My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: November 2015

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘She’s Gone, Gone, Gone’

Glen Campbell’s last top 10 hit came with this cover tune:

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Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Ghost On The Canvas’

Glen_Campbell_-_Ghost_on_the_CanvasGlen Campbell was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. He was in the process of recording his sixty-first, and now final, studio album at the time. The California based Serfdog Records released Ghost On The Canvas in late summer 2011. The record was produced by Julian Raymond and Howard Willing and was accompanied by a farewell tour the next year. Ghost On The Canvas was intended as a companion piece to his previous album Meet Glen Campbell.

Campbell and Raymond co-wrote seven of the album’s eighteen tracks. The eerie ballad “A Better Place” is an autobiographical conversation with the lord regarding his failing body. “A Thousand Lifetimes” is a mid-tempo rocker about the many iterations of life.

The pair’s remaining co-writes focus on different emotions regarding Campbell’s wife, Kim. “It’s Your Amazing Grace” is a love song while “Strong” is a declaration of his undying vow to always be there for her. “There’s No Me…With You” concerns the afterlife and his desire not to be alone. Campbell understands the pain he’s causing on “What I Wouldn’t Give,” a deeply reflective heartbreaker about not wanting to see his wife in so much emotional pain.

Roger Joseph Manning, Jr was the album’s other main writer, contributing six solely written haunting instrumentals. “The Billstown Crossroads,” “Second Street North,” “May 21, 1969,” and “Wild and Waste” are all similar in length and sonic structure. “Valley of the Son” is somewhat creepy, with the sounds of children playing in the background. “The Rest is Silence” isn’t any variation on the others, but does have some ‘ooohs’ tucked into the music bed.

Paul Westerberg, lead vocalist for The Replacements, contributed two tracks of his own. The esoteric title track, an ethereal ballad, was the only promotional single from the album. “Any Trouble” is a mid-tempo rocker about a husband’s consideration towards his wife in his final months.

Two famous rock star sons supplied tracks reminiscent of the material Campbell recorded in his 1960s heyday. Richard Thompson’s son Teddy wrote “In My Arms” while Bob Dylan’s son Jakob composed “Nothing But the Whole Wide World.” Both tracks are very, very good.

Robert Pollard wrote “Hold on Hope” and it’s the most lyrically sweeping of the album’s tracks. The lyric keeps the focus on Campbell’s struggles but broadens to say we all ‘hold on to hope’ at one point or another in our lives.

It wouldn’t be a farewell album from Glen Campbell without at least one song written by Jimmy Webb. “Wish You Were Here” is a messy ballad about a man writing letters home to his family while visiting Rome, Paris and London. The lyric is strong, and was originally titled “Postcard From Paris” but was changed for this album.

Ghost On The Canvas is a strange hodgepodge of an album that contains a little bit of everything. I quite enjoyed the actual songs and found Campbell to still be in very strong voice. I could’ve done without the instrumentals.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Me And Jesus’

Week ending 11/28/15: #1 singles this week in country music history

dicky11955 (Sales): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Jukebox): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Disc Jockeys): Love, Love, Love — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1965: May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose — Little Jimmy Dickens (Columbia)

1975: Rocky — Dickey Lee (RCA)

1985: I’ll Never Stop Loving You — Gary Morris (Warner Bros.)

1995: Check Yes or No — George Strait (MCA)

2005: Better Life — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2015: Tennessee Whiskey — Chris Stapleton (Mercury)

2015 (Airplay): I’m Comin’ Over — Chris Young (RCA)

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Still Within The Sound Of My Voice’

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell and Steve Wariner – ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (Rules The World)’

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Meet Glen Campbell’

meet glen campbellMeet Glen Campbell was Glen’s first album of new secular music since 1999’s My Hits and Love Songs, which was a two disc set with one disc being a greatest hits collection and the other disc new recordings representing Glen’s takes on various pop hits and pop standards of the previous decades. Before that the last Glen Campbell album of truly new material had been Somebody Like That, which was released in 1993.

The standard release of Meet Glen Campbell contained ten tracks from a variety of sources.

The album opens up with “Sing”, a song written by Francis Healy that was a global hit for Healy’s indie rock band Travis. It is a very uplifting song that Campbell sings well

Baby, you’ve been going so crazy
Lately, nothing seems to be going right
So low, why do you have to get so low
You’re so, you’ve been waiting in the sun too long
But if you sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing
For the love you bring won’t mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing

This is followed by a pair of Tom Petty compositions in “Walls” and “Angel Dreams”. The arrangement of Walls” at times reminds me of “Galveston” with its heavy use of orchestral arrangements (the intro particularly reminds me of “Galveston”. “Angel Dreams” has a more acoustic arrangement with banjo evident in the arrangement.

“Times Like These” was a hit for a band called The Foo Fighters I’m not very familiar with the Foo Fighters but if the rest of their lyrics are this good, I will need to check them out. This is a heavily orchestrated track reminiscent of Al De Lory’s work:

I, I’m a one way motorway
I’m the one that drives away
Then follows you back home
I, I’m a street light shining
I’m a wild light blinding bright
Burning off alone
It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

“These Days” is an old Jackson Browne song from the late 1960s, that Browne recorded for his second solo album back in 1973. This track has less orchestration that “Times Like These”. I’ve never been a big Jackson Browne fan but I’ve always liked this song.

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days,
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

Next up is a pretty ballad from, the pen of Paul Westerberg, “Sadly Beautiful”, I’m guessing that I hear a viola in the arrangement, but I could be wrong.

“All I Want Is You” from U2’s album Rattle and Hum. I do not like U2 at all but I do like Glen’s recording of their song. Again, this sounds like an Al De Lory arrangement.

You say you want
Diamonds on a ring of gold
You say you want
Your story to remain untold

But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you

I don’t normally think of Lou Reed (Velvet Underground) as writing religious material, but “Jesus” is an excellent song, one that I can easily see as appealing to Campbell.

Jesus
Help me find my proper place
Jesus
Help me find my proper place

Help me in my weakness
‘Cos I’m falling out of grace
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus
Help me find my proper place
Jesus
Help me find my proper place

Help me in my weakness
‘Cos I’m falling out of grace
Jesus, Jesus

Billy Joe Armstrong wrote “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Glen’s version here features some nice mandolin work by George Doering.

The standard version of the album closes with a John Lennon song “Grow Old With Me”, a song intended for release on an album Lennon never got to make. Glen’s vocals are spot on, but I feel that the instrumental accompaniment should have been a little more subdued. Some things require time to fully appreciate. I am now 63 years old and my wife and I have been married for forty years. These lyrics mean much more to me today than they did when first I heard them.

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
God bless our love
God bless our love

Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
God bless our love
God bless our love

The Limited Edition, available only at Walmart, featured some remixes of some earlier hits, notably “Gentle On My Mind”, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and “Rhinestone Cowboy”. The remixes are very good and do no violence to the originals.

This album features an update version of the Al De Lory sound that propelled Campbell to stardom in the late 1960s. Although I prefer De Lory’s arranglements, producers Julian Raymond and Howard Willing did an admirable job of replicating and updating the De Lory sound. De Lory was still alive when these tracks were recorded in 2008 (he was then 78 years old) – I wonder what he thought of this album.

This album introduced (or re-introduced) me to a group of songwriters that previously I had overlooked or ignored.

I would give this album an A-

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘(Love Always) Letter To Home’

Fellow Travelers – Jimmie Rodgers

jimmie rodgersJimmie Rodgers was an American pop singer who had considerable success on the pop and country charts during the 1950s. Although not related to Jimmie Rodgers (the “Singing Brakeman”), the most famous country singer of the 1920s and 1930s, this Jimmie Rodgers was born in 1933, the same year that his namesake passed away.

Who Was He?

Starting in 1957, Jimmie Rodgers had a three year run of enormous pop success with several of his songs receiving heavy country airplay. In 1957 “Honeycomb” went #1 on the pop and R&B charts and its follow-up “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” went #3 pop and #8 R&B. In 1958 Jimmie had seven songs chart on Billboard’s pop charts with “Uh Oh, I’m Falling In Love Again reaching #7 pop and #19 R&B, “Secretly” reaching #3 pop and #7 R&B and “Are You Really Mine” reaching #10 pop. Rodgers charted another eight song on the pop charts in 1959 although none of them went top ten.

As musical tastes changed during the 1960s, the hits slowed down with only 13 pop chart hits during the 1960s although he had several significant hits on the Adult Contemporary charts during the 1960s with his cover of Rod McKuen’s “The World I Used To Know” reaching #9 in 1964 and his own composition “It’s Over” (not to be mistaken for the Roy Orbison song of the same name) reached #5.

On December 1, 1967, Jimmie Rodgers was discovered by a friend, alone in his car with traumatic head injuries from a savage beating. Jimmie had sustained a fractured skull and required several surgeries, which placed his career on hold for several years. The assailants remain unknown to this very day. His original record label Roulette had known mob ties and the suspicion remains to this day that mob retribution was involved, Jimmie having changed record labels a few years earlier; however, the possibility of police misconduct is believed by many to have occurred.

What Was His Connection to County Music?

Jimmie Rodgers had four songs reach the country top ten in 1957-1958 (“Honeycomb” – #7; “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” – #6; “Uh-Oh I’m Falling In Love Again” – #5 and “Secretly” – #5). Several more of his songs reached the country top twenty. Although he fell off the country charts entirely during the 1960s a late 1970s comeback saw four more country chart singles for Rodgers.

Even though Rodgers county chart success was sporadic after 1957-1958, his four biggest hits were played as oldies on various country stations and some of his later material was covered by country artists. Johnny Darrell had an acclaimed album track of “Child of Clay” that would likely have charted if Billboard had charted album tracks back in 1968, Eddy Arnold had a successful single on “It’s Over” (#4 country) and Eddy would cover several of Jimmie’s singles as singles or album tracks.

Jimmie recorded for A&M Records during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of the tracks on the A&M albums would have fit comfortably on country radio.

Jimmie Rodgers Today

Jimmie is still alive, although spastic dysphonia has largely curtailed his singing career. Jimmie has a website http://www.jimmie-rodgers.com/ which gives more details of his life and has some of his product available.

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – ‘If Teardrops Were Pennies’

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Letter To Home’

letter to homeFor his second Atlantic album, 1984’s Letter To Home, Glen turned to a new producer, Harold Shedd, and something of a new approach, deliberately aiming the album at mainstream country radio.

The concerted effort to appeal to country radio paid off. The first single, a nicely performed and tastefully arranged cover of J. D. Souther’s ‘Faithless Love’, was a top 10 country hit – Glen’s first since the theme song from movie ‘Any Which Way You Can’ in 1980. it was also the first time the song had been a hit single for anyone, although it was a decade old, having been cut by Linda Ronstadt on her classic Heart Like A Wheel album.

It was followed by Glen’s biggest country hit since 1977 – the #4 peak of ‘A Lady Like You’. This song, written by Jim Weatherly and Keith Stegall, is a solemn AC leaning ballad with a pretty tune. The somewhat tinny keyboard backing has dated a bit, but the vocal is impeccable. Disappointingly ‘(Love Always) Letter To Home’, a charming Carl Jackson song which lent its title to the album and which was released as the album’s last single, only made it to #14.

The beautiful Paul Kennerley ballad ‘I’ll Be Faithful To You’ has been recorded by others, including Don Williams and Marie Osmond, and even making an appearance on the third volume of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ (featuring Kennerley’s former wife Emmylou Harris), but I don’t believe anyone ever released it as a single, which definitely seems like a missed opportunity, because it’s a lovely song. Glen’s version may just be the best of all of them, sincerely sweet and tender, and deeply romantic.

He reflects on the vicissitudes of stardom in a brace of tunes. The wistful lullaby ‘Goodnight Lady’ (written by Buddy Cannon and Steve Nobels) is pretty, as it voices a touring musician’s wistful longing for the loved one back home. ‘After The Glitter Fades’, about the loneliness lying behind stardom, is a cover of a minor pop hit for Stevie Nicks, one of the members of rock band Fleetwood Mac. It suits Glen pretty well. ‘Tennessee’, a Micheal Smotherman-penned tribute to the state, is a bit repetitive melodically but has an attractive feel to it

The mid-tempo ‘Leavin’ Eyes’ is very dated mid-80s country pop, although Glen does invest it with some energy. It was the first cut for its writer, Ted Hewitt. The beaty ‘Scene Of The Crime’, written by Carl Jackson and T Kuenster, also has a dated arrangement, but is quite catchy.

The set ends with an ethereal version of ‘An American Trilogy’, Mickey Newbury’s medley of three historic tunes reflecting American history and the long shadow cast by the Civil War: the now controversial ‘Dixie’, the spiritual-turned 1960s Civil Rights anthem, ‘All My Trials’, and the Battle Hymn Of The Republic.

This is a pretty good album, but one which does not stand with the very best of Glen’s work – apart from the gorgeous ‘I’ll be Faithful To You’, which I would recommend to anyone.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Faithless Love/Amazing Grace’ ft Ronnie Milsap

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Old Home Town’

51sgfnyksXL._SS280When crossover artists begin to wane in popularity, they usually rely on their country fanbase to keep them afloat commercially. Glen Campbell’s 1982 disc Old Home Town seems to have been designed with that reality in mind; while it is by no means a “rootsy” album, it features more fiddle, banjo and harmonica than his earlier efforts, as well as prominent synthesizers and string section, as was typical of the mainstream country music of the early 80s.

Produced by Jerry Fuller, Old Home Town was the first of a trio of albums Campbell made for Atlantic Records, after his twenty-year relationship with Capitol ended. Five years earlier, he had scored his final #1 hit with “Southern Nights”. The follow-up single “Sunflower” had peaked at #4, but after that the Top 10 hits were much fewer and farther between. His Al DeLory-produced albums were mostly middle-of-the-road affairs meant for mainstream pop fans, but also enjoyed success on the country charts. Old Home Town was more tailor made for the country market, but it was clear that Glen hadn’t altogether abandoned his pop aspirations. The album’s most successful single was a remake of an old pop hit for from the 1960s. “I Love How You Love Me” was first a hit for the girl group The Paris Sisters in 1961 and again for Bobby Vinton 1n 1968. It seems like an odd choice for a single, even in an era of heavily watered-down country. It’s not a particularly exciting song and didn’t need to be remade again and should have been relegated to album filler. However, it did reach #17 on the country chart. It also marked Glen’s final appearance on the adult contemporary chart, where it peaked at #35.

“I Love How You Love Me” was sandwiched in between the bluesy title track, which peaked outside the country Top 40 at #44 and the Gospel-laced “On the Wings of My Victory”, which died at #85 (which would be a non-charting single today). It’s a very good song, but again an odd choice for a single. I would have picked the more uptempo “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” or the funky “Hang On Baby (Ease My Mind)”, which would have been right in line with the country radio tastes of the day. Even the Jimmy Webb-penned “I Was Too Busy Loving You” would have been a better choice. It’s a little syrupy and sounds like the kind of song Doug Stone would have great success with about a decade later, but it is saved by Glen’s powerful vocal performance. Nothing can save the very dated-sounding “A Few Good Men”, however.

Producer Jerry Fuller wrote the ballad “A Woman’s Touch”, which is better than the version Tom Jones scored a Top 10 country hit with that same year. The album concludes with a very nice version of “Mull of Kintyre”, a Scottish-flavored waltz, complete with Glen plain the bagpipes. It was written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, and had been a hit for McCartney’s band Wings in 1977.

Overall, Old Home Town is a mixed bag; while not Glen’s very best work, it contains enough decent material to have had a shot at success. I believe it suffered from poor singles choices, and perhaps the fact that Atlantic wasn’t country label in those days and probably lacked the clout to score any big hits with country radio. While it is largely forgotten today, it is worth revisiting.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘I Love My Truck’

Album Review: Chris Young – ‘I’m Comin’ Over’

im comin overThere are artists in today’s country whose music I unequivocally loathe. But in most cases, they’re people I didn’t have any particular expectations for. It’s much more painful to listen to a bad record put out by someone you know is capable of so much better – rather like the difference between a bad first date, and the betrayal of finding your spouse of many years is cheating on you. Sadly, that’s how I felt about Chris Young after his last album saw him shifting to the dark side of loud, unsubtle bro-country. Although his first few albums didn’t have consistently strong enough material, his excellent voice and traditional leanings meant I had great hopes for him. I was cautiously encouraged by his latest single, the title track to his new album, which Young produced, and mostly co-wrote, with Carey Crowder. (Link to review). Unfortunately, this song is not wholly representative of an album which is a real mixed bag, but there is a reasonable amount of worthwhile music.

One of the best songs is the one cut which neither Young nor Crowder had a hand in: ‘I Know A Guy’, written by Benjy Davis and Brett Tyler. It opens compellingly, with the protagonist offering assistance to a woman in trouble, before he launches into an impassioned chorus revealing himself as the man being left, and desperate for one last chance. The slow, measured verses work better than the chorus, which is rattled out and lacks melody, but overall this is a strong track.

Young teamed up with the songwriting brothers Brad and Brett Warren to write the excellent ‘Sober Saturday Night’, which features Vince Gill’s harmony and electric guitar. A somber ballad about the misery of a Sunday morning without his ex, which hurts worse than any hangover in times past. This is perhaps the best song on the album.

The last of the songs really worth hearing on this album is ‘What If I Stay’, written by Young with Josh Hoge and Johnny Bulford, a seductive ballad right in Young’s wheelhouse.

‘Callin’ My Name’, written by Young with Crowder and Jonathan Singleton, isn’t bad, either, with a pleasant melody, although it’s a bit fillerish. ‘You Do The Talkin’’, written by Crowder with Liz Rose and Cary Barlowe, is also okay but a bit bland. ‘Alone Tonight’, one of the many songs on the album written by the writing collaboration of Young, Hoge and Crowder, isn’t a bad song, but the insensitive echoey production kills it. ‘Sunshine Overtime’ is an inoffensive beach song.

On the negative side of the balance, the trio’s ‘Heartbeat’ and the football-themed ‘Underdogs’ are horrible – repetitive, monotonous and overly processed. ‘Think Of You’ is a deathly dull and characterless duet with Cassadee Pope, a mediocre pop singer currently masquerading as a country artist following her run on The Voice.

I get the impression that Chris Young is trying to balance the demands of commercial success with songs of more substance and quality, but he hasn’t quite got that balance right here. ( I also have to say that the cover picture is not very flattering, and is calling out for a Farce The Music treatment.)

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star)’

This was an answer song to the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

Week ending 11/21/15: #1 singles this week in country music history

Chris+Stapleton+Celebs+O+Music+Awards+Nashville+YXyP6PSnHqll1955 (Sales): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Jukebox): Love, Love, Love/If You Were Me — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Disc Jockeys): Love, Love, Love — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1965: May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose — Little Jimmy Dickens (Columbia)

1975: Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way/Bob Wills is Still the King — Waylon Jennings (RCA)

1985: Hang On to Your Heart — Exile (Epic)

1995: Check Yes or No — George Strait (MCA)

2005: Better Life — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2015: Tennessee Whiskey — Chris Stapleton (Mercury)

2015 (Airplay): Break Up With Him — Old Dominion (ReeSmack/RCA)

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)’

Classic Rewind: Lee Ann Womack – ‘I May Hate Myself In The Morning’

Album Review: Glen Campbell – ‘Southern Nights’

Glen_Campbell_Southern_Nights_album_coverSave an album recorded live in Japan two years earlier, 1977’s Southern Nights was the first time we saw Glen Campbell in the producer’s chair. He collaborated with Gary Klein and created a chart-topping album.

Two singles were issued to country radio. Allen Toussaint’s wonderful drum and guitar heavy “Southern Nights” is the classic, which peaked at #1. The other single was Neil Diamond’s “Sunflower” an aggressive mid-tempo that leans too heavily on rock guitars for my liking.

Also included on Southern Nights is a cover of The Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows.” Campbell’s version is far too slow and prodding, with lush strings that hinder his ability to convey the powerful lyrical content.

Campbell’s longtime friend Jimmy Webb contributed two songs to the album, each with flavorless and maddening arrangements. “This is Sarah’s Song” isn’t to my liking at all but I feel the lyric to “Early Morning Song” is inviting. That being said, I wouldn’t seek out either song to listen to again.

The string section remains on “For Crying Out Loud” but the inclusion of a more prominent drum section gives the otherwise sleepy ballad the kick of energy it needs. “Let Go,” another up-tempo in the vein of the title track, follows suit. While it isn’t very country, it should’ve been a single.

“Guide Me,” returns Campbell to the ballad realm that suffocates the majority of the album. “How High Did We Go” retains more of the same, but Campbell’s vocal scores, and the production is nicely thicker than the rest. And although it was co-written by Roger Miller, “(I’m Getting) Used To The Crying” is more of the same.

This is a tough album for me to critique, since it isn’t of my era. I couldn’t find much of anything to love in any of the arrangements, except for the title track. If I’m being blunt, I found Southern Nights quite boring. Now, this isn’t my kind of country music so I really cannot say if he does this style any justice or not. I just know it really wasn’t my taste.

Grade: C