My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Suzy Bogguss & Chet Atkins – ‘Simpatico’

simpaticoChet Atkins’ contributions to country music are immeasurable; he was arguably the genre’s greatest guitarist ever, and as a producer and label executive at RCA, he paved the way for such legendary artists as Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Don Gibson, Skeeter Davis, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, and many more. He was also an early champion of Suzy Bogguss, as anyone who has read the liner notes to her debut album can attest, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the two of them decided to release an album together. Simpatico, which was released in 1994, was one of the last albums in the Atkins’ discography and his last entry into the Billboard Country Albums chart.

The album was also a turning point in Bogguss’ career; she’d parted ways with longtime producer Jimmy Bowen, and produced Simpatico with John Guess. Interestingly, Atkins didn’t share production credits at all on this project. The project also marked the beginning of Suzy’s chart decline; it may be simply because her star was beginning to fade, or it could have been because the album was released at a time when Liberty Records was neglecting any artist on its roster not named Garth. However, it seems fairly certain that this is one album that not made with one eye on the charts; instead it is a labor of love that that is largely indifferent to commercial concerns.

As one might expect from a man who helped develop the Nashville Sound, and whose tastes ran from country to pop and jazz, Simpatico is not a collection of traditional country tunes. Instead it encompasses a variety of sounds, influenced by both country and pop, and occasionally including some Spanish and Latin influences. Chet’s trademark picking is heard prominently throughout the album. He does chime in vocally on occasion, but Chet was never much of a singer, so Suzy does the heavy lifting as far as the vocal duties are concerned.

Two singles were released; neither of which charted. The first was the uptempo “One More For The Road”, written by Atkins and Bogguss, along with Suzy’s husband Doug Crider. The second was a surprisingly good cover of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” A better choice might have been “Forget About It”, one of the album’s more contemporary numbers. It is more in the vein of what country radio was looking for at the time, but given Liberty’s half-hearted support, it probably would not have been any more successful.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album from beginning to end, without any missteps. my particular favorites are the covers of Jimmie Rodgers’ “In The Jailhouse Now”, which opens the album, and a stunning version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”. I also quite like the whimsical “Wives Don’t Like Old Girlfriends.” At first glance “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” seems to be a little out of place, but the tasteful production, complete with a restrained string section, and the excellent singing and picking, makes the record work. Though it would probably never held much appeal for country radio, in another era it might have been an adult contemporary hit, but AC radio in the 90s was too R&B influenced to embrace a recording like this or “When She Smiled At Him”, which also sounds like a holdover from 1970s Top 40 AM radio. “Two Shades of Blue” is a lovely Spanish-sounding number written by Deborah Allen, Bobby Braddock and Rafe VanHoy.

Nearly two decades after its release, Simpatico holds up well. Bogguss and Atkins succeeded in making an evergreen record, which does not sound dated at all. My only criticism is its brevity, but country albums rarely exceeded ten tracks in the nineties. Such a non-commercial album would probably not even be released by a major label today. Given its lack of chart success, a fair number of fans might have missed this album. Those who did miss it can pick it up from Amazon. Unlike a lot of older albums, expect to pay full price for this one, but it is worth every penny.

Grade: A+

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3 responses to “Album Review: Suzy Bogguss & Chet Atkins – ‘Simpatico’

  1. Paul W Dennis June 17, 2013 at 6:16 am

    This is one of my favorite records by either Chet or Suzy. At the time the album was released Chet was a recording artist for Columbia and had largely gotten away from producing , so I’m not surprised that Chet wasn’t involved in that aspect of the recording.

    There actually is a second collaborative album between the two, although I don’t think it was issued in the USA . Titled CHET ATKINS, JERRY REED & SUZY BOGGUSS – LIVE IN NASHVILLE, it was issued on the European lable Country Stars. Suzy isn’t on all twelve tracks (wit Chet & Jerry present, there had to be a few instrumentals) but it is a delightlful second chapter to SIMPATICO, although it was a actually recorded on may9, 1992 or before SIMPATICO was released

  2. Leeann Ward June 17, 2013 at 8:46 am

    This is a wonderful album indeed! “I Still Misss Someone” is my favorite cover of that song; I’m sure Vince Gill’s contribution doesn’t hurt, but I love Boggus’ clear performance and the perfect production too.:)

    • J.R. Journey June 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      It’s been a little while since I heard this album, but I’ll have to go back and relisten to “I Still Miss Someone” when I get home tonight. It’s my favorite Cash song and it’s hard for me to think of someone topping Rosanne Cash’s recording from the 2002 Kindred Spirits tribute to Johnny Cash. Now I want to hear Suzy’s version again…

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