YLIAS Album Picks – July 4th

It’s time for our latest update on the new and new-ish releases! Some have been around for a couple of months, some have just seen the light of day. They all have one thing in common – they deserve to be heard.

HAYES CARLL – ‘LOVERS AND LEAVERS’

This was released in April and is the fifth studio album from Texas singer songwriter Hayes Carll but there has been a gap of 5 years since ‘KMAG YOYO’

Since then he has gone through the rigours of a divorce which is ripe material for a country singer songwriter. He doesn’t disappoint.

This sounds a very personal and emotional album and his passion for story telling shines through although the subject matter doesn’t always make easy listening. Don’t let that put you off though. ‘The Love We Need’ is worth the price of the album alone. It’s a gorgeous piano-backed gem that could feature in our songs of the year.

Production values are deliberately minimal. It’s very low key and an album to savour with a fine glass of wine.

LUKE BELL

Rolling Stone magazine suggested that Luke Bell was a new country artist that we needed to know in their May edition.  He is basically a cowboy, a real life cowboy who sings traditional country music.

Honky-tonk, steel and fiddles. You wouldn’t expect anything different from someone whose early work was as a helper on his grandparents’ ranch in Shell Wyoming.

He makes music that is as vintage as you are likely to hear these days. It is seriously old time. Think Hank Williams or even Slim Whitman.

He is as far away from pop-country as it is possible to be. The honky-tonk sound is hardly original. It’s all been done many times before but the whole point is that it hasn’t been done for a while.

When you are tired of the ultra-polished production values of the modern sound, give this one a spin. An authentic return to the classic feel of country music. We have included a link to ‘Sometimes’ at the bottom of this article.

CRAIG MORGAN – ‘A WHOLE LOT MORE TO ME’

Returning to the airwaves, Craig Morgan has released his 8th studio album and the master of the big ballad is back in fine style. He has been making country music for the best part of 16 years without the huge success experienced by his contemporaries.

That’s not to say that he has not attracted the attention of the country music masses having had 7 top 10 singles but none since ‘Bonfire’ in 2009. This is his first album release since ‘This Ole Boy’ in 2012.

Morgan is able to perfectly mix the old and the new styles. It’s a modern sounding production but the inclusion of steel guitars and fiddles gives it an old style feel. There are some really fine tunes on offer here. The duet with Mac Powell ‘Hearts I Leave Behind’ is a standout but ‘All Cried Out’ with its banjo introduction really ought to find its way to country radio.

He is a mainstream Music Row artist who embraces the benefits that that brings. His songwriter credits include Shane McAnally and Josh Osbourne but Morgan sings the songs that appeal to the more traditional end of the spectrum. It’s an impressive collection of songs from a very able and talented country crooner.

AUSTIN LUCAS – ‘BETWEEN THE MUSIC AND THE MIDWEST’

Austin Lucas is contracted to Last Chance Records. An unfortunate name perhaps particularly for someone who is now releasing his 8th studio album!

Austin’s last album ‘Stay Reckless’ was released on New West, a major Americana label and it barely caused a ripple. He is described as an indie artist ”best known for his own blend of folk punk” on his Wiki page so you may think an unlikely choice for a mini review on a blog that specialises in country music.

Stick with us. We suggested that the albums mentioned here deserve to be heard and this album certainly deserves to be heard. This is a country music album. ‘Pray For Rain’ is as country as it gets.He may have his roots in punk rock but Lucas knows when to introduce a pedal steel guitar.

The album is very top heavy with collaborations. There are duets and contributions from Lydia Loveless, John Moreland, Danni Flowers Kelly Smith and Cory Branan.

There are a number of standouts. ‘The Flame’ is a good old fashioned country foot tapper and his duet with Loveless ‘Wrong Side Of The Dream’ is autobiographical and an absolute gem of a song.

He has a reputation for being a very fine live performer and we guess that we won’t have the opportunity of seeing that side of him here in the UK. Nevertheless, this is a solid album from someone who you won’t recognise as a household name.

We are flocking in our masses to see Sturgill Simpson over the next few weeks. Austin Lucas is cut from the same cloth.

JOHN BERRY – ‘WHAT I LOVE THE MOST’

You won’t hear a better country tenor than John Berry. Back in the early 90s he was on the cusp of stardom. He had 6 top 10 country songs and 3 Gold albums. He also won a Grammy Award in 1996 for ‘Amazing Grace’.

He is now back with his first album in 3 years. It has been funded by the Kickstarter project which basically means that it has been funded by fans. It is a 10 track album produced in- house by John and his wife Robin and is described as a throwback to the sounds and lyrics that he was creating in the early years of his career.

Just good solid country music with traditional instrumentation and meaningful lyrics. Definitely worth a listen!