My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent – ‘Your Money And My Good Looks’

What happens when you pair the best male country vocalist of the last 35 years with the reigning Queen of bluegrass music ? You get the best album that will be released in 2011. I can think of no recent duet album that I’ve enjoyed as much as this album. Released on the Upper Management Music label, this album contains the warning ‘Contains REAL Country Music’, and truer words never were spoken.

Although Rhonda is a bluegrass artist, and there are touches of bluegrass on a few of the tracks, this basically is a modern traditional country album, with fiddles, steel guitar and truly outstanding vocals, both individually and in harmony with each other.

The title cut is probably the weakest cut on the album. This isn’t to say that Gene and Rhonda don’t sing it well, because they do, but the song itself is nothing special. The next two tracks “Gone For Good”, a slow ballad about breaking up, and “It Ain’t Nothing New” a mid-tempo ballad co-written by bluegrass legend Larry Cordle, are both really good songs, and on many albums they would be the standout tracks but on this album they are merely the hors d’oeuvres.

With the fourth track the album shifts into overdrive with a cover of Gene Watson’s 1976 hit “You Could Know As Much About A Stranger”. I had never thought about this song as a duet, but it works really well, as Gene and Rhonda trade verses and duet on the choruses, accompanied by a lightly updated version of Gene’s original backing.

From here the album covers a 1977 hit written by Cathy Gosdin for her brother Vern Gosdin, “Til The End”. Covering Vern Gosdin is a treacherous task at best, and while I regard Gene Watson as being the superior overall vocalist, Vern Gosdin had no peers at singing melancholy slow ballads. Still Gene and Rhonda do an admirable job on the song.

The Billy Yates-penned “Alone Together Tonight” is a clever twist on the theme of a lonely boy and lonely girl in a honky-tonk. The melody reminds me of the 1982 John Anderson hit “Would You Catch A Falling Star”.

Next up is a cover of Gary Stewart’s 1974 hit “Out Of Hand”. The arrangement and instrumentation are very similar to Stewart’s recording, but with very slight alterations to the lyrics, it makes a very successful male-female duet.

“This Wanting You” was co-written by Bruce Boulton, T. Graham Brown and Bruce Burch. I don’t recall the song being issued as a single but it was one of the standout tracks on TGB’s 1988 album Come As You Were and also appeared on a Bruce Burch collection.

“Making Everything Perfect Tonight” was penned by Rhonda Vincent, a spirited mid-tempo romp about life and one of the joys of domestic life.

“Sweet Thang” was a top five for its author Nat Stuckey in 1966; however, no one remembers Nat’s version anymore because of the spirited version done by the dynamic duo of Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn the following year. While the ET-LL version wasn’t a big radio hit, it was a popular concert favorite for years to follow. Gene doesn’t have quite the same degree of ‘rascal’ in his voice that Ernest did, but his vocals are better.

Saving the best for last, Gene and Rhonda demonstrate their blues chops on the old Hank Williams classic, “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”. The track runs over five minutes so even in the good old days, it wouldn’t have received much airplay. I referred to Gene Watson as the best male vocalist currently performing in country music today but Rhonda Vincent may be the best female vocalist in country music, although most of her efforts have been focused on bluegrass. Rhonda had a crack at becoming a mainstream country star on Giant Records back in the 1990s but was let down by the material the label foisted off on her. Carrie Underwood should listen to this track, as she could learn a lot about singing from Rhonda’s vocals on this track. Carrie has a vocal range very similar to Rhonda’s but with much less command and control of her vocal abilities.

There actually is a ‘bonus track’ on the album, a bluegrass instrumental “Ashes of Mount Augustine, featuring Michael Rojas, Stuart Duncan, Mike Johnson, Michael Rhodes and James Mitchell.

This album won’t be released until June 6, 2011. By then I will have listened to the album a couple dozen times !

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16 responses to “Album Review: Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent – ‘Your Money And My Good Looks’

  1. Occasional Hope June 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    This is one I’m really looking forward to.

  2. luckyoldsun June 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    You have this habit of making assertions of absolute facts that are at best opinions–and rather arbitrary ones, at that–but that have the affect of stopping me in my tracks when I try to read your articles. In recent months you’ve stated that Connie Smith is the genre’s best female vocalist ever; that Dallas Frazier is the best country songwriter ever (other than perhaps Haggard and Harlan Howard)and now that Gene Watson is the best male country vocalist of the last 35 years.
    Is he better than Travis? Is he better than Whitley? Is he better than Strait? Is he better than Jones (of the last 35 years)? You’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s hardly a slam-dunk fact.

    • pwdennis June 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Good grief Lucklessoldsun – what a sour outlook you have on life. Reviews are expressions of opinions and I for one will continue to express mine, although there are others who would agree with my opinions (ask Dolly Parton about Connie Smith) and there is empirical proof on Dallas Frazier given his total dominance of the country charts for a few years before going over to the ministry

      As long as I’m annoying you, I may as well go full bore:

      best hitter of all time : Ted Williams
      best basketball player of all time: Oscar Robertson
      best US Presidents of my lifetime: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan
      worst US President of my lifetime: Jimmy Carter
      best pizzain the USA: Jeno’s East in Chicago
      best sauerkraut in the USA: Bauern Stube in Orlando
      best blog on the internet: http://www.overlawyered.com
      dullest sports to watch: soccer & cricket (tie)
      prettiest State in the USA: Hawai’i
      ugliest city in the USA: Newark, NJ

      enough

      • luckyoldsun June 3, 2011 at 12:13 am

        The problem is that these are mostly random musings, rather than reasoned opinions.
        It’s safe to presume that there are hundreds of thousands of pizza shops in the U.S. that you have never eaten at; that there are thousands of cities that you have never visited (and that there are dozens of sections of Newark, NJ that you’ve never seen.) I’d also venture to bet that you have no basis whatsoever for asserting that Oscar Robertson was better than Bill Russell or Michael Jordan. There is nothing inherently more interesting about baseball than cricket. If you like and understand baseball and don’t understand cricket, baseball will be more interesting. If you like cricket and don’t understand baseball, cricket will be more interesting.

        • pwdennis June 3, 2011 at 5:11 am

          I’m a Celtics fan, loved the way Russell played the game but Oscar was a multidimentional force – he had several seasons he AVERAGED a triple double (steals and blocks weren’t tracked in his day) -for his first five seasons the average line would be 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game. I’ve lived in England, even played cricket (and rugby and soccer)

        • Razor X June 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

          You’ve never been to Newark, have you, Lucky? 😉

      • tpage6 June 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm

        I do agree with Connie Smith being the best, but none of the rest. I think luckyoldsun thinks you come off with a “in your face – don’t bother disagreeing with me cause what I say is the way it is” kind of attitude.

        There are a lot of great artist in Country Music, but one thing is for certain; Past, Present, Future, George Jones IS Country Music ! That’s “in your face FACT”

  3. Chilld28 June 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Great review!! I downloaded the single “Gone for Good” from iTunes and cant wait to hear the rest!! I heard a few of the tracks on the Opry last week when Gene and Rhonda were on it. OUTSTANDING! Rhonda laid a whipping on her vocal for “My Sweet Love Aint Around”. You cant ask for anything more than in my opinion, the two best vocalists in Nashville joining together for a duet album. ALL of country music fans should take a moment to breathe this breath of fresh air.

  4. ed June 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    cathy gosdin was vern’s first wife, not his sister…..just for the record….

    • pwdennis June 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

      I wondered about that – the reference to her being his sister came from some promotional literature I had from one of his albums. I knew Vern had an ex-wife named Cathy but didn’t know the names of any of his siblings except Rex. Vern came from a rather large family so it certainly was possible that he and Rex weren’t the only ones with some musical ability

      • ed June 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

        My wife (vern’s niece) sang around the South for years. There is alot of musical ability in that family…

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