Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A controversial album but I love it, 31 Mar 2008
This review is from: Moving Out To The Country (Audio CD)
Jools Holland may be better known as a presenter of TV music shows than as a musician, but music is his first love. Although he is primarily a rock music fan, his tastes have always been somewhat eclectic. Even in the days when I had television, I was never an avid watcher of his shows, but I saw enough of them to recognize that country music had a place in his musical interests. It therefore didn't come as any surprise to me when I discovered this album. I was never going to pay full price for it, but I eventually found it at a bargain price, at which point I snapped it up.

Rock and pop singers who dabble in country have a somewhat chequered history. Some of them just record country songs in their own style, as Ray Charles did with enormous success back in the sixties. Others make greater efforts to appeal to country fans, a prime example being Neil Young's album Old ways, recorded with Nashville musicians and guest vocalists Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Although I love Neil's album, it wasn't the commercial success that Neil had hoped it would be. So what of this effort by Jools and his guests?

Jools (or the marketing people) certainly went overboard with the cover. Red sandstone cliffs and cacti fit the stereotype that some people like to associate with country music. Graft Stonehenge into this otherwise American landscape, to make clear that this is a British album, and you have the backdrop to the booklet cover, completed by a picture of Jools and the relevant credits (artist and album title). But are the contents as country as the booklet cover suggests? Perhaps not, but they're a lot nearer to traditional country than some of the music Nashville has to offer.

In a project such as this, I would once have taken for granted that Elvis Costello would be among the guests. After all, he had a British top ten pop hit (Good year for the roses) with a cover of a George Jones classic and his enthusiasm for country music is well-established. He's not here, but now that he's married to Diana Krall, I guess he has plenty of other things to do. Despite his absence, there are plenty of interesting guests.

Least surprising of all the guests is Tom Jones, who sings two songs (I wish I was 18 again, Friends not lovers). Quite apart from having hits in the sixties with pop versions of country songs, most notably Green green grass of home, he also had some success in the American counbry charts in the early eighties. Tom was completely at home on this album.

Mark Knopfler is another Brit with a long-established interest in country music. Here, he does a superb version of the old Hank Williams classic, You win again. Another outstanding performance is that by Brian Eno, on a song (Dreaming my dreams with you), previously recorded by Crystal Gayle, Waylon Jennings and others. Misty blue (performed here by David Mealmont) started life as a country hit for Eddy Arnold long before soul singer Dorothy Moore made the song a worldwide pop hit. David's version is good, but I prefer Dorothy's soulful pop version of the song.

Another singer with some country credentials featured here is Solomon Burke. Similar in some ways to Ray Charles, it seems that Solomon has carved out his career in the shadow of that great singer. He had some success in the sixties with his own interpretations of country songs, just as Ray and Tom did. More recently, he recorded a superb album (Nashville) filled with his interpretation of some of his favorite country songs - and they were mostly obscure, so it's clear that Solomon knows a lot about country music.

Nevertheless, the standout track is the opener by KT Tunstall, a contemporary singer whose own music I haven't investigated yet but will having heard how good she is here. Here, KT sings an obscure Willie Nelson song (Darkness on the face of the earth).

Lulu's raspy voice is well suited to country music although I can't recall her ever dabbling in it before. She sings two songs here (She'll have to go, I can't stop loving you) so well that I'd like her to do an entire album of country songs. Other featured female singers are India Arie (Georgia on my mind), Louise Marshall (Sweet dreams), Ruby Turner (It ain't gonna worry my mind) and Sam Brown (Feel like going home).

I haven't mentioned all the tracks but I found the vast majority to be of a very high quality. Some country fans won't like it, seeing it as not country enough, while some rock fans won't like it because it is either too country for them or too mellow (there aren't many up-tempo songs here). Yet there are other fans (and I'm one of them) who will love this album just for what it is. If in doubt, maybe you should listen to some samples before buying.
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