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Child is a charming ballad; John Prine’s very catchy Leave The Lights On will have you tapping along to it. The rockier Guilty with scything guitar and pounding drums has her vocals a lot more tormented, proving just how great a voice she has; the CD finishing with a delightful live version of Patty Griffin’s Top Of The World. Kasey also sings a few duets on the album, the best two being Orphan Girl with hubby Shane Nicholson and I Wish It Would Rain with Ashleigh Dallas. This is a great album from one of my favourite singers. David Knowles

Love and Theft LOVE AND THEFT RCA Nashville HHHH Second studio debut for the Love and Theft boys really packs a promising punch Originally a three-piece (Brian Bandas

left the band in 2011) the band enjoyed averaging success with the release of their 2009 debut, WORLD WIDE OPEN on Lyric Street Records, spawning such hits as Runaway and Dancing In Circles. Now signed to RCA Nashville, the remaining ACM nominated Love and Theft boys (Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson) are starting again effectively with the release of this promising 11-track ‘second’ studio debut—a delightful blend of softened country-pop, memorable choruses, tight harmonies and refreshing hooks. Both are also accomplished guitarists, adding their own bit of twanging magic to each of the tracks. Produced by Josh Leo (Alabama, Nitty

Gritty Dirt Band), the album offers up several track-list gems, including album opener and the boys’ first number one single, Angel Eyes—an infectiously upbeat number about the angel-eyed daughter of a preacher, inhabiting a wild side—mid- temp hand-clapper Amen, the Maroon 5-meets the Eagles-styled Running Out Of Air—a seductive, guitar-rolling number about being overcome by a girl and wanting to run away with her—and the lighthearted Real Good Sign; its memorable chorus, thick musical backdrop and harmonic two-part deliverance telling the tale of falling in love and sharing a kiss for the first time. She’s Amazing demonstrates a more softer, ballad-esque nature to the

88 Maverick

boys’ vocals; its piano-led arrangement, soaring harmonies and explosive chorus sharing similarities with Lady Antebellum, whilst the thought provoking Town Drunk (written by Natalie Hemby and Daniel Tashian)—a heartbreaking story of the effects of a father’s alcoholism on his daughter—provides personal anchorage for Stephen whose mother shared the same poisonous relationship with her own father. Guitar-driven Girls Like To Shake It provides another fun and energetic number, with a highly infectious chorus. Stephen and Eric exercise the promising

catalyst for high charted success here, and it’s easy to see why. Listeners will absolutely fall in love with this sweet collection of songs, as I, myself have done. I predict we’ll be hearing a lot more from this talented country music duo in the very near future. Emily Saxton

Matraca Berg LOVE’S TRUCK STOP Proper PRPCD107 HHHHH A moody reflection on the state of disappointment in the real world Just like buses, we wait 14 years from

1997’s SUNDAY MORNING TO SATURDAY NIGHT and then in quick succession come two new Matraca Berg albums, one after another. Hot on the heels of last year’s superb THE DREAMING FIELDS, come this stunning set of vignettes and character studies that takes songwriting to a new plateau of personal yet universal emotion. The vibe of this album reminds me of Shelby Lynne’s IDENTITY CRISIS, which was very sparse, but otherwise LOVE’S TRUCK STOP is all Matraca Berg. Through painterly lyrics she sketches out vivid stories of the hardships of life through the wretched despair of the 20-year-old waitress (Mary), the woman at the end of her tether Waiting On A Slow Train and the confused child (Fistful Of Roses) let down time and time again by her alcoholic mother. She is accompanied musically and vocally by such diverse singers and players as David Henry, David Mead, Jason Goforth, Mindy Smith, Pat McLaughlin, Emmylou Harris, Kim Carnes, Ashley Monroe and her husband Jeff Hanna, but Matraca remains very much the star both vocally and with

her astute and powerful songwriting. The Cajun-flavoured Black Ribbons takes on a more electric sound with a funky groove to go with its angry and forceful lyrical bite. However solid our relationships might have been with a loved one, I’m sure we’ve all gone through the utter defeat and heartbreak depicted in Foolish Flower. Matraca is joined by Emmylou for the chilling Magdalene, a dark story of the futile life of street prostitution that entraps so many vulnerable girls and women. This cuts through to your very heart and soul with its utter bleakness that is beyond belief for us lucky mortals in our comfortable family environment. I’ve been smitten by many break-up songs over the years, but none come close to the sheer heartache and sadness that We’re Already Gone evokes. This is country and soul music intrinsically entwined in the most perfect way. LOVE’S TRUCK STOP is not a good place to linger, but as each of these stories unfold you’ll find yourself returning again and again just to hear once more about the poor souls that are passing through and hope to God that you don’t end up in that place, where hope and optimism are like those cruel mirages in the sun-drenched desert … always seemingly out of reach. Alan Cackett

Various Artists LOWE COUNTRY: THE SONGS OF NICK LOWE Fiesta Red Records FR-002

HHHHI Superb tribute to one of the UK’s finest ‘unknown’ songwriters Nick Lowe—a master craftsman of

the pop song, a British gentleman with a predilection for American country music, a revered producer, and a rocker at heart, Nick Lowe has been many things to many fans during an illustrious career covering four decades. Here we have 13 artists, mainly young newcomers on the fringes of country, offering their own interpretations of some of Nick’s songs. His connections with country cannot be ignored. For a time he was married to singer Carlene Carter (daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash) and has had his songs recorded by several country artists. On my first play through of the album my immediate impression was that these

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