The website of Brisbane band The Ragtone Ramblers says that the band is ’Playing in the pocket where country and jazz unashamedly mingle’. With influences of western swing and hillbilly, the band’s new EP, Ragtone Stomp, is a vibrant, beautifully executed, toe-tapper that features three great vocalists accompanied by steel guitar, double bass, tenor banjo and washboard.
For those who love older-style, upbeat country music that is of exactly the type to tempt you onto the dance floor, you will be hard pressed to find tunes more appealing than the six on this release. And for those who aren’t sure if they like that kind of music: just listen and try to not feel uplifted by the joy that is so clearly on this record.
Ragtone Stomp is out now.
Bandcamp | Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
So I missed this one in January, when I meant to review it. Consequently this will be a shorter ‘album news’ piece so no more time is lost … because Greenbah is worth your time. The eight songs on this third album from Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders are packed with guitars and piano, echoing Australian pub rock from a bygone era – without sounding intentionally nostalgic – but also drawing on country and folk influences to create something compelling.
The band has quite the work ethic, releasing new music regularly, and the experience shows. The songs are tightly constructed and while there’s a lot of instruments in each one, nothing is wasteful.
This is not an album for a quiet afternoon – it’s something to keep you alert on a long drive, it’s a rowdy gathering with friends, it’s a morning pep-up. And because of that above-mentioned work ethic, you know there will be plenty more where that came from.
Greenbah is out now.
Apple Music | iTunes | Amazon | Spotify
Ruby Boots started her musical trajectory in Perth and it has taken her all the way to Nashville, where she is now resident – although paradoxically that trajectory has also taken her somewhat away from country music and towards rock.
Her new album, Don’t Talk About It, is indeed a rock record but the structure and storytelling of country music are apparent in its ten distinct and beautifully formed songs. Also apparent is her rock lineage, but not in a way that suggests appropriation so much as interpretation. All artists have influences, and one of Boots’s talents is that she’s able to find the alchemy in those influences and create something that is wholly her.
Don’t Talk About It is out now.
Apple Music | iTunes | Amazon
Ruby Boots will play some dates in Australia in May. For details:
[As a reminder: ‘album news’ items appear when I haven’t had time to write a full review but want to make sure the album is covered.]
Melbourne singer-songwriter Andrew Swift had what might be called a conversion to country music after the release of his first album in 2015, but he’s certainly no neophyte: he’s already been a grand finalist in the Toyota Star Maker competition.
Call Out for the Cavalry is his recently released second album, and it too reveals no sign of him being relatively new to the genre. His musical lineage covers Americana, roots, rock and a bit of blues, and there’s a lovely cover of Gretta Ziller‘s song ‘Unforgiven Sin’. Ziller appears on the album, as does Catherine Britt and Katie Brianna.
This is a diverse, lovely, entertaining mix of songs. Swift sounds completely at home in country music, his voice relaxed and confident, and his ability to create songs that assuredly embrace a range of musical and lyrical moods speaks to his skill as a songwriter. The album is a great example of the alt country scene currently burgeoning in Melbourne – and it’s also just a great album.
Call Out for the Cavalry is out now through Social Family Records.
Apple Music | iTunes | Amazon
Canberra-born and now resident in Sydney, Tara Favell has been writing and performing songs since the age of 14, and that teenage practice has turned into professional success, as Favell has appeared at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Nelson Bay Country Music Festival and the Sydney Royal Easter Show three years running. And her new EP, Wild Heart, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Country chart.
Wild Heart is pure country pop – and if your tastes are anything like mine, that’s a very good thing. Favell’s voice is just right for this genre: adept, assured and with great range. Track 3, ‘Starting Over’, features rising country star Josh Setterfield, and ideally that won’t be their last collaboration as their voices work very well together.
Country pop and country rock are the genres that tend to drive audience attendance at large festivals around Australia. They may not suit the purists, but there has never been a form of music that has not evolved. If artists like Favell can bring their brand of country to new listeners, that is good for everyone under the country music umbrella, because she embodies some of the best qualities of country: she is authentic to her lineage and influences, and she produces great songs that are clearly constructed, written and performed from the heart.
Watch the single ‘Heart-Break’ on YouTube.
Wild Heart is out now.
American singer-songwriter was born and raised in Vermont, where he still lives. He has three albums behind him, as well as instrumental tracks that have appeared on various television shows.
The title track of his latest album, Hide Away (from the Sun), was written shortly after the death of Pronto’s mother after a ten-year battle with cancer. It is, therefore, a personal song, and Pronto does not shy away from honest lyrics and emotions. That’s not to say that the album is maudlin – it is not at all. Pronto’s voice contains within it the balance of light and dark, cheekiness and seriousness. Given the context of the album’s creation, the inclusion of a cover ‘What a Wonderful World’ could be ironic, but Pronto sounds sincere without being sappy.
Hide Away (from the Sun) contains eight tracks, each with their own flavour – and, accordingly, each evoking different experiences for the listener. Sometimes he sounds like a good ol’ boy (’74 Dodge Dart’), at other times the gentle son. His style as named as folk and Americana, but there’s definitely rock and pop in there too. In other words: he knows how to write a solid song, he knows how to entertain, and this album proves it.
Hide Away (from the Sun) is out now.
This is actually old album news, as Vacancy by Melbourne duo Broads was released almost a year ago. But given that the internet facilitates serendipitous discoveries of all sorts, and albums are hypothetically available forever, I feel it’s another better-late-than-never situation.
I first heard a Broads song on ABC Country online radio – a great place to discover new music, even when your inbox is in regular receipt of news about new music – and immediately got their album. The vocals and harmonies of Kelly Day and Jane Hendry are completely irresistible on this album of slow croons and blissful melodic seductions. Don’t believe me? Just play the video for ‘Nod Off, Dream’ and try to not fall in love with them.
Watch on Youtube
Vacancy is also available on Bandcamp or you can listen to it on the Broads website, www.broadsmusic.com