My Kind of Country

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

Daily Archives: April 5, 2012

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin and Janie Fricke – ‘Hangin’ On’

Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Till The End’

After releasing a pair of unsuccessful albums as a member of both The Gosdin Brothers and The Hillmen, Vern Gosdin took a sabbatical from the music business in the early 1970s, returning mid-decade with his solo debut, 1976′s Till The End, which was produced by Gary Paxton and released on Elektra Records. The album contains some remakes of his earlier work, including his debut single “Hangin’ On”, which included harmony vocals by Emmylou Harris. The remake outperformed the original 1967 Gosdin Brothers version on the charts, giving Vern his first Top 20 single. Perhaps encouraged by this success, Elektra opted to release another track that included Harris, “Yesterday’s Gone”, which cracked the Top 10, peaking at #9.

Although uncredited, future country Janie Fricke supplied the harmony vocals on several of the album’s remaining tracks, including “Till The End”, which was another Gosdin Brothers remake that Vern wrote, “Mother Country Music”, and “It Started All Over Again”. All of these were released as singles, peaking at #7, #17, and #23 respectively.

Gosdin is largely remembered today as one of the standard bearers of traditional country music, and though Till The End is rootsy by 1970s standards, it is still very much a product of its time, with pop flourishes such as lush string arrangements which sound somewhat dated today. “The Chokin’ Kind” (a Harlan Howard tune), “Answers To My Questions” and “We Make Beautiful Music Together” are all firmly in the 1970s pop-country mold. He covers Roberta Flack’s 1972 pop hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, with Janie Fricke once again providing background vocals. The song has never been one of my favorites, but I have to admit that Gosdin and Fricke do a very nice job on it, even if the result isn’t even remotely country.

I have a tendency to prefer album cuts over singles, but in this particular case I think the label made the right call when choosing the singles. “Yesterday’s Gone”, “Till The End”, “Mother Country Music” and “It Started All Over Again” are all timeless classics. “Hangin’ On” is decent, but it’s one of the tracks that hasn’t aged particularly well. I would have liked to have heard Vern redo this song with more up-to-date production.

I’m more familiar with Vern’s 80s work from his years with Columbia and tend to have a soft spot for the music he made during that era, but Till The End was a fine debut from one of country music’s finest and underrated vocalists. Though it was out of print for a long time, it has recently been reissued on CD along with the two albums that followed it, 1978′s Never My Love and 1979′s You’ve Got Somebody. All three albums are available on a single disc and can be purchased from Amazon.

Grade: A-

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