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New Album Reviews

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Carson McHone CAROUSEL. Loose

“There wasa time when I wanted to champion traditional country, mostly because I wasn’t hearing it in what was being called ‘country’. I think a lot of roots influenced artists feel the need to defend tradition in this way. Today though, I want to do more with the form, push myself past where I understand it to be.” - Carson McHone

Years before Rolling Stone was praising McHone’s advebturous roots music, the Austin, Texas native played weeknights in local bars, keeping dancers dancing and drinkers drinking. With her 21st birthday still far away, McHone entertained late-night crowds bearing witness to the good times and bad decisions that fill a busy bar. Her music is full of details from early adulthood in difficult company. In 2015 she released GOODLUCK MAN which earned her a cover story in the leading Austin newspaper and the support of local country icons like Ray Wylie Hubbard, who observed, “she writes songs like her life dep[ends on it.”

Country fans get ready for Miss McHone!! Beautifully produced by award-winning  Nashville-based Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin, Heartless Bastards), CAROUSEL treads a marginally softer country style but there’s no mistaking its musical heart and soul. Opener ‘Sad’ has a gently rolling  instrumental introduction and my first experience of this young lady’s voice. There’s the expected country twang while I’m also hearing a voice that’s as natural as the sky with the ability to meet every emotional and story-telling challenge. There’s also thrilling country fiddling, occasional changes of pace and truckloads of melody. It’s a strong start.

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‘Drugs’ is a painfully slow and passionate tale with a voice that reflects truth, pain and concern. The instrumental backdrop is beautfully judged in its sparseness and vibe. It’s also one of several highlights here. ‘Lucky’ goes initially upbeat but slows when the almost talking-pace vocal enters and the pace slows dramatically. The song is a bittersweet love song with several clever changes of pace which coincide with the darker and more optimistic parts of the song. Excellent.

‘Good Time Daddy Blues’ is a lighter, rocky affair that fairly thunders along before the more mellow and very beautiful ‘Dream Shop Gal’ arrives. Then comes an instrumental interlude with McHone asking if a member of the band is present… The love song ‘Gentle’ arrives a minute later with the lady’s voice convincing in its sincerity and emotion. ”Maybe They’re Just Really Good Friends’ is firmly in trad country territory with appropriate guitar riffs and driving bass rhythms dominating the affair - not one of the good songs  here though. ‘How ‘Bout It’ recovers the quality with a meandering bittersweet love song dominated by sparsely played piano notes and a vocal in true story-telling style. It’s another beauty and my major highlight of this lovely album.

‘Goodluck Man’ is glacially paced and another moving love song made all the better by the extraordinary expressive McHone vocal. The intrumental arrangement is pure, subtle magic and underlines the depth of drama and emotion here. Finally, ‘Spider Song’ ups the pace a fraction with a sole guitar following the lovely gentle vocal performance.

This album serves as a brilliant introduction to a new country star who I hope to see perform live in the near future. ESSENTAL.

4.5/5

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http://www.carsonmchonemusic.com/

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