Country Music People December 2018 - Page 38

albumreviews NORTH COUNTRY ROUNDERS North Country Rounders BOB REA Southbound   Lonesome Feeling Blues / Dead Man Walking / Devil In My Eyes / How Long / Drinkin’ Buddies / Camille / Drink Til We Can’t Stand / Morning Star / South Side / Angel In Blue / Silver Rails / No More To Roam Producer: not listed Ellison Productions Inc. 41:29 There is plenty of good bluegrass around at present and easily my favourite video of recent months has been Dead South’s In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, which is a great song, beautifully played and performed so wittily. It is the perfect way to introduce bluegrass to a new generation. Perhaps the North Country Rounders could learn something from that; they don’t appear to have made any videos yet but Dead Man Talking and How Long, which have the same rhythm as In Hell could easily be turned into great videos. It’s rather difficult to review this album as I can’t find out much about them. Indeed, they only have 176 friends on Facebook. North Country Rounders are a two person string band from Grand Rapids, Michigan, playing guitar and banjo but they play other instruments. They sing well and their vocal interchanges on South Side are really good. This is a simply made album, essentially just the two of them, and I presume that they wrote the songs themselves. All the songs are good and have been well programmed so that they follow on well from each other. My favourites include the opener Lonesome Feeling Blues with its touches of steel which takes you back to the 1950s, the love ballad Camille about someone going to New Mexico and the high lonesome sound on the closer No More To Roam. But get those videos made! Spencer Leigh 38 cmp - DECEMBER 2018 Southbound / Soldier On / Say Goodnight / The Highway Never Cries / Screw Cincinnati / Whisper Of An Angel / The Law / Vietnam / Wanna Do / Skipping Stones / Lonely Is Lonely / Fish Can’t Fly / A Place Is Your Heart Producer: Steve Daly Shiny Dime Records 51:49 Knowing I love John Prine and Steve Earle, the editor often sends me singer / songwriter records by guys with lived-in voices, but they rarely work as they don’t have the ability to write distinctive songs. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t copy John Prine because it is impossible to second guess him: you just don’t JD McPHERSON Socks!  1/2 All The Gifts I Need / Bad Kid / Hey Skinny Santa! / Socks / Every Single Christmas / Ugly Sweater Blues / Holly Carol Candy & Joy / Santa’s Got A Mean Machine / What’s That Sound / Claus Vs. Claus 29:48 The problem with Christmas albums as far as I’m concerned is the constant re-hashing of the same blooming songs over and over. No such know where some of his songs are going to go. It is also impossible to be as angry as Steve Earle unless you are Steve Earle. I knew within a few seconds that Bob Rea couldn’t sing and, without the lyric sheet, I wouldn’t have known what he was singing about. His girl has gone “southbound along the railroad tracks” and I just wished he had gone with her. Southbound is one of the better tracks. The voice is irritating and drains any musicality away from the musicians, whose pedigree includes Poco and Hank Williams Jr. The most passable track is The Law as Bob performs it in a gruff whisper that is almost acceptable. The key line is “You better break the law before the law breaks you” but that adage was used in Break The Law Before It Breaks You by Sam Humans in 2017. I did persevere with the album and followed it through a second time with the lyric sheet. On first listening I didn’t pick up more than one word in four. Screw Cincinnati would be a neat country waltz were it not for the tuneless vocal and Vietnam does have a good story: it’s about two friends and one of them goes to Vietnam and is killed. Bob Rea is from southwest Colorado and, to be fair, there are plenty of brilliant reviews on his website. He may be a wow in concert but somehow I doubt it. Spencer Leigh problem here. Far from it in fact. This is the uncompromising rockin’ sound of one its finest exponents and there wasn’t a song here with which I was previously familiar. If it’s jivin’ over the holiday season you’re after then look no further than this collection. The title track, and even the related artwork are superb, and perfectly address that old problem of Socks! “It’s the worst gift I ever got,” sings McPherson to the slow bluesy beat. Meanwhile, Hey, Skinny Santa has all the hallmarks of Bill Haley’s Comets (or maybe it’s The Jodimars) and is irresistible. These days it can seem as if a law was passed to make us all wear Christmas jumpers and this is addressed beautifully in Ugly Sweater Blues but like everything here it sounds as if it came straight from the 50s. JD McPherson has achieved what so many try to do and fail and make a Christmas album that sounds like an instant classic whilst avoiding the pitfalls of over cheesiness. I enjoyed it more than most seasonal offerings and anyone who appreciates a 50s rockin’ sound will too. Duncan Warwick