JAMES STEWART KEENE CHARM OFFENSIVE

The follow-up to breakout debut LP The Navigator (2014) finds Wollongong-based country-rock powerhouse James Stewart Keene in his finest festival-ready fettle to date: look no further than infectious single ‘Ready to Please’. From the tearing guitars and thudding bass of ‘Charm Offensive’ to earthy workingman’s plaint ‘Coal Town’, the hard-rocking singer-songwriter gives free rein to so many driving country rhythms and energising rock guitars, coupling the heaving, humid intensity of Zac Brown Band with the raw country feeling of Little Big Town. Boasting input from local and international master-songwriters – including Australia’s song-scribe extraordinaire, Allan Caswell, Craig Morrison, Steve McNaughton and Kelly Cork plus USA writers – the album spans crooning love songs, breezy summer anthems shot through with rock guitar bite and rousing singalong intensity (‘Can’t Put You Down’), and radio-ready belters fuelled by supercharged guitars (‘Stole My Heart’), while James’ expansive vocal ranges effortlessly from fun, knowing winks (feel-good summer bliss-out ‘This Ol’ T-Shirt’) to genuine country soul (‘Really Need You Tonight’). Gareth Hipwell