The Countess of Fife: Star Of The Sea – UK – CD 
- Wandering Star
- Empty Headed
- Goodbye Motorbike Guy
- Let This Night Be Over
- Humans Are A Bad Breed
- Second Fiddle
- Don’t Dress Me Up
The story began almost two years ago when The Countess Of Fife ran a Kickstarter campaign to get their debut album recorded and manufactured. The band surpassed their £5,000 immediate goal and ended up with over £11,000 in pledges from their fans. Which meant that Fay Fife and Allan Mcdowall’s Country Music project had the legendary Castlesound studios at their disposal with Jim Sutherland co-producing with Fay.
With things being in a pandemic, negotiating the recording and production took longer than anticipated, but the goal has been reached, and the CD has flown across the Atlantic from Edinburgh and been in the Record Cell for about ten days now. Enough for it to get under the skin so we can discuss its merits this crisp fall day.
The album kicked off with the single “Wandering Star,” which was already a classic tune by the band, owing to its appearance on their “Live” EP. Fay’s organ sounded even better here with the harmonies of Kirsten Adamson [Stuart Adamson’s daughter] adding to the rich, vibe the band were exploring. Chris Stout’s fiddle adding depth to the sweet melancholy of it all. It was a soulful beginning to the album to be sure, but the next track was the jaunty change of pace that was “Empty Headed.” One could almost call this song “music to drive trucks by,” with its downbeat, hardscrabble lyrics juxtaposed against the feisty fast tempo shuffle beats and deep twang courtesy of Mcdowall’s guitar. The call and response vocals in the exciting chorus with Ms. Adamson offering “She’s lost” as a rejoinder against each line sung by Ms. Fife were pitch perfect singing and arrangement!
The storyline of “Sixteen” couldn’t be anything but a Country song with a protagonist living a humdrum life out of school, working at the hair salon who’s “not pretty or smart,” but still finds room for defiance and dignity when she’s dismissed by strangers who look right through her. We loved “Humans Are A Bad Breed” from the get-go on the live EP and it’s never sounded better than here; abetted by Malcolm Ross’ lap steel that lend long, languid portamento since it’s not only synths that can pull that off. Listening to the guitar of Mcdowall squaring off against Ms. Fife’s wailing organ ramps up the intensity here to match the bite of the lyric.
The album can be called Alt-Country, for the most part, but there was one classic Nashville throwback with “Second Fiddle.” This one was built for the Grand Ol’ Opry dancefloor with the titular fiddle taking the lead and the double bass of Chris Agnew not far behind here! Ms. Fife has double-tracked her vocals here to make her performance really pop against the boisterous Country Swing music bed as she took down her no-account, third-rate romance.
The new version of “Don’t Dress Me Up” was a step away from the Countrypolitan sound of the 2018 version with the additional fiddle making the biggest difference though the tune still had the great cold ending we know and love. In a world where “Country Music” sounds Arena Rock with a southern accent and a slide guitar bolted on, it’s a pleasure to hear Fay Fife and Alan Mcdowall tackle the revitalization of the form with traditional music values allied with a much more progressive head space. This is music that brings the sound of 1966 into the now quite capably and is all the stronger for where it sidesteps tradition.
Earlier today, the band performed in a live session on BBC Radio Scotland which can be heard online following broadcast for those of us unlucky enough not to live in Scotland! I already have the CD because I pledged £30.00 to get it made up front, but your copy of disc awaits you at half that price, or even less if you’re of a download persuasion. The album will be released for general consumption on November 11th, you know where. Hit that button!
I’ve seen quite a bit about this album without ever giving it too much attention. But I really enjoyed those couple of songs you’ve provided links to.
One to add to the list for Santa to bring in a few weeks time. Cheers!
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JC – It’s a good ‘un! I didn’t post all the best songs in the review so you’ll get to hear some goodies later. Fay Fife doesn’t waste anybody’s time!
Why wait til Christmas? It’s a cracker anytime!
Snowtweet – Welcome to the comments! Good point though CDs make perfect stocking stuffers, so if you participate, I get it.