Friday, April 26, 2019

EP Review - Intertwine - Sabine

Sabine is a girl, a woman, who knows what she wants.  She wants a relationship, a proper one, the right one, and she is not going to compromise, and she won’t wait around while you get your act together
Listening to the EP I’m not sure if this is just set of songs or a fully auto biographical outpouring!

With the first track - Intertwine -  Sabine is letting him know that she is ready to give this a go, to do what it takes, but you still get the feeling it will be on her terms, under her control.  The song is quite pacey, almost musical theatre with drama just below the surface, helped along by a great drum track which punctuates the feeling. It is up-tempo, Pop Country, but with a strong message

Moving on to Love is Not Enough, Sabine lets us know what happens when that relationship is not right. We had a listen to this when it was released as a single. Love Is Not Enough is about a relationship that is over, a life that must go on – but without you.  It is a song of hope and growth – but from a purely personal perspective, and I found that a very powerful take, but delivered in a very meaningful way

On The Edge takes up the story, with a slow, measured performance. Even when a break up is the right thing to do you can find yourself on the edge of trying again, on the edge of texting or calling…. Our strong woman is not always strong and here Sabine acknowledges that. The slow piano and understated instrumentals in this track perfectly accentuate the feeling.  Whilst not normally a fan of slow tracks, this was Francesca’s favourite track on the EP and it really showcases Sabine’s voice

The EP ends with the end of this story.  Maintaining the slower pace but strong emotion Under is both uplifting and heart-breaking at the same time. The production of this track really tells you that this is the end, and part of Sabine’s new beginning. She has come through and now just wants to settle in her ow mind what happened and why.

“There was a me before you, there will be a better me too”

Intertwine is not so much an ep as a life story/love story, with very clever use of tempo to reflect the stages of what was apparently a very painful relationship.  But just as Sabine will emerge form that with an emotionally strong future, she emerges with this EP with a musically strong future

I hope it doesn’t take another heartbreak for Sabine to produce more music of this quality!

Intertwine is available on May 3 on all usual platforms. 

Sabine can be found on Facebook, and remembering the past while looking to the future!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Album Review - Full Moon - Sam Coe and The Long Shadows

Whiskey, rhinestones, filled to the brim with heartache and making the best of a situation there is no doubt that this is a country album!

Plus track 8, Salvation ensures that the religious angle is covered. Don't get the wrong impressions, there is no preaching in this song, in fact as Sam sings about the man looking for salvation, the description casts no doubt in my mind that I would love the guy too.

Being British however, it seems that we cannot go a whole album without mentioning the weather; track 7 - Tennessee Blue is easy listening which will have you singing along "Tennessee Blue, Tennessee Grey , doesn't matter what the weather does, your heart has gone and lead me astray".

The title track - Full Moon is something a little different, with an interesting twist to Sam's voice that I can only describe as a "hiccup" effect, in a way matching the sound of the guitar.  The whole album showcases the musical talent of the Long Shadows, in this track they manage to build the excitement whereas in track 9, A Thousand Conversations they manage to trick my senses, my ears hear a stand up bass but I know that it isn't here!

The live recording of 'Rocking Chair Regrets' , track 11  doesn't really sound that different to the rest of the studio album, you are still drawn to the guitar picking and follow the rise and fall of Sam's Voice.  

We have all been in that relationship that isn't going well and holds no hope for the future, and yet we convince ourselves and others that everything is ok; this is captured perfectly in the lyrics of track 10 - Holding on to you . Track 12 - Santa Fe is a song of female liberation, standing by our convictions, finding our own way that really highlights the power of Sam's voice but despite this my favourite of the album has to be track 5 - End in tears, it takes me back to a forgotten era, this is the country music I grew up listening to on the wireless, it really suits Sam's voice and I was not ready to move on!

Rocking Chair Regret sings about no regrets, I can say that you will not regret purchasing this album! 

Francesca listened to this album as Country albums should be listened to - on a road trip!

Find Sam and the band on Facebook and on their website

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Gig Review - Live In The Living Room's Little Pizza Express Live Tour

Live In The Living Room has taken to the road and is doing a grand tour of Pizza Express restaurants around the country – well, why wouldn’t you?  And having seen the line-up of artistes… why wouldn’t you?  Good Friday evening it was the turn of Birmingham’s Brindley Place to play host to quite the collection of performers.

A lovely upstairs room (with attentive waiter) first saw the opening songwriter’s round of Jessie Desai – a young female singer songwriter, Andy Hughes who had a very authentic sounding Country voice – as well as a splendid hat/shirt/boots combo, and Sam Shemmell whose looks utterly belied the voice that emerged from him – describing it with mere words can’t do it justice, so think of the deep voices of the 70s C&W superstars…Sam puts it down to his operatic beginnings, but whatever it is, it is worth hearing! 
All three grew more comfortable as the show went on, with three songs each to warm up the evening.

Next up – Sam Coe and the Long Shadows.  This is actually who I came to see (sorry Simon!) as I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of seeing Sam perform live. Sam – and her band – certainly didn’t disappoint. From their first song, Moving On, to their last they performed with constant energy - in fact I’m not sure that they would be capable of playing a song all the way through without going a little crazy!  When a band are clearly having fun, that infects the audience, even if we were only chair dancing!  Sam herself doesn’t have what might be called a classic country voice, she has a voice that was meant to be used for rocking performances, and she uses it for exactly that!  Also, any band that features a Dobro and a Hammond organ are always going to grab my attention!

You don’t always get the chance to see artistes play with their full band as so many play acoustic sets, songwriter rounds etc so it was a real treat to see Simon James play with his band, the Deep River Pilots – leading to a very bearded stage (with one notable exception)  The addition of drums, organ, guitars and a fiddler (without a beard!) really complements and enhances Simon’s voice without masking it as a full band could do.  Simon James has a great style of his own which I have written about before, but as audience member Sally Rea Morris of Gasoline and Matches commented to me, Simon sounds even more confident when accompanied by his band.  Sam Coe joined him for a rendition of Oh Honey, and with both acts being signed to Ginger Dog Records there is some great music on the way to us!

James from Live In The Living Room has done us a great favour by bringing all of these acts out on the road whilst also raising money for some very deserving charities, and I look forward to seeing the audiences grow as the word spreads!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Song Review - Save It For Another Day - Helen Mace

Helena Mace is a new artiste to us, although her Bio reflects how hard she works, performing all over the country at a variety of events and venues. This is particularly relevant to her latest, self-penned song Save It For Another Day, a tale of a former singer, reflecting on his past career, reflecting perhaps on his own hard work travelling around and performing

The song opens with just a strumming guitar which conjures that image of a singer-songwriter, perhaps the subject of the song, the addition of a harmonica throughout the  song, adds a real emotive, melancholic undertone to Helena’s singing, and the words telling the story. 

The pace of the song along with the plaintive tone of Helena’s voice really help to paint the picture of a man who used to be famous, used to be a big deal but is now alone, with just faded memories of past glory for company
The style is quite English Folk, putting me in mind of Kate Rusby with both the soaring vocal and the storytelling style

Helena took this song to a well-deserved top 3 in the iTunes chart on its release – and its definitely worth having a search through iTunes for her other work

Helena can be found on Facebook, online, and storytelling all over the country....

EP Review - Dead Ends and Detours - Kezia Gill

I was thrilled to have the very first listen to the new EP from Kezia Gill, having heard her singing live at a recent Nashville Sounds In The Round in Birmingham.

What was immediately striking to me was that whether live or in a studio recording Kezia sounds the same.  When I asked her about this, her reply was

“Because there’s no effects, no gimmicks...just me!

And I think this aptly sums up everything about her music

Kezia is spoiling us by putting five and a half tracks on this release, and each one of them has the right to be there – no filler music to bump up the track count

Thirties was released as a single a few months ago, and is a lament about turning 30, but in a very up-tempo style and really highlights that Kezia is very much a storyteller in the time-honoured Country style.  Quite a few of my friends (an me) have turned a decade recently, or do so soon, and the feel of this song is very relatable, regardless of which decade you have actually turned! A real sing-a-long song that will have you joining in from the first listen.

Dead Ends and Detours changes the pace - slower and a little darker, heavier. The strident drum beat as a backing to Kezia’s powerful vocal underlines the whole song and as a whole the song demonstrates Kezia has a real range that you don’t hear from all singers

The piano intro to Girl Of Your Dreams takes us into a softer, melodic love song. The soaring vocal had me sitting back, eyes closed, so that I could really feel the emotion, and that emotion is pushed right into your soul with this one. For a Country singer, Kezia has one hell of a soulful voice! The song is a love song, about a love story, a perfect relationship, where love continues after the romance has burned out. It makes you want to be that guy, and to find that girl. So emotive, so beautiful, I had to take a break after listening.

What Kind Of Woman takes us back to “Country”, back to the storytelling style. Written this time by Nashville based Robin Brown, it is a song that instantly conjures images of this woman, imagining her life, her struggles and in three and a half minutes of music you feel like you know her, how she feels, who she is. Hard working, hard done by, hard life, but still she struggles on.

Local Man’s Star is the track I was waiting for from the moment I first heard it live. A tribute to Kezia’s own father who was her inspiration to sing, as he was a singer in the local clubs  a working class hero, a local singing star”. Emotive, evocative, heartfelt – there are almost not enough adjectives for the theme of the song, for the lyrics and for the performance. When Kezia played this live, the girl next to me felt compelled to immediately text her own father. The song is so evocative, in the style of an older Northern Folk Song, that when you listen to it you can see him, on stage at the local club, slash curtain backdrop raffle halfway through and a mirror ball for atmosphere as though you are watching a grainy cine film or old VHS recording.

The final track – half a track – Whisky Drinkin’ Woman is

“a short blast of what’s to come…a teaser for my next big idea”

That’s all I’ve been told!  But it is a short blast – blast being the operative word – of pure, unaccompanied Kezia Gill’s voice. Its short, but it is incredible.  Things to come?  I can’t wait….

Kezia Gill’s new EP “Dead Ends and Detours” is available from 26 April on all the usual platforms.  Kezia can be seen at Buckle and Boots on the Saturday afternoon, setting the main stage perfectly for an evening of music and drinking

“The reason I’m here, the reason I sing, all that I am, I owe to him”

Monday, April 15, 2019

Music Video Review - When I See You - Danny McMahon

Danny McMahon, a rising star of UK Country music, has come of age. 

When I See You” shows a really developed, mature side to his music – even his distinctive singing voice sounds to have mellowed in this track. 
Written by a friend as a tribute to his grandfather, Danny felt particularly honoured to be asked to sing this, as he explained at a recent gig when he performed it to an appreciative audience

Originally the single was released in October 2018 and hit #1 on the iTunes Country Chart, Danny has now had the opportunity to make a video to accompany it, which will be released on 26 April 2019, although a teaser is now available

The video itself is a combination of evocative performance shots cut with original home videos of Danny growing up, focusing on his relationship with his own grandfather and his extended family, but through very ordinary scenes captured at various occasions. It is the very “ordinariness” that adds to the emotion of the video – and on first watching I honestly had tears in my eyes and chills down my spine.

While this style of video storytelling is not unique, it works so well for this song and had been put together really well - surely it will be in the ward shortlists later this year, it will certainly be considered for a "Silver Ball"

Both the song and the video are not just a memorial, but a celebration of a life lived, of a life shared, a life that has impacted on others – and lives that must still be lived.

When the video is released later this month, have a Kleenex to hand, a drink to loved ones, and raise that glass to Harold Evans, 1927 - 2004

Friday, April 12, 2019

Song Review - Bumpin' Into You - Gary Quinn

Gary Quinn is one of the hardest working artists in UK Country, one of the nicest people in UK Country and has always been a great ambassador for the scene.  As an individual he has been very welcoming to both of us at Silverball Country for which we are very grateful!  It was therefore a pleasure to be asked to review his latest single, but as with ever review, we base what we write only on what we hear, and mostly from first impressions on listening.
We thought it might be interesting this time to give our two reviews separately so that you can see how each of us reacted

Rik listened to it first…

Gary Quinn is back with new music – and back with a bang! “Bumpin’ Into You opens with a short, sharp, in your face intro and then it is straight into Gary’s instantly recognisable voice, an accent that mixes Northern Ireland with Nashville

As with all his songs, this latest offering is very catchy, and very evocative. You can both hear and see the story he is telling – and his stories are ones we have all experienced, but Gary is able to put them into song!  For me, this story is rekindling a relationship, maybe we should, maybe we shouldn’t. but it’s a song of right here right now….. and right now we are in the bedroom!

A song about a longed for reunion could be quite schmaltzy – but this song really isn’t

Francesca hears the song the same way, but with Gary’s songs you can create your own version of the story – here’s how she heard it and saw it

It has sure been nice listening to the beautiful voice of Gary Quinn!  His voice is crisp and clear and creates clear imaginary in your head to support the lyrics; running his fingers down her spine, this is a romantic moment that you know will lead to more later that evening .Whilst the track contains excellent guitar playing and drums, after the 8 second intro, the focus it on Gary's voice, a voice truly worthy of male vocalist of the year. 

Those trips to Nashville have paid off, this latest track sits right up there with the music coming out of the home of country. 
The music is easy to listen to but captivates you at the same time, I can't wait to hear the next line. 

A beautiful song, and I can't wait to bump into Gary at this year's festivals.  For those that are not familiar with Mr Quinn, do yourself a favour and get acquainted with his music or even reacquainted. 

Gary can be found on Facebook, his website and running his fingers down a special ladies spine

Play this on a romantic night in with the lights low and the passion high...

Song Review - "Drug In My Head - Binky

In complete contrast to her last single 'Don't Let Go'  Binky brings us a more up beat song about a relationship. 

There are hints of country, particularly in Binky's voice and the  "Waaah Oh" and like many a country love songs she references June and Johnny (Cash); however there is a strong pop influence. 

The song is easy for most girls to relate to and I can see myself singing along "Drowning in your crazy, drugs in my head" towards the end of a night out as it is an infectious, catchy tune. 

Guitar introduction, followed by an interesting opening line "Still got your taste on my lips, boy" in Binky's unique sound; a minute in, the song steps up the pop factor a gear and this is where I envisage the dance floor jumping starts. 

In Binky's own words

" I really wanted to create a girl’s sing along. I mean what girl can’t relate to that one teenage relationship that we all have, which we think is going to last forever?

Find Binky on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or at the weekend party waving around her red solo cup as the last one standing!


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Gig Review - Gasoline & Matches at JoeJoeJims Bar

A review of a gig doesn’t have to be just about the band – no matter how good they might be!  On Sunday it was a local gig for a local band – but in a venue that can only be described as “quirky” – also fascinating, weird, amazing and fun!

The band were Gasoline and Matches in their duo format singing a mix of their own original music from their first ep and their forthcoming album, classic country covers and some wonderful arrangements of classic songs.  Particular treats were a slowed down “Livin’ On A Prayer”, Steve channelling Johnny Cash for “Folsom Prison Blues” and tracks from the new album – “Smiling Viper” and “Gentlemen are Patient Wolves”.

So to the venue. Fletchers Arcade has been a feature of the Birmingham Lickey Hills since 1920. Still owned by the same family – the owner is affectionately known as “Fletch” – the arcade also now contains JoeJoeJims Bar which is growing as the place to go for music, comedy and anything else that Fletch decides to put on!

As the name suggests, Fletchers Arcade contains games…but what a collection of games!  PacMan, Space Invaders, Out Run and more – I can relive my teenage years when I should have been studying but clearly wasn’t!  Personal favourites for both myself and Francesca are the pinball machines – its how “Silverball Country” got its name – though whilst I favour the Guns’n’Roses game Francesca can be found on the adjacent Adams Family.  In addition to the retro games, penny falls and separate room of slot machines, the arcade also has relics of bygone days – a pedal car on the wall, a vespa by the stage, 50s celebrity cut-outs dotted around and a wheel of Fortune by the toilets

The new stage has replaced the very crazy golf (which will be replaced soon) and the wooden letters spelling the band’s name are a very nice touch!  The bar is well stocked with a range of gins as well as well the drinks you’d expect to find, the seats are retro and one seat is a cowboy saddle – very appropriate for Gasoline & Matches’ appearance.  The pizza kitchen and varied menu complete the offering – the pizza are fresh and the hots dogs massive!

With so many music venues being rather samey – slow bar service, sticky floor, dubious toilets, rubbish view – it is refreshing to visit a venue with character, especially one where you can wipe out aliens during the interval!

Fletchers Arcade/JoeJoeJims Bar can be fund at the foot of the Lickey Hills in Rednal, Birmingham.  Keep up with their future plans on Facebook and their website.

Gasoline & Matches can be found at Summer Festivals and in the studio finishing off their eagerly awaited new album 
Follow them on Facebook and their website

Rik was reliving his misspent youth while listening to contemporary country music... Sundays don't get much better

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Song Review - Love Is Not Enough - Sabine

Love Is Not Enough is the debut single from up and coming singer Songwriter Sabine.  Settling down with my advance copy, headphones on, I realised that I have no bio, just the song.  At Silverball Country we actually prefer to review without seeing anyone else’s opinions (often not even each other’s) but on this occasion I know very little about the singer apart from her voice and her words
And what a voice, and what words!  

Sabine possesses a unique, distinctive voice, with a definite mature feel to it.  “Mature” is also a word I would apply to the song lyrics.  So many Country songs about love are quite plaintive, covering heartache, missing you etc, whereas “Love Is Not Enough” is about a relationship that is over, a life that must go on – but without you.  It is a song of hope and growth – but from a purely personal perspective, and I found that a very powerful take, but delivered in a very meaningful way
The line

I owe it to myself to try with someone else or just be by myself

sums this up very eloquently

The sound itself reflects that almost understated personal strength and power.  Accompanied by some strong instrumentation, the mix and production by the guys at Puzzle Maker studios is spot on, ensuring that Sabine’s vocal is very much to the foreground whilst still retaining the backing underlining the song. It’s not often that I focus on the production and engineering on a song, but in this case the studio certainly deserve praise!

Overall Sabine has written and performed a really listenable debut song, one that will surely get her noticed and will maybe make listeners think about their own lives, their own relationships and their own priorities – after all, you owe it to yourself!

Sabine can be found on Facebook, on the road playing acoustic sets  in Oxford, London and Alcester. and in October she’s heading out to Texas, where she’s been invited to play at the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards in Jefferson, stopping off at Nashville before returning to the UK. 

Love Is Not Enough is available to pre-order now