My Kind of Country

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

Daily Archives: August 6, 2014

Classic Rewind: Kelly Willis – ‘River Of Love’

Album Review: Jack Clement – ‘For Once And For All’

for once and for allThe legendary songwriter and producer Cowboy Jack Clement, most associated with Johnny Cash and Charley Pride, was the writer of a number of classic country songs. He could also sing a bit, and shortly before his death last August aged 82, he completed an album containing his own interpretations of some of his greatest songs. The result is a reminder of just what a remarkable songwriter he was, having composed all but one of these songs completely solo, between 1958 and 1969. The production is low key and sympathetic, predominantly but not completely acoustic, with many of his musician friends and admirers taking part.

His ageing voice retains a warmth which works perfectly for ‘I’ve Got A Thing About Trains’ with its affectionate nostalgia for a slower way of life and the passing of the railway era in the US. Old friends Bobby Bare and Dickey Lee add backing vocals. ‘The Spell Of the Freight Train’, backed by Old Crow Medicine Show, is less notable as a song, but has great trains-sounds by the fiddler and Vince Gill and Tim O’Brien on backing vocals.

The lullabyish melody and rambling lyric of the lost love song ‘Baby Is Gone’ (previously recorded by Charley Pride) are charming. Bobby Bare is on backing vocals.

The classic ‘Just Between You And Me’ is an undeniably great song. Clement’s own version is not as incisive as Charley Pride’s hit version, but makes for pleasant lietening. ‘Just A Girl I Used To Know’ is another all-time classic tune, which has been recorded many times, and deservedly so. The lovely harmonies of Emmylou Harris add sweetness, while Clement’s wearied vocal works well.

Clement’s phrasing is lovely on another great song, ‘I Know One’, backed by the harmonies of Rodney Crowell and Marty Stuart. An effective reading of the dark murder ballad ‘Miller’s Cave’ has a harmony vocal from its original singer, Bobby Bare, and finger-picked guitar from John Prine.

‘The Air Conditioner Song’ is a quirky novelty number’.

‘Got Leaving On Her Mind’ is more pedestrian vocally, although guitar maestro Duane Eddy plays an atmospherically brooding accompaniment. Dierks Bentley’s backing vocal is unfortunately indistinguishable. The gloomy ‘Let The Chips Fall’ also sounds a bit flat despite Vince Gill’s harmony. ‘Fools Like Me’ (with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings on backing vocals) is quite pleasant but not very memorable.

Clement was not personally a religious man, but he sounds as if he was on the quiet confessional ‘Jesus Don’t Give Up On Me’. Bluegrass great Del McCoury and Clement’s daughter Alison sing backing vocals, while the tasteful arrangement includes faint swells of an organ.

This is a worthy tribute to the talent of one of the great country songwriters.

Grade: A