My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Jeannie Seely – ‘Written In Song’

61wcxdrzxl-_ss500Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely, best known for her 1966 hit “Don’t Touch Me”, enjoyed only moderate success as a recording artist, but many do not realize that she is also an accomplished songwriter. Written In Song, her latest collection, was released last month. It consists of 14 tracks, all of which were written or co-written by Seely. Twelve of the songs were previously recorded by other artists, while two were newly written for this project. None of them, however, had ever been recorded by Jeannie herself, until now.

In the 1960s, Monument Records had marketed Seely as “Miss Country Soul”, which was likely in part an acknowledgement that her initial success had occurred outside the realm of country music. “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is”, the oldest song on this album had been a 1964 R&B hit for Irma Thomas. The other 13 selections are strictly country. At age 76, Seely’s voice is a little rough around the ages at times, but not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the album.

I have to admit that I wasn’t previously familiar with any of the songs on this album. “Leavin’ and Sayin’ Goodbye” was a Top 10 hit for Faron Young in 1971 and had also been recorded by The Time Jumpers. Kenny and Tessa Sears, widower and daughter of the late Dawn Sears, join Jeannie on this track, which is one of the album’s standouts. Aside from that, none of the others seem to have been major hits that are well remembered today. I suspect that most of them were album cuts that were never released as singles. Nevertheless, they are all worthy of another listen. My favorite tracks are “Senses”, a co-write with Glen Campbell that features local harmonies by Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, “Sometimes I Do”, which had been recorded by Ernest Tubb, and “Enough to Lie”, which had been recorded by Ray Price. On a number that had been recorded by her old duet partner Jack Greene, Seely promises “You don’t need me, but you will.”

The album’s two new numbers allow Jeannie’s sense of humor to shine through. “Who Needs You” casts her in the role of a jilted lover, who is comforting herself with alcohol and shopping — standard operating procedure for a country song. Then comes the song’s final verse which discloses that she’s been enjoying a little marijuana as well. It’s hardly a shocking revelation in this day in age — and as Seely points out in her spoken disclaimer before starting the final verse, it’s legal now in many states — but it sure wasn’t what I was expecting to hear on this album. The closing number is “We’re Still Hanging In There, Ain’t We Jessi”, which name drops the names of many famous women of country music — from Audrey Williams and Jan Howard to Tammy Wynette and Jessi Colter — who survived difficult relationships with some of country music’s famous men. Her own failed marriage to Hank Cochran is also referenced, all in an upbeat, tongue-in-cheek manner. Jan Howard and Jessi Colter both lend their voices to the track.

Written In Song is a surprisingly fresh-sounding album. It’s mostly traditional country, with plenty of fiddle and some fine steel guitar work, but it manages to avoid sounding retro despite the fact that many of the songs are fifty or more years old. I’m sure that many listeners, like me, will be hearing these songs for the first time. If it is something you don’t want to spend money on, it is available on streaming services such as Amazon Unlimited and is worth checking out.

Grade: B+

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10 responses to “Album Review: Jeannie Seely – ‘Written In Song’

  1. Paul W Dennis February 15, 2017 at 12:21 am

    This really wax a good album. Jeannie’s voice is a little weathered but she still sounds pretty good and the songs are excellent

    One correction – Jeannie recorded “Leavin’ And Sayin’ Goodbye” and “He’s All I Need” on her album BEEN THERE, SUNG THAT, an album released on Shadpoke Records around the year 1999

    • Razor X February 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks for the correction. I thought she’d said in an interview that she hadn’t recorded any of the songs before. Perhaps she meant she hadn’t recorded most of them.

  2. Luckyoldsun February 15, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    I can’t be the first person to have confused Jeannie Seely with Jeannie C. Riley.
    I’d say they share honor with Carl Smith and Cal Smith for the pair of country singers with the most similar sounding names. But at least Cal Smith began releasing records a good decade-plus after Carl. “Harper Valley PTA” exploded on the scene barely two years after Jeannie Seely’s “Don’t Touch Me.”Jeannie S. could not have been too happy about that, though maybe she sold more than a few records to customers who were looking for Jeannie C. Riley material.
    I don’t know if they ever appeared on the same card.

    • Ken February 16, 2017 at 10:29 am

      What does this rambling dissertation have to do with Jeannie’s album? Once again you have no pertinent comment to make yet feel compelled to share your lack of knowledge by bringing up something that has nothing to do with her new album.

      And what would make you think that Jeannie Seely would object to another artist that shared the same first name? Please present some proof to back up your ridiculous allegation. Did Johnny Cash object to Johnny Paycheck? Did George Jones object to George Strait?

      And if indeed someone confused Jeannie Seely & Jeannie C. Riley don’t you think that seeing the singer’s name in print AND their photo on an album cover would immediately clear that up before they paid their hard-earned cash for it? How stupid do you think music consumer’s are?

      Back to the actual topic of this discussion – thanks to Razor for a nice overview of Jeannie’s new album. I plan to check it out.

      • Paul W Dennis February 17, 2017 at 6:46 am

        For once luckyoldsun isn’t completely off base as it actually was a bit of a sore spot for Ms Seely. I heard an interview on WCMS in late 1970 in which she seemed a bit miffed at frequent requests to sing “Harper Valley PTA” and “The Girl Most Likely”. Possibly she was kidding, but that was not the impression I got.

        Prior to 1969 (possibly even later than that), the country music market was largely sales of 45 rpms, most of which were not marketed with picture sleeves. I remember as a 16 year old getting the two confused initially

        • Ken February 17, 2017 at 9:01 am

          As someone who worked in radio during that era and answered hundreds of calls I never once recall hearing from a listener that confused the two artists. Regarding their recordings if you were looking to purchase “Don’t Touch Me” or ‘I’ll Love You More” you could not find that on a single record by Jeannie C. Riley. Nor will you find “Harper Valley P.T.A.” or “The Girl Most Likely” on a Jeannie Seely 45. So the contention that someone could mistakenly purchase a record by the wrong artist is ludicrous.

        • Luckyoldsun February 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

          Paul,
          It’s funny because although the names Jeannie Seeley and Jeannie C. Riley don’t look all that similar in print–like Carl Smith and Cal Smith do–in speech, the names are almost identical, with Ms. Riley having an extra syllable thrown in. Some people don’t find it amusing, apparently, though either way, it does not seem like something for an adult to throw a tantrum over.

  3. Luckyoldsun February 16, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    You ask more questions, Kenny, than Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J.

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