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Quick CD Reviews – Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bap Kennedy, Emily Smith

December 8, 2013

A quick look at some soon-to-be released CDs that dropped through my letter box the other day. A review is not necessarily an endorsement, but I don’t write about things I actively dislike. Life’s too short and I don’t want to trash someone who has worked very hard to produce something even if it is pants, as we say in England, meaning rubbish. So here are three that passed the “Not Pants” threshold:

Unknown

UnCovered  by Beth Nielsen Chapman delivered a healthy dose of  nostalgia right from the start. It made me think of the late 1970s/early 1980s. For some reason Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” kept coming to mind although songs like “Maybe That’s All It Takes” are decidedly country ballads and others like “Sweet Love Shine” (with Duane Eddy no less) belong in the country pop-rock genre and are very listenable. Kim Carnes appears on “Simple Things”, so you get the idea.

The PR blurb that accompanied the album said it contains a number of Chapman’s songs that have been covered by others but never recorded by her. Perhaps that is why is sounds like an album that has been out for a while. The issue is whether that makes it “tired” or whether it is just “retro”. Doesn’t matter. If you like 1970s/80s country rock, you will like this.

Let’s Start Again by Bap Kennedy is an album by someone I should have known about but didn’t. Kennedy, fromNorthern Ireland, has worked with the likes of Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler  and Shane MacGowan and has been produced (not this time) by Steve Earle.

There are a lot of Americana elements to this album, his 6th solo effort, for example in “Revelation Blues”. That’s not overly surprising given country music’s popularity in Ireland and the link between American and Scots-Irish-English roots.  Banjos, check. Dobros, check. Fiddles, check. But  Kennedy’s very pleasant voice does not have a lot of country  grit in. Still, I find myself being drawn to it the more I hear it.

Echoes by Emily Smith is – so far – my favourite of the three. It is almost pure Scottish folk/folk rock. Her voice is pure honey. She has the same clarion bell of a sound that Maddy Prior managed with Steeleye Span in the early days and that is not something to be sniffed at.

There is a fine interpretation of the traditional “My Darling Boy”, a rollicking “Twa Sisters” and a lovely ballad in “The Open Door”.

The PR people say Smith has one foot in Nashville in this album. I can’t detect it at all. But it it is not needed anyway. This music stands up perfectly well with her lovely voice and traditional  lyrics without trying to to make it something it isn’t.

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From → Music, Music Review

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