Sherrié Austin, Redd Volkaert Lead Parade Of Country Albums

Bear Family re-issues classic music by Connie Smith, Jack Guthrie.

New albums from Australian songstress Sherrié Austin and veteran guitar picker Redd Volkaert head this week's list of new country releases.

Also coming are an anthology of prominent women singers and Bear Family Records re-issues of gospel and country singer Connie Smith and the yodeling western singer Jack Guthrie.

Austin, an Australian native, released two albums on Arista Nashville, until that label was absorbed by BMG as an imprint and drastically reduced its roster.

After leaving Arista, she formed a partnership with her Nashville publisher and releases her new album on Wrensong's WE Records. Followin' a Feelin' includes her version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." Austin co-wrote nine of the album's other 10 songs.

Redd Volkaert, a hero to many guitar players, is a native of Vancouver, British Columbia. After years of journeyman work playing bars in Canada, clubs in California and recording sessions in Nashville, Volkaert got a phone call in April 1997 that changed his life. It was country legend Merle Haggard, asking Volkaert to be lead guitarist in his band, the Strangers. His new Hightone album, No Stranger to a Tele, refers of course to his Fender Telecaster guitar. The album, his second solo effort, is a textbook of solid guitar picking.

Intimate Portrait: Women of the Heartland is the soundtrack to a video, with music being provided by a number of women country artists considered on the cutting edge. The Rhino CD includes such performances as Rosanne Cash's "Tennessee Flat Top Box" (RealAudio excerpt), Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses" (RealAudio excerpt), and Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Down at the Twist and Shout" (RealAudio excerpt). Other artists represented are Carlene Carter, Rosie Flores, Kelly Willis, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Victoria Williams, Cheri Knight, Katy Moffatt, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Iris DeMent, Julie Miller and Dar Williams.

Veteran gospel and country singer Connie Smith is the subject of a four-CD box set from Bear Family Records. Born to Sing includes her first recordings for RCA in the years 1964-1967, including her first single release — "Once a Day" — which became a #1 hit. This set includes her self-titled first album, as well as Miss Smith Goes to Nashville and six other early albums.

Jack Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's cousin, based his style on that of Jimmie Rodgers, and the Bear Family album Milk Cow Blues includes previously unreleased transcriptions of his versions of the Rodgers songs "Muleskinner Blues," "Any Old Time," "Waitin' for a Train," and "My Rough and Rowdy Ways." Just like his hero, Rodgers, Guthrie contracted tuberculosis and spent his last recording session with a cot in the recording studio, so he could rest between songs — just as Rodgers had done. Guthrie died in 1948.