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And That Was The Year That Was… Almost
By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Before I say anything about some of the fan-pleasin’ music that’s passed through my hands to ultimately cross the synapse bridge of the left and right hemispheres of my brain, to detour via my toe-tapping left leg, to find its key stroked way to the review page at CSO, some thank-you words.

Thanks, as always, to you the fans. It’s been uplifting and a delight to receive your interested comments. Please, may it continue into 2007. You can always make contact at george@countrystarsonline.com, I love your mail, so, please, don’t be a stranger.

Thanks for the words of support, the ready ears and the quick pens of my co-writers, in particular Cheryl Harvey Hill. Thank you.

I must also thank the labels, the artists and publicists for help, advice and product.

Finally, a solid to the floor backslap to editor in chief, Jim Weaver. Jim you’re friendly, loyal and always there when needed. I appreciate that. I need that. And you give it without question. Thank you.

Okay, let’s roll.

2006 has been a great year for music. It’s been great in the sense of diversity and the arrival of so many new acts – and those who had the strength of character and vision to reinvent themselves.

An album that stuck out for me was from former 1990’s Archer Park duo member, Randy Archer. His Shots In Dark spat out a couple of hits. It also brought him front and centre and showed just what a talent he is. The album was, for me, a highlight. Another pleasing and understated surprise was the corporate cowboy, Pete Wilke. His Down From Montana set offered rich lyrics of thirsty losers, troubled lives and the refuge that only a scuffed and down-at-heel pair of boots can offer. And what about Tim McGraw’s latest best new friend, Taylor Swift, isn’t she something? "Join me on the tour" George Strait thinks she’s peachy, too. With her self-tilted debut, Danielle Peck proved that good looks and a killer voice, not to mention easy on the senses CMT videos, is the way to create, develop and sustain fans. 

Keith Urban maybe living his rehabilitation on the tabloid front pages, but his Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing has been a whole new kind of therapy, chart therapy that proves fans, when needed, rally. And speaking of interesting lifestyles, what of Jerry Lee Lewis? Thumpin’, crankin, and yellin’ with a whole lot of shaken’ goin’ on, the veteran performer teamed up with a host of known faces and voices and delivered with one of my favorite albums of the year : Last Man Standing. And, oh, speaking of aging rockers with verve, John Fogerty. Keep him on the radar for 2007.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris with their All The Roadrunning pleased, while The Dixie Chicks with their 7th studio album and long awaited Taking The Long Way, for me, disappointed. Pity, but it’s all subjective. They sold zillions. And that says it all. They toured. They cancelled gigs, only to schedule in other places and destinations. We’ll watch and wait.

Royal Wade Kimes, am I fan? You bet! His Strikin’ Matches proved, again, just what a range-ridin singer songwriter of observation (and now published author) he is. Check him out. One who definitely worked my CD player overtime this year was J.C.Andersen and his hotshot Indie release, When The Tide Rolls In. Bellamy offspring Jesse And Noah and their killer introductory album, Nowhere Revisited, prove a name might help, but in the final wash talent more than genes proves the point of difference.

Solid recommendations for 2006 and beyond include anything to date by respected tunesmith Mike Dekle. Dekle has penned chart-topping fare for Joe Nichols (and others, many others) and he’s a spirited and unique talent whose time for greater fame is close. Ladies to watch, and closely, are Mary Sue Englund (left) and Ashley Gearing (right). Both delivered albums to CSO, and reviews of their take-notice tunes are on the review pages. Speaking of solid performers of note, mark down Billy Yates (center). This guy is on the boil. He comes ready-made with a clutch bag of popular country twang, honed from his years of pounding the pavements and knocking on doors. Watch and wait – 2007 will be a biggie for the guy who penned "Choices" for George Jones.

Phew! That’s the problem with end of year wraps – just too much talent.

Making a lot of noise in 2006 was The Derailers (Ieft); expect more from them in the New Year. A band for the listening post is the Texas based and influenced, Sweet Root. They missed a 2006 review, but we will get to them early in ’07. Also, turn your end-of-year attention to the popular Rascal Flatts. They floored us here at CSO with Me And My Gang. You can easily expect a repeat dosage on the next album from the band with the happiest bank manger in the land. Also, speaking of genre specifics: Lantana (right) with their Unbridled release gave us, well, just so much more (with a nod to Martha Moore publicist extraordinaire). You can also expect 2007 to be a year of note for Erin Hay; she’s another talent who’s been chipping away, and a breakthrough isn’t far off. Her latest release, The Collection", proves the fact.

And finally, here are some albums and artists I heard in my travels (and loved): Michael ONeill: Who's Bad Now (an earlier review is up on CSO); Drive-By Truckers: A Blessing and a Curse; Bob Dylan: Modern Times; Dave Alvin: West of the West and Dale Watson: Whiskey or God.

Have I missed anyone? Heaps!

In the words of Steve Earl - "Goodbye’s All We Got Left To Say" - but, please, have a safe and a sacred time over the holidays.

Warm regards to everyone.

George.

 

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