Country Jukebox Jury LPs: Louise Parker and Lauren Housley

Louise Parker – Living in Silver Linings

Country in the UK is virtually a series of versions on a theme of Taylor Swift. There are so many gals with guitars writing diary entry lyrics about boys and love and stuff. Louise Parker is one of the stronger ones and her debut LP reaches the ears of her many fans. Belated congratulations to her manager Nick Cantwell, whose Belles & Gals project has been spotlighting ladies in UK country for five years now.

‘A real labour of love’ is how Louise describes the LP, which you can order at louiseparkermusic.com. It collects the three singles she has released – Lie To Me (‘tell me I’m beautiful’), the terrific Just Friends and the Joey Clarkson duet If You Want Me To – with an acoustic version of songwriters’ anthem I’m Moving To Nashville. We get breadcrumbs and magic beans and hopes and dreams over mellifluous acoustic guitar.

Rear View Mirror is a smart opening, one of those gutsy, ballsy songs sung with 100% heart and soul, in the Jade Helliwell/Kezia Gill mould. The song includes a great twangin’ solo and an impressive whoop. She also leaves in an adlib that humanises her. It’s one of four ‘reimagined’ songs which put new spins on old tunes. Paradise begins as a piano ballad that suits its lyric of devotion before Louise shows off her voice over a traditional arrangement.

Elsewhere Should’ve Could’ve Will is a jaunty tune with radio friendly production and a ‘you go girl!’ message and I like both the wistful Story of Love (‘Take my hand…you already have my heart’) and the understated Chances Are, which has hints of organ on it. There is a key change.

Lauren Housley – Girl From The North

Country in the UK can also be ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’. Lauren Housley flies the flag for country in the North-West. Bob Harris has premiered tracks from her album Girl From The North, all of which have been superb.

This Ain’t The Life, in particular, is one of my tracks of the year and is sure to gain loads of plaudits as it’s added to the daytime Radio 2 Playlist.  I also caught her performing two Carole King tracks at a tribute evening a few weeks ago, marvelling at the control of her voice.

The album opens with Bless His Soul, which like This Ain’t The Life and What’s Troubling You Child is located in a pop-soul place. Then comes Guaranteed Sunshine, which is proper roots music with great production to match the mood of the song. Sing To Me is a gentle Adult Contemporary Ballad and the first three minutes of Breakdown are almost soft rock, complete with some vocalised la-las in the middle duetting with Thom Dibb’s guitar (Thom is producer too). The last couple of minutes, however, are blissful.

The smart 90-second track Two Lovers Lost In Space resets the mood in a Dusty Springfield style. Lauren’s voice is full of yearning on Why Are We Making It So Hard? and full of reminiscin’ and contemplatin’ on Stay Awake To Dream.

The final track We’re Not Backing Down is country-rockin’. Radio 2 listeners whose interest is piqued by This Ain’t The Life will find much to enjoy here, and Lauren’s career trajectory has taken a massive jump.

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