My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: May 2019

Classic Rewind: Charlie Rich – ‘Behind Closed Doors’

Classic Rewind: Wesley Dennis – ‘Don’t Make Me Feel At Home’

Classic Rewind: Reba McEntire – ‘One Promise Too Late’

Single Review: Randy Travis – ‘One In A Row’

Unexpectedly a hitherto unreleased track by Randy Travis has been released as a single. It is not the Willie Nelson song of the same name, but a beautiful anguished ballad previously recorded by Nashville Star’s first winner Buddy Jewell, and written by Jewell with Thom McHugh. I’m not sure when it was recorded, but it is classic vintage Randy Travis vocally, so I imagine it is an old recording which somehow got left on the shelf during sessions for one of Randy’s albums. I suspect it was released now to help promote Randy’s new autobiography.

Regardless of the background, this is an essential purchase for any Randy Travis fan. Randy’s vocals make the song an instant classic, and the arrangement is tasteful and swathed in steel guitar and fiddle.

The song is about a man struggling with even starting to cope getting over someone:

Am I dreaming
Or is that the morning sunlight shining in?
I can’t believe it
I was sure my world was coming to an end
I may never live to see
The day your memory lets me go
But I made it through the night
And that’s one in a row

My heart’s still beating
Even though it’s broken right in two
So the odds are even
There’s still some hope that I’ll get over you
Will I make it through the day?
Girl, it’s hard to say
I just don’t know
But I made it through the night
And that’s one in a row

One less endless night without you
Missin’ everything about you till dawn
One more sunrise to remind me
Leave yesterday behind me cause it’s gone
This is only the beginning
I’ve got a lifetime to go
But I made it through the night
And that’s one in a row

Randy Travis saved country music in the 80s. It may be too late to do it again, but this is a welcome reminder of the man at his very best.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘Touch And Go Crazy’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘Love’s On The Way’

Released in late 1992, Love’s On The Way was the third album released on the Liberty label and his thirteenth major label studio album. Unfortunately it also signaled the end of Lee Greenwood as a viable chart artist. While the immediate prior release of patriotic songs, American Patriot, had sold platinum in the wake of the cowardly attacks of 9/11/01 and temporarily brought the fading Greenwood back into prominence, this more conventional album again failed to chart. The two singles released from the album made almost no impact – “Before I’m Ever Over You” made the slightest dent on the singles charts reaching #73 and the other single released, “I Never Thought Your Memory Would Ever Go This Far” failed to chart at all despite getting a favorable review in Billboard: “Perhaps country’s Phil Collins, Greenwood has a ballad to brag about. Slow and dreamy instrumentation sets the mood for Greenwood’s pristine performance.”

Of course, by the time this album was released, Greenwood had already turned fifty years old, and was rather long in the tooth for the youth-oriented playlists of the early 1990s. My copy of this album is on an audio cassette so I do not have the songwriter or production credits, although I was able to find the session personnel through other sources.

The album opens up with “Before I’m Ever Over You”, a mid-tempo rocker written by Sandy Ramos and Jerry Van Diver. This is followed by the tender ballads “In Other Words” and “Final Touches”
“Linda Lu” would have made an interesting single. The song was originally an R&B hit in 1959 for Ray Sharpe. Sharpe was sometimes described as the ‘the greatest white-sounding black dude ever’ and the song got some rockabilly airplay as well as R&B.

This is followed by “I Never Thought Your Memory Would Ever Go This Far” (discussed above).

“I Miss The Romance” is a decent nostalgic slow ballad. This is followed by the mid-tempo “Soldier Of Love” and another slow ballad in “Waiting On The Tables To Turn”. All three of these are what I would describe as album filler, albeit of decent quality.

On the other hand “She Wants To Be Wanted Again” is a good song that I can see being a hit had it occurred during Lee’s peak years or had it made its way to Kenny Rogers.

The album closes with the title track “Love’s On The Way”, given a very soulful treatment by Greenwood. This sounds like some something that T. Graham Brown or Con Hunley would have tackled successfully.

This album has a slightly more country sound than does some of his earlier albums; however, the early 1990s were the peak period for the “New Traditionalists” movement. Included among the musicians are such country stalwarts as Don Potter (acoustic guitar); Mark Casstevens (acoustic guitar, mandolin); Steve Gibson (electric guitar); Weldon Myrick & Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Rob Hajacos (fiddle); Brent Rowan (dobro, electric guitar, bass); Matt Rollings (piano); David Briggs (piano, synthesizer); Mike Lawler (synthesizer, organ); David Hungate, Michael Rhodes (bass); Paul Leim, Eddie Byers (drums); Ron “Snake” Reynolds (percussion); and Andrea Zonn, Greg Gordon, Donna McElroy, Russell Smith, Curtis Young, Carol Chase, Cindy Richardson, Karen Staley, J.D. Martin, Russell Smith (background vocals). Even so this is more of a ‘blue-eyed soul’ album than the market was buying at the time plus, of course, Lee was already well into middle age.

I didn’t dislike any of the songs, but I didn’t really love any of them either. I would give this album a C+ or B-.

Classic Rewind: Crystal Gayle – ‘The Woman In Me’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘Stronger Than Time’

Lee Greenwood’s most recent studio album was released in 2003 on Curb Records.

Three singles were issued, none of which charted. The first, ‘Rocks That You Can’t Move’, is a nice song about a Wise Old Man sharing his hard-earned wisdom with the protagonist as a child, a popular trope given a slight, and pointed, twist by making the old man a hard working African American farmer:

He’d seen the Great Depression
When a dollar’s all a hard day’s work would bring
He watched the crosses burnin’
In a time when freedom didn’t ring
He’d seen a world where minds were closed
And so many hearts were made of stone
But I never heard a bitter word
When I asked him ’bout the pain that he had known

He’d say, “life is full of fertile ground
But it takes a little rain to make things grow
And when it comes to harvest time
We’re all bound to reap just what we sow
So the best that I can tell you, boy,
Is always do the best that you can do
Move the rocks and plow your fields
And plow between the rocks that you can’t move”

Greenwood makes the story (written by Rob Crosby and Will Rambeaux) believable, and a nicely understated production works really well.

A remake of ‘God Bless The USA’ also failed to make any headway, despite being released at the time of the US invasion of Iraq. Lee’s performance is heartfelt, and he is backed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a storied black gospel choir who add a sense of universality without overwhelming the song. I think I prefer this arrangement to the original.

The third and last single was ‘When A Woman’s In Love’, a pleasant sounding if not very memorable ballad.

The best song is ‘Beautiful Lies’, a sweetly sung ballad written by Gary Burr about denial. Another highlight is ‘Cornfield Cadillac’, written by Terri Argot, with a pretty melody and tender recollection of teenage love. ‘Round Here’ is quite good, a pleasant song about a cozy small-town community.

The title track, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Time’, a romantic AC big ballad written by Chris Lindsey, Bill Luther and Bob Regan, is emotionally sung but a bit bland. Similar but more more effective is the Greg Barnhill-penned ‘It Almost Makes Me Glad’, in which the protagonist sees his ex happier in her new relationship.

‘Love Me Like You’ve Never Been Hurt’ is an emotional ballad written by Pat Bunch. ‘Invisibly Shaken’ is a downbeat AC ballad written by Rodney Atkins, who later had a hit with his own version.

‘One Life To Love’ and ‘I Will Not Go Quietly’ are dull ballads.

This is an album which will appeal to Greenwood’s established fanbase.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Paul Overstreet – ‘Living By The Book’

Classic Rewind: Malpass Brothers – ‘Hoping That You’re Hoping’

Classic Rewind: Maddie & Tae cover ‘A Little Past Little Rock’

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ”Fool’s Gold’

Album Review: The Lowdown Drifters — ‘Last Call for Dreamers’

The Lowdown Drifters, comprised of Big John Cannon, Galen Bailey, Richard Williams, Tim Fernley, and Ryan Klein, are a country band hailing from Stanwood, WA. Since forming in 2015 they released an EP, Wood and Water, in 2016 and their debut full-length album, Last Call for Dreamers, last month.

They lead with a testament to the power of friendship on “We Three Kings,” a percussion-heavy ballad set amongst the confines of growing up in a small town. “Won’t Find Me Anymore” celebrates the rebel spirit, with a southern rock vibe to rival the outlaws they pay tribute to throughout. The intriguing “Fire in her Eyes,” which has an ear-catching melody that grabbed me instantaneously, is an excellent character sketch of a complex woman, who is as tender as she is strong.

The musician’s life is a major theme on the album, approached by many different perspectives. The road is beckoning on “Diesel Smoke,” which finds a musician confronted by his wife, who doesn’t want him to leave for another run of shows. He says the lifestyle is in his blood, much like it was for his father when he was a kid.

The wife who is slowly losing her patience on “Diesel Smoke,” has walked out of the marriage on “The Road,” which causes the musician to see the dark side of the choices he’s made. In a painfully effecting lyric he confesses to himself how he should’ve put her needs before his own, especially since for him, the road doesn’t feel like home anymore.

A much sunnier take on the subject can be found on the banjo-driven “Barstools,” an album highlight celebrating the barroom gigs musicians find themselves playing when they’re just starting out. It’s an excellent look at how there is always another gig to play and a song to “sing you back home.”

There may always be gigs, but on “Last Night in Denver,” another standout track, they prove the musician’s life isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be. On the uptempo number, a man wonders what he has to do — say he’s from Nashville, write a song with someone you know, wear tight t-shirts, etc — to gain the attention of the public. ‘Last night in Denver, I slept in my car’ he sings begrudgingly, hoping his luck will soon turn around.

A man is confronting his own worst enemy, himself, on the powerful “Between The Bottom and the Bottle.” Directly following it is “This Old House,” in which he’s hit rock bottom in the basement, only to be haunted by the woman who left him. The only way he’ll be free, he sings, is to burn the home, and all the memories, to the ground. “Black Hat,” a third song in this relationship trifecta, finds our man telling his woman he’ll gladly be her punching bag, the one she can lay all the blame on for the disintegrating state of their relationship.

“Empty Bottles” is a completely different take on a relationship, this time with a man confronting his own sobriety in the wake of his wife cheating on him with his best friend. He confesses he’s been sober for so long he just may need to end his streak, since empty bottles keep calling him, and he can’t think of any other way to cope with the situation. The wonderful “Diamonds and Rust” is a working man’s anthem that morphs into another take on a relationship, this time in a happier stage, when the love is blossoming.

Last Call for Dreamers is an excellent and complex record filled with richly textured stories framed with electric energy ripe for arenas. It’s a hard balance to get right, but they succeed since they didn’t forget the songs, which actually have something important to say to the listener. I can’t wait to see what they give us in the years to come.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Merle Haggard – ‘The Bottle Let Me Down’

Classic Rewind: Patty Loveless – ‘You Don’t Even Know Who I Am’

Classic Rewind: Kathy Matea – ‘Love At The Five And Dime’

Album Review: Lee Greenwood – ‘A Perfect 10’

The winds of change swept through country music in the late 1980s, with younger stars reviving more traditional sounds. Lee Greenwood’s singles were getting less radio play than they had earlier in the decade, and he must have realised that if he wanted to stay relevant he needed to make some changes. In 1990 he moved from his longstanding label MCA to Capitol, and for his second album for that label (then using the Liberty name), in 1991, he released a duet album with ten female vocalists. They were mainly newcomers the label wanted to promote with a few of Lee’s contemporaries.

The only single was ‘Hopelessly Yours’, a duet with Suzy Bogguss, who was about to make her breakthrough. It peaked at #12 but deserved better, as it is a beautiful song written by the great Keith Whitley and Curly Putnam with hitmaker Don Cook, sung by both vocalists with a wistful tenderness, and tastefully produced with some lovely steel guitar.

One of the label’s biggest stars at the time was Tanya Tucker. ‘We’re Both To Blame’ is a traditional sounding waltz about a couple whose marriage is breaking down – another really lovely track.

All-female bluegrass-country group Wild Rose collaborate on the vibrant up-tempo ‘The Will To Love’, which I enjoyed a great deal.

Karen Staley was better known as a songwriter, but released a couple of excellent albums herself in the 90s. I don’t believe she was ever formally signed to Liberty or Capitol (she certainly didn’t release anything for them), but label boss Jimmy Bowen had produced her 1989 MCA album Wildest Dreams. She has an distinctive and unusually deep voice for a woman, and almost overpowers Greenwood on the brassy ‘I’m Not Missin’ Anything’. Cee Cee Chapman, a Curb artist with another deep alto voice, has a boring song for her duet with Lee, ‘You’re Not Alone’.

Carol Chase has an excellent voice and is well matched to Lee on the enjoyable mid-paced pop-country ‘Looking At A Sure Thing’. ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ is a cover of an R&B classic sung with Donna McElroy, who has provided backing vocals on many country records but is predominantly a gospel singer herself. This version of the song pays not the slightest attempt to sound country, but is pleasant enough listening in its own vein, with a strong soulful vocal from McElroy.

Of the older artists, Lacy J Dalton is wasted on ‘From Now On’, a nice enough but bland MOR ballad which just does not showcase her. Previous duet partner Barbara Mandrell joins Lee for ‘I’d Give Anything’, another dull ballad. Marie Osmond’s pristine vocal on ‘It Wasn’t Love Before’ has phrasing from musical theater.

This is generally a fairly strong album with something for everyone.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser – ‘Lead Me Home’

Week ending 5/18/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1959: The Battle of New Orleans — Johnny Horton (Columbia)

1969: My Life (Throw It Away If I Want To) — Bill Anderson (Decca)

1979: If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me — The Bellamy Brothers (Warner Bros/Curb)

1989: If I Had You — Alabama (RCA)

1999: Please Remember Me — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2009: She’s Country — Jason Aldean (Broken Bow)

2019: Whiskey Glasses — Morgan Wallan (Big Loud)

2019 (Airplay): Eyes On You — Chace Rice (Broken Bow)

Classic Rewind: Lee Greenwood – ‘IOU’