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The Most Ugly Child The Most Ugly Child
Album: Copper And Lace
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.themostuglychild.com

In addition to one of the oddest names, the Nottingham six piece also have what sees likely to prove one of the year's best debut country albums. Centred around twin singers/songwriters Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison and augmented by the rhythm section of Matt Cutler and Max Johnson with Nicole J Terry on fiddle and Jim Widdop from Los Pacaminos providing dobro and pedal steel, they draw on influences as diverse as Hank Williams and Led Zeppelin to serve up their brand of old school country.

The opening honky tonking duet cover of Glasgow roots-rocker Daniel Meade's 'What Might Have Been' and Goodison's down by the riverside revival romp 'Golden Gates' leave no doubt as to their ability to whip up a rousing frenzy, sending audiences whirling around the dancefloor. With Wright taking over the vocals, they then slow the pace for the folksier-sounding 'Roses', a slow march regret-stained ballad about a loved one's death, complete with brass band finale of 'The Old Rugged Cross', keeping the tempo on a leash with the waltzing 'Paper, Linen, Copper, Lace', another folk-country number with dark lyrics.

Along with the Meade, there's one other cover, a fiery fiddle driven version Townes Van Zandt's 'Lungs' on which those Led Zep colours can be clearly heard. Save for Goodison's moody steel-streaked 'Those Were The Days' with its tale of reckless young romance and dreams turned sour by cheap motels, cheap whiskey and no money, everything else is penned by Wright, proving himself a country songwriter of some note with the strummed heartbreak slow waltz duet 'Just Another Lesson In Pain', the George Jones double act of 'Today, You Said Goodbye' and 'The Bottle and the Fall' and, with the keening story song 'Queen of the Honky Tonk' which, especially in its line about a barstool throne, has distinct echoes of Shel Silverstein's 'Queen of the Silver Dollar'.

Along with broken hearts and bottles of booze, another staple ingredient of old time country is the death of a loved pet, and they duly tick the box with Wright on lead and Goodson harmonising for acoustic strummed album closer 'My Pony', as the singer sadly prepares to send his faithful old nag to greener celestial pastures. It's hard to sing something as maudlin as this with conviction, so it's a tribute to their talent and authenticity that it's more likely raise a tear than a laugh. They've been likened to My Darling Clementine, and it's pretty safe to say that if you're into where they're coming from, then you should considering fostering this ugly child too.

Mike Davies