My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Robert Mizzell – ‘Redneck Man’

Released in 2010, Robert Mizzell’s seventh album Redneck Man contains 15 songs, the majority of them covers, but some of them relatively obscure songs. Mizzell has a strong baritone voice which does justice to the material, and he is effectively backed by an excellent band performing mostly traditional country arrangements.

Although not a songwriter himself, the one original song on the album draws directly on Mizzell’s own life story. ‘Mama Courtney’, specially written for him by Irish songwriter Henry McMahon, is a moving tribute to the loving foster parents who helped to raise him in Louisiana when his birth mother “lost her way in life”.

Us kids are all now grown up and gone our separate ways
I look back on my childhood of many happy days
And when I go back to Shreveport I place flowers on her grave
And I thank Mama Courtney for all those kids that she saved

There are many children in this world that suffered hurt and shame
I thank all the Mama Courtneys that took away their pain
God works in mysterious ways
I believe this is true
Though she had no children of her own she fostered 32…

God rest you Mama Courtney
I’ll always love you

This is a genuinely moving song, and was understandably a success for the artist on Irish country radio.

Another single for him was a duet with US country star Collin Raye on ‘Murder On Music Row’. The two singers swap lines rather than harmonising except on the odd chorus line, but they contrast well, and both sing with feeling. Perhaps as a nod to Raye, Mizzell covers ‘I’m Gonna Love You’, a fluffy novelty song written by Robert Elis Orrall, which Raye cut on his children’s album Counting Sheep. It isn’t a very good song, and adds nothing to the album.

Much better is an entertaining cover of ‘Ol’ Frank’, a tongue in cheek story song about a young trophy bride who cashes in after “he died with a smile on his face”, which George Jones recorded in the 80s. Another late Jones cut, the up-tempo ‘Ain’t Love A Lot Like That’, is pleasant but definitely filler (plus it’s far too cavalier about missing pets).

Another excellent track is ‘More Behind The Picture Than The Wall’, a traditional country ballad written by Bill Anderson, Buddy Cannon and Don Miller, about a father remembering happy times past after the death of his soldier son in action. Mizzell’s vocals do the poignant nostalgia of the song (previously recrded by bluegrass band Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver) justice.

Too soon our little family was scattered to the winds
You fell out of love with me and wouldn’t fall back in
I was sleeping by myself the night I got that call
Yeah, there’s more behind this picture than the wall

Casey died a hero, that’s what the chaplain said
We couldn’t find sweet Lorrie, I doubt she knows it yet
You and I still tortured by the memories we recall
But there’s more behind this picture than the wall

Four happy loving faces, back then we had it all

Also very good is Mizzell’s version of ‘Someone To Hold Me When I Cry’, a great Wayland Holyfield/Bob McDill song which was a hit for last month’s Spotlight Artist, Janie Fricke and has also been recorded by Don Williams and Loretta Lynn.

He adds a soulful tinge to Jamey Johnson’s ‘She’s All Lady’, a married singer’s polite but firm rebuff to a potential groupie.

Thanks for coming out to see me
I hope you liked the show
Yeah, that’s right, I settled down about six months ago
No, she ain’t here tonight, she stayed at home
Yeah, it sure does get lonely out here on the road

By looking in your eyes, I can tell what’s on your mind
Yeah, I’d love to drive you home and’ hold your body close to mine
You’re everything a man could dream of, baby
Cause you’re all woman
But she’s all lady

I met her at a Baptist church in Tennessee
She was looking for someone
I was prayin’ it was me
No, she never thought she’d fall in love with a guitar man
Oh, it took some gettin’ used to
She does the best she can
No, she don’t like to stay at home alone
No, I don’t need your number
She’s probably waitin’ by the phone…

No, it ain’t you, Lord knows you’re a sight
Yeah, I probably could
But I could never make believe it’s right
I’d rather be alone, and I know that sounds crazy
‘Cause you’re all woman
But she’s all lady
You’re all woman, but she’s my lady

The album’s title comes from a briskly delivered version of Alan Jackson’s early single ‘Blue Blooded Woman’, which opens the album. Loaded with fiddle, this is a strong cut. Darryl Worley’s minor hit ‘Tennessee River Run’ is bright and pleasant. ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ is a bit more well worn; Mizzell’s warm vocal sells it convincingly, but gets a little overblown towards the end.

Also on the less successful side, John Denver’s ‘Love Is Everywhere’ is forgettable, while ‘Two Ways To Fall’ once recorded by Garth Brooks sideman Ty England is quite a good song but suffers from dubious production choices with the first couple of lines horribly muffled and echoey.

Mizzell was already a reasonably well established star on the Irish country scene by this point, and in 2009 he acted as mentor to Lisa McHugh, another of the artists we are spotlighting this month, on a TV talent show. She guests here on a duet of the Randy Travis hit ‘I Told You So’; this is quite nicely sung but feels inessential. The same goes for ‘I Swear’; Mizzell sings with emotion but the arrangement feels a bit dated.

Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this album. Mizzell has a strong voice and interprets the songs well; it’s just a shame that there was not more original material available.

Grade: B+

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9 responses to “Album Review: Robert Mizzell – ‘Redneck Man’

  1. Andrew September 4, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I enjoy hearing country by artists not from the US and Canada because of the different spin they can put on things, but it’s a shame so much of it is covers of American hits. Most of the time it largely comes off as little more than karaoke. One of the great strengths of the Australian country scene is that while there still are a number of covers there’s also a wealth of original material.

    One Irish artist I’ve stumbled across while looking into these is Jim Devine who does have more original material that gives you a little more Irish flavor to the songs.

    • Sparkling Dawn September 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Jim Devine is an lovely singer. Check out Derek Ryan an absolute talent, he writes the most fabulous songs from ballads to jives and sings of Ireland in many of them. In the words of Jim Devine, Ireland really has turned Country…all over again.

  2. Sparkling Dawn September 4, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Robert Mizzell is a wonderful singer; I love the song “She’s all Lady” it features on a recent “Three Amigo’s” album of which Robert is one of the three, good stuff 🎶

    • Paul W Dennis September 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      I love the Irish version of country music but it is often somewhat disguised. Acts such as Daniel O’Donnell, Foster & Allen and Tony Kerr include much country music in their albums but often it is mixed in with traditional Irish balladry and sometimes not necessarily performed with true country instrumentation.

      On the distaff side, Philomena Begley has been the queen of Irish county music for decades

      • Sparkling Dawn September 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

        You are correct, we have our own brand of Irish Country Music mixing songs of old with Celtic traditional music and a touch of the new Irish Country currently taking Ireland by storm. Philomena Begley is fabulous as is Susan McCann, Margo and Louise Morrissey; real queens of Irish Country.

  3. Luckyoldsun September 6, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Mizzell is covered here as an “Irish” singer, but evidently he’s a southern American singer who sings American country music–in the “New Traditional” ’90s style–….and happens to have become successful in Ireland. I’d never heard of him before this. He sounds good, but I have no idea how well he would have done if he’d stayed in the U.S.
    This reminded me of a feature done on “60 Minutes” back in the 1980s about an American singer who was known as the “Elvis of Russia.” His name was Dean Reed. He was HUUGE in Russia, but no-one in the U.S. had heard of him. That one was controversial, since the USSR was our cold-war enemy at the time, and Reed was seen by many Americans as a traitor for defecting to and supporting the USSR.
    There’s none of that sort of controversy with Mizzell. He just seems to be a guy who looked for and found a place where he could become successful singing ’90s-style country music.

    • Razor X September 7, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Perhaps you missed the third sentence of the opening paragraph of this month’s introduction:

      “This month will take a look at three artists who are currently popular in Ireland, although, ironically, none of them were actually born there.”

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