West Country Girl

Former Catatonia singer goes to Nashville and comes back with a Welsh country album produced by Bob Dylan's mate

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When Cerys Matthews parted company with Catatonia-largely because she was in danger of becoming a one-woman embodiment of the band name-few people would have guessed that she’d up sticks, move to Texas, dry out, get married and then make a country album.

In fact, she first hooked up with producer Bucky Baxter (better known as Bob Dylan’s long-time pedal-steel guitarist) at his Nashville studios, and while Bucky knew diddley squat about her, he took the gamble. Legend has it that Matthews was accommodated in a log cabin with no running water, bathroom or kitchen, miles from the nearest offy. Lacking distraction, she wrote the songs that form Cockahoop.

So is it any good? It’s certainly accomplished, with new country licks types like Richard Bennett and Jim Hoke lending an almost Ry Cooder flavour to proceedings. Matthews’ obvious love for country?well, she is a Celt-means that she comes across like the Dolly Parton of the Valleys. The opening “Chardonnay” sounds like her autobiography, the missing years part, but this song about a love affair with the bottle was written by Roger Cook, who pens tunes for Crystal Gayle.

The disc picks up a more folky patina with a fine cover of The Handsome Family’s “Weightless Again”. Keeping her roots showing, Cerys also includes old Welsh hymn “Arglwydd Dyma Fi”. Her original fans will be drawn to the more Catatonic, soul-bearing tunes, such as “Only A Fool”. This album, though, should find Matthews a new audience to add to her pop heroine one. The Nashville skyline just got itself a new resident.

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