Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Penny Jayne Black, Joe Martin and The Outlaw Orchestra

Penny Jayne Black – Early Works

Penny Jayne got in touch with me wanting to send over a four-track set called Early Works. The funky Gone is excellent as Penny Jayne doesn’t want to be taken for a fool; she spits out the lyrics with her voice high up in the mix with a light twang. I’m Fine is driven by a Keith Richards-type riff over which the singer assures her beau that nothing’s wrong apart from everything. Tanya Tucker seems a big influence, as well as Miranda Lambert, and any male listener can take home some useful points about how to treat a woman especially when she says everything is fine.

Steel Horse is an ode to cars which rhymes ‘tyres’ with ‘desires’ and features some great melody lines that nag after the brilliant ending. Fire in a Belly sees Penny Jayne reach the depths of her vocal range and I imagine this will be a fun song to play live. The four tracks are impressive, especially Gone and Steel Horse, and an album beckons soon.

Joe Martin – Bound for Lonesome

Joe recorded the five tracks with Lauren Housley and CJ Hillman, two of the best musicians in Britain, and the press for the EP comes with a quote from the New York Times, who saw his set at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. I love Heartbreak Cult and the power-chord driven Doesn’t Rain in LA, so it’s great to hear the other three tracks on the project, which will be part of his live set.

Forgotten Country Song lopes between bars of three and bars of four, showing sophisticated songwriting, while Joe remembers a ‘crazy trip’ to Austin with an ex. Thus his life is a ‘sad forgotten’ song which he now sings. Very meta, very country.

More Than Just Your Loving opens with some Hillman steel and a melancholic set of chords over which Joe remembers that same ex, I reckon, while he looks at his new girl. We’re privy to the thoughts in his head: he’s not ‘unfaithful’ but that’s not quite true, because reminiscin is keeping him awake. Take Me Home Tonight closes the EP with some brushed drums, reverbed guitars and a lyric set in a bar where Joe doesn’t ‘need you’. The middle eight elevates the song to another plane but I won’t tell you why, as does the falsetto note he hits in the final verse. This is a supremely good EP that will soundtrack my summer. Buckle & Boots awaits.

The Outlaw Orchestra – Under The Covers

The band have already released a great EP of hard rockin country this year. Their next trick is a six-song EP with six versions of classic country and rock from before 1980.

House of the Rising Sun incorporates the famous organ part underneath an austere interpretation which turns the triple-time feel of the Animals’ hit version into 4/4, even throwing in a Spanish translation of the title. It’s odd hearing a male voice take on 9 to 5, but the band don’t destroy it and I am sure Dolly would charge a glass.

There are very good straight covers of both For What It’s Worth and Long As I Can See The Light, songs which are 50 years old! Waylon’s Good Ol Boys opens with some slide guitar and is one which will light up the band’s live set, while their take on the Stones’ country ballad Sweet Virginia (from Exile on Main St) is tremendous.

Perhaps the second volume can comprise hits of the 1980s and 1990s!

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