My Kind of Country

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

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Letter To Home’

letter to homeFor his second Atlantic album, 1984’s Letter To Home, Glen turned to a new producer, Harold Shedd, and something of a new approach, deliberately aiming the album at mainstream country radio.

The concerted effort to appeal to country radio paid off. The first single, a nicely performed and tastefully arranged cover of J. D. Souther’s ‘Faithless Love’, was a top 10 country hit – Glen’s first since the theme song from movie ‘Any Which Way You Can’ in 1980. it was also the first time the song had been a hit single for anyone, although it was a decade old, having been cut by Linda Ronstadt on her classic Heart Like A Wheel album.

It was followed by Glen’s biggest country hit since 1977 – the #4 peak of ‘A Lady Like You’. This song, written by Jim Weatherly and Keith Stegall, is a solemn AC leaning ballad with a pretty tune. The somewhat tinny keyboard backing has dated a bit, but the vocal is impeccable. Disappointingly ‘(Love Always) Letter To Home’, a charming Carl Jackson song which lent its title to the album and which was released as the album’s last single, only made it to #14.

The beautiful Paul Kennerley ballad ‘I’ll Be Faithful To You’ has been recorded by others, including Don Williams and Marie Osmond, and even making an appearance on the third volume of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ (featuring Kennerley’s former wife Emmylou Harris), but I don’t believe anyone ever released it as a single, which definitely seems like a missed opportunity, because it’s a lovely song. Glen’s version may just be the best of all of them, sincerely sweet and tender, and deeply romantic.

He reflects on the vicissitudes of stardom in a brace of tunes. The wistful lullaby ‘Goodnight Lady’ (written by Buddy Cannon and Steve Nobels) is pretty, as it voices a touring musician’s wistful longing for the loved one back home. ‘After The Glitter Fades’, about the loneliness lying behind stardom, is a cover of a minor pop hit for Stevie Nicks, one of the members of rock band Fleetwood Mac. It suits Glen pretty well. ‘Tennessee’, a Micheal Smotherman-penned tribute to the state, is a bit repetitive melodically but has an attractive feel to it

The mid-tempo ‘Leavin’ Eyes’ is very dated mid-80s country pop, although Glen does invest it with some energy. It was the first cut for its writer, Ted Hewitt. The beaty ‘Scene Of The Crime’, written by Carl Jackson and T Kuenster, also has a dated arrangement, but is quite catchy.

The set ends with an ethereal version of ‘An American Trilogy’, Mickey Newbury’s medley of three historic tunes reflecting American history and the long shadow cast by the Civil War: the now controversial ‘Dixie’, the spiritual-turned 1960s Civil Rights anthem, ‘All My Trials’, and the Battle Hymn Of The Republic.

This is a pretty good album, but one which does not stand with the very best of Glen’s work – apart from the gorgeous ‘I’ll be Faithful To You’, which I would recommend to anyone.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Faithless Love/Amazing Grace’ ft Ronnie Milsap

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Old Home Town’

51sgfnyksXL._SS280When crossover artists begin to wane in popularity, they usually rely on their country fanbase to keep them afloat commercially. Glen Campbell’s 1982 disc Old Home Town seems to have been designed with that reality in mind; while it is by no means a “rootsy” album, it features more fiddle, banjo and harmonica than his earlier efforts, as well as prominent synthesizers and string section, as was typical of the mainstream country music of the early 80s.

Produced by Jerry Fuller, Old Home Town was the first of a trio of albums Campbell made for Atlantic Records, after his twenty-year relationship with Capitol ended. Five years earlier, he had scored his final #1 hit with “Southern Nights”. The follow-up single “Sunflower” had peaked at #4, but after that the Top 10 hits were much fewer and farther between. His Al DeLory-produced albums were mostly middle-of-the-road affairs meant for mainstream pop fans, but also enjoyed success on the country charts. Old Home Town was more tailor made for the country market, but it was clear that Glen hadn’t altogether abandoned his pop aspirations. The album’s most successful single was a remake of an old pop hit for from the 1960s. “I Love How You Love Me” was first a hit for the girl group The Paris Sisters in 1961 and again for Bobby Vinton 1n 1968. It seems like an odd choice for a single, even in an era of heavily watered-down country. It’s not a particularly exciting song and didn’t need to be remade again and should have been relegated to album filler. However, it did reach #17 on the country chart. It also marked Glen’s final appearance on the adult contemporary chart, where it peaked at #35.

“I Love How You Love Me” was sandwiched in between the bluesy title track, which peaked outside the country Top 40 at #44 and the Gospel-laced “On the Wings of My Victory”, which died at #85 (which would be a non-charting single today). It’s a very good song, but again an odd choice for a single. I would have picked the more uptempo “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” or the funky “Hang On Baby (Ease My Mind)”, which would have been right in line with the country radio tastes of the day. Even the Jimmy Webb-penned “I Was Too Busy Loving You” would have been a better choice. It’s a little syrupy and sounds like the kind of song Doug Stone would have great success with about a decade later, but it is saved by Glen’s powerful vocal performance. Nothing can save the very dated-sounding “A Few Good Men”, however.

Producer Jerry Fuller wrote the ballad “A Woman’s Touch”, which is better than the version Tom Jones scored a Top 10 country hit with that same year. The album concludes with a very nice version of “Mull of Kintyre”, a Scottish-flavored waltz, complete with Glen plain the bagpipes. It was written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, and had been a hit for McCartney’s band Wings in 1977.

Overall, Old Home Town is a mixed bag; while not Glen’s very best work, it contains enough decent material to have had a shot at success. I believe it suffered from poor singles choices, and perhaps the fact that Atlantic wasn’t country label in those days and probably lacked the clout to score any big hits with country radio. While it is largely forgotten today, it is worth revisiting.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘I Love My Truck’

Album Review: Chris Young – ‘I’m Comin’ Over’

im comin overThere are artists in today’s country whose music I unequivocally loathe. But in most cases, they’re people I didn’t have any particular expectations for. It’s much more painful to listen to a bad record put out by someone you know is capable of so much better – rather like the difference between a bad first date, and the betrayal of finding your spouse of many years is cheating on you. Sadly, that’s how I felt about Chris Young after his last album saw him shifting to the dark side of loud, unsubtle bro-country. Although his first few albums didn’t have consistently strong enough material, his excellent voice and traditional leanings meant I had great hopes for him. I was cautiously encouraged by his latest single, the title track to his new album, which Young produced, and mostly co-wrote, with Carey Crowder. (Link to review). Unfortunately, this song is not wholly representative of an album which is a real mixed bag, but there is a reasonable amount of worthwhile music.

One of the best songs is the one cut which neither Young nor Crowder had a hand in: ‘I Know A Guy’, written by Benjy Davis and Brett Tyler. It opens compellingly, with the protagonist offering assistance to a woman in trouble, before he launches into an impassioned chorus revealing himself as the man being left, and desperate for one last chance. The slow, measured verses work better than the chorus, which is rattled out and lacks melody, but overall this is a strong track.

Young teamed up with the songwriting brothers Brad and Brett Warren to write the excellent ‘Sober Saturday Night’, which features Vince Gill’s harmony and electric guitar. A somber ballad about the misery of a Sunday morning without his ex, which hurts worse than any hangover in times past. This is perhaps the best song on the album.

The last of the songs really worth hearing on this album is ‘What If I Stay’, written by Young with Josh Hoge and Johnny Bulford, a seductive ballad right in Young’s wheelhouse.

‘Callin’ My Name’, written by Young with Crowder and Jonathan Singleton, isn’t bad, either, with a pleasant melody, although it’s a bit fillerish. ‘You Do The Talkin’’, written by Crowder with Liz Rose and Cary Barlowe, is also okay but a bit bland. ‘Alone Tonight’, one of the many songs on the album written by the writing collaboration of Young, Hoge and Crowder, isn’t a bad song, but the insensitive echoey production kills it. ‘Sunshine Overtime’ is an inoffensive beach song.

On the negative side of the balance, the trio’s ‘Heartbeat’ and the football-themed ‘Underdogs’ are horrible – repetitive, monotonous and overly processed. ‘Think Of You’ is a deathly dull and characterless duet with Cassadee Pope, a mediocre pop singer currently masquerading as a country artist following her run on The Voice.

I get the impression that Chris Young is trying to balance the demands of commercial success with songs of more substance and quality, but he hasn’t quite got that balance right here. ( I also have to say that the cover picture is not very flattering, and is calling out for a Farce The Music treatment.)

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star)’

This was an answer song to the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

Week ending 11/21/15: #1 singles this week in country music history

Chris+Stapleton+Celebs+O+Music+Awards+Nashville+YXyP6PSnHqll1955 (Sales): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Jukebox): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Disc Jockeys): Love, Love, Love — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1965: May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose — Little Jimmy Dickens (Columbia)

1975: Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way/Bob Wills is Still the King — Waylon Jennings (RCA)

1985: Hang On to Your Heart — Exile (Epic)

1995: Check Yes or No — George Strait (MCA)

2005: Better Life — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2015: Tennessee Whiskey — Chris Stapleton (Mercury)

2015 (Airplay): Break Up With Him — Old Dominion (ReeSmack/RCA)

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)’

Classic Rewind: Lee Ann Womack – ‘I May Hate Myself In The Morning’

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Southern Nights’

Glen_Campbell_Southern_Nights_album_coverSave an album recorded live in Japan two years earlier, 1977’s Southern Nights was the first time we saw Glen Campbell in the producer’s chair. He collaborated with Gary Klein and created a chart-topping album.

Two singles were issued to country radio. Allen Toussaint’s wonderful drum and guitar heavy “Southern Nights” is the classic, which peaked at #1. The other single was Neil Diamond’s “Sunflower” an aggressive mid-tempo that leans too heavily on rock guitars for my liking.

Also included on Southern Nights is a cover of The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows.” Campbell’s version is far too slow and prodding, with lush strings that hinder his ability to convey the powerful lyrical content.

Campbell’s longtime friend Jimmy Webb contributed two songs to the album, each with flavorless and maddening arrangements. “This is Sarah’s Song” isn’t to my liking at all but I feel the lyric to “Early Morning Song” is inviting. That being said, I wouldn’t seek out either song to listen to again.

The string section remains on “For Crying Out Loud” but the inclusion of a more prominent drum section gives the otherwise sleepy ballad the kick of energy it needs. “Let Go,” another up-tempo in the vein of the title track, follows suit. While it isn’t very country, it should’ve been a single.

“Guide Me,” returns Campbell to the ballad realm that suffocates the majority of the album. “How High Did We Go” retains more of the same, but Campbell’s vocal scores, and the production is nicely thicker than the rest. And although it was co-written by Roger Miller, “(I’m Getting) Used To The Crying” is more of the same.

This is a tough album for me to critique, since it isn’t of my era. I couldn’t find much of anything to love in any of the arrangements, except for the title track. If I’m being blunt, I found Southern Nights quite boring. Now, this isn’t my kind of country music so I really cannot say if he does this style any justice or not. I just know it really wasn’t my taste.

Grade: C

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’

Classic Rewind: Jimmie Rodgers – ‘Uh Oh, I’m Falling In Love Again’

The pop artist’s biggest country hit:

Album Review: Buck Owens Live In San Francisco 1989

Probably no one was more disappointed than I was when Buck Owens recordings disappeared from the marketplace during the period from 1978-1988. Not only were no new recordings to be found, but even the older recordings disappeared completely. The fault for this, of course, rests with Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens, whose final contract with Capitol reverted ownership of the master recordings back to Buck. During this period Owens rarely licensed out his recordings in the US.

The story is well known how in September 1987, Dwight Yoakam rousted Buck out of his comfortable retirement to perform with him on stage. This led to Buck reactivating his career with Capitol Records, releasing three albums of new recordings over the next four years.

None of these albums were huge hits although five minor chart hits were generated from the first two albums Hot Dog and Act Naturally. Still, it was nice to have new Buck Owens recordings. Moreover, James Austin at Rhino Records convinced Buck to allow Rhino to put out a boxed set of his past recordings, the fabulous Buck Owens Collection 1959-1990. Eventually more collections were released and Sundazed Records reissued many of the individual albums on CD.

Although Buck Owens released many live albums during his life, Buck Owens Live In San Francisco 1989 was not released until 2015 when Rock Beat issued the two CD set, a ninety minute set of Buck performing thirty-three songs with his Buckaroos, comprised at this time of Jim Shaw (bandleader & keyboards), Terry Christofferson (lead guitar & pedal steel), Doyle Curtsinger (bass) and Jim McCarty (drums). Buck plays rhythm guitar and sings the lead.

Recorded January 15, 1989 at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, this is a very tight and cohesive group of Buckaroos that compares favorably with the classic Buckaroo lineups. I must admit that no one could ever quite duplicate the vocal harmony blend that Buck had with Don Rich, but Jim Shaw acquits himself well.

During his peak years Buck took some criticism for the amount of vocal banter in his live shows and his tendency to perform many of his hits in medley form. This album keeps the chatter to a minimum and finds Buck singing the songs in their entirety. Included are songs from all phases of his career – twenty classic singles, some songs from his then-comeback (“Hot Dog”, “The Key’s In The Mailbox” and “Somebody Put A Quarter In The Jukebox”), songs that were part of his stage repertoire although never singles for Buck (“A-11”, “Truck Drivin’ Man”, Hello Trouble’), one instrumental (“Buckaroo”), a solo version of his recent #1 duet with Dwight Yoakam (“Streets of Bakersfield”) and some other fine songs.

Great sound, great songs, great musicians , an appreciative audience – what more could you want ? My only criticism of the album is that it should have been released twenty years ago so that I could have been enjoying it during all those years

A most definite A+

Track list
Disc One
01 Introduction
02 Act Naturally
03 Together Again
04 My Heart Skips A Beat
05 Under Your Spell Again
06 Truck Drivin’ Man
07 Cryin’ Time Again
08 Hot Dog
09 Don’t Let Her Know
10 The Key’s In The Mailbox
11 Memphis
12 Close Up The Honky Tonks
13 Foolin’ Around
14 Somebody Put A Quarter In The Jukebox
15 Love’s Gonna Live Here
16 A-11
17 Tall Dark Stranger
18 Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)

Disc 2
01 Sam’s Place
02 Above & Beyond
03 Hello Trouble
04 I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)
05 Swinging Doors
06 Arms Full Of Empty
07 Sawmill
08 Buckaroo
09 Out There Chasing Rainbows
10 Nobody’s Fool But Yours
11 I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail
12 Streets Of Bakersfield
13 Johnny B. Goode
14 Big In Vegas
15 Gonna Have Love
16 Johnny B. Goode (reprise)

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker – ‘Dream Lover’

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’

rhinestone cowboyI originally felt like I had drawn the short straw when assigned this album. The two singles from the album, “Country Boy” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” are my two least favorite Glen Campbell singles, and this album is almost relentlessly downbeat in its feel and lyrics.

Al DeLory was often criticized for overproducing Campbell’s albums with string arrangements, but his arrangements never drowned out Campbell’s voice. At points that comes close to happening on this album, which was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

The album opens with “Country Boy”, written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, a #3 country single that also charted pop. To me the production sounds far more over the top than DeLory ever was guilty of producing. As far as being country music, it is at best ersatz country.

Livin’ in the city
Ain’t never been my idea of gettin’ it on
But the job demands that you make new plans
Before your big chance is gone
You get a house in the hills
You’re payin’ everyone’s bills
And they tell you that you’re gonna go far
But in the back of my mind
I hear it time after time
“Is that who you really are?”

Country boy, you got your feet in L.A.
But your mind’s on Tennessee
Lookin’ back, I can remember the time
When I sang my songs for free
Country boy, you got your feet in L.A.
Take a look at everything you own
But now and then, my heart keeps goin’ home

Lambert & Potter also provided the next three songs on the album, “Come Back”, “Count On Me”, and “Miss You Tonight”, all passable album filler material salvaged by Campbell’s vocal prowess. While I don’t think these songs would stand alone as singles, they further the general theme of the album, which I would describe as that of the alienation of a country boy lost in the big city.

Side one of the vinyl original version of the album closes with the Smokey Robinson penned Temptations classic “My Girl”. While I wouldn’t describe Campbell as a blue-eyed soul singer, he always does a passable job on soul and R&B material. Side one of the album was mostly downbeat material so it was nice to have side one end on an upbeat note.

Side two opens with Larry Weiss’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”. This song was Glen’s biggest single, selling over two million copies on initial release and would receive two Grammy nominations for best pop vocalist and song of the year, and would win ACM Single of the Year for 1975. “Rhinestone Cowboy continues the general theme of the album.

Well, I really don’t mind the rain
And a smile can hide all the pain
But you’re down when you’re ridin’ the train that’s takin’ the long way
And I dream of the things I’ll do
With a subway token and a dollar tucked inside my shoe
There’ll be a load of compromisin’
On the road to my horizon
But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me
Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Rhinestone cowboy
Gettin’ cards and letters from people I don’t even know
And offers comin’ over the phone

Next up is a nice cover of a Mike Settle song “Build You A Bridge” followed up by a Johnny Cunningham song, “Pencils For Sale”.

Randy Newman was always a perceptive songwriter and “Marie” is no exception. Glen invests all the emotion necessary to bring Randy’s lyric to life:

The song that the trees sing
When the wind blows
You’re a flower, you’re a river
You’re a rainbow
Sometimes I’m crazy
But I guess you know
I’m weak and I’m lazy
And I hurt you so
I don’t listen
To a word you say
And when you’re in trouble
I turn away
But I love you
I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie
I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie

The album closes out with the Barry Mann/ Cynthia Weil composition “We’re Over”. As far as I know this song was never a big hit for anyone, but it is a well crafted song that I can see any number of contemporary artists (Adele, Michael Buble`) handing well.

We’re over. I guess we know we’re over
Even though all the words are still unsaid
And we talk of other things instead
We’re over. We’ve come and gone, we’re over
We go on like two actors in a play
Acting out our lives from day to day

Going through our paces
With smiling frozen faces
That tell more than they hide
And knowing when we fake it
It’s not love when you make it
Without any feeling inside

I had not listened to this album for many years as it strikes me as basically a seventies pop album, which I found to sound entirely different than the classic Al DeLory produced albums I had come to love and cherish.

There are a lot of different musicians on the album, but I was particularly struck by the following:
Horns – Paul Hubinon, Chuck Findley, Don Menza, Jerome Richardson, Tom Scott, George Bohanon, Lew McCreary, Dalton Smith / Strings – Sid Sharp and the Boogie Symphony / Backing vocals – Ginger Baker, Julia Tillman, Maxine Willard.

I would give this a C+ but many of my non-country music loving friends consider this to be their favorite Glen Campbell album, and considered as 70s pop this album is probably a B+.

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘It’s A Sin (When You Love Somebody)’

EP Review: Jake Worthington – ‘Jake Worthington’

jake worthingtonTexan Jake Worthington was just 17 when he finished in second place on The Voice last year. It didn’t lead directly to anything significant for him, but now, still in his teens, he has released a five-track EP of neo-traditional country music which is worth checking out. He has an excellent voice with classic country stylings, and all the right instincts musically. The solid country production is in keeping with his voice, and he has found some good material.

The outstanding song is ‘This Damn Memory’, a classic styled heartbreak tune about being unable to shake a memory. I’d recommend this as a download even if you pass on the rest.

Also notable, the beautifully sung ‘Friends’ is an intensely told story song about how a friend’s waning stops a man from drink driving and unwittingly killing his own son:

Just one more drink he would’ve ran right through that traffic light
But he slammed on his brakes in the nick of time
As a vintage Mustang passed on the other side
It was the souped up kind
Got him to thinkin’ back at the bar before he left
What a friend said
“Man just one more beer, someone’ll end up dead”
‘Bout time he listened and sat that bottle down
Cause home was on the far side of town

They’ll tell you when you’re wrong
No matter what the cost
They don’t mean any harm
‘Cause what just happened sure set his heart sinking
Friends drive friends to thinkin’

‘Just Keep Falling In Love’ is very charming, and ‘That’s When’ is a nice straightforward love song.

‘Don’t Let the Redneck (Fool Ya)’ is the only track I could live without, a bootscooting number reminiscent of Brooks & Dunn at their most generic. It could be worse, but doesn’t show off Jake’s real strength, his rich, emotive voice.

This is a promising debut from a young artist. I’m only sorry it’s not a full length album.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘It’s Only Make Believe’

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Reunion: The Songs Of Jimmy Webb’

reunionThe songwriter most closely associated with Glen Campbell’s career, and the writer of some of his best known songs, is Jimmy Webb. In 1974 Glen paid tribute to his friend with this album, with Webb acting as arranger and providing the sweeping strings so familiar from the crossover hits. None of the songs is as accessible as those famous ones, but there is much to appreciate here if you listen closely.

The sole single, ‘It’s A Sin When You Love Somebody’, reached a peak of only #16 country and #39 AC, but is perhaps the most commercial song on the album. The gospel undertones in the arrangement are appropriate for a song about the intensity of passionate love and divine condemnation/forgiveness.

My favourite track is the beautiful ‘You Might As Well Smile’, which has a gorgeous melody and a comforting message about the aftermath of a relationship. Also very good is the wistful ‘Wishing Now’, about separation from a loved one.

‘Just This One Time’ is a passionately delivered appeal to a lover to trust him:

And I know I’ve given you every reason
In this whole round world to fear me now
But my love’s a raging river
And you trapped it in your hands, sweet darlin’

I also very much like ‘I Keep It Hid’, on the theme of feelings enduring past the official breakup.

I was a little bored by the reproachful ‘Ocean In His Eyes’, another song about a failed relationship. Webb took the title of ‘The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress’ from a similarly titled science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein; the song is a dreamy and presumably metaphorical reflection on failure and loss, which Glen sings beautifully. ‘Adoration’ hides a bitchy putdown under a pretty surface.

Surprisingly, the album did not consist exclusively of Jimmy Webb tunes. Jimmy’s sister Susan Webb wrote ‘About The Ocean’, a pleasant sounding ballad with a melancholy feel and slightly elusive lyric which appears to be about a breakup. ‘Roll Me Easy’, written by Southern Rocker Lowell George (and known elsewhere by the variant title ‘Roll ‘Um Easy’), has a nice breezy feel and although not an obvious choice for Glen, Webb’s arrangement ensures it fits in quite nicely.

I wouldn’t categorise this as a country album in any way, but it is impeccably conceived and performed, and is a favourite for many of Glen Campbell’s fans. As a bonus the 2001 re-mastered reissue includes ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’.

Grade: A-


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