My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Hank Williams Jr – ‘Country Shadows’

country shadowsHank Williams Jr continued to show artistic growth with the release of his seventh album in April 1967. The album’s title refers to the first song on the album, “Standing In The Shadows (of A Very Famous Man)”. The song reached #3 on Record World and was the first of Junior’s own compositions to become a hit. The lyrics encapsulate Junior’s dilemma completely:

I know that I’m not great
And some say I imitate
Anymore I don’t know
I’m just doing the best I can

After all I’m standing in the shadows
Of a very famous man

The second track, “Almost Nearly, But Not Quite Plumb” is an up-tempo novelty that has Hank sounding quite a bit like Jimmy Dean.

“Is It That Much Fun To Hurt Someone” is a Hank Jr. co-write that sounds more like something Ricky Nelson should have recorded in his teen idol days. It’s a nice song but not well suited to Hank’s voice
Track five of Side One is “I Can Take Anything” a Merle Kilgore-penned ballad; Merle would become very important in Hank’s career, but at this point in his career he was a third tier country artist who was better known as a songwriter. This slow ballad has the full Nashville Sound treatment.

Side One closes out with “Truck Drivin’ Man”, which is not the same song made famous by Terry Fell, Dave Dudley and others. This song is also known as “Ten Ton Load”:

Well, I pulled out of Georgia with a ten ton load
I’m headin’ down the cold stone that black topper road
Looked out the window at the sky up above
Sat back and I thought of the life that I love
Now you can give a banker a nice easy seat
And you can give the sailor all those sea that he meet
But when it comes to drive and just leave that of me
Cause I know in my heart it’s my destiny

I’ll never give up this truck driving life
For a son to call me daddy or a sweet loving wife
All you people have heard my story when I’m in my cab well I’m in my glory
Now it may be hard for some to understand
I was born and I’ll die the truck driving man
I was born and I’ll die the six wheeler man
I was born and I’ll die the truck driving man

Side Two opens with a killer version of the Jody Reynolds classic “Endless Sleep”. The song barely cracked the top fifty for Hank.

Ran in the water heart full of fear there in the breakers I saw her near
Reached for my darling held her to me stole her away from the angry sea
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say you took your baby from me away
My heart cried out she’s mine to keep I saved my baby from that endless sleep
Endless sleep, endless sleep, endless sleep

Next up is a track from John D Loudermilk (a first cousin to Ira & Charlie Louvin) titled “You’re Running My Life”. I’ve been married too long to comment on this song. This is followed by a Mitchell Torok composition “Pecos Jail” . Both songs are good album tracks but neither would have made a good single.

“In The First Place” is a bluesy ballad that is nothing more than album filler.

Hank Jr. had a hand in writing “I Went To All That Trouble For Nothing”. The song has a smart country blues arrangement somewhat reminiscent of the arrangement Jerry Kennedy devised for Tom T Hall. I would have liked this as a single.

He went to all that trouble for nothin’ I hear them say
It’s too bad that things turned out for him that way
You took my love and turned around and made me blue
I went to all that trouble for nothin’ for you
I turned my back on the girl I thought that she was mine
I gave up my friends and now it seems I’m givin’ up my mind
I did everything you wanted me to do I went to all that trouble for nothin’ for you

Side Two of the album closes with “Going Steady With The Blues”. The arrangement contains some brass and has the feel of a rock and roll ballad. I like the song but I’d like it better with a more bluesy arrangement.

Don’t think that I’ve been lonely because you left me
And broke my heart in two
I’ve got company, I’m going steady with the blues

Yes, every evening while you are dancing and you’re romancing
Oh well, I’m busy too
I’ve got company, I’m going steady with the blues

Very few of these tracks are available in any digital format. “Standing In The Shadows”, “Endless Sleep” and “In The First” place are on the MGM Living Proof Box: 1963-1975, and a few of the songs show up on YouTube. Hank is still finding his way with this album, but the Nashville Sound trappings are subdued and Hank is in good voice.

Grade: B+

4 responses to “Album Review: Hank Williams Jr – ‘Country Shadows’

  1. luckyoldsun January 18, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Merle Kilgore wrote or co-wrote Wolverton Mountain; and he wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter. Not too shabby.
    But I remember that some years after June and then Johnny Cash died, Merle tried to license “Ring of Fire” to Preparation H for a TV commercial. Rosanne Cash stepped in for the Carter and Cash families and managed to block the deal. That was a damn good thing. If it had happened, a whole new generation would think that “Ring of Fire” is “the Preparation H song”–and Johnny Cash’s iconic recording would have been severely diminished for other purposes! Merle died, as well, not long after that.

    • Ken January 19, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Though June Carter’s name is on “Ring Of Fire” she did not co-write it. It was written during a fishing expedition by Merle Kilgore & Johnny Cash who was dating June at the time. June was divorced and needed financial help so Cash put her name on it. Cash’s ex-wife Vivian cited it as her most hated song when she found out what “Ring Of Fire” was actually referring to as well as the fact that had Johnny given it to June.

      • luckyoldsun January 20, 2016 at 10:43 pm

        Interesting possibility.
        But the original single of “(Love’s) Ring of Fire” was by Anita Carter, not Johnny Cash. The oft-quoted story is that Cash was chomping at the bit to record the song and he told Anita that he’d give her single a few weeks to break out, but that if it failed to advance, he was going to cut the song himself. Anita’s record failed to climb the charts, so Cash put the song out and had a #1 hit. It would seem strange to me if Cash actually wrote the song and liked it, that he’d give his writer credit to June and give the song itself–or the first crack at it–to Anita.
        And the Carter women all do “Ring of Fire.” I have to think it’s a Carter song.

        • Ken January 21, 2016 at 9:30 am

          Because several of the Carter’s recorded the song it has no bearing upon who actually wrote it. June’s name was already listed as co-writer so she received half of the royalties.

          It wasn’t until after Anita recorded “Love’s Ring Of Fire” and her Mercury single was released that Cash said he had a dream where he performed the song with mariachi trumpet accompaniment. That Cash would have a dream about that song gives more credence to the story that he had a role in composing it. However Cash clearly did not see the potential for that song until after Anita’s recording was completed and released in late 1962. Cash recorded the song on March 25, 1963 about five months after Anita’s recording was made.

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