My Darling Clementine
Five Head Entertainment
George and Tammy. Conway and Loretta. Johnny and June.
Michael and Lou?
Yup, Michael Weston King and his wife, Lou Dalgleish, are creating some of the finest country music duets since Nashville’s glory days.
And, they’re from England.
But don’t doubt their Americana cred, especially King. He was in Gary Hall’s Stormkeepers, a UK alt-country sensation, and was a longtime member of the Good Sons. King also toured Europe in Townes Van Zandt’s band during the early 1990s, and Van Zandt sang on one of Good Sons’ albums.
While the couple has been killing in Europe, they’ve gone mostly unnoticed here, even after their stunning debut last year, “How Do You Plead.”
Now comes “The Reconciliation?,” another terrific collection of country weepers, (“Ashes, Flowers and Dust,” “I Can’t Life With You”) and honky-tonk shufflers (“No Heart in this Heartache” “Leave the Good Book on the Shelf”).
Texas country weirdo Kinky Friedman joins the couple for “Unhappily Ever After.”
“If I knew back then what I realize today/ I wouldn’t have shown up on our wedding day,” King sings.
There’s also a bit of Memphis soul in “Our Race is Run” and some Tex-Mex in “King of the Carnival.”
“Can You Hear the Music”
Canadians feel the blues, too, and for more than 40 years the jump blues band Downchild has been doing its part.
This is the band’s 17th (or so) album, and while they’d need a separate tour bus to carry all the blues awards they’ve won up north, they haven’t caught on in the U.S. like they deserve.
The Toronto-based, Chicago-style blues band, which takes its name from a Sonny Boy Williamson song, was founded by guitarist and harp player Don Walsh in 1969. And, he hasn’t lost any of his jump in those years.
“Can You Hear the Music” comes out swinging with the horn-fired title track and then swings into “I’m Always Here For You” and “I Need a Woman,” all original new songs.
The slow, swaying “Blue Moon Blues,” “This Road,” and the gospel-flavored “One In a Million,” show off Walsh’s liquid guitar work and Chuck Johnson’s great, growly vocals.
But, mostly this is a dance record that pushes Chicago and Toronto closer together than they appear on the map.
Possessed by Paul James
“There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely”
Hillgrass Bluebilly Records
Technically, Konrad Wert is just one person, a mild-mannered elementary school teacher from Texas.
But, performing as Possessed by Paul James he becomes a howling hurricane. Drop the needle on his latest project and hang on tight.
Much of his work is one-man band stuff, and occasionally just short of untethered. Think Scott Biram or Bob Log III without the helmet.
The new album — his sixth — is part folk, part bluegrass, part country and all punk attitude as Wert wails away on banjo, guitar, fiddle, viola and boot stomping. He does get some help here from pals adding upright bass, drums, harmonica, and some pedal steel from Lloyd Maines.
You can catch your breath, if you hurry, on songs like “Back Down Here on Earth” and the banjo-driven “Heavy.”
“We all try to carry on/ But sometimes we hang our head down and cry/ Oh this life can get heavy,” he sings in his sweetly earnest voice.