Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Music Review - The Pearsall Brothers

Our email inbox at Silverball Country gets filled up with new releases from artistes, PRs and studios, so sometimes we might not quite get to a song quickly – and so I must thank Richard Pearsall for his patience, sending us not one but two tracks, and politely waiting for us to get the chance to listen.

I’m so glad that he did.

Two tracks to listen to  from the Pearsall Brothers – different but similar…

First one sent to us was When the Lightning Hits You.  The first word I wrote in my notes was “loud”! The guitar hits you, the drums hit you, then the vocal hits you, pushing above the instruments.  The whole performance is very much in the Country/Rock style of the 70s and is quite a welcome inclusion in my playlist!  “I felt the lightning hit me when she reached out to kiss me” – the song hits you like that first kiss does!

Second on the list is Carolina Lady.  A slower song, but again quite a traditional sound. While other artistes are changing what country music means it is refreshing to go back to a very recognisable style with a recognisable theme.  To think this old fashioned would be unfair, but think back to the big songs of the big bands - Eagles et al - and you won’t be far off. A song of a small town, a sweet young lady dreaming of an old love that has gone…

It would be fair to say that these recordings aren’t polished and perfect, but they are great to listen to, and if I ever find myself in North Carolina I want to find the roadhouse these brothers are playing at, nurse a longneck and just sit and listen to their music, to their stories and dream of an old love, a first kiss, and a world where Cowboys ride…

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Album Review - June is Short July Is Long - Jeb Loy Nichols

We are getting more and more music sent to us for review – which we are thrilled about!  Some is pure Country, some….not so much!  The newest album from Jeb Loy Nichols - June is Short, July is Long - would be hard to pigeonhole – which is exactly how he wants it.

With a first name of “Jeb” and three airstreams/trailers on the cover, I’m already hooked.  Intro… the first track on the album is only 22 seconds long, not much time to hook me in more – snare drum, harmonica and a smoky blues voice….its working…

The album starts properly with You got it wrong – with more of a jazz tempo and that brushed snare drum again.  Jeb’s voice is speaking straight to you.  He’s explaining why the relationship won’t work, taking the blame but you are wrong…and on that he’s certainly right….. Kind of  calmer, more grown up attitude than most country songs!  Think I’m Going to Fall in Love Today is a bit more country, but with quite staccato horns helping the guitar long.  Once again it’s a different take on traditional love themes, he’s out to fall in love with whoever he finds…at least he’s honest about it! Lovely little surprise ending too!  The “different take” seems t be the theme for the style of the album as well as the songs themselves, with influences from Country, from Bluegrass and from Soul all combining to give a genre crossing sound.  The next track Matter Of Fact is more bluesy, Nothing You Can Do About It brings back the Harmonica, drum and guitar all gently underscoring Jeb’s voice.  He suddenly sounds like a worldly-wise old man dispensing sage advice from his regular seat in the bar…. 

Last Train Home is uptempo but not upbeat!  As with much of the album, Jeb is taking themes that are quite down, but addresses them without feeling sorry for himself or expecting anyone else to do so.  It is what it is…  Life can be a bit easier to bear if you can accept the truths…  As the album progresses you can just lose yourself in Jeb’s voice, the combination of instruments from his band The Westwood All Stars and those melancholy, wise vibes…

It is certainly a different album, but really enjoyable to listen to and to immerse yourself in.
I wanted to make the kind of record I grew up with,”
Jeb says.
“That meeting place of folk, soul and country.”
They meet, they chat, they produce a great sound.

Jeb Loy Nichols’ new album June is Short, July is Long is released on all platforms on 5 July.  It is perfect for the hoped-for summer evenings…

Monday, June 17, 2019

Gig Review - Long Way Home Tour - Canaan Cox with support, Birmingham

Sunday night may not be a traditional gig night, but with two great acts opening and a headliner that I was keen to see for the first time, at a famous local venue – why not?  Unfortunately, it seems that many people thought “not” as the Birmingham date of the Canaan Cox Long Way Home Tour was not quite a sell out.  However, the number of people in the room didn’t affect the performances in the slightest

First on the bill were the very local Gasoline & Matches.  It is quite clear any time that Sally and Steve take to the stage that it is where they feel most comfortable.  Playing a mix of their older music from their first EP and music from their forthcoming album, you could tell that both were enjoying perming and having fun on stage.  I’m sure that some of Steve’s guitar riffs get more complicated when he gets the chance!  Ending with the energetic Never Have I Ever and Smiling Viper, Gasoline & Matches were, as always engaging, entertaining and energetic, and are always great to see performing live.

After a duo to open, we were then treated to Danny McMahon with his full band.  Despite the size of the room and the size of the crowd Danny opened and performed as though he was playing a festival.  The energy coming off him was amazing, and he succeeded in encouraging all of us to clap along, sing along and – for the girls at the front – dance along to his music which included the first public, live performance of Pushing My Hands Down from his EP Boys Cry Too, which also includes the song When I See You – performed with real emotion on the night.

And so to the headliner. Canaan Cox.  His first post about Birmingham was “can anyone hook me up with a gym?” and having met him, I can see why!  Canaan is one of the most entertaining performers I have seen in a while – his stories between songs and the way he tells them were fabulous, clearly drawing on his training in musical theatre for delivery and life on the road for the content.  He’s the kind of guy you’d want to party hard with all night, and then sit listening to him sing while the sun comes up.  

For his set, Canaan mixed his own original songs with covers, and mixed rocking out with slow, measured singing.  He went from FGL’s “Cruise” into Frozen’s Let it Go so smoothly that it took a moment to realise!  He also covered Dan & Shay’s “Tequila” the way it should be sung (without a clicktrack and after doing shots with the band” and then we had MJ’s “Billie Jean” – with a subtle but definite country flavour.  “What is he doing?” I asked Danny McMahon. “Anything he wants” came the accurate reply – and he can!  Canaan wants to party, and to rock out.  Wen he rocks he really rocks, but when he slows it down then it is more about his voice – and damn that’s a fine voice.

Although it was a small crowd it really felt like a party, and those of us who weren’t already Canaan Cox fans certainly are now!

Catch Canaan on his UK tour until 24 June and check his 2019 album.

Or just find him in a gym….

Album Review - Happy Ever After - Simon James

I've been eagerly awaiting along with the other Jammie Dodgers (fans) Simon's latest album and I'm thrilled to get an advanced release of Happy Ever After. Produced by Kevin Duncan, this is the first album Simon has released since signing to Ginger Dog Records. 

It's a dark and gritty album that highlights the beauty of a range of traditional instruments across the tracks: pedal steel, Hammond organ, violin, keys and of course guitar. A few clever studio tricks do all they can to emphasise Simon's voice. I particularly love track 4 - Wishing Well, a funky tune that lends an eerie effect to Simon's voice which fits perfectly to the lyrics. This song, and track 7 - I Don't Know, particularly the instrumental part ,and the dark words would be suitable for the American TV series:  True Blood , another favourite of mine.  For anyone who isn't familiar with the series it’s an American dark fantasy horror television series based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries, containing award winning music from Nathan Barr and Jace Everett creating a swampy, bluesy and spooky effect; featuring the cello, guitar, prepared piano, and glass harmonica among other instruments. 

As with all good country music there are the stories of a life less than perfect, solitude (track 3); self-doubt (track 9), alcoholism, and missing loved ones but the songs reassure us that there is a comfort to be found and something worth fighting for. Happily, the album ends on a positive note with Ready to Fly, encouraging you to take a chance. 

These are gorgeous, honest, heartfelt songs. 

Simon hasn't lost his storytelling ability, but these stories are shared by the gauchos around the campfire, on a dark night when they miss their loved ones. Listen closely to introduction of track 3 - Solitary Road, before the fiddle kicks in and the beat picks up, it sets the scene and describes the characters.  Alternatively, we could be sat looking out the window on a dark and rainy day. 

Not unexpectedly, Simon is supported by Sam Coe on the album, you can hear her harmonies in track 5 - Oh Honey, and a rather unexpected harmony in track 8 - Something Worth Fighting For, adding an extra dimension to both songs and in Something Worth Fighting For, a harmony that just adds a touch of sweetness to soften the raw emotion of the song. 

Pour yourself a whiskey, sit back on your own and just reflect. 
If you see Simon, give him a hug.

Happy Ever After, the new album from Simon James is available from 28 June

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Video Review - Local Mans Star - Kezia Gill

We at Silverball Country have eagerly awaited the release of the supporting video to “Local Mans Star” and we were keen – and privileged - to see an advance copy. Why?  This song stirs the emotions of all listeners, not just Rik and Francesca if the audience at Buckle and Boots are representative.

In off stage conversations with Kezia, she told us that she was worried that she might shed several tears through her performance; she explained the meaning behind the song and its back story. This set the bar high for the video, we had already developed the images in our own minds.
Kezia with Silverball Country after her appearance at Buckle and Boots

In case you are unaware, the song is about Kezia’s dad, “singing for a living” and how he is a celebrity to the locals and a hero and inspiration to her and her career.

Brought to life by Steph Lee, the video for Local Mans Star was filmed at the Zingari Club, Long Eaton by Jay Hillyer - the very club where Eddie McGill would perform and take his children. 

Little Kezia is played to perfection by Tamari Sharvadze, the rest of the Gill family is played by – The Gill Family.

The way the video is woven around the lyrics; it is amazing and so evocative with transitions and actions that are simply perfect. We won’t detail them, but leave that for when you see the video for yourself, however be warned, this is a serious tearjerker and memory dredger:   

Francesca who also grew up attending the local working men’s club adds a special “Thank you Kezia for transporting me back in time” and relates since “My dad was, and still is, my hero”.
"My Dad was, and still is, my hero"
She reminisces: It was always a treat to put on a party frock on a Saturday night and go with my mum and dad to the local working men’s club, known as “the club”. Half a coke and a packet of crisps was supposed to keep me quiet and sat in a chair, if I was good, I might get a treat from the fishmonger when he came around with his basket later in the evening - cockles anyone? Or maybe you prefer a salmon bap brought from home wrapped in tin foil.

Little Kezia is ushered into the room with her dad behind her, that was always the way, but not really needed as everyone already knew who you were and everything about you; as long as you attend you will hear stories about when you were a baby or did x, y or z.  You never forget who sits where and not to sit in somebody else’s seat.
Excitement builds as the bingo ends, were just waiting for a committee man to announce who’s performing (extra respect if they get the name right) and hand over the all-important microphone.
It the artiste is good, everyone will be swaying along in their chairs and the kids dance on some of the world’s smallest dance floors. Expect a little banter from the punters too, at least they are engaged.

All working men’s clubs must be kitted out from a standard supplier, you see the same bar shutters, little round tables, heavy patterned carpets and the heavy dark curtains that held in the aroma of smoke long after smoking was banned. Years later you might notice the slight yellowing of the wallpaper.

All the stars perform in front of a glitter curtain and if they were lucky there might be a decent sized changing room behind it, otherwise it’s the toilets, I’m afraid.

This video is perfect for the song, recreating a time gone by, well almost - smoking is no longer permitted inside, and the drinks might be a bit pricier, but the sense of community and family remains if you can find these little hidden gems.

Kezia and the team behind this video have taken what was already an incredible and emotional song and improved on it – it gives the song a new dynamic.
The only thing that would make this video any better would be if it had been delivered on a reused VHS tape.

The release is perfectly timed for Father’s Day, Local Mans Star premieres this Sunday on Kezia’s Youtube channel - Youtube

Whilst the song reminisces about Kezia’s dad, the setting is alive and well and together they should inspire you to connect with family.

Watch it on Sunday and share a pint with your dad (ideally at your local).

Monday, June 10, 2019

EP Review - Wrote Off - Emilia Quinn

The paddock stage at Buckle and Boots 2019 opened with to heavyweight “acts” – an industry Q&A session and the first of the two Songwriter rounds.  Imagine being the first musical act to take to the stage between those two.

Emilia Quinn was that act.  

On her own on stage with just her guitar she demonstrated her powerful music, strong voice and clear confidence – it was a tough slot but she more than held her own and earned her place on that stage

The great thing about the Paddock stage is that it is a chance to see the future, and that was true in this case, as following her appearance Emilia has now released her debut EP “Wrote Off

The EP consists of three tracks – Sorry Momma, Woman Like Me and Wrote Off, each showcasing that strong voice that we heard at Buckle and Boots.  With the gentle vocals on the tracks, Emilia’s voice puts me in mind of Suzanne Vega at times, especially on the title track.

All three tracks use gentle guitar under the voice with great percussion providing the back beat to songs which all seem to say “here I am, this is me – take me as I am, or don’t take me at all”

With a voice like this – we’ll take you exactly as you are Emilia

Emilia Quinn’s debut EP “Wrote Off” is available now for download and streaming – and on physical CDs!

  Find Emilia on FacebookOnline and celebrating the end of her degree!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Single Review - On The Road - Donna Marie

“There is something warm and soothing in her voice that I need as my passenger.”

Rik has had the pleasure of meeting Donna Marie a couple of times, both at Buckle and Boots in 2017 and twice at her performances in the theatre show “A Country Night In Nashville”.  When Donna Marie performs some of Country’s biggest hits her voice and interpretation are spot on, her guitar and keyboard playing to back the rest of the show are superb.  

Because of this connection with Donna Marie, we thought it best for Francesca to review this song with a totally fresh pair of ears.  Her reaction?

“It's beautiful!

I love the big band sound, but the heavy drums don't drown out Donna Marie's voice.   

I started playing this song out loud and colleagues instantly recognised it as Country, yes it is but because it's three chords and the truth, anyone who has spent any time travelling by car will relate to this; isn't it a better drive when the roads are peaceful and we all look forward to that end destination.

Just me and the radio, it's that time you can claim for self reflection, it isn't lonely.  The lyrics truly reflect the journey we have all undertaken at some point. 

For me the song is over far too quickly, I want Donna Marie to stay with me on my journey even though I will probably phase out of the music to undertake that reflection but there is something warm and soothing in her voice that I need as my passenger.”

Donna Marie has written, recorded and produced this song herself in her home studio and says of it:

“Being a musician on the road means travelling far and wide for long periods of time. Late nights driving home with nothing but dark roads ahead but I get to do what I love”

Whether a metaphorical journey, or a real one, this song will speak to you, and for those - particularly in the entertainment industry- who spend many hours on the road it will really resonate

Whatever your personal journey, this song and Donna Marie’s voice will surely help you through it – with a final destination of a promised and much anticipated debut album

Donna Marie’s new single “On The Road” is released on 5 July. Get the song here and follow Donna Marie on

or just follow her “On The Road”…

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

When Rik Met...The Blue Highways

The Blue Highways rocked a hot Saturday afternoon in an iconic venue in London, taking to the stage on day 1 of the first Country In The Afternoon at Putney’s Half Moon.  

A band of brothers from London, the boys have been around music their whole lives as they come from a musical family- plus a bassist who plays music for the British Army!  Frontman Callum, with his loud vocals and guitar playing has quite the musical pedigree – a classically trained pianist, a church organist and a fan of Elvis Costello seems quite the enigma, but music runs through their very veins.  

Billed as Americana, The Blue Highways would call themselves 
“Rock with an American roots feel with an R&B style rhythm section.” 
Whatever you want to call it, the band are on stage having fun and seeing what happens as the set goes.

I was greatly surprised that it is only a year since The Blue Highways appeared on the Emerging Talent stage at Millport Country Festival having only been together in this incarnation for only 18 months. With 1 EP released and their second single released the day before we met there are big things in the future with a busy summer schedule already organised.

As brothers – how is the dynamic for writing and performing?  Apparently this means that they can argue as only siblings can, but they can’t walk out, because the furthest they can go is upstairs to their bedroom!

The new single formed part of their Country In The Afternoon set, and they invited Lewis Fowler of Two Ways Home (who features on the single) to join them on stage – mostly, simply because they could!
Callum and Jack kindly sent a copy of the new single so I could have another listen…

Opening with a guitar shred that sets the tone for what is to come, Play Johnny Play is very much in the old guitar driven rock n roll style, it’s an uptempo song that is easy to follow, easy to sing – or indeed shout – along to and the guitars on the track sound incredible.  Callums powerful vocals seem to almost be a match for the guitars.

The Blue Highways assembled a plethora of some of the finest UK Americana guitarists to play on this track.  A song about a guitarist, about how music draws you in, it is the first single I’ve been sent that has to have a separate list of the guitarists who played on it, and each of them adds their own style, their own twist to the playing.  Listen to this song in two halves – the raw vocal from Callum, and the incredible band of guitars – and neither half will disappoint!

“With Jack (the band’s lead guitarist) and our six guest stars, we had our own Magnificent Seven - each bringing something different but also working together to create a single great track,” says Callum 
 List of guitarists: CJ Hillman - 2 time AMA UK Instrumentalist of the year Henry Senior - AMA UK Instrumentalist of the year nominee (Danny and the Champs) Jack Lury - The Blue Highways Joe Hazell - Curse of Lono Lewis Fowler - Two Ways Home Paul Lush - AMA UK Instrumentalist of the year nominee (The Lost Sons of Littlefield, Danny and the Champs) Tony Poole - King of the electric 12-string Rickenbacker (Starry Eyed and Laughing, Bennett Wilson Poole)

Watch out for The Blue Highways on stage, at festivals – and maybe even in church if Callum is on organ duty!

The Blue Highways new single “Play Johnny Play” is now available on the usual platforms, and the band can be found online, on Facebook and on Spotify 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Gig Review - Maren Morris "Girl The World" Tour - Royal Albert Hall

Friday night saw the first of three road trips, the first of three days of music – and the last night of Maren’s tour after the release of her second album “Girl”

Opening for Maren Morris was Rae Lynn. Hailing from Texas, and a former contestant on the US Voice, Rae can be described as “proper country”. Her songs are about life in a small town, and you can easily picture her in that town, you can see that town, and to be fair you can imagine her being known to everyone in that small town – she is a rebel through and through in true Country style – she even sings a song about her “Racing Red Ford 150 truck”.  Man, if that tailgate could tell tales…. Rae Lynn is the pretender to..., no, the rightful heir to the throne that Kacey Musgraves has chosen to vacate.

To the strains of her single “Girl” Maren Morris appeared via a lift and trapdoor at the top of a set of stairs, and so the final night began.  Most of the set was to be from the second album, but favourites from Hero were promised and warmly received. It seemed like Maren and her whole band wanted to have a party. A cello for “”I could use a love song”, Niall Horan on stage for a duet, a whole string quartet because she could and a set that was reminiscent of a retro disco with dry ice, bubbles, strobe lights and even mirror balls! Let’s face it, she’s an 90s baby (in her 80’s Mercedes)!  Rae Lynn returned to the stage, cheekily using Marens’s lift and trapdoor.  Told you she was a rebel!  The two clearly enjoy performing together!

In an era where there is constant debate about what is and isn’t “Country”, Maren Morris doesn’t just walk the line between Country and Pop Country – she stomps all over it in her sequinned boots. Maren does what Maren does – and we love hearing it as much as she loves doing it.

The set ended with two of Maren’s biggest tracks - Cash (which involved the whole of the RAH singing along and shouting out a mildly rude word) and then My Church, before returning for an encore and a promise that as long as we keep coming, she’ll keep touring

We will Maren.  We will.

Gig Review - Country In The Afternoon

When Scotland brought America to London….

With Buckle and Boots last weekend, and CMA fest just kicking off in Nashville it is definitely festival season, but if that conjured images of tents and rain, think again.  A little, but iconic, corner of south west London hosted the first of what we hope will be a long run of “Country In The Afternoon” events.

The Half Moon in Putney has seen an incredible array of artistes play its stage over the years, and now, thanks to the wonderful Chittick family – the driving force behind the Millport Festival – have added a roster of Country and Americana artistes to that list.  Many of those we saw over the two days have either played at Millport or will be playing this year, giving us a real idea of how great that festival is!

Rik visited on both days, with Francesca joining for day two.  As the name suggests this is an afternoon event – bands are on stage from 1-5 so it’s a relaxing occasion without the late night dash home!  Lots of attendees made the most of the weather and the bar menu in the main pub and the very Summery weather on Saturday clearly didn’t deter visitors.

Two days, two different line ups and a really well curated mix of styles within that wider Country/Americana genre.

Day 1 was opened by Zoee just before she jetted off to Nashville for CMA fest. Unfortunately, traffic and distance conspired to prevent Rik catching her set, but she was assuredly a great act to open the whole weekend. Opening the soundproof doors from the main bar to hear Two Ways Home in full band mode was quite a spectacle.  You can never be sure what to expect of a new event,but walking into a fairly packed room with music belting out – and the sound and acoustics were spot on – allayed any concerns! 

The turnarounds were quick and painless, with every band taking to the stage bang on time.  Next up were The Blue Highways, a very assured sounding act, combining rock, Americana and a dose of blues with a horn section supplied on this occasion by the British Army! It was hard to believe that less than 12 months ago these guys were on the “Emerging Talent” stage at Millport Festival, and have only recently released music.  Bringing Lewis from Two Ways Home back on stage to supply yet another guitar for their new single “Play Johnny Play” really underlined how much fun they have playing.  

Day one was headlined by Robert Vincent. Robert had a Liverpool shirt, a wonderful mature voice and a fabulous dry humour.  His whole vibe was that of a traditional British singer/songwriter – clearly an absolute natural entertainer who has perfected his craft over the years.

Day two saw the full Silverball Country team (both of us!) have to endure rail replacement buses, but still arrive in time to walk in during the opening set from Katee Kross and the Amberjacks. Like Zoee the day before these are names we have seen around but not had the pleasure of hearing before – and what a pleasure it was!  Katee has a powerful, beautiful voice, tinged with her Scottish lilt.  For an afternoon gig, she has the ideal style to warm up and wake up the crowd.  Off stage too she is a delight to meet, discussing how she is “coming down” to perform in Leeds and Scarborough.  I guess for a Glasweigian girl, Leeds is indeed “down”!  

Katee was followed by Russ Tolman, a very experienced Californian singer/songwriter performing in London for the first time in 21 years.  Russ has a very relaxed, friendly stage presence with a clear voice so you can really appreciate the whimsical humour in his songs. Proper catchy songs, easy to sing along to even when you haven’t heard the words before – and he introduced almost as co-stars his capo and his little red pick!

With each change on stage the quality just went up. Next to wow us were Morganway, with Fiona Chittick taking over compere duties as she was clearly very excited by these guys – and rightly so!  From the first notes of the first number the band exuded attitude, especially Nicole on fiddle.  Although classically trained, Nicole brings an energy and a style I have rarely seen – she plays that fiddle like she means it!  A very talented band, the fiddle does slightly set them apart from others, but in combination with SJ on lead vocals.  Blessed with a voice reminiscent of Julianne Regan which is almost a musical instrument in its own right – and she knows how to use it to perfection!  Along with the keys, drums and guitars it is hard to classify Morganway or put them into a box – they are Americana, they are folk, they are folk with a twist – power folk, maybe even rowdy folk.

How do you end a two day event with such an incredible line up?  By bringing on an absolute master of Outlaw Country. Jesse Dayton took that stage, took the entire crowd in the palm of his hand and transported it all to a Texan honky-tonk bar at midnight. Jesse D was outlaw before outlaw was trendy, and was given his platform when Johnny Cash went bad!  With a voice that sounds honed by whisky and cigarettes, Jesse has brought the best with him on his UK tour – his bass player and long time friend plays stand up bass, his drummer is also an accomplished Houston song writer.  All three combined to give a masterclass in proper, foot stomping country, protest songs and whisky drinking.

And so ended the first Country In The Afternoon – with a bang, certainly not a whimper. The event returns in November for another two-day mini festival.  You might wonder how Gavin and Christie will even equal this line up – but with their pedigree you know that they will!

To paraphrase Field of Dreams – “If you come, they will build it”