My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘Kenny Rogers’

Kenny Rogers’ self-titled album of 1976, his second official country release, was his breakthrough in country music. Rogers’ voice, mixing the gruff and tender, is strong, and his penchant for story songs is effectively realised on this collection. Larry Butler’s production is sometimes a bit heavy on the strings, but on the whole Rogers’ voice is allowed to shine.

The first single, ‘Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got)’, a cover of a 1967 chart topper for Leon Ashley (who wrote the song with his wife, singer Margie Singleton), was a top 20 hit. Kenny’s vocals work well on this song, an appeal to a straying wife which mixes sex and financial support, ending with a threat to kill her. It also features what was to become a Rogers trademark, the spoken final phrase.

Kenny’s career in country music was sealed with the next single, ‘Lucille’, now a classic. The lyrically intense story song and simple, singalong melody (written by Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum) is surely familiar to all country fans and many from other genres. It crossed over to become an enormous international pop hit (it is probably still the best known country song by a male singer in the UK, where it reached #1 in 1977).

My favorite song after ‘Lucille’ is the very country ‘While I Play The Fiddle’, written by Ronnie Sessions and Ray Willis. It is about a country fiddle player whose marriage is falling apart, and the arrangement is appropriately fiddle-heavy.

Other story songs include an emotional cover of the Death Row themed classic ‘Green Green Grass Of Home’, and (probably less well known to a country audience at that time) ‘The Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp’, the tale of a loving mother who turns to prostitution to support her large family.

A cover of the Tammy Wynette hit ‘Till I Get It Right’ is also very good, understated vocally although the backing vocals and strings date it a bit. Kenny is also good on Don Williams’ tender ‘Lay Down Beside Me’. I was less convinced by ‘Mother Country Music’, where Vern Gosdin’s contemporary cut (a minor hit single) is much better. ‘Puttin’ In Overtime At Home’, written by Ben Peters, is a very nice song about calling in sick to work to stay home with one’s sweetheart. A rival take was a hit for Charlie Rich in 1978, but in this case I prefer Kenny’s version.

Of the lesser known material, the downbeat ‘I Wasn’t Man Enough’, written by Larry Butler and Roger Bowling, is a heavily orchestrated ballad which is well sung but not very country sounding. ‘Why Don’t We Go Somewhere And Love’, written by Kenny O’Dell and Larry Henley, suffers from a dated arrangement, but is a very good song about seeking an escape from everyday life.

‘Lucille’ was a career making hit for Kenny, although perhaps not a career defining one. That particular song is an essential download if you don’t already have it. The remainder of the album is pretty good too, and it’s worth checking it out.

Grade: B+

6 responses to “Album Review: Kenny Rogers – ‘Kenny Rogers’

  1. Luckyoldsun October 4, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Though “Laura” (as has been noted) is open to several interpretations, I think the more common one is that the protagonist is on the verge of killing himself, rather than his wife. The character’s prime emotion throughout the song seems to be exaggerated self-pity–lamenting his own inadequacy–rather than rage at his cheating spouse.

    • Ken October 5, 2017 at 9:36 am

      My take from the very first time that I heard “Laura” was that it was about a man completely blindsided by infidelity. In the first verse he compare his physical assets to her new lover but cannot understand what he lacks. In the second verse he expands on the “touch my ears that’s listened to your wishes – most of them fulfilled and that’s a lot” line by enumerating all of the material things that he provided for her comfort. His is bewildered that she is not satisfied with him as a husband nor the home and all of the money and possessions that he gave to her. Despite his best efforts he cannot satisfy her. Their relationship has been irreparably damaged, he sees no way to save it so he believes that his gun provides the only solution.

      As I mentioned in another post speculation about this song ranges from him taking his own life to taking hers or both. My interpretation is that he is about to take both of their lives. His sense of betrayal would not allow him to only kill himself and thereby set her free after she upended his world. The words that he uses to describe Laura seem to indicate that he still deeply loves her but cannot live without her.

  2. Paul W Dennis October 4, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    From listening to the author’s recording of the song, I think the proper interpretation is that the narrator is out to blow her brains out. That’s also the impression Frankie Laine conveys

    • Luckyoldsun October 4, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I listened to Leon Ashley’s version. Never heard it before. Maybe yours and O.H’s is the better interpretation.
      Around the same time, Tom Jones left no doubt with “Delilah”–not that it seemed to bother his many female fans!

  3. Paul W Dennis October 4, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    ‘Why Don’t We Go Somewhere And Love’ was a minor country hit for Sandy Posey in 1972. It seemed to be a regional easy listening / adult contemporary hit as well as it was on playlists of those stations in the Southeast for at least another decade. The song seems more suited for a woman to sing than a man

  4. Aussie country girl October 6, 2017 at 5:40 am

    Love Kenny Rogers music and I have this album, “Lucille” is a great song.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: