AGS CONNOLLY – Siempre (Finstock Music FINST002 CD)

SiempreSiempre is Spanish for always and, combined with the cover decoration, it sort of sums up Ags Connolly’s musical philosophy. Ags is a British country singer/songwriter who sounds like a native…of Texas, which is where his heart lies. This album isn’t simply country as the lead track, ‘Headed South For A While’, suggests for it seems that Ags is making for the border. Joining Ags’ band are Michael Guerra on accordion and Billy Contreras on fiddle with a brief cameo from BJ Cole on Dobro. For this album Ags learned to play bajo quinto, a variant of the guitar with five paired courses of strings.

Many musicians have heaped praise on Ags, among them Wes McGhee from whom he borrowed ‘Half Forgotten Tunes’. Cast your mind back thirty or more years to time when Flaco Jiménez brought us Tex-Mex sounds and you’ll get the idea of what Siempre is all about. Ags’ songs are rooted in the country tradition – wandering dusty roads, looking for love or try to escape from a broken heart. Songs such as ‘I Trust My Heart These Days’, ‘In Love At All’ and the deliciously twisted ‘Turns Out’ are definitely American while ‘Seňora (Whatever Comes First)’ is Mexican and unexpectedly jolly.

Country music may not be your bag and it isn’t really mine but I do like Siempre. The music rocks and rolls along and is full of interesting musical variety. There’s a nice guitar riff on the lead track – possibly by Bob Updegraff – and that’s followed by an upbeat bit of Mexicana in ‘Change My Mind’ driven by Guerra’s accordion. I’m guessing that it’s the bajo quinto that introduces ‘Tell Me What You Were Gonna Tell Me’. Without insider knowledge it could be taken for acoustic guitar played in mock-Spanish style; the sort of featured instrument that you can hear anywhere. Of course, I could be wrong.

Ags Connolly has a huge reputation among the country music fraternity: he can quote Bob Harris and Tom Russell in his publicity but he’s possibly better regarded in the States than in the UK at the moment. That should change soon.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Headed South For A While’: