Keepin’ It Country , Vol One  –  Various Artists (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Compliation albums serve two main purposes. Firstly they are a way for record companies to get a second bite of the (usually pop) cherry by putting out a bunch of songs whosecommon denominator is teen appeal rather than genre or style. Ker-ching! Secondly, and more integrally, they can act as a sampler for music by new artists, those generally of the same approximate sound or scene. And that is what we have in front of us here and the title speaks for itself, so without further ado….

Wyatt Hull kicks off this roster of new and traditional country artists with One of Them Nights, a mid-paced groover which trades country licks with rock weight, a great song and the perfect way to test the water. Sohayla Smith mixes in some indie pop delicacy with Burn It To The Ground and Hunter and the Wick’d’s I Don’t Wanna Talk Right Now takes things into even more minimal territory, boiling country music down to its basic emotions and adding some vocal moves reminiscent of Chrissy Hynde, which is no bad thing.

Ray William Roldan will already be familiar to regular readers of this blog with his folky, roots blends, almost musical hall motifs running through Bad Love Pain and as ever singalongable (that’s a word, trust me) right from the first hearing. Almost an Artist gives us a charged, roadhouse dance floor anthem in Voodoo, Nathalie Jean brings a wonderfully emotional ballad, powerful and heartfelt and the album bows out gracefully with Broken Guitar Man and Todd Barrow’s deft guitar work…not to mention some gorgeous fiddle and steel guitar dancing gracefully around him.

Additional mentions include social justice songs by Billy Ray Deiz and Kate Magdelena focusing to working men and women and the homeless. A wedding pop-country song by acclaimed actress and songwriter, Angelica Cassidy, will please romantic hearts. Americana songs by the talented Chakra Bleu and Frank Migliorelli are catchy!  There is also an all out family country music honky-tonk by Harrison Country that is very clever.  Steve Bonham and the Long Road offer county blues for the outlaws in all of us while Bryan Joon gives a soulful performance with hints of R & B. Bill Abernathy is a story-teller songwriter with nostalgic sensibilities, and for traditional country music loving fans, there is the Country Hall of fame winner, Richard Lynch, who draws from his life experiences as a country farmer.

If you want to know what’s new in country music, who’s doing it and what it sounds like then this is the place to start. 16 glorious tracks for you to listen too, 16 new artists to explore further and a sure sign that country music has lost none of its originality or excitement.

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