My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Sweethearts Of The Rodeo – ‘Sweethearts Of The Rodeo’

The stagename adopted by the Oliver sisters was a nod to the seminal Byrds album, and fittingly the music the duo produced in their hitmaking days was energetically sunny country rock rooted in their California background.  The distinctive booming alto of Kristine Arnold takes the lead on all their work, supported by her older sister Janis Gill (then married to Vince).  Their debut record on Columbia, halfway between an EP and a full length album with just eight tracks, was produced by Hank DeVito (who also plays steel guitar) and Steve Buckingham, and they produced a sound which was very radio friendly.  The truncated length may have short-changed purchasers, but no less than five of the eight tracks were reasonably successful singles, getting their career off to a great start.

Their effervescent and beaty debut single ‘Hey Doll Baby’ was a cover of an old R&B number previously recorded by the Everly Brothers, given a rockabilly style makeover.  It just missed the top 20, but was a sign of better things to come, with an irresistibly catchy beat making up for unremarkable lyrics.  Equally catchy, but a much better song, ‘Since I Found You’ was written by the not-yet-famous Foster & Lloyd.  A bright mid-tempo love song about a one-time partier wanting to settle down for the first time now that the protagonist has met the right person, it gave them their first top 10 hit, reaching #7 on Billboard.

The next single, ‘Midnight Girl/Sunset Town’, did a little better, peaking at #4.  It was a very good Don Schlitz song about a restless young woman who feels trapped in her small town and dreams of late nights.  Its chart run was matched by Paul Kennerley’s ‘Chains of Gold’, an excellent song about the true value of love which is my favourite track:

Chains of gold
Ruby rings
Without love
Don’t mean a thing

All I want is someone to hold
True love means more than chains of gold

In fact these two #4 hits were to prove their highest ever charting hits.

Janis wrote ‘Gotta Get Away’, a pacy number about a woman afraid to let go and fall in love in case it works out badly.  This is less memorable than their other singles, but is quite enjoyable and was another top 10 hit.  The heartbroken ‘Everywhere I Turn’, which she wrote with Michael G Joyce, has a strong vocal from Kristine and is a pretty good song, but its rushed tempo detracts from the emotions and makes it feel like filler.

‘Chosen Few’, written by John Jarvis and Don Schlitz has a syncopated jerky rhythm which doesn’t really work for me.  They finish up with the stark and stripped down ballad ‘I Can’t Resist’, written by DeVito with Rodney Crowell.  This shows they had more to offer than country-rock, and also showcases Janis’s harmonies.

This was a very promising debut by a duo with a distinctive sound, a little harder edged and less sentimental than their more successful rivals the Judds could be.  Used copies of this are available very cheaply, and it’s worth checking out.

Grade: B+

4 responses to “Album Review: Sweethearts Of The Rodeo – ‘Sweethearts Of The Rodeo’

  1. Razor X January 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

    “Midnight Girl/Sunset Town” is a real toe-tapper. I like this entire album a lot.

  2. Ken Johnson January 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Quite remarkable that an 8 cut album could spawn 5 singles and that four of them became top ten hits. Has to be one of the best batting averages ever for a brand new country act. Really loved the blend of the girl’s voices. It was a very clean & fresh sound that really stood out on the radio. Saw the Sweethearts in concert and they sounded every bit as good live as on their studio recordings.

    During the mid/late 1980’s record labels were looking for new ways to decrease the costs of launching brand new acts. Reducing the number of tracks per debut album was a popular choice. That meant less tracks to pay publishing royalties for and fewer hours in the studio recording & mixing. RCA/Curb did likewise with the debut Judds album.

  3. Pingback: Emmylou Celebrates 20 Years with the Opry; New Videos From The Roys and Josh Kelley; New Springsteen Album Drops in March - Engine 145

  4. Rick January 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    This was the only album by these gals I ever purchased as I just loved “Midnight Girl” from the first time I heard it on LA’s Top 40 country radio station in the mid 1980’s. The rest of the songs just sounded too much alike for me to bite further. I also remember about this time Vince Gill had a single on radio titled “Everybody’s Sweetheart But Mine” referring to Janice out touring with her sister! (lol)

    The Sweethearts do hold a special place in my country music heart as they are the only band I ever saw perform at the legendary Palomino Club in North Hollywood, CA (which closed around 1995). They were supporting this album as their debut release and sang every song as well as some classic country covers to fill the time. The sisters and the band sounded just as good if not better than they did on the CD! It was a weeknight, so I had to leave before they concluded, but it was a great show!

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