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Ags Connolly Ags Connolly
Album: Nothin' Unexpected
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 10

Although more commonly associated as providing a UK release arm for independent, guitar-led 'un-scrubbed' Americana bands and solo artists, the label's also home to several homegrown acts, among them Oxfordshire's Connolly, a self-styled subscriber to the Ameripolitan style of country. Having released a well-received debut three years ago, he took his time putting together the material for his follow-up which ses him reunited with producer Dean Owens andworking with Grand Old Opry fiddler Eamon McLoughlin and Mavericks accordionist Michael Guerra.

It's very much old school country, kicking off in fine George Jones honky tonk style with "I Hope You're Unhappy", hanging around the same saloon for the slower paced drum free "Slow Burner" that sees Owens on glockenspiel and the Waylon Jennings-like ballad "When The Loner Gets Lonely", though, being a Brit he sings about a pub rather than a bar.

As Guerra's presence suggests, there's a Tex-Mex flavour this time around, evident on the mid-tempo south of the border heartache balladry of "Do You Realise That Now" and the waltzing memories of old times and changes wrought "Nothin' Unexpected".

As any musician who frequents such watering holes knows, whether you're singing of ups or downs, it's always good to have songs that can ensure you're not playing to an empty dance floor, and the lap steel backed uptempo waltzer "Haunts Like This" (a song in praise of such venues) and the fiddle and piano-backed swing "Neon Jail" are definitely food for the feet.

The remaining tracks are more for those end of the night slow sways or last beer sorrows, I Suppose a fine pedal steel and piano coloured country version of the Loudon Wainwright III track while both "Fifteen Years" and simple one man and a guitar album closer "I Should Have Closed The Book" are sparse, reflective and regret-stained ballads of love, lost chances and time slipping past.

His deep and dusty warble evokes thoughts of country greats like Nelson, Cash and David Allen Coe as well as those mentioned above. This album shows he can walk alongside them with his head high too.

Mike Davies