Monday, 29 October 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Carson McHone - Carousel : Nine Mile Records (Out on 26th October 2018)

The continual search for keepers of the country flame from the contemporary pool can pause for a moment to digest the brand new album from Carson McHone. CAROUSEL may have a slightly rehashed slant to it, but if you are new to this Austin Texas native then none of it matters. The eleven-track album gets its release on Nine Mile Records, a label responsible for artists such as Carrie Rodriguez in the past. One guarantee is that anybody with a faint interest in traditional country music will at least raise an ear to the music of Carson McHone.

Expect plenty of fiddle, steel and lyrics drowning in vocal emotion. In other words, check off the country template credentials and sit down to enjoy how Carson has successfully made a record to get the nod in influential circles.

In essence, the album is ten-strong in terms of songs, the eleventh being a one-minute instrumental intro that effectively launches the second half or reverse side if playing the vinyl version. Four of these songs get a second life after surfacing on the 2015 self-released GOODLUCK MAN, including the title track from that release. Whether or not you are au fait with the previous record, chances are high that CAROUSEL will reflect positively and slide neatly into any available listening space.

Whatever tempo floats your boat; this album serves you well ranging from sad song waltz syndrome attached to ‘Gentle’ to a more foot-tapping rockabilly sound belting out of the pacey effort ‘Good Time Daddy’. Retro is especially king in the fifties style swing number ‘Maybe They’re Really Just Good Friends’, but to balance things and inject a hybrid perspective ‘Drugs’ in the second track position retains a contemporary feel. The latter uses repetition effectively to power home the message and supplies a decent live video to highlight the song.

Background blurb sheds light on ‘Dram Shop Gal’ being autobiographical, and thus maybe a web search for the term as used in Texas if unfamiliar. Note us Anglos may only know the meaning from the Scottish phrase ‘wee dram’. For a slight switch in the sonic landscape, the final track ‘Spider Song’ detours from a country feel to more of a folk sound courtesy of a melodeon/accordion style whirring backdrop.

Elsewhere on a record that eases itself comfortably into repeat play mode, ‘How ‘Bout It’ scores highly in late night piano ballad territory. In contrast, ‘Lucky’ possesses an appealing mid-track tempo switch and if you feel the desire to anoint a stand out song then it acts as a commendable candidate for the crown. Alternatively, you could look no further than the opening number ‘Sad’, one possessing an initial dose of country music staple that goes a long way to defining the album.

CAROUSEL is a useful addition to any serious country music collectors’ catalogue and showing once again, that Texas is often the hotbed for the decent stuff. The name Carson McHone may not be yet well known, but time is still on the side of this twenty something artist and further recordings as good as this one will serve her well.

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