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these ‘talentless’ acts are embraced by the so-called movers-and-shakers working within British country music. Acts with genuine musical talent and originality, like the Haley Sisters, Alan West and the Toy Hearts have wisely distanced themselves from that scene as they increasingly make music with integrity and very much on their own terms. The Haley Sisters, along with Becky’s

husband Brian Smith on guitar, produce their own recordings and release them on their own Comet Records. This latest one finds them featuring fifteen of their favourites songs, a few of them having been a part of live repertoire for a number of years. Though these are covers, the trio bring their own distinctive touch to them with inventive musical arrangements and sensitive vocals with superb harmonies and a true feeling for a lyric. This is very apparent time and time again on this collection, but never more so than on their rendition of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love. Becky takes the lead and showcases one of her most personal and emotional vocals. They interchange the lead vocals, with Jo-Ann taking the honours for the Rodney Crowell classic Til I Gain Control Again, their harmonies being quite exquisite. Reaching back 40-some years for a fine revival of the Everly Brothers’ Let It Be Me, they share the vocal honours matching Don & Phil’s original with their natural sibling harmonies, or even further for their excellent rendering of Johnnie Ray’s Cry, they show what they can do with a standard adding a rhythmic touch to this heartbreak song. Allen Reynolds’ Dreaming My Dreams With You will melt its way into your heart as Becky sings with a passionate and relaxed tonality, but the real surprise here comes with the title song. Jo-Ann totally nails this song that I first heard by Patty Loveless, no mean vocalist herself, but Jo-Ann matches her note for note with a rendition that is totally her very own and owes nothing to any other versions. Mention should be made of Brian Smith’s guitar work which adds so much to the overall sound and quality of this album. One of the most skilled and tasteful players I’ve ever heard, he knows exactly when to play out and when to hold back, embellishing every one of these songs masterfully. He justifiably closes the album with the all-too-brief self-penned instrumental, Hanging Loose. The Haley Sisters’ quality music transcends the

moribundity of the British country music scene and deserves to be placed up there with the finest Nashville country music and be fully embraced by country music fans and the media alike. Alan Cackett

The Illegitimate Sons AMERICAN MUSIC Self-Release HHHH A startlingly good debut from Indiana band, with a fine handle on Americana music It takes a lot of nerve to call your album

AMERICAN MUSIC, when all right-minded folk know that this title belongs first and foremost to The Blasters. However, this upstart bunch of whippersnappers from Fort Wayne, Indiana have gone and done it and I’m sure that should the Alvin brothers ever get to hear this, they won’t mind a bit. A broad church indeed AMERICAN MUSIC has room enough for The Blasters’ souped up rockabilly rock’n’roll and this fine slice of rootsy country rockers. The Illegitimate Sons cite Neil Young, The Jayhawks, and Townes Van Zandt as their mentors and several of the songs here certainly reflect this. The six-piece line up is similar to that of The Jayhawks in their prime, whilst the pairing of guitars and organ also recalls The Felice Brothers and of course ultimately, The Band. All this, plus the fact that Lee Miles turns out to be an inspired songwriter, guitarist and vocalist makes for an album that is probably one of the best we’ve heard this year. All ten songs are of superb quality, with

several almost reaching instant classic status. Even the most throwaway of them, You’ll Never Break This Cold Heart Of Mine, is a rollicking good listen with lashings of humbucking guitar. The opening pairing of Bleed It Dry and Where You’ll Hide From My Blooded Eye?—fine as they are—don’t prepare the listener for the glories that follow. Television Mama marries Dylanesque lyrics to a fine bourbon-soaked tune, with some lyrical guitar soloing. Burn You To The Ground is a majestic song where guitar, mandolin and harmonica coalesce, whilst Miles sings like a wounded angel. The following song Gillian is almost as good, with Miles squeezing emotive guitar notes throughout. The band keep

up this standard on Wholesaler and I Want To Die Like Blaze Foley—a splendidly grim valediction to that musical maverick where the percussion rumbles like a message from the grave. For a band that only released this

album after receiving donations from creative organisation Kickstarter, this is an amazingly strong performance and well worth seeking out. However my only quibble is the rather bizarre album cover for which I’m sure there is some sort of explanation. Paul Kerr

The Mavericks IN TIME Valory Music Co HHHHH Nine years away and they sound better than ever 21 years have

passed since their debut album; 20 years since their first album on a major label; 14 years ago that they released TRAMPOLINE— bringing huge success for them in the UK—and 9 years since their last release and subsequent split-up. 2012 marks the return of The Mavericks, once again together and sounding utterly amazing on this new album release. All songs are written or co-written by Raul Malo and they all scream out: THE MAVERICKS ARE BACK! The four-piece have always been one

of the greatest live acts and totally rocked the Royal Albert Hall for six nights back in 1999. After listening to this fantastic CD I can well believe that they could match that feat again, with original members Raul Malo, Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin back along with Eddie Perez who was their last guitarist before they split, plus long- time piano player Jerry Dale McFadden completing the line-up. The expectations were already high for this album and it actually exceeds them. I’ve not been able to stop playing my copy since I received it. The CD starts off with a great dance-

along track Back In Your Arms Again that you could imagine Flaco Jimenez playing on, but in fact the fine accordion playing is by Michael Guerra alongside the super horn section of Matt White and Max Abrams. They’re also joined on the album by upright bassist, Elio Giordano. Lies has a fast, snappy drum beat that gets you tapping along like a metronome; the style and sound of this track definitely taking me back to the

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