YEAR 2020

June 2020 Issue

Lyin’ Cheatin’ Heart / Broken Wedding Vows / Haggard In The Air / Don’t Judge Me / The Last Thing On My Mind / Together But Alone / Me And Billy Joe / Thank You For Loving Me / No One Holds A Candle To You / Lies That Bind / Want You In My Arms Again / Young At Heart.
Producer: Curt Ryle
Black Ribbon Records 41:10


If you’re inclined towards traditional country there are two things I could say that will make you realize this is a must-have release. Firstly, it’s like the best record Heart of Texas never released, and secondly, it’s a Curt Ryle production.

Australian country singer Vanessa Bourne has been loyal to traditional country for several years, and once again she headed to Nashville to make Young At Heart. Curt Ryle’s input is significant, as well as providing the killer track Don’t Judge Me (with John Castleberry), he also co-wrote five other songs, several with the singer, and they are perfect for anyone with a penchant for real country. For that matter, Bourne does pretty well by herself on Broken Wedding Vows, No One Holds A Candle To You and Want You In My Arms Again. When you’re sitting there shaking your fist at country radio, they’re just what you need to calm down. Like yoga and a comfort blanket all in one, and if it’s perfect diction you value I don’t think there’s a word here in any song that you’ll struggle to hear.


There are nods to Haggard and Jones, and Don’t Judge Me is beautifully old school in a torchy Patsy Cline-Esque vintage Willie-written way, but from the opening Honky-Tonker Lyin’ Cheatin’ Heart Vanessa Bourne sets out her stall to deliver some mighty fine country music complete with great steel licks from Tommy White and top-notch fiddle by Wanda Vick.


It’s not just Don’t Judge Me though, many of the songs could have come from other eras. The ballad Together But Alone has a gentle 70s feel like it might have been a Crystal Gayle song. I could easily imagine Alison Krauss wanting to cut Thank You For Loving Me if she got to hear it and I don’t think it was just the Dobro that did it. But whether it’s the sawing fiddle on Lies That Bind or the slow shuffle of Want You In My Arms Again or the superb title track, these songs will feel like family members you’ve not been able to hug since lockdown.


It would have been so easy to have thrown in a cover or two but I’m glad they didn’t. The songs are all strong, and some will consider this all a bit cheesy and old fashioned. I’d just consider it actual country that will be essential for Amber Digby fans and anyone who has been missing Erin Hay.

Duncan Warwick