Thursday, February 20, 2020

EP Review - My Heart Will Wait - Nicol and Elliot

We get a wide range of emails in the Silverball Country inbox, but one in particular caught our attention as it was a little bit different!  The email was about Last Night From Glasgow and tells us not just about a music release but also a new project.

The project is Hive, and to us it sounds a fabulous initiative to support independent artistes – and that is exactly what is needed in the UK Country/Americana scene

In the words of LNFG

Hive is for artists, by artists and provides them with a self-contained toolkit to release, publish and promote their catalogue within the protective environment of an existing label. The composition of the initiative is designed to encourage artists to work together in a mutually beneficial way and to share the responsibilities that come with releasing music

Clearly there is far more to a successful music release than just popping into a studio, recording and sitting back… so for LNFG to put together this package to help artistes to not only promote their own music but support others in a similar situation is a big step, and to be applauded!

The first release on this new initiative was from Nicol and Elliott who sent their new EP to us following a chat with Katee Kross at a gig in Glasgow – collaboration at its best!

The title track of the EP – My Heart Will Wait – is very evocative, with the mellow instrumentation and Rachels vocals taking you to a smoky cafĂ©, late at night, with the harmonies and violin helping to set that scene.  The slightly faster paced The Long Way Down feels like a continuation, as though the EP is a story rather than a collection of songs, featuring more of Andrew’s vocals this time.  So Long Ago is very much driven by the two voices combining, with piano and drum marking the pace and lending a more Jazz/Blues feel while final track Letting You Go takes us back to a very folk feel, with slowed and very minimal instrumentation.

(Andrew) Nicol and (Rachel) Elliot initially collaborated for a one off show, but their mix of influences, which combine indie with folk, Americana with Southern Gothic and a massive dose of Celtic come together to create a haunting, emotive very listenable EP, with harmonies, held notes and perfect instrumentation.

We hope to hear a lot more from this duo – and a lot more from Last Night From Glasgow’s excellent Hive initiative

My Heart Will Wait, the new ep from Nicol and Elliot is available to stream and download. For more about them, check their Facebook , keep in touch with Last Night From Glasgow on Facebook  and online 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Single Review - Reminds Me Of You - Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones has never really left the scene, and his new song is a clear reminder to us all that he is still here!  He’s been on a journey or two in the past, and now he is sharing his experiences in songs. 

Reminds Me Of You has a big, powerful opening, brings in that distinctive steel guitar sound, then we get the voice, the story, the imagery.

This song is so achingly country!

It is a song about not being with the one you love – one of the central pillars of country music!  It is instantly relatable to anyone who is forced to be apart – separated by distance, by work, by chasing a dream.  We know in our heart that we have to keep at it – but everything “reminds me of you

Although Andrew is from Oxfordshire, he has a Mid Atlantic/Country singing voice – and it doesn’t sound like he is trying to be Nashville, it sounds real, authentic, and perfect for this emotional song.

You can hear, feel, almost see the emotion, the longing to be back home, probably at the end of a long day, thinking back on everything he has done, and everything he has seen that is a reminder of home, a home he wants to get back to.

Reminds Me Of You is a travelling song, it’s a heartfelt song, and it is a love song in the great tradition of Country Music.

It is a fitting release for Valentine’s day, and a fitting release for Andrew’s first solo venture after previously performing as a part of Acoustic Journey and Journey Home

Reminds Me Of You, the new single from Andrew Jones is available to download and stream from 14 February. You can find out more about Andrew on his website

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Single Review - Love Machine - The Rising

Belfast natives the Rising have a bold new single and a bold new strategy 

The new single is bold - it is a Country reimagining of the 2004 single Love Machine from Girls Aloud.

The strategy is bold - it goes against the long-established way of releasing singles and albums – Chris intends an almost constant programme of new music releases, in his words:

This ambitious new strategy is designed to meet modern consumption and the changing face of the music industry in the digital age. We will be releasing a new single every month this year”

The intention is to “keep on everyone’s radar”, and Chris is certainly not one to shy away from embracing new ideas and encouraging discussion about trends in music, especially in the Independent/Country scene

This first single of the new strategy is a cover of the original pop single, but the backing instruments have been replaced by country instruments including banjo and even a cowbell with a beautiful instrumental break opening the final third of the track.

The Rising’s vocalist Chantelle has kept up with the almost frenetic pace of the original 116 beats per minute track – and if has managed to increase the pace to 127 beats per minute! Originally performed as an “unexpected cover” on BBC Introducing, the positive reaction led the Rising to record it and release it as their first single of 2020

The single, Love Machine, is a well-produced and performed cover, time will tell if the new way of doing things will also prove successful –we wish luck to The Rising and will watch with interest!

Love Machine is available to download from 23 February with pre-saves live on Valentine’s day.

Follow The Rising on Facebook and on their website while they follow new ideas…

Monday, February 10, 2020

Single Review - Better In Blue Jeans - Laura Oakes

A valentine’s day gift from Laura Oakes - Better in Blue Jeans!

Does anything say country more than a pair of blue jeans?

This is another country-pop offering from Laura with a vibrant upbeat from the opening line. The drum provides the beat that is almost impossible not to tap along to.  The full band is in there too, bass and lead guitar and if you listen clearly enough, the steel guitar.  

Clear lyrics throughout, even in the tongue twisting line “so where this undiluted, high falutin’ all about?” I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I know it’s not complimentary! 

Laura is singing about the guy that’s made it, evident by his change in dress sense. She’s proud of them but that doesn’t excuse their behaviour and it’s something that she doesn’t like, she doesn’t recognise their behaviour and much prefers the person that they were before - the guy in blue jeans!

No, you’ve not gone mad, you may have heard Laura sing the song live – she sang it at the Long Road Festival in 2018 and again at The Islington in May 2019. Clearly you reacted positively enough for her to record it, so why wait, download as that extra valentine’s treat, even if it needs to be for yourself.

It’s a catchy number that will stick in your head - I want to hear this song blasting out in every one of the Levi stores!

Better in Blue Jeans, the new single from Laura Oakes is available to download from 14 February. You can catch Laura on Facebook or live throughout March

Oxford, Friends Meeting House, 6th March

Liverpool, Phase One, 7th March

Leeds, Oporto, 9th March

Glasgow, Poetry Club, 11th March

Birmingham, Cuban Embassy, 12th March

Francesca with Laura Oakes backstage at Millport

Friday, February 7, 2020

Single Review - Cinderella's Had A Drink - Tommy Atkins

Hailing from Newcastle, Tommy Atkins has definitely called on real life experiences for this song – describing the scenes at midnight in any high street of any UK town, it may be a far cry from Nashville but it sure is Nashville style storytelling and a recognisable if throwback Nashville style sound - there is a real 90s vibe to this track, from the opening guitar and fiddle combo. 

We love a Country song with a theme that we can relate to – and in this case we can all relate even if we’d prefer not to admit it!

Although this song is about Cinderella, it sure isn’t a fairy tale – when you lose a show at midnight its because you are drunk, and your glass carriage is actually a cab home!

Cinderella’s Had a Drink is a well-crafted, seemingly traditional country song but with a very modern twist – observational but not judgemental because let’s face it, we’ve all been there!

Tommy himself describes it as

“a love letter to my friends from my early twenties: to the drunken nights, the hellish hangovers and the poor life decisions we made together.  It was inspired by a particular friend of mine who I nicknamed Cinderella, as she would always end the night with one shoe less than she started with. Newcastle knows how to party, and the honkytonks on Nashville’s Broadway reminded me of my hometown: they were full of hard-working people just out to have a good time.”

We all know a Cinderella, we’ve all been Cinderella!  If that evokes memories for you, then the single is available to download now having already made an impact on the UK country chart  

Find Tommy on his website or facebook, on the festival circuit…and picking up shoes at midnight!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Album Review - Show Your Hand - Kate Kross

Just from a casual look at her facebook page, it is obvious that Katee Kross is working very hard to bring her music to a wide audience, outside of her native Scotland.  Unfortunately, despite how busy she is, I have only once had the chance to hear her live – and only briefly at the inaugural Country In The Afternoon when Katee was tempted to come all the way down South to Putney

What a joy it was then to receive an advance copy of her newest album “Show Your Hand” the title track of which is already being picked up for UK airplay

Katee’s voice is very distinctive – a blend of Country, Scottish and Powerful, all coming together to create a beautiful sound. The instrumentation across the album evokes a very traditional Country Sound, with the mix just right that it supports and highlights Katee’s vocals, setting the style but not overpowering the singing

The album opens with the title track Show Your Hand, which itself opens with Katee singing over just strummed guitar chords before increasing the tempo into a truly toe tapping tune. It is easy to see why this tune has been picked up so eagerly by radio DJs – it is certainly a standout track.  A more laid-back tempo for Two Outlaws with a real trad/cowboy feel. Diamonds in The Dust picks the speed back up and picks up the storytelling style.

Katee has very cleverly varied the tempo as she has put this album together, which makes it very listenable.  From the slowed down Dancing With My Past to the “jangly” Bumble Bee and the drumbeat driven Still The People Talk you are eager to hear what will come next. More plaintive on Please Stay, more trad again on Never Meant To Be Forever, Katee has made this album into a musical journey.  What Will Be feels almost like an encore track, taking the levels back up and into the final track Keep On Keepin’ On – surely worthy of a single release of its own, and a definite show closer crowd pleaser for the forthcoming festival season!

The album shows why Katee is so busy, and so talked about, and this release certainly shows her hand to those who are yet to properly discover her work!]

Show Your Hand, the new album from Katee Kross launches on 22 February 2022. 

Follow Katee on Facebook  and on her website

Single Review - I Sinned - Stuart Landon

The image on the cover of I Sinned shows a man sat in the confessional but this could be a story told late at night, sat in a bar hunched over a beer. Life hasn’t gone to plan, when you’ve begged and begged for redemption what else can you do, but slightly feel sorry for yourself.

The song starts with Stuart beautifully painting the picture of entrance into heaven, St Peter stood by the closed gates.  It’s a gentle music accompaniment, starting with just the guitar and building to the upbeat sound more associated with Stuart’s live performances.  With a clear beat you actually want to tap along with the chorus but wonder what going to happen next for this guy.  The whole band is there, but the instrumentation sounds as though they don’t want to intrude on Stuart confessing to us, and to himself.  Stuarts vocal is equally gentle as he sings his story.

Despite unintentionally hurting others, it’s a recognition that we often hurt ourselves more and we need our own forgiveness. 

This is a great piece of song writing from Stuart, it tells us nothing and yet everything. Like all country classics it sticks to the truth allowing us to relate.

With its ease of listening and wide appeal it’s a winning start to 2020.  

Silverball Country have to confess – this is our new guilty pleasure.

I Sinned, the new single from Stuart Landon is available for pre-order now and to download from Monday 10 February.

Follow Stuart on facebook  and his website 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Gig Review - A Country Night In Nashville - Alexandra Theatre Birmingham

While some country fans were out in Birmingham on Friday night to see Chase Rice, the sequinned Stetsons were out in force at the Alexandra Theatre to see Dominic Halpin and the Hurricanes perform in the stage show tribute to Nashville and its music. Looking every inch the archetypal country star, Dominic takes centre stage, alongside his glamorous leading lady Shelley Quarmby. Shelley proves though that she is more than just a pretty face, taking lead vocals on songs from the queens of country as well as playing keyboards for some numbers.

Lights down, music up loud as we open with a recording of The Devil Went Down to Georgia and already the audience are clapping and fiddling along. Lit by a single spotlight the show opens with a haunting stripped back chorus of Dolly Parton’s Jolene from Shelley before Dominic enters kicking it up a gear with a very authentic rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Behind the pair of them is Donna Marie on keys and backing “oohs” clearly already having fun.  In his introduction Dominic promised to bring a bit of Nashville to Birmingham before launching into the fast paced The Auctioneer.

The lead changes throughout the show, with Shelley stepping forward, her voice combining beautifully with Donna Marie

The “girls” introduced some newer country with a simply stunning acoustic rendition of Shania Twain’s Still The One with Donna Marie on guitar and vocals alongside Shelley. The Dixie Chicks’ Travelin’ Soldier really showed how powerful their vocals are, and also showed that this is not a covers show, or a jukebox musical – this is a performance by very talented musicians of Country Greats.

With act 1 closed by a very spirited Eddie Cochrane’s Summertime Blues, you were left wondering how they could possibly follow that, whilst queuing for ice cream…

Curtain up for Act 2.  The excitement was built with the theme to the Magnificent 7 as the band took the stage to wow us all once again.  One Night In Nashville reminded us that the show is designed to transport us to a Nashville Honky Tonk (as if we needed to be reminded!), followed by more of Dominic’s humour and stagecraft telling stories about Johnny Cash before a medley of the Man In Black’s songs.

Donna Marie singing Gretchen Franklin’s Redneck Woman, Shelley accompanying herself on the keyboard for a solo of Little Big Town’s Girl Crush and Dominic singing Don Gibson’s Sea of Heartbreak alone on stage before singing one of his own compositions - Fire and Smoke - really underlined that individually all three performers are very talented in their own rights, expertly supported by bass, guitar/lap steel and drums.

Highlights then included Kacey Musgrave’s Follow Your Arrow for a modern twist, Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler for a sing along, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 for a dance, Jon Denver’s Country Roads for the traditional torches in the air and a medley to finish.  Even the drummer was encouraging an encore, duly delivered by the whole band lined up at the front of the stage and the audience on their feet and dancing

Nobody wanted the show to end – least of all those on stage, but the party continued with a mass meet and greet in the foyer, allowing everyone a chance to tell all concerned what a great time they had!

Whether a die-hard country fan, or just someone who loves the well-known songs, A Country Night In Nashville has something in it for everyone, evidenced by the huge variety of ages and headwear in the crowd.

In the future changes may be made to the set list, I loved the show as it is but am excited to see what classic and contemporary songs they add in future

The tour continues, and if there is a date near you, you shouldn’t miss your chance to catch Dominic, Shelley, Donna Marie and the rest of the Hurricanes on stage!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Single Review - Whiskey Drinkin' Woman - Kezia Gill

If you’ve heard Kezia’s fabulous EP “Dead Ends and Detours” you will have heard the little teaser track for Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman…and now the single is about to be unleashed in full.

Very much putting Kezia’s voice front and centre, Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman is – unsurprisingly – strong, loud, in your face and powerful! 

With hints of UK folk singers KT Tunstall and Sandi Thom, this track really shows off the power and strength of Kezia’s voice.

A song about power, a song about a woman who knows what she wants, what she deserves - and she is going to get it!

The instrumentation behind the vocal is also superb – with a foot-stomping beat and the incredible slide guitar of another powerful woman – Sarah Jory. The guitar, the beat, the voice all combine to create what will no doubt become a festival anthem

The combination of Kezia and Sarah couldn’t have been any more appropriate for the emotion behind this song, and their pairing is an absolute thrill if you have ever seen either of them play live – with now the hope that they may combine for at least one of the festivals this year.

Dead Ends and Detours was always going to be a hard act to follow – but Kezia has, if anything, moved up a notch!

Pour yourself a strong one - and one for this Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman – and enjoy this great new song from the Female Artist of the Year Kezia Gill.

Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman, the new song from Kezia Gill featuring Sarah Jory is released on 24 January on all major platforms. 

Find Kezia on Facebook and online

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Single Review - Coulda Been You - Backwoods Creek

The musical ability of Backwoods Creek is highlighted from the start of this track with an almost staccato guitar intro accompanied by the drums; it’s 17 seconds before the vocals begin and lets us know that despite the good old fashioned country favourite of lost love, this guy is doing just fine. 

Not only has he moved on, but in fact, he points out all the things the girl is missing out on because she didn’t care enough.  Lovely smooth singing from Jamie with beautiful guitar notes emphasising points in the lyrics.  Your ears are in for a treat when Jamie holds the note on “you………….”.

Back into instrumental, I like the clever little studio tricks to add in the ‘Should have seen her face’ and later in the song the spoken, more grown up comment.
Back to the vocal, he sees her in the arms of another man and reflects in the music, then realises he never cared for her. 
Backwoods Creek at Nashville Nights New Year's Eve

Despite the content it’s an upbeat track, you are waiting for the twist in the lyrics but it never comes, instead you are treated to Jamie holding the higher notes and the final guitar riff which feels like punctuation, ending the song and the story.

Don’t you regret anything and go out and get the single when it’s released at the end of the month ….

Coulda Been You, the new single from Backwoods Creek is available for preorder now ahead of the release date of 31 January

Find Backwoods Creek on facebook and online