This new song from South Australian artist Paula Standing evokes dusty roads, broken dreams, love gone wrong and revenge about to be taken. You know when a song contains a lyric about fluid being drained out a brake, something is about to turn bad … Standing’s narrator means business, and Standing sounds like the business as she sings the story.
Standing is a classically trained singer, which accounts for her fantastic tone and control; she is newer to guitar, which she took up in 2010. Standing is set to release her new EP Good Heart soon, the follow-up to her 2015 album All Fun & Games.
Watch the video for ‘Pity Me’ on YouTube.
As more proof of my theory that some of the most interesting country music is coming out of Los Angeles, The Sound of Ghosts is a band that combines traditional country sounds with Americana with brass and some rock and blues. The result is the powerful, irresistible sound heard on their new single, ‘Fall Apart’ from their upcoming album Delivery & Departure, a song about being ‘perfectly imperfect’ with lead vocals from Anna Orbison, who also plays uke. She’s one of five members of the group along with James Orbison (vocals, bass), Anna Orbison (vocals, ukulele), Ernesto Rivas (lead guitar), Phoebe Silva (fiddle) and Jon Sarna (drums).
Listen to ‘Fall Apart’ on Soundcloud.
Brisbanite (Brisvegan? Where are we landing on that these days?) Anais is 17 years old and has already had a life-changing moment thanks to social media. After placing second in the Ekka Country Music Showdown, she posted a photo on Instagram and was noticed by producers Will and Michelle Gawley of Lighthouse Records in Nashville. Despite initially thinking their message was a joke, Anais soon found herself travelling to Tennessee between school terms to record her debut EP, Push Through.
Her new single from that EP is ‘To Our Home’ and it’s clear very quickly why Anais would have received the opportunity offered by the Gawleys: she has a well-developed country music voice and style. She’s already attended the CMAA Country Music Academy, and Tamworth festival goers can look our for her this coming January.
New Zealand/Australian singer-songwriter Vanessa Delaine has released Wild & Free, a country-blues album that had its beginnings in the end of an 18-year relationship. It’s likely not surprising, therefore, that this is a personal and somewhat confessional album – and from the sound of these songs, and Delaine’s voice, she’s doing just fine. As she sings on the third track, ‘Good Advice’, ‘I don’t need anybody tellin’ me what to do’.
Delaine has a background in country music, having studied it several years ago, although she took a break for a few years and didn’t return to performance until her fortieth birthday party, when she performed for her guests accompanied by a neighbour who played guitar. Now she has Michael Barnard as her guitarist and another Michael (Carpenter) produced the album. Delaine doesn’t sound like she took a break from music – she’s a natural singer – but the advantage of coming back to it might have been that she had life experience to bring to her songwriting, resulting in a mature work that balances light and dark, and offers some very sweet moments.
Wild Free is available now.
Emily Markham is from the South Coast of New South Wales, and played to audiences there recently when she opened for Amber Lawrence and Travis Collins on their Our Backyard tour. Emily’s new single, ‘Got Me Fallin”, can be found on her debut EP, Come on Over. It’s a lovely song about the beginning of a relationship – with its great tempo and Markham’s smooth voice, just the thing to play to put a smile on your face.
Markham is working on some new material to be released in early 2018 – and keep an eye out for her in the Star Maker competition at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Watch the lyric video for ‘Catch Me Fallin” on YouTube.
The amount of music I’m being sent these days is far outstripping my ability to keep up – but instead of being paralysed by choice, I’m going to try to cover as much as of the good stuff as possible even if it means I can’t always do a full album review, as these can take a few hours.
Which leads me to this very first ‘album news’ piece – not a review, but not not a review. A shorter review, if you will.
Aurora is the debut album from Missouri-born New York City resident Case Garrett. This is backwoodsy, bluesy country music that tells stories of travels around the countryside and to Garrett’s interior. There is tradition and humour, and Garrett’s voice holding true throughout.
I’ve seen this album described as alt-country but I tend to think that label gets applied to work that is actually quite traditional in its lineage – in other words, not alternative to country. Garrett strikes me as a traditionalist in that you could draw a straight line from his work back a few decades and find its roots. That doesn’t mean his music sounds old – it means he knows his country music, and he is drawing on it to fine effect on Aurora.
Aurora is out now.
Josh Taerk is a Canadian singer-songwriter who was playing a show in his home town, Toronto, when he was spotted by Max Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. Impressed, Weinberg invited Josh to open for him at his sold-out show. That was in 2010, and since then Taerk has been writing, recording and performing – and steadily building his following. He released his debut album in 2013. He then set to work on his second album, which was recorded in Nashville.
His latest single is ‘Learning to Let Go’, which is about taking leaps of faith – and not getting in your own way. Taerk certainly knows how to write a pop hook and layers that into a country-rock sound, and he has a great voice, so this is a song that has my favourite combination: it’s meaningful and entertaining.
Watch the video for ‘Learning to Let Go’ on YouTube.
When Perth native Natalie Pearson released her EP Long Time Coming, it went straight to number 2 on the Australian iTunes country music charts. The first single, ‘Chance at Love’, was awarded ‘Best Country’ in the 2016 MusicOz Australian Independent Music Awards and Natalie also received a Top 5 nomination in both the Video and Female Artist of the Year categories. She’s just finished a 22-date national tour alongside Brook Chivell.
The latest single off the EP is ‘Mr Wrong’, a strong, catchy country rock/pop tune that should bring Pearson more fans ahead of her appearances at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January. You can watch the video on YouTube.
The core of this Montreal band is, fairly obviously, the Barr Brothers, Brad and Andrew, who are joined by harpist Sarah Page. The band’s folky sound initially seems to be not constrained so much as modest: there are no fancy tricks here. No doubt that’s because they’re not needed. The sound relies very much on the instruments, which are lovingly, crisply and expertly played, with the vocals floating over them. And it is to those instruments that the listener’s attention keeps being drawn, not just because of how they’re played but because of the attention to detail in the production: each of the individual sounds are so clean that it’s possible to get lost inside each song, following each instrument, only to realise you need to go back and listen to the song again to listen to a different instrument … and on it goes until you can sit back and realise that, for all the individuality, the songs cohese very, very well.
It may be self-evident to say that Canada has a rich, diverse music community – which country doesn’t, really? But there is so much very good, if not excellent, Canadian music that seems to belong to a certain genre yet really plays with the boundaries of it. Call it an ingrained national trait of curiosity. There is also a strong tradition of storytelling, and it’s one of the few places on the planet where a fiddle player can rise up the charts just as easily as a pop singer.
The Barr Brothers draw on those characteristics of Canadian music: they are telling stories not just in their lyrics but also through how these songs are played, offering a very well-rounded, fulfilling experience for the listener that demands you listen again and again, because there are all sorts of nooks and crannies in these songs, not to mention twists and turns. And so many jewels, too, waiting to be found.
Queens of the Breakers is out now through Secret City Records.
Hayley Jensen started in country music but took a detour via Australian Idol before returning to country and embracing it with gusto. In recent times she has released an EP, Past Tense & Present Peace, and now has a new single, ‘Summertime Soundtrack’, from her forthcoming album.
The song is feel-good country rock of the sort that will be played out of car windows and in back gardens. It’s also a really tightly written, produced and played piece of music. Jensen has a great voice, and she knows how to entertain. She sounds like she’s having fun on the track, and consequently it’s easy to have fun listening to her.
Watch the video for ‘Summertime Soundtrack’ on YouTube.