My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Sings’

loretta lynn singsLoretta Lynn Sings was Loretta Lynn’s debut album on Decca Records. Released in December 1963, the album followed on the heels of an uncharted single 1961 (“I Walked Away From The Wreck”), two 1962 singles including her first chart single “Success”, and another uncharted single (“World of Forgotten People”), and in 1963 another charted single, “The Other Woman”. There would be another single released in 1963, the #4 “Before I’m Over You” (not found on this album) before this album was released.

The album opens up with “Success” written by Johnny Mullins, who was a high school custodian. “Success” was a lament about how a husband’s career success was undermining their marriage. The song went to #6 as would “Blue Kentucky Girl”, another Johnny Mullins-penned song a few years later.

Since Loretta was a new artist that Decca was trying to break into the country markets, this album, more so than most country albums of the time, is full of covers rather than a few covers and some filler.

For many years Jimmy Gateley was the front man for Bill Anderson’s band. He was also an adept song-writer, as “The Minute You’re Gone” proves. Sonny James would have a top ten country hit with the song in 1963, and British rocker Cliff Richard would take the song to #1 on the UK pop charts (and top ten in seven other countries). Needless to say, Loretta sounds nothing like Cliff Richard but her presentation is strong and clear.

Betty Sue Perry would provide Loretta with quite a few songs during the 1960s. “The Other Woman”, not to be mistaken for the Ray Price song of the same title, tells the love triangle story from the perspective of the mistress.

According to Billboard, “Alone With You” was Faron Young’s biggest hit, spending a whopping ten weeks at #1. While I don’t think it was Faron’s biggest seller, it was a great song and Loretta acquits herself well on the song.

“Why I’m Walking” was writing by Stonewall Jackson and Melvin Endsley. A big hit for Stonewall Jackson, it resurfaced decades later as a hit for Ricky Skaggs. Again Loretta acquits herself admirably.

The first of Loretta’s own compositions “The Girl That I Am Now” is next. Although not released as a single, I think it would have made a good single and it demonstrates how proficient Loretta already was as a songwriter. This song is bout a wife who cheated on her husband and is racked by guilt and the hope that he never finds out about what she did.

He loves the girl I used to be
But could he love the girl I am now

I don’t think I need to say anything about the lineage of “Act Naturally’. Loretta tackles the song with aplomb. The instrumental arrangement remains up-tempo but the acoustic guitars have a very hootenanny era feel.

Another Loretta Lynn composition follows, “World of Forgotten People”. I don’t remember it being a hit single for anyone but everybody and his cousin recorded the song including the Osborne Brothers, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Vernon Oxford, The Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb and countless others:

I live in the world world of forgotten people
Who’ve loved and lost their hearts so many times
I’m here in the world of forgotten people
Where every heart is aching just like mine

“The Color of The Blues” was written by George Jones and Lawton Williams and was a hit for George Jones. Lawton Williams, of course, wrote “Fraulein” and “Farewell Party”. Loretta handles the song effectively.

“Hundred Proof Heartache” is another of Loretta’s compositions. This works as an album cut but would not have made a good single for Loretta.

I’ve got a hundred proof heartache and a case of the blues
My baby’s gone and left me I’ve lost all I can lose
I’ve got a hundred proof heartache my world keeps turnin’ round
This hundred proof heartache’s got me down
You waded through my tears and said goodbye
You didn’t seem to care how much I’d cry
You made your home the tavern down the street
And this old heart cries out with every beat

Cindy Walker was a great songwriter, being a favorite writer for Bob Wills, Jack Greene and countless other country stars. “I Walked Away from the Wreck” equates a failed love affair with an automobile accident. Although released as a single, the song did not chart.

Justin Tubb’s “Lonesome 7-7203″ proved to be the only #1 record for Hawkshaw Hawkins, and a posthumous one at that for “The Hawk”, who died in the same plane crash that killed Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline. The song would also be a hit for Tony Booth about a decade later. Whoever arranged the song took it at a far too slow tempo. Taken at a faster tempo I think Loretta could have really nailed the song.

There was a distinctive “Decca Records” sound during the 1960s that tends to permeate all of the label’s recordings. Since the same studio musicians and same arranger (Owen Bradley) were used on most of the major artists recordings, this is understandable. There was a little bit of an attempt to vary Loretta’s sound through occasional use of banjo or acoustic guitar on Loretta’s recordings but it was still basically a formulaic background production. Set apart Loretta’s recordings was her voice which could never be anything but country, no matter the pop trappings applied to the final product.

Loretta Lynn Sings would reach #2 on Billboard’s country albums chart. This album is a solid B+ but better albums would follow.

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2 responses to “Album Review: Loretta Lynn – ‘Sings’

  1. Ken April 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    As Paul pointed out there isn’t a lot of textural difference from song-to-song on this album although Loretta is in excellent voice for her debut Decca LP. All of the arrangements are pure 1960’s country and there’s nothing bad about that.

    Both hit singles are homeruns with me though I’d rate “Success” a couple of rungs higher than “The Other Woman.” Don Helms’ steel guitar and twin fiddles played by Tommy Jackson & Cecil Brower set the perfect mournful mood for the sad lyric “success has made a failure of our home.”

    Loretta is best with songs that require an emotional investment. “Hundred Proof Heartache” (or as Loretta sings hun-durd”) fills that order with a song about a woman done wrong by a man more committed to the barroom life than with staying home with her. Obviously Loretta wrote that one from personal experience. The tune gained additional exposure as the B side of the “Success” single.

    “I Walked Away From The Wreck” Loretta’s first Decca single failed to chart in Billboard but did spend four weeks on the Cashbox survey peaking at #42 in January 1962. “The Girl That I Am Now” ended up as the B side and offers an unusual “humming” lyric in the chorus. Though neither sounds like a bona fide hit Loretta offers convincing performances.

    “World Of Forgotten People” is a standout track mostly because it varies the basic sonic formula for most of this album by featuring a piano lead and prominent background singers. Loretta’s development as a writer is clearly evident. This song was also issued on the B side of Loretta’s third Decca single [“Get Set For A Heartache” charted in Cashbox (#31) and was released on Loretta’s second album]

    I was never a fan of singers that recorded other artist’s recent hits on their albums. Unfortunately that was a common thread for too many country albums in the 1960’s & early 70’s. Decca artists in particular followed that unfortunate pattern. Those new renditions seldom offered anything significantly better or radically different than the hit recordings. As a record buyer I felt cheated that brand new or creatively arranged vintage songs weren’t selected instead. Unfortunately remakes comprise 50% of this album which detracts from its overall appeal for me.

    Due to the excessive number of remakes I concur with Paul’s B+ grade. This album did prove that Loretta indeed had the talent to make it in Nashville. She just needed to create or find more great original songs. All of the songs from this album are posted to YouTube if you’d like to listen to them for yourself as this album has yet to be issued on CD.

    • Razor X April 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      I find it’s often interesting to hear another artist’s interpretation of someone else’s hits. And when I was a kid, (although the covers trend was just about over by then) and didn’t have a lot of pocket money to buy albums, it was often a thrill to find that one of my favorite artists covered a hit by someone else that I didn’t like enough to buy an entire album for. The downside is that if you do buy a lot of albums, you end up with a lot of different versions of the same songs.

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