of roots music perfectly with an emphasis on country. Highly recommended.

Record Of The Week # 101

James Ellis and the Jealous Guys – Country Lion

James Ellis appears to have had a Damascene conversion in Austin, Texas. Whilst spending a month in the USA, four years ago, he was seduced by the siren sounds of honky tonk music (and the two-step dancing he saw). Returning to his native Melbourne he wrote and released his first album, It Ain’t Texas (But It Ain’t Bad) and two years on he releases Country Lion. The album title comes from a sobriquet bestowed on him by BR5-49’s Chuck Mead. Ellis has no idea where the name came from but judging by his prodigious thatch there may be a clue in his appearance.

Teaming up with Nashville’s Alex Munoz and Micah Hulscher, late of working with Margo Price and Jim Lauderdale, they produce and play various instruments throughout. This is a fine traditional country album that engages you with the quality of the eleven self penned songs and lyrics. We open with, “Sixteen Hours”, and as the pedal steel lights the way you know you’re going to be amongst friends while he tells you of his broken heart. In fact he’s a boy with the world on his shoulders judging by all break up and loneliness themed songs. Despite being a path well trodden by country artists he’s way more articulate than most. On the gently rolling “A Little Soul” he opines – “Through the day horizons pass / In the evening, clouds amass / Tis the season for a cold precipitation / And now sodden underfoot / I’ll take my heaving heart to nowhere / Fare thee well my old preoccupation” Eat your heart Luke Bryan, not a pick up or ‘cold one’ in sight.

“Take Me Back In Time” is a beautiful slow ballad with a delicious piano introduction from Micah Hulscher. Over flourishes from Steve Veale’s gentle pedal steel with the brush strokes of Daniel Brates’ drums we hear Ellis’ compelling but hard edged, slightly off kilter, vocals (Gram Parsons meets Robyn Hitchcock) with his Australian pronunciation. This track is one of the nicest things to accost my ears in 2020. With “Forever Close” we pick up the pace and a sound, and rhythm, reminiscent of the rockabilly of Dave Edmunds. It jives along with Tim Baker stepping into the spotlight to demonstrate his guitar chops. “Records In The Summer” is my favourite lockdown lament. Ellis longs for the days when he can resume the very pleasant pastime of meeting with friends and spinning some vinyl. Amen to that. 

There’s a lot here that elevates this honky tonker from an also ran into a contender. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Record Of The Week # 100

Talk Talk – It’s My Life

Released in 1984 this undoubted classic has come my way thanks to a neighbour. Karl had some vinyl LP’s he was happy to divest himself of for ‘folding’ and I checked out what his selection included. Amongst some lapses in taste this gem turned up in. Of course I knew this album, I had it on a long lost cassette. I now had to do with a ‘Best of’ CD. Whilst compilations are great for the hits you miss out on the original album’s feel and what the artists were trying to achieve at the time.

The first thing to note is that this came at a time when synthesiser sounds were substituting for conventional rock n’ roll guitar bands. This album floats along on such a foundation with conventional instruments filling in. Padded shoulder fashions, eccentric hairstyles with cool posturing were all the rage. Enter Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, A Flock Of Seagulls, Visage and Tubeway Army amongst others. Talk Talk were hardly New Romantics and with this album only had minor commercial success as it grazed the charts at No 35. Because of this it probably was seen as more credible for music collectors, like me, with their disdain for the superficiality of chart success.

There is something immediately compelling about the music. Mark Hollis was the voice and a haunting one it is: imposing, sonorous, soaring, melancholy and haunting as he extracts the maximum emotion of out of lyrics often comprising of distracted philosophy – “Such a shame to believe in an escape / A life on every face and that’s a change / Till I’m finally left with an eight.” Err, yes well…

The music drives along with tunes that become earworm hooks; many of them danceable. In this three-piece band Hollis wrote or co-wrote all the songs. The other members are Lee Harris on thumb stroked bass and Paul Webb on drums. The latter two drive the album along with a literal hypnotic insistence. However I cannot imagine that the magic wouldn’t have been as arresting if it were not for the keyboards and production of Tim Friese-Greene. Strangely he decided not to allow his picture on the sleeve and be considered a member of the band. (On other subsequent albums he continues to play keyboards and produce). His keyboards provide repeated signatures or alluring melodies. Production is crisp and is still a contemporary sound; 36 years later it really jumps out of my speakers. The separation of all the instruments is complete and that clarity highlights each solo whether electric guitar or a passing jazz trumpet on one of the nine tracks.

Such was the unique sound that the band are often cited as influences by such luminaries as Radiohead, Tears For Fears, Elbow and Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree. I’m so glad to reacquaint myself with the album, now I just need the red XR3i I owned to transport me back to the mid Eighties.

Record Of The Week # 99

Bonnie Whitmore – Last Will & Testament

It stands to reason that if your last album was called F*** With Sad Girls you’ve got a point of view. Whitmore’s latest release tackles issues that have been on her mind such as suicide, rape culture and pulling together America in these times. She goes on to say “My goal for this record is to inspire people to have hard conversations”. Frankly, I don’t know a popular music record that’s ever changed much but I imagine that if you’re seeking some inspiration for a song then these profound issues are a place to start. Whitmore’s played bass and/or toured with some Americana luminaries such as James McMurtry, John Moreland, Hayes Carll and Sunny Sweeney yet her own music is nothing like theirs but more of a pop rock sound: it’s terrific.

“The Last Will & Testament” starts the album with a thumping electronica bass line and soon we’re deluged with strings and horns as her delightful mellifluous voice adds to the cavalry charge whilst Scott Davis’ electric guitar adds an edge. Some beginning. Whitmore’s written or co-written nine of the ten songs here. All are swamped in melody; the arrangements give an exceptional breadth of sound. It helps if your voice is such a captivating instrument that when you apply it to any tune it holds your attention. “Right/Wrong” attempts to offer a way forward on the conflict that leads to divides in society. If that sounds a bit too serious the song is pop and propelled by horns and spirited drums. Fine is a love song with the same pop sensibilities with a dance rhythm, and an absolute ear worm of a hook – “Would I rather be lonely and change my mind a thousand times? / If you could just hold me, maybe that’d be just fine”. 

After this levity we’re back to the dark and troubling “Ask For It” – “So go on and blame the victim! / Why should violence have consequence? / And each time you silence them /Recreates the same event”. The words are delivered over a driving rock beat with occasional frenzied guitars in the background. The profundity of the message contrasts memorably with the light tune emphasising how such violence may not always be taken seriously. “Love Worth Remembering” is a stand out with a 70s ‘blue eyed soul’ feel. This slowed funk ballad has a rumbling base line with short sharp hits of the snare as Whitmore croons sweetly over the top. A heartfelt message of comforting love – just magnificent.

This is such a crafted piece of work where interesting words have been bolted to memorable tunes. After that foundation is laid the work really started in the creation of  complex and sophisticated arrangements for their showcasing. A very impressive release.

Record Of The Week # 98

Elton John (Eponymous)

We all go a long way back with Reginald Kenneth Dwight. This second release saw the light in 1970. This was his first release in the USA. For an artist I now wouldn’t pretend to carry much of a torch for I’ve got 19 of his albums! My interest started with 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and probably finished with 1983’s I’m Still Standing. Now well into his 70s he’s still touring, Covid allowing, but from what I’ve heard the voice has developed a ‘shout’ quality that takes away much of the sweetness and melody that made so many of his songs compelling. I saw him live once, at Manchester’s MEN Arena. It was November 1998. We’d driven across from Yorkshire and shelled out for expensive tickets. He strode on stage uttered something about never playing Manchester again because of something that had happened. He then proceeded to bash through a set without any breaks or talking to the crowd and then stormed off. Lovely. 

Inevitably he’s scheduled to be there again in 2021. So he’s a man prone to tantrums and rudeness but a man who has been awarded a Knighthood for his services to charity and music. However, to complain he has one would necessitate dragging others into the conversation such as Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison and Ray Davies of The Kinks: all of whom mystify me with their eligibility (and why not Mick Fleetwood?) But back to the plot there’s no doubt that he had a brilliant decade where the quality of tunes and Bernie Taupin’s words made for a staggering body of work. Out of his early catalogue I didn’t own this until 2020’s Record Store Day. The special release was a double with the second disc being of unimpressive and disposable outtakes. However the first album makes it worth the purchase. When you add, for the collector, transparent purple vinyl what’s not to like?

It starts with “Your Song” and it is one of the most attractive and sincere love songs I know.  A self-deprecating reflection on a girl he’s besotted with. For one of Taupin’s earliest classics there are some dodgy lyrics that you’ve all sang a thousand times but never thought about: “If I was a sculptor, but then again no / Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show”. 

The whole album is driven by John’s piano. The arrangements sound dated now. It’s drenched in strings and even a harpsichord gets an outing on “I Need You To Turn To”. “Take Me To The Pilot” borders on doggerel as a lyric – “Through a glass eye, your throne / Is the one danger zone” but the honky tonk piano that drives the song is perfectly complimented by the insistent message of ‘take me to your leader’. On later versions not least his live album recorded later in the year in New York (Elton John Live 17:11:70) he really rocks this and ditches the saccharine strings.

In an era when the genre of ‘singer songwriter’ was originated with the likes of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce et al this has many heartfelt simply accompanied songs such as “First Episode at Hienton”. (A quick Google Maps search finds nowhere in the world named Hienton!) A love song about a relationship that started in childhood but failed as she grew to be a woman. Seems perfect ‘bedsit’ material for fellow miserablists Cat Stevens or James Taylor. 

“Sixty Years On” is a classic but the album standout where the strings and choral backing works to perfection is “Border Song”. A killer tune drive by his large and hard played chords and that is tinged by gospel. It therefore comes as little of a surprise that Aretha Franklin covered this in 1972. This must have been a significant boost to help John get a wider audience so early in his career. “The Cage’ keeps up the soul with a heavy dose of pop. For consistency the album is solid and provided a wonderful foundation for the next gems of Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water and Honky Château.

A classic.

Record Of The Week # 97

Moe Bandy – A Love Like That

Bandy has teamed up with Jimmy Capps to release an album of top-drawer traditional country songs. Sadly Capps has passed since the album’s completion, however, it’s a fine testament to how well they worked together. Bandy has a vast catalogue and his songs are often synonymous lyrically with the fertile traditional country landscape of dissolute lifestyles, stolen loves and fragmented lives held together by a glass of something dark and strong. 

From start to finish it’s a master class that demands your attention. Each song has a beautiful melody and Bandy’s expressive voice delivers the requisite emotional punch. There are a hatful of songs about cheating, getting old, returning home after a long absence, cherishing a long time partner and learning the lessons of life. There is a warm glow surrounding the album making it one with a heartfelt welcoming sound that is completely ‘feel good’. Lyrically it’s the language of an earlier generation, unashamedly, we get references to running with the devil, rodeo cowboys, cherry wine, sweet tea and people having a gay time.

Over the eleven songs Bandy’s rich baritone draws you into his three minute soap operas. The instrumentation and arrangements are pure 1970s with harmony choruses, harmonica serenades and shuffling dance rhythms delivered by acoustic backing. Some old time song writing royalty was hired to provide songs or co-write the album cuts including Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely, Eddie Raven and Bobby Tomberlin. Bandy’s into his sixth decade of releasing records and judging by his tour schedule and profile he’s working hard and still enjoying being on stage.

I loved all the songs but Tonight Was Made For The Two Of Us, Heartache Doesn’t Have A Closin’ Time and You Can’t Stop A Heart From Breaking were my pick and have been on repeat. Such is his stature, with an important catalogue of accessible music, that former First Lady, Barbara Bush, wrote the introduction to his autobiography. I reckon she doesn’t put herself out unless that person is very special. Bandy is. 

Record Of The Week # 96

Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers

It’s hard to believe that this is her fifth solo album; her recent output has been prolific. This Arizonan has now got a wide following in the UK. Touring, mainstream radio and broadsheet exposure has ensured she’s on the way to becoming a major act. Her talents lie in a blissful mellifluous voice and a singer songwriter approach to song composition, no holds barred personal stories and observational pieces that set the scene perfectly before diving in on the target. I cannot distance her from an early Joni Mitchell in sound, song structure and lyrical content. It’s intimidating company but I’m certain she’s worthy of this comparison.

She’s a fine acoustic guitarist and it’s over this instrument she sings 10 songs about her fractured relationship with a former beau. Miserable artists make some great records and in this raw, painful and dislocating setting she reveals the relationship over its nine years with little regard for discretion. 

She works with two other musicians  – multi instrumentalist Matthew Davidson and James Krivchenia on drums. Andrew Sarlo’s spacious yet, on occasion, atmospheric production helps the vocals whether single or double tracked to draw you in. “Burlap String” starts the album and we’re straight into the melancholy – “Some days are good, some are bad / Some days I want what we had / Some days I talk myself into a lie / I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up / I’m a skeptic of love / Don’t wanna lose what I might find”. “If I Told” has the intriguing pump organ: it’s an eerie yet elevating sound. Throughout the album the instrumentation never takes the melody: it’s Andrews’ voice that swoops and soars, and as if in a world of her own, she thinks out aloud. 

Whilst the accompaniment can be sparse the touches are memorable, such as the dashes of drum roll on “Carnival Dreams”. Andrews says the title track “Old Flowers” takes its sentiment from the fact that old flowers are beautiful but they’re dead and irretrievable. She ends with acceptance and affection on “Ships In The Night” – “I am sending you a postcard… may it leave you with closure and a little less doubt”. Tellingly she acknowledges many people on the album sleeve including “every friend who let me cry on their shoulder whilst writing these songs.”

I’m so often disappointed when an artist moves on to explore new sounds at the expense of discarding a winning formula. Fortunately Andrews hasn’t; this is ravishing listening.

Record Of The Week # 95

Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It

Walker’s sophomore album is one of the most enthralling releases of 2020. The Texan kicks off this 10 song epic with “Voices”. Riding over a pedal steel, Walker delivers a song about being broken and contemplating ending it all – “I might put this truck in neutral / Let it roll into the lake / First I’ll finish off this bottle / So it looks like a mistake.” With a heartfelt vocal drenched in Dwight Yoakam inflexions, he appears to be past the worst and attributes his rescue to a caring love but the dark shadows remain. “True Love” lights the after burners and Trey Pendergrass’s drumming heralds a change of pace. It’s on this track you’re now convinced that he has a voice that’s the platform for a long career.

There are a variety of sounds and paces on this album. (Kudos to John Pedigo’s production). Nothing is more striking than “Cupboard”. Imagine a rockabilly cover of “Sultans Of Swing”. Some beguiling fast picking guitar from Wade Cofer is an album highlight whilst some B3 organ whistles behind. Along the way we get time signature changes. “Bronco Billy’s” gets more string magic as Walker, on acoustic, and Adam Kurtz, on pedal steel, duel at pace. The song mines traditional country with lightning fret board runs.

Lyrically there are some curved balls in here. “Boat Show Girl” recounts the ennui of women paid to drape themselves across boats for sale at a show. He certainly can write a lyric – “You stand there on your altar / Astroturf beneath your feet / Like a redneck Statue of Liberty / This phrase rings out as you greet / ‘Give me your tired your poor / Your huddled masses waiting on the shore / May you board this fiberglass vessel / And not feel empty anymore’”. “User” is a musing on a relapse into using drugs, with an addictive hook. A brass chorus leads the band as Walker’s jovial delivery precedes his probable demise. 

“Play You A Song” adds harmonies to the arrangements along with a traditional selection of instruments such as banjo and fiddle. If there’s a debate as to whether he’s paid his dues at several Texas hoedowns then this is his calling card. On “Loving County” Pedigo twiddles the dial on the electric guitar sound to give it a distant and fuzzy reverb whilst a slow vocal is pure Dwight Yoakam; no complaint on my behalf.

Walker takes a variety of sounds and it’s his comfortable mastery of so many styles and layered arrangements with fabulous compositions that elevate this into a contender for ‘album of year’ category for many Country fans, including this one.