Halos & Horns
The 56-year-old legend cranks out another bluegrass dynamo with this Sugar Hill Records release. Here you’ll find a thoughtfully composed and sensitively performed work, a self-produced program of original compositions and unexpected covers.
Dolly pursues more spiritual themes on this CD. The hair will stand on the back of your neck when she croons “Hello God,” her Appalachian roots showing as she reflects on the struggle between sin and righteousness. She throws us a curveball with the inclusion of the Led Zeppelin classic hard rock hit “Stairway To Heaven,” which is re-cut Dolly style with a blend of guitar, fiddle, bass and banjo licks. The banjo holds center stage when it belts away on “I’m Gone,” an independence-inspired song. Dolly Parton is an angel of music, there’s no doubt about it, and this latest endeavor showcases her unique ability to transform, just like the butterfly she so admires.
I Miss My Friend
He may not be a superstar yet, but this good ol’ boy from Savannah, Tenn., is sure enough on his way. For three years now, Worley has been cutting strong country music songs like “When You Need My Love” and “Second Wind.” The first single off this sophomore CD is the title track, and it is smoother than the Tennessee River that flows through Worley’s hometown.
Speaking of that mystic river, “Tennessee River Run” is a fantastic, upbeat summertime smash, reminiscent of an old Alan Jackson summer gem. This alumnus of the University of North Alabama put his degree to work on this project, penning such songs as “The Least That You Can Do” and “I Wouldn’t Mind the Shackles.” “Where You Think You’re Goin'” closes the album, and it’s notable for its smile-inducing lyrics, and also because it includes Nashville songwriter and musician Randy Hardison on backing vocals. Hardison died in June, an apparent murder victim.
Wings of a Honky Tonk Angel
Born and raised in the same hometown as outlaw legend Johnny Paycheck, newcomer Brad Martin seems to have a non-criminal background, unlike his senior hero. The Greenfield, Ohio, rookie is a talented, traditional country songwriter who has made a credible country album right out of the chute. But Martin’s pretty-boy looks and thin voice can’t carry the grit, guts and sass his lyrics ably convey.
Martin’s heroes are Merle Haggard and Paycheck, and their influence is quite obvious in his songs. Among the favorites are “Damn the Whiskey” and “Rub Me the Right Way,” which is a ditty about a guy finding solace from his jerk of a boss in the arms (and hands) of his lady at home. You may be familiar with his debut hit, “Before I Knew Better,” which is a great toe-tapper. But when it comes to ballads, this Yankee singer falls flat, although they are well penned.
Looks like the country music-NASCAR marriage might last. The two entities are eerily close in marketing strategies, and they’ve never had such close ties as they do now with Inside Traxx. Warner Bros. Records even put the album’s name on a recent NASCAR Busch Series race in Nashville, and the company will be sponsoring concerts at racetracks across the country.
Inside Traxx is likely to be the first in a series, and it features a mix of superstar and less-familiar artists. Most of the big name tracks are familiar hits, and they’re mostly well-chosen for race day: Travis Tritt’s “Start the Car,” Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast As You,” Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It” and John Michael Montgomery’s “Friday At Five.” Yoakam gets a second track, the previously unreleased “Sitting Pretty.” Other familiar faces such as Hank Williams Jr., Sawyer Brown and Neal McCoy also show up. The rest of the collection is filled with faces that are only familiar to the most die-hard country music fan. Not a bad pole position for any fan of high-octane country.