Dolly’s Discography – My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy

Picasso’s ‘Blue’ period was characterised by dark and somber paintings, expressing the emotional turmoil of the traumas of his youth. For a woman known to bring sunshine and rainbows it’s perhaps a surprise to find an album in Dolly Parton’s career which creates a similar morose tone, lyrically if not musically. There were no hits generated from My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy and the music confronts topics that she would shy away from as her career progressed: death, suicide, prostitution, pain, failure, anger, regret and suffering. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy”

Album Review: I’m With Her – See You Around

Aoife O’Donovan, Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz first played together in a bathroom at a bluegrass festival a few years ago, and immediately realised the musical harmony they created was something special. Soon after they formed a group, adopted the name I’m With Her, playing shows and eventually finding time to write songs.

Then something strange happened. Purely by coincidence the band name became the slogan for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Overnight they were a hashtag. For a project that had barely begun to suddenly be associated with something so politically significant must have been surreal. The band themselves appear to be quick to distance themselves from the connection, but at the same time it would have been easy enough for them to record under a different name. ‘I’m With Her’ now reads like a declaration of unity and I’ll See You Around proves how strong you can be when you work together.

Continue reading “Album Review: I’m With Her – See You Around”

Dolly’s Discography – In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)

When Dolly joined Porter’s popular television show there was an inevitable backlash from the audience, who were used to hearing their favourite Norma Jean and stubbornly resistant to change. In order to increase her public popularity Porter masterminded a campaign to flood the market with as much music by Dolly Parton as possible. He would make her a star, come what may.

In the years 1968 and 1969 Dolly released three solo albums and featured on three duet albums with Porter. Even for someone of Dolly’s prodigious songwriting talent that’s spreading yourself extremely thin. On these six albums there are 22 original songs written by Dolly, not counting her multiple co-writes, which suggests there’s at least one classic album lost among all the filler.

In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad) was the first of two solo albums released in 1969, reaching number 15 on the country charts. Since their duet albums were regularly hitting the top ten at this point, Dolly’s solo work appears to be struggling somewhat in comparison. While production is again credited to Bob Ferguson, Porter himself was in charge of the sound, much to the eventual frustration of Dolly herself. This album features a few gems but it is padded out by recordings of popular country hits, which makes it by far her weakest early collection. Continue reading “Dolly’s Discography – In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”

Album Review: Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It

Back home in her native Australia Ruby Boots, real name Bex Chilcott, found few opportunities for the blend of classic rock and Americana she was playing so she decided to up-sticks and move to Nashville. Since then she’s been frustrated by the assumption that because she lives in Music City she must be a country singer. Signing with Bloodshot Records based out of Chicago has given her freedom to push her music beyond such genre limitations and Don’t Talk About It is a confident collection of killer tunes. Continue reading “Album Review: Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It”

Album Review: Bette Smith – Jetlagger

Despite being born and bred in Brooklyn it took a trip down to the dirty south for Bette Smith to find her sound – working with producer Jimbo Mathus and a live band, together they captured the exuberant energy of her vocal performances and recorded straight to tape. At first glance the cover suggests this may be simple retro soul in the vein of much missed Sharon Jones, but Jetlagger also blends rock and roll, blues, psychedelia, gospel and funk into its thrilling mix. Continue reading “Album Review: Bette Smith – Jetlagger”

Laura Benitez and the Heartache – With All Its Thorns

It’s my opinion that the current attempt in the blogosphere to ‘save’ country music is misguided and ultimately irrelevant. Genre boundaries are useful for the marketing people but artists should be free to go in any direction they wish – look at how the most popular Americana artists of the last few years are heavily indebted to indie and rock, as much as mainstream country is chained to pop and RnB. Blurring the lines of genre doesn’t cause any harm if the music is good, especially when there are still some artists out there who are concerned with keeping the traditional sounds authentic and alive. With All Its Thorns by Laura Benitez and the Heartache would have sounded like ‘classic’ country music twenty years ago but that feeling of nostalgia is exactly why this album is so appealing. Continue reading “Laura Benitez and the Heartache – With All Its Thorns”

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