My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Gene Watson – ‘Old Loves Never Die’

oldlovesAlthough his name is rarely mentioned as one of the leaders of the New Traditionalist movement, Gene Watson was among the relatively small number of artists that stayed true to country music’s roots while the rest of the genre was deeply entrenched in Urban Cowboy pop. 1981’s Old Loves Never Die was about as out of touch with the mainstream trends of the day as it could get, and was as tradtional as the music that Ricky Skaggs and George Strait — two artists usually named as the era’s holdouts against the trend toward pop — were making at the time.

Co-produced by Gene with Russ Reeder, Old Loves Never Die wasn’t a huge seller — it peaked at #57 on the albums chart — but it has the distinction of producing two of his best remembered hits, “Speak Softly (You’re Talking To My Heart)” and “Fourteen Carat Mind”, his only chart-topper. The latter, which was written by the great Dallas Frazier with Larry Lee, was released in October and reached #1 in January 1982. It spent 19 weeks on the chart altogether. “Speak Softly” wasn’t quite as big a hit, but it still charted at a respectable #9.

In keeping with the standard practice of the time, only two singles were released from the album. “Fourteen Carat Mind” and “Speak Softly” are hands down the album’s two best songs, but I also quite liked the title track, which could easily have been another hit single, and “Nothing About Her Reminds Me of You”, which is sort of in the same vein as Merle Haggard’s “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” — the protagonist has moved on to a new relationship and though his new partner may not be the love of his life, at least she isn’t breaking his heart the way his ex did.

Although I enjoyed all ten of the album’s songs, the production is a bit dated on some of its ballads. The vocal choruses are more restrained here than on some of Watson’s earlier projectes, but the keyboard arrangements on “Till Melinda Comes Around”, “Lonely Me” and “The Sun Never Comes Up” betray the album’s age.

Unfortunately, Old Loves Never Die has never been released on compact disc or as a digital download. Used vinyl copies are available, but most modern music fans probably won’t hear this album in its entirety until one of the European reissue labels decide to dust it off and give it another chance in the marketplace. If and when that happens, it’s worth picking up a copy.

Grade: A –

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