Country Music People May 2019 - Page 21

The David Allan Page D igital Radio War has broken out in the UK as the well- established Chris Country faces up to a sprightly newcomer, backed by the powerful Bauer Media Organisation, Country Hits Radio. Both basically feature the same sort of music and artists – Nashville’s current concept of country backed by the CMA with a smattering of likeminded British acts, such as The Shires and The Wandering Hearts. Country Hits Radio has clearly defined its market as “modern country music lovers between the ages of 25 and 44”. With a bunch of enthusiastic young presenters, the chart hits keep rolling on and on. Chris Country has been running for six years now and has an impressive fan base and tends to show a little more respect to some of the legends of the past. It’s also helped by what surely must be the best jingles on a country station anywhere in the world. It’s founder, Chris Stevens, is taking a diplomatic view of the opposition, “While we question their claim to be national, we’re not entirely surprised that a major radio group has noticed the rise in country music in the UK. Naturally we are biased towards our selection of music and presenters, but we’re flattered that they want a share of the available listenership. As a station that has been built by country fans for country fans we like to think that our listeners can hear the passion in what we do.” After a spell listening to both stations, I was struck by the lack of emotion in much of the material. Loud, funky, toe-tapping, bright, cheery and infectious – Yes! But where was the sound of a George Jones or a Tammy Wynette that could bring you to tears or fill you with hope? That’s not really a criticism of either station, just a reflection on then and now. One thing’s for sure, classic country old and new does not sit easily side by side with the contemporary product. Could this be the time to revive interest in an all classic country station? Ironically a major piece in the Independent Newspaper on the new arrival had the headline “Country and Western has crossed the Atlantic”. Dwight Yoakam has been sharing some good advice given to him by one of his idols, Merle Haggard – you never know where a good song comes from! Merle told him about the time he was invited to have breakfast with a die- hard fan after one of his shows and he duly turned up at her house. His hostess then sat down at the piano and he thought “here’s the price of breakfast” but he found himself listening to a couple of new songs she had written – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive and From Now On All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. That fan was Liz Anderson and in less than ten minutes she had provided the Hag with a hit and the name for his band! I n this era of social media the old-fashioned word of mouth can still be mighty effective so when the likes of respected colleague Tony Byworth started singing the praises of East Lonesome Drifters, it was time to sit up and take notice. You may not have heard of them, so let me give you the heads up. Here is an Anglo/ American five piece ensemble based in London that serves up, possibly, the best classic country, honkytonk and western swing with a touch of the Bakersfield sound added for good measure that you are likely to hear this side of the Atlantic. It really is that good!. Lead vocalist Patrick Hart aka “Crispy Cowboy” comes from Pennsylvania but has been resident in the UK for ten years now and his authentic voice is tailor made for the songs of Hank, Buck, Merle, Lefty and others and he’s backed by a set of talented Brits. Jonathon Shacklock (steel), Ray Panesar (rhythm guitar), David Coleman (telecaster) and Tim Pearson (piano). Bass guitarist Josh Demita is Italian. I’m really enjoying their sound and impeccable choice of material. You don’t have to just take my word for it. Check it out on www.eastlonesomedrifters.com where you can sample a selection of tracks and, hopefully, place an order for their new EP. Patrick explained to me that the name of the band “comes from the influences of Hank Williams’ backing group and his fantastic songs and the fact we’re based in East London” Film maker Ken Burns has been telling me more about his forthcoming sixteen-hour documentary series on country music. It’s taken him six years to make and premiers in America in September and is bound to end up here some time after. For it, he conducted 101 interviews with major stars including 41 members of the Hall of Fame. Sadly, twenty of whom have since died. He says he will donate all the interview footage and transcript (total more than 175 hours) to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. So sorry to hear of the passing of two more Good Ole Boys. Jim Glaser built up a big following with his appearances at the Wembley Festivals with his brothers and as a solo artist. Always the gentleman, he was generous with his time when it came to the media and I was especially grateful for the day he spent with me recording programmes for British Forces worldwide. Earl Thomas Conley meant little to British audiences, but in America he enjoyed an incredible run of seventeen number one hits. One of his last was his duet with Emmylou Harris We Believe In Happy Endings which, he told me, he almost chickened out of. “I idolised Emmylou for many years. My voice and style is rough and ready and hers is so immaculate. I really panicked but in the event it worked a treat.” Like Jim he was of the old school when it came to meeting his fans and the media. cmp MAY 2019 - cmp 21