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Country through and through, Oxford-England singer-songwriter Ags Connolly is what people are apt to claim as being the real deal! His music is from another time, but at the same time there’s a wonderful crispness to it. It’s Ags Connolly music, it’s not an imitation of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams or whoever; he is simple this warm hearted man able to write and sing songs of the common man. Sadly, he is a dying breed and known by all too few but the word is spreading.
Nothin’ Unexpected comes three years after his 2014 acclaimed debut album How About Now, and the record isn’t a moment too soon. For those who repeatedly throw up their arms, as if looking for divine intervention in their quest for country music like it used to be in Ags Connolly they have their savour.
Connolly’s (vocals, acoustic, Nashville high strung guitar) well-penned tunes are escorted by Stuart Nisbet (electric, nylon-string, pedal steel, lap guitar, mandolin, Dobro, backing vocals), Kev McGuire (stand-up bass), Jim McDermott (drums, percussion), Andy May (piano), Nashville’s Eamon McLoughlin (fiddle, viola), The Mavericks’ Michael Guerra (accordion), producer Dean Owens (backing vocals and glockenspiel on “Slow Burner”.
You don’t have long to wait when it comes to Connolly’s credibility, because that comes on the undeniable opening burst on the first track, “I Hope You’re Unhappy”. Drenched in mouth-watering country fiddle and pedal steel guitar the tone is immediately set.
Tear in your beer, accordion warmed “When The Lonely Gets Lonely” has a fine partner in his country interpretation of Loudon Wainwright 111’s stellar tune “I Suppose”. Escorted, beautifully, in piano and pedal steel it pulls at the listener’s heartstrings; while with walking bass and more treasured sounds Connolly hits plumb centre with “Haunts Like This”. This as he laments the demise of all too many old fashioned bars. They don’t come much better than this! Same could be said, if you were talking with Ags Connolly fans regards the pedal steel and piano doused “Nothin' Unexpected”. And there are plenty of others.
Connolly sets himself one benchmark after another and never fails to deliver
songs that fit the bill. Like with “Fifteen Years” and measured plaintive bare bones heart wrenching country “Do You Realise That Now”. The latter with it doused in accordion and Spanish guitar the listen gets to enjoy something of a Texas Borderlands feel. His earthy made to measure vocals and superb Dobro plus fiddle ensure “Fifteen Years” makes a terrific impact, while I imagine others would struggle to nail the song in such a fashion. Such his grasp of real country music. It is like he was born with a country song in his heart, and hurt in his soul. Such his ability to deliver a heart-wrenching ballad. “Slow Burner” has both great warmth, and a slight to it as classy fiddle, Dobro, banjo and accordion join him effectively. “I Should’ve Closed The Book” ends the album in a deliberate, stripped-down mellow fashion as he reflects on an old love affair. Not the happiest of songs but, it is after all old-fashioned county music!
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