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Courtney Granger Courtney Granger
Album: Beneath Still Waters
Label: Valcour
Tracks: 13

The phrase "old head on young shoulders" turns out to be unusually appropriate in the case of young cajun and country singer Courtney Granger, grand-nephew of the famed Balfa Brothers and member of latter-day revival outfit Balfa Toujours and currently touring with the Pine Leaf Boys. But what's not so well known is that he sang country before he got around to the cajun standards. Reading Ginny Hawker's liner note to this album here, the story goes that she sat in on a late-night session where Courtney, accompanied only by Dirk Powell and his electric guitar, ran through a bunch of George Jones songs as though he was living every word, and she was duly "nailed to the floor". Prepare to be similarly impaled, then, as Courtney and his high lonesome voice - and a willing coterie of roots musicians - treat us to a baker's dozen of lovingly recreated country favourites, recorded in a small one-room studio in Louisiana under the expert production guidance of the same Dirk Powell.

With a voice of real power and authenticity, Courtney casts a spell that lasts the whole 45-minute span without need for a break. In effect, this album's his own love-letter to modern country music, with songs from the repertoires of several of his favourite singers (e.g. Waylon Jennings, Vern Gosdin, Keith Whitely, Mel Street and of course George Jones) that come from the pen of great writers including - to namecheck just a few - Hazel Dickens (Don't Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There), Cindy Walker (Warm Red Wine), Glen Garrison (Listen They're Playing My Song) and Hugh King (Lovin' On Back Streets). But perhaps my own personal favourite is Courtney's brilliant take on Bill Anderson's When A Man Can't Get A Woman Off His Mind, complete with superb fiddle and harmony vocal work. The album's instrumental backings are also as authentic as they come - and with folks on board like Joel Savoy, Kevin Barry, Tom Rozum, Glenn Patscha and of course Dirk Powell himself, and extra vocals from Alice Gerrard, Laurie Lewis, Christine Balfa, Natalie Palms and others - well that ain't no surprise. This is old-school contemporary country, the real deal, reliable and satisfying as you can get.

David Kidman