My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘This Ain’t My First Rodeo’

This peaked at #14 in 1990:

Album Review – Vern Gosdin – ‘Back In The Swing of Things’

Back In The Swing of Things was originally released in 1998 as The Voice. It was repackaged and released under its new title in 2004. Since Gosdin was long out of the spotlight by then, the album didn’t produce any singles and failed to chart. It would also mark his final album release as he passed away in 2009.

The twelve-song album opens with the title track, a delightful western swing number that finds Gosdin in a barroom to recover from a break-up only to get over his sorrows when he hears his song on the jukebox.  I love the production on this song, a peppy mix of fiddles, steel guitar, and upright bass. A departure from the ballads he usually prefers, “Back In The Swing of Things” offers a nice change of pace.

Another track in this same vein is “Chip Off The Chip Off The Old Block,” a number finding Gosdin declaring he’s country “From My Hat back to my White Socks” and comparing himself to George Jones and Merle Haggard.  Lofty comparisons aside, it’s a catchy little tune. The fiddle and steel provide a nice bounce and help the listener engage with the otherwise inane lyrical content. I understand the intent he was going for here, but he shouldn’t have to try this hard to prove his worth, especially after recording “Chiseled In Stone.”

The album also has two songs with distinct 90s style production. “Fire In Our Bedroom” is a typical Gosdin cheating song but with a twist – he and his girl are fine; it’s everyone else who’s sleeping around. “Maybe Then I’ll Be Over You” should’ve been great, but the somewhat creepy hook – “when they lay me six feet under, maybe then I’ll be over you” leaves me kind of cold. But the Diamond Rio-esque arrangements make both songs highly listenable and fresh sounding.

On Back In The Swing of Things Gosdin appears to be making an effort to keep his production modern and in turn those choices keep the album from sounding dated. But he doesn’t stray too far from his wheelhouse either as he proves with “Baby, That’s Cold” a traditional ballad led by heavy steel guitar. Much like George Strait’s “You Can’t Make A Heart Love Somebody,” we have a woman telling her man she never really cared about him in the first place. The production is perfectly placed here but the chorus is lacking in substance – he mentions how her admission hurts him, but he never gets to the heart of his true pain. Nevertheless, “Baby, That’s Cold” is still a beautiful song to listen to.

“How Can I Believe In You When You’ll be leaving Me” and “I Know What Its Like (To Be Alone)” are also in Gosdin’s classic style of songs with relationships on the rocks. Both, though, are in different stages of breakup – in the former, the relationship is nearly over while in the latter he’s been alone for more than two years. Both songs are okay, but can’t match the power of “Baby, That’s Cold.” If I had to choose, I like “How Can I Believe In You When You’ll be leaving Me” better because of its barroom setting and more moody production.

Thrown in for good measure, are two covers of excellent country songs. “Would These Arms Be In Your Way” was a #36 peaking single for Keith Whitley in 1987 and the lead from his Don’t Close Your Eyes album. Gosdin treats the song differently than Whitley does, with a fiddle-laced arrangement. In a side-by-side comparison, I like Gosdin’s version better as it feels more easygoing. He also seems to perform the song with just a bit more conviction.

The other cover, “A Picture Of Me (Without You),” is one of four duets with the vocalist LaDonna Kay, a Bluegrass and country singer. Already familiar with the Jones, Connie Smith, and Lorrie Morgan versions of the song, I had never heard it as a duet. Compared with Morgan’s version (of which I’m most familiar), Gosdin puts a contemporary spin on the arrangement that comes off too modern for my tastes. But Kay has a good voice and gives the track an extra dose of flavor, which I like.

The other three duets with Kay are just as good. From a production standpoint, “Let’s Don’t and Say We Did” is easily the warmest and most inviting. “Streets of Gold,” a song about Heaven, uses fiddles to help it ease along, and “We Must’ve Been Out Of Our Minds” showcases the blending of their voices to stunning effect.

Overall, Back In The Swing of Things is a very enjoyable album from Gosdin. He found (and co-wrote) some great songs, and the addition of Kay as a duet partner gave the album an added dimension. I highly recommend this to anyone willing to seek it out; unfortunately it’s out of print.

Grade: A-


Classic Rewind – Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea – “Someday Soon”

Originally sung by Ian and Sylvia in 1962 and Judy Collins in 1969, “Someday Soon” crossed over to the country charts in 1982 when Moe Bandy turned it into a #21 peaking hit. Suzy Bogguss then recorded it for her Aces album from which it was a single in 1991. Bogguss had the most successful version of the song, peaking at #12.

Here is a rare duet version of “Someday Soon” from Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea taken from an old John Denver Christmas special in the early 90s. This version was never made available which is a shame:

Week ending 4/28/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: (When You Feel Like You’re In Love) Don’t Just Stand There — Carl Smith (Columbia)

1962: Charlie’s Shoes — Billy Walker (Columbia)

1972: Chantilly Lace — Jerry Lee Lewis (Mercury)

1982: Crying My Heart Out Over You — Ricky Skaggs (Epic)

1992: There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio — Aaron Tippin (RCA)

2002: My List — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2012: Drink On It — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

Classic Rewind: Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter – ‘I Ain’t The One’

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Nickels And Dimes And Love’

Vern’s days of major chart success were about over by the time Nickels and Dimes and Love was released in March 1993, not surprisingly for an artist 58 years old. Although the hits had largely stopped, the excellent recordings continued in abundance. This album has a little different history behind it than Vern’s other Columbia releases as producer Rick Hall took Vern to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record this album.

Vern had been off the charts for over a year when Columbia released ”Back When” as a single. Since the single only reached #67, Columbia gave up on Vern. Without major label backing, there would be no more chart singles for Vern Gosdin, and no more major label albums, except for various hit collections.

The album opens with the title track, a nostalgic look at the early years of a successful relationship, when times were tough and money was in short supply. This song falls in the usual medium-slow groove that Gosdin favored. The song may be familiar to some as a track on John Michael Montgomery’s Life’s A Dance album.

Remember when pocket change was all we had
And all those calls from the corner phone booth collect to mom and dad
And that old worn out couch was called our bed
When our cuisine was pork and beans, baloney and day old bread.

Remember that damn old car that kept on breaking down
And all the times it left me stranded thumbing all over town
And that old weekly paycheck just never stretched enough
Back in the times of nickels and dimes and love.

Although not a hit, the Hugh Prestwood-penned “Back When” was an excellent song, yet another nostalgic look back, but this time at a relationship that is struggling. I’m not sure that the song ever would have been a huge hit, but it likely would have been a top twenty record had it been released a few years earlier. Tempo of the song would be described as medium fast and a banjo is discernable along with outstanding fiddle and steel guitar.

Back when these cloudy hearts were sunny skies
And there were stars, not teardrops in these eyes
We wouldn’t even let the moon get blue
Darling I swear we need to get back to – back when

“Where The Tall Grass Grows” follows up the theme of looking back, this time on a relationship, his own, that is over. This song would be recorded by several artists, including George Jones and Ricky Van Shelton.

There’s three bedrooms, hardwood flooring and the kitchen’s new
It’s got everything a family needs with a backyard view
Ask anyone where it is, everybody knows
Who used to live here, where the tall grass grows.

The first three songs were all outside material. We now come to the first of five songs Vern co-wrote. Jukeboxes were, at one time, a frequent topic of country songs. The year 1993 saw two such songs chart in Doug Supernaw’s excellent “Honky Tonkin’ Fool” (a song that deserved better than being marooned at #50) and Joe Diffie’s “Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox” (it reached #3). Vern’s nice medium-tempo ballad , “Bury Me In A Jukebox”, would have made a good single release as it is a better song than either the Diffie or Supernaw songs.

I’ve been hangin’ in here every night since you’ve been gone
This old honky tonk’s become my home away from home
I even got my favorite chair
It always sits right here
There by the jukebox, where I don’t feel so alone
Every time I put my money in
I hear the saddest song
My friends on the jukebox don’t mind if I sing along

So bury me in a jukebox when I die
Every time I think of her I get so lonesome I could cry
And it takes me up to heaven when they play made in heaven
Bury me in a jukebox when I die

Another piece of  outside material, this time from the trio of Auldridge, Nicholson and Trils,  “Any Old Miracle” is another slow ballad, this one of a distressed man asking God for a small miracle, this miracle in the form of some help in forgetting a lost love.

It’s late, and I sure do hate to bother you
But I know you’re the only one
Who knows what I’ve been goin’ through
It’s her, keepin’ me up all night again
And Lord I just had to call on you
To ask a favor of a friend
Any ol’ miracle that you could send me down
Don’t go to too much trouble Lord
What ever you might have around
‘Cause I’m never gettin’ over her
Without some help from you
I’m gonna need a miracle
Any ol’ miracle will do

“I Like My Country Music Kinda Rock”, another Vern co-write, is a bit disingenuous, since I’ve seen little evidence that Vern ever had much rock in his soul. This song would be best described as up-tempo country, with very country instrumentation. I really like the song and feel it might have made a good single.

“Two Good People With a Love Gone Bad” is a fine duet with Janie Fricke. Written by Vern Gosdin, Buddy Cannon and Dean Dillon, this slow ballad shows just how good a duet can sound when a pair of excellent, compatible voices are paired up.

Vern’s composition “What Are We Gonna Do About Me” attempts to show the perspective of a the child in divorce proceedings. The perspective of the child is a sad perspective, no doubt, when the topic is divorce. My folks were married for 54 years so it’s not a matter I personally ever had to face. “Gone in a Heartbeat” is another slow ballad provided by other writers. A cautionary ballad about taking someone for granted.

“Better Time to Say Goodbye” reunites songwriters Cannon, Dillon and Gosdin, and closes the album with a sad slow ballad, this one detailing the final act of the break-up.

Few artists have ever exited a record label with such an exquisite album. The album is a bit of a downer, but there’s not a song on the album that I don’t like. I really loved the duet with Janie Fricke but I don’t think there is just one standout track. Vern is in great voice throughout, and the accompaniment is solid country throughout. While I think Vern was still officially signed to the label for another year or two, Columbiawould issue no further albums of new material.  I would give this album a solid “A” – if you want to give it an A+, I won’t argue.

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘That Just About Does It’

Single Review – George Strait – ‘Drinkin’ Man’

I remember reading someone criticize George Strait’s foray into songwriting, saying that he’ll likely never be introspective or pen anything substantive. That was back in 2009, three years before he’d release one of the finest story songs of his career with “Drinkin’ Man,” a tune co-written with his son Bubba and Dean Dillon.

“Drinkin’ Man” succeeds on two distinct fronts – Strait’s storytelling abilities and the raw honesty conveyed within the story, cumulating in the stunning hook, “It’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man.” With so many modern country songs romanticizing the partying lifestyle, down to the endless tailgate parties, scantily clad women, and overflowing Red Solo Cups, its refreshing to hear a drinking song that tackles the ravaging effects of alcoholism in such an honest manner.

The song begins with the male protagonist at the age of 14, drunk by 10am despite a pack with God to never again bring the bottle to his lips. He’s already in trouble – keeping his addiction from his parents and ignoring the advice from his friends to straighten up – but the tall order of sobriety is just too much to bear:

I just laughed, said, you don’t understand

That’s a hell of a lot to ask a drinkin’ man

The addiction escalates in the next verse, finding him at 16, on his own, with the whole world figured out. The wild child, he’s causing concern for his parents and has even added marijuana to his drug cocktail. At the end of the verse Strait brilliantly puts everything back into perspective, as another brush with sobriety comes up short:

 Stayed sober once for nine days in a row

I quit cold turkey and damn near almost made it to ten

But that’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man

“Drinkin’ Man” brings to mind that other brilliant tale of alcoholism, Collin Raye’s 1994 #2 “Little Rock” (written by Tom Douglas) but goes a step further by making the pain of alcohol the focus opposed to spending so much time focusing on what the man has lost as a result. It’s the better song because of that slight switch, which comes to light in the chorus, the most stunning display of self-reflection you’ll likely hear all year on a mainstream single:

I look into the mirror, bottle in my hand

I’d like to pour it out, I just don’t think I can

‘Cause that’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man

After that emotional zenith, he falls in love and almost gets his life together but like any great country song, the temptation of the bottle is too much to ignore. We never find out what became of the man but that hardly matters as Strait has crafted one of his greatest achievements with this song, the depths of which knows no bounds. It’s so nice to see the last of the elder statesmen able to score huge radio singles, using their platform to deliver age appropriate and thought-provoking material worthy of their legacy. It’s going to be tough to push this up the charts in the summer months, but if anyone can get this single to masses its Strait.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind – Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie and Porter Wagoner – ‘Can I Trust You With My Heart’

Here’s a Grand Ole Opry performance of Travis Tritt’s #1 single from early 1993. The original version can be found on his T-R-O-U-B-L-E album. It was the second single from that project:

Album Review – Vern Gosdin – ‘Out Of My Heart’

Released in 1991 on Columbia, Out Of My Heart was Gosdin’s final album to chart reaching a peak of #41. It wasn’t the overwhelming success of his late 80s efforts and only managed to produce three low-charting singles.

The album was led by “I Knew My Day Would Come,” which reached a peak of #64 in 1991. A gorgeous mandolin-soaked mid-tempo ballad, the song tells the story of a downtrodden man who has nothing to his name but the eternal optimism that his circumstances are going to turn around. The effortless ease of Gosdin’s delivery helps make this a winner and it’s a bit disappointing it wasn’t a bigger hit.

Second single, “The Garden” would fare a little better, peaking at #51. It’s less commercial than the lead single, with the heavy steel guitar working against Gosdin’s thin vocal. The story of a man returning home to his wife in the garden of heaven is good but isn’t enough to have connected with radio listeners in 1991.

The third and finale single, “A Month of Sundays,” peaked at #54. It’s a honky-tonk inspired tune perfectly in keeping with the traditionalist sounds of country radio at the time. The song tells the classic tale of someone partying a little too hard on Saturday night thus needing a month of Sundays to recover. It’s very good, although, the arrangement is a bit stiff for my tastes and the overall recording hasn’t aged well in more than 21 years.

The remaining tracks continue in the same vein as the three singles, bringing in a nice mix of traditional country sounds. Its easy to see why this album wasn’t a huge success since its hard not to feel like Gosdin was just a bit out of touch with the overall feeling of country music at the time. He still had that same great voice, but his music wasn’t warm and inviting in a way that would draw in listeners hearing the youthful exuberance of Trisha Yearwood and Diamond Rio for the first time.

Of the album tracks, the only real standout is “Love Will Keep Your Hand On The Wheel,” a trucker driver’s lament detailing lonely nights on the road and the focus love gives a person to push through in pursuit of home. The moody accompaniment perfectly captures the late-night essence of the song.

Overall, Out Of My Heart isn’t a bad album, just one in need of a jolt of energy. The sound was becoming a bit dated by 1991 as the new traditionalist movement was making way for the commercial boom of the 90s. But even though the album is out of print, the tracks are still worth checking out and can easily be found on YouTube.

Grade: B 

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris – ‘She’

Emmylou Harris sings a song co-written by her mentor Gram Parsons with Chris Ethridge (1947-2012), the country rock musician who died yesterday:

Album Review: Marty Raybon – ‘Southern Roots & Branches (Yesterday & Today)’

Barely weeks after his last album release, the enjoyable religious record Hand To The Plow, ex-Shenandoah singer Marty Raybon has come up with a mainly secular bluegrass-based effort which is even better than the latter.  He produced it himself and has done a fine job.  A variety of pickers were used, with an average of four players of any given instrument across the album (but no detailed breakdown by track)but the end result is very cohesive, sparklingly performed bluegrass with Marty’s distinctive, warm voice taking center stage.  Marty sounds great again, and the songs are all pretty good, with an overarching theme of the past.

A nice cover of the Rodney Crowell-penned Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s nostalgic hit ‘Long Hard Road (Sharecropper’s Dream)’, with particularly pleasing fiddle, is a highlight, and Marty is entirely convincing singing of a childhood in poverty but a happy one.

The religious focus is not completely abandoned.  Marty actually co-wrote the joyfully urgent gospel of ‘Get Up In Jesus’ Name’, which Lee Ann Womack recorded on her debut album in the 90s, and here he gives his own reading, which is very good (although I would still just give the edge to the earlier recording).  An absolutely beautifully sung close-harmony ballad, ‘Beulah Land’ is another religious number, and there is an enjoyable cover of the bright mid-tempo ‘Prayer Bells Of Heaven’, written by bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin and Buck White (member of the Whites and father in law of Ricky Skaggs).

Bluegrass heritage gets several nods with interesting revivals of generally lesser-known songs.  Bill Monroe’s ‘Rocky Road Blues’ rhythmically melds blues and bluegrass, while ‘White House Blues’, another Monroe song, taken at a frenetic pace, takes on a political theme – but neither a contemporary one nor a controversial one.  It wasn’t even contemporary when Monroe recorded it in 1954, as it deals with the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley and his replacement in the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.  Lyrically, it seems an odd choice to revive, but musically it sounds very good.  ‘Down The Road’ is a Flatt & Scruggs song which is bouncily enjoyable, and Jimmy Martin’s vivacious up-tempo ‘Home Run Man’ rather engagingly uses baseball as the metaphor for a man courting his love interest.

Marty also pays heed to his personal musical heritage by redoing a couple of Shenandoah hits.  The melodic ‘Ghost in This House’ is lovely, and ‘Next To You, Next To Me’ is also well done, but both are probably inessential if you have the original recordings.

If there is an emphasis on ‘yesterday’, the ‘today’ of the album’s sub-title is represented by a couple of new songs.  The plaintive mid-tempo ‘Big Pain’ is an excellent new song written by Marty with Billy Droze and John Fountain.  It bemoans a lost love, causing a pain which hurts so much more than physical injuries.  ‘Dirt Road Heartache’, a mid-tempo heartbreak bluegrass song written by Melissa Peirce and Jerry Salley, is also new and very good.

I am slightly puzzled as to why these two albums have been released quite so close together (and both on Rural Rhythm imprints), yet not quite simultaneously, as there must be a risk that one or the other will get overlooked.  But the music on this second album is flawless, and the song selection makes its potential market wider than its companion.  It really is well worth hearing if you like Marty’s singing, or bluegrass in general.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘I’m Still Crazy’

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Chiseled In Stone’

The New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s returned traditional sounds to the country music radio airwaves and launched the careers of many new artists, but for the most part it did little to revive the flagging careers of veteran artists. Vern Gosdin was a notable exception; in 1987 he got a second shot at a major label deal when he inked a deal with Columbia — something that would never happen today to a 54-year-old singer with inconsistent chart success.

Vern’s first release for Columbia was 1988’s Chiseled In Stone, which was produced by Bob Montgomery. It contained ten tracks, nine of which were co-written by Vern, along with of some of Nashville’s finest songsmiths, including Hank Cochran, Max D. Barnes, and Dean Dillon. Up to this time, Vern had garnered a lot of critical acclaim and the respect of his peers, but now he finally began to enjoy a level of commercial success as well. His first Columbia single “Do You Believe Me Now”, released in late 1987, reached #4, becoming his first Top 10 record since 1984’s “Slow Burning Memory”. The protagonist in this dark tune has split with his ex. He’s told her in the past that he can’t live without her, and when he runs into her again by chance after hitting rock bottom, asks her, “Do you believe me now?” Imagine a story like that being told on country radio today. It was followed by what is perhaps his best-known hit, “Set ‘Em Up, Joe”, a tune he wrote with Cochran, Dillon, and Buddy Cannon. This one went all the way to #1, becoming the second chart-topper of his career (the first was 1984’s “I Can Tell By The Way You Dance”). The album’s third single was the album’s magnificent title track, which Gosdin wrote with Max D. Barnes. It tells the story of a quarreling couple; the husband storms out in anger and heads for the nearest bar to drown his sorrows. While there, he encounters a wiser and older man whose wife has died, and who helps the protagonist put things into perspective. Kenny Chesney would later revisit this theme, much less effectively, with 2002’s “The Good Stuff.” “Chiseled In Stone” only reached #6, but it should have gone all the way to #1.

Columbia released one more single in early 1989, “Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time”, which peaked at #2. In addition, there is a treasure trove among the album tracks, including “Is It Raining At Your House”, which was recently covered by Brad Paisley, a Western swing number called “Tight As Twin Fiddles”, “Nobody Calls From Vegas Just To Say Hello”, and “It’s Not Over, Yet” which isn’t my favorite track on the album, but is a close second behind “Chiseled In Stone”.

Chiseled In Stone was certified gold, proving that Vern could deliver the commercial, as well as the critical goods. It also served as testimony in an increasingly youth-obsessed industry, that an older artist could still make relevant, commercially viable music. It is this phase of Vern’s career with which I am most familiar, and it is his music from this era that I listen to most often. This is a beautifully crafted album without a single weak track. It deserves a place in every country fan’s collection. it is available digitally at a uncharacteristically ridiculous price from Amazon MP3 or at a much more reasonable price from iTunes. However, inexpensive new or used CD copies are the most economical choice for acquiring this fine album.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind: Gary Stewart – ‘Drinkin’ Thing’

Week ending 4/21/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: (When You Feel Like You’re In Love) Don’t Just Stand There — Carl Smith (Columbia)

1962: She’s Got You — Patsy Cline (Decca)

1972: My Hang-up Is You — Freddie Hart (Capitol)

1982: The Clown — Conway Twitty (Elektra)

1992: There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With The Radio — Aaron Tippin (RCA)

2002: My List — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2012: A Woman Like You — Lee Brice (Curb)

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘Set ‘Em Up Joe’

Classic Rewind: Connie Smith, Sharon White and Barbara Fairchild pay tribute to the Louvin Brothers – ‘My Baby’s Gone’

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Time Stood Still’

Vern’s final studio album for Compleat was released in 1985. Produced by Vern with Robert John Jones, a songwriter probably best known for the Kendalls’ big hit ‘Thank God For The Radio’, the sound is more subtle and less dated than his previous albums. There are still some string arrangements, but far less prominent than before, while Vince Gill and Beverly Gosdin (who was, I believe, Vern’s wife at the time) provide backing vocals.

Sadly, Time Stood Still was not nearly as successful as its predecessors. The lead single, an emotive and completely convincing cover of the heartbreak honky tonk classic ‘Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)’ with great harmonies and piercing fiddle, peaked at a disappointing #20. Country radio was just beginning to be more receptive to traditional sounds than it had been in the past few years, but this record may have come just a little too soon.

The mid-tempo ‘I Know The Way To You By Heart’ was the record’s only other top 40 hit. It is a drifter’s wistful reminiscence and decision to go home (possibly addressed to mother rather than lover), and is a good song if not in Vern’s trademark style:

I’ve slept in some cars and I’ve slept in some bars
And I’ve slept in the arms of some fast falling stars
But there ain’t been one dream that’s come true
Since I left home, since I left you

In the cold just one memory is warm
And in the dark just one light comes on
Though I’m lost there’s one thing I’ve found
I know the way to you
I know the way to you by heart

I know what I’m feeling for you is real
Like the palm of my hand on this old steering wheel
And I’m still on the road I’ve come down
But thanks to you I’m homeward bound

While it wasn’t a big hit, the single did make Billboard writer Edward Morris’s list of the ten best of that year.

The three last singles all performed dismally and well below their deserts, perhaps because Vern was about to jump ship and the label to fold. The simple but beautifully interpreted ballad ‘It’s Only Love Again’ is something of a hidden gem, written by Tim Krekel. ‘Was It Just The Wine’ has Vern anxiously questioning whether his new love was just a drunken fling or rebound, and is another superb vocal on an excellent song, written by Vern with Buddy Cannon.

Was it just a memory of someone before you telling me we’re through?
Did I hold your body close to mine?
Did we make promises till the end of time?
Did we fall in love?
Or was it just the wine?

Finally, the absolutely lovely title track (penned by co-producer Jones) has an understated vocal and perfectly judged phrasing about the complete devastation of true love turned to heartbreak:

You made my heart complete
Then broke it at my feet
Time stood still
When you said goodbye

And now the seasons don’t change
The days have no names
Today’s like yesterday
I lean on the wine
But your memory, like time,
Baby, won’t slip away

To get you off my mind
Just takes a little time
Baby, time stood still
When you said goodbye

Beverly comes in effectively echoing Vern in the last chorus in the same style as Janie Fricke’s work with him. This is a stunning performance which stands up well against Vern’s classics and really didn’t deserve to be ignored by country radio.

‘For A Minute There’ is another excellent song with a melancholic feel song along the same lines as his later ‘Alone’, if not quite as intense. Written by Max D Barnes with Beverly, it has the protagonist briefly imagining losing a lover, with a beautifully measured, precise vocal:

For a minute there I thought my world was ending
For a minute there I thought you said goodbye

‘What A Price I’ve Paid’ is even better, a mournful, steel-laced lost love ballad written by Vern and Max D Barnes which stands comparison with Vern’s best work. A lovelorn Vern just can’t take his friends’ advice to move on:

If time does the healing
It ain’t done a thing for me yet
They say that love is life
And I guess they’re right this time
I nearly lost my mind when I lost you
And I was so afraid I’d never find my way
God, what a price I’ve paid to love you

‘Rainbows And Roses’ is a pretty sounding but lyrically unremarkable and slightly old fashioned love song, written by Max D Barnes and Rayburn Anthony. The mid-tempo ‘Two Lonely Hearts (Out Of Hand)’, written by Vern with Buddy Cannon and producer Robert John Jones, is about a couple falling in love with a girl met in a bar room, dancing to the jukebox, and Vern has a bit of a growl adding bite.

The hymn ‘Jesus Hold My Hand was repeated from If Jesus Comes Tomorrow ( What Then)?, Vern’s Christian album released on Compleat in 1984. It’s not as good as the title track of the latter, and feels a bit out of place here, but is a pleasant enough listening experience with solid piano-led backing and churchy backing vocals.

Vern’s relative lack of commercial success at this time was countered by the respect of his peers and the industry. He may have been in his fifties and have enjoyed a relatively low-level career to date, but he was soon to get a new opportunity with Columbia. Time Stood Still has been overlooked as it produced no big hits, and is overshadowed by its successor, which was to bring Vern an unexpected late career boost and some of the finest country music ever recorded. However, on its own merits there is some great stuff here. It was re-released on American Harvest and later on Vern’s own VGM Records in 1998, so is easy to find.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘Do You Believe Me Now?’