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September, 2013 Issue

Originally posted in COUNTRY MUSIC PEOPLE (UK)

Blue Line

3.5 Stars

Producer: Maurice Tani
Western Independent Recordings

Most singers and bands these days seem to have a gap of a year or two between releases. On the other hand, we have Maurice Tani, a honky-tonk/Americana singer, who has just released two CDs. The first of these is Maurice Tani's 4th album. The previous CDs are loaded with quality country songs. On the new disc, as in the past, Maurice Tani is joined by underrated singer Jenn Courtney and English singer Pam Brandon. With the disc having various styles, it seems a little disjointed at times as it moves from honky-tonk to Americana to a cover version. The other new CD by Maurice Tani does not have this problem.

Opening track, 'When I'm Drinkin', is a honky-tonk gem, with the singer's swinging vocal perfect for the song. An entire CD of Maurice Tani in honky-tonk mode seems like a very good idea. The CD has two cover versions of famous songs. First up is Chuck Berry's 'Nadine' which has been recorded too many times. Maurice Tani's slinky version, with sexy female backing vocals, works well, but the song is a bit too familiar. The other cover is the Burt Bacharach classic 'Walk On By', which was a 1964 hit for Dionne Warwick on both sides of the Atlantic. Maurice Tani adds a steel guitar, but keeps the mood of the original and delivers a fine vocal.

Other highlights of the CD include the moody drama of 'Fields Of Green', the dreamy soft rock of 'Three Flights To LA', and the melodic country/blues of the title track. The disc ends with a bonus track, the Hank Williams classic 'Your Cheatin' Heart', on which Maurice Tani is joined by English singer, Pam Brandon. The delicate new version sounds like an outtake from the Bonnie "Prince" Billy/Dawn McCarthy masterpiece from earlier this year. The mix of soft rock and country works like a dream for this critic, but everyone may not agree.

Maurice Tani clearly has a big talent, both as a singer and songwriter. He wrote most of these new songs. However, when you combine honky-tonk songs with soft rock, etc. all on one disc, you risk losing part of your potential audience. All the songs on this CD are good or very good, but a series of themed releases would work better. A Maurice Tani honky-tonk CD could be really special. Also, a soft rock album would be a good move. Perhaps an acoustic duets CD, ah he's done that. See the next review.

-Paul Riley


Two Stroke

5 Stars

Producer: Maurice Tani
Western Independent Recordings

So now, let's take a look at Maurice Tani's second new CD, the roots of which can be traced back to 2009-10 when Maurice Tani, and fellow band member Mike Anderson, did a series of "undercover" concerts as Briggs And Stratton. Those concerts were stripped down acoustic versions of mainly old band songs. Now we have a full CD of these songs from the two men. The CD is sometimes touched with genius. Unlike Maurice Tani's other new disc, this one has a wonderful natural flow, and it is very entertaining. It's probably Maurice Tani's least country disc, but probably his very best.

it is clear from the opening track, 'Out With The Old', that something special is happening. The superb arrangement, with the violin a highlight, is far superior to the original 2008 version sung by Jenn Courtney on Maurice Tani's 'Hammer And Tongs' release. The wonderful vocal fleshes out the melody better as well. All through the new CD are some of Maurice Tani's superb lyrics and melodies. This is pretty much a masterclass in producing very high quality songs. 'The Devil In My Ear', a warm country song dating back to 2005's 'Sirens', gets an acoustic update which makes it sounds slightly less country, but still great. The mandolin is important in the new version. Following this track is a traffic jam of amazing songs, from the delicate, fragile 'Radio City', to the dark ballad 'Poison', while 'Colour Me Gone' is plucking wonderful.

The Maurice Tani/Mike Anderson gem of a disc ends with 'I Need You', a serene, peaceful ballad about being lonely. It's a song written by George Harrison and released by The Beatles in 1965. The new version brings out the feelings of loss and heartbreak intended by George Harrison.

Maurice Tani and Mike Anderson have created a CD of warm, engaging, intelligent, entertaining music that seems utterly timeless. Maurice Tani wrote nine of these songs. It is kind of crazy that he is not so much better known. Hopefully, this release will put him on the musical map. A few weeks ago I had not heard of Maurice Tani. Now he is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Maurice Tani and Mike Anderson have created a masterpiece.

-Paul Riley

Hillbilly Noir. Bashy. Original. Intelligent. California Country. Electric. Honky Tonk. Twangy. Oblique Americana.