My Kind of Country

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

Classic Rewind: Faron Young – ‘Occasional Wife/Your Time’s Coming’


Book Review: Randy Travis – ‘Forever And Ever, Amen’

Randy Travis was the first artist I fell in love musically, and one who saved country music in the second half of the 1980s from declining into pop-influenced irrelevance.

Randy’s new autobiography take us briskly through his childhood, blighted by a father who was an alcoholic bully, sometimes violent towards his wife and children, his youthful off-the-rails behaviour, and his joining forces with Lib Hatcher, the married mid-30s club owner who took charge of him and his career when he was barely 17. He admits he was sleeping with her when she was his court-appointed legal guardian when he was just 17 – we would certainly be calling this an abusive relationship if the genders were reversed, with no question. And that doesn’t even take into account the way Randy eventually discovered (post-divorce) just how badly she had been taking advantage of their relationship financially.

After they moved to Nashville Little Jimmy Dickens, a customer at the Nashville Palace, spotted his talent and gave him a chance to sing on the Opry. Ralph Emery was another early supporter. The young Randy, with only an eighth grade education, and not a very committed one at that, was rather naïve, signing anything Lib told him to. He comes across as very modest concerning his remarkable talent.

There is a lot of interesting detail both on Randy’s recordings and his touring. He comes across as a very nice, genuine person but not a very strong character, easily guided by his long term partner, who was in many respects the driver of his career. As we see his catapulting into stardom, it is clear that Lib Hatcher took advantage of Travis, viewing his success as her own. At times she undermined him, both controlling him by convincing everyone he had a number of allergies (he didn’t), and arguing with business contacts. On one occasion she had something close to a standup fight with George Jones’s wife Nancy, the latter coming off better. Randy wasn’t even allowed his own phone.

He did not think about breaking away until Lib’s attentions were distracted by another young man she could control, a young Irish pop singer. He found support from an old friend whose marriage was also on the rocks, and this blossomed into love. It was only after Randy filed for divorce that he began to see how much Lib had been taking advantage of his success financially. However, the divorce also led him into excessive drinking and things soon spiralled out of control, as we all remember from the lurid newspaper reports of public nudity while in a drunken fugue. Kyle Lehning and George Jones both tried to tell Randy he was drinking too much. When George Jones tells you you have a drinking problem – you really, really do.

The book is very well written, with the help of Ken Abraham. Randy is frank about his failings, accepting some responsibility for letting Lib control him, and acknowledging that he handled the new relationship with Mary a little irresponsibly at its outset. There is a bit too much medical detail following the stroke; while Randy appears to want to dispel thoughts that it was due to the drink problem, the level of detail is boring for the non-medical professional.

We end with details of Randy’s continuing recovery, and his gratitude for the support of fellow artists, with an element of redemption as he has mended some bridges burnt by Lib in earlier years. There are a couple of albums’ worth of unreleased recordings which may be released in due course, and my bet (given financial concerns set out in the book) is that this will be sooner rather than later; recent single ‘One In A Row’ is clearly one of these tracks.

This book is enlightening in many ways, and well worth reading.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Connie Smith – ‘Little Things’

Album Review: The Forester Sisters – ‘I Got A Date’

What was to prove to be the girls’ final secular album was released in 1992.

‘What’ll You Do About Me’ is a vivacious up-tempo song written by Denis Linde. It had been recorded by a number of artists before, most notably Randy Travis on his best selling Always And Forever album, and as an early single for Steve Earle, but had not been a hit when the Forester Sisters tried it as the lead single for this album. Their version is entertaining but feels a little lightweight, and it was largely ignored by country radio. The song was revived a few years later to become a hit at last for Doug Supernaw, who got it to #16.

The title track was the only other single, although again it had limited success. Written by Dave Allen and Tim Bays, it is a rather contemporary jazzy pop tune with little to do with country music, but one with a lot of individuality as the newly single protagonist embarks on dating again. I could imagine this song doing well if someone like Shania Twain had recorded it a few years later. While not to my taste musically, it is well performed and the lyric is nicely observed.

Another up-tempo track with radio potential was ‘Show Me A Woman’, written by the legendary ‘Doodle’ Owens and Doug Johnson. It was later covered by Joe Diffie. The Foresters’ version is rattled out very fast:

Show me a woman who left a man
And I’ll show you a man with a drink in his hand
Doing all he can to survive
I’ll show you a man
You better not let drive

‘Redneck Romeo’ (written by Craig Wiseman and Dave Gibson and later covered by Confederate Railroad) is a tongue in cheek portrait of a good old boy looking for love:

He’s got a hundred keys hangin’ off his jeans
He knows they fit somethin’
But he don’t know what
He’s no cheap date
Spend his whole paycheck
Buyin’ drinks and playin’ that jukebox
Out on the floor he ain’t no square
He’s a romancin’ slow dancin’ Fred Astaire

The Caribbean-tinged story song ‘Wanda’ was written by K T Oslin and Rory Michael Bourke, and is about a women getting over a breakup by going on vacation.

As they often did, the girls included an old pop standard, in the shape of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.

Much more to my taste is ‘Another Shoulder At The Wheel’, a lovely ballad written by Gary Burr and John Jarrard which is the best track on the album. ‘Help Me Get Over You’, written by Lisa Angelle and Walt Aldridge is another ballad, delicately sad. ‘Their Hearts Are Dancing’, written by Tony Haselden, is a sweet story of an elderly couple whose love has endured. ‘She Makes It Look Easy’ is an admiring, empathetic portrait of a single mom’s life.

This is perhaps my least favorite Forester Sisters album personally, but there are some attractive ballad and the rest is undoubtedly fun, and well done for what it is.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Forester Sisters – ‘Hammer And Nail’

Classic Rewind: The McCarters – ‘The Gift’

Classic Rewind: Rhonda Vincent – ‘Muleskinner Blues’

Classic Rewind: Sweethearts of the Rodeo – ‘Blue To The Bone’

Classic Rewind: Oak Ridge Boys – ‘Y’all Come Back Saloon’

Classic Rewind: Forester Sisters – ‘Men’

Clasic Rewind: Holly Williams and Hank Williams Jr – ‘The Blues Man’

Album Review: The Forester Sisters – ‘All I Need’

The Forester Sisters grew up singing in church, and as their career progressed, they wanted to share their faith with their fans. In 1988 they released a side project double album of hymns entitled Family Faith on Heartland Music, and the following year came All I Need on their main label Warner Brothers.

There was even an official single, ‘Love Will’, written by Don Pfrimmer and Byron Gallimore. This is a really sweet idealistic song backed with a string arrangement. It had in fact appeared on their previous album, Sincerely.

Nothing can be everlasting
Or send an Iron Curtain crashing
But love will…

Love will not forsake you on the last day that you live
‘Cause you can take it with you when you go…

I don’t wanna be there if we all wake up too late
Love’s the only weapon that is strong enough for hate

The title track is a mellow ballad which could be read as a secular love song, but in the context of this album is clearly directed at God. It was written by Steve Bogard and Rick Giles.

The bright and airy ‘Still In The Spirit’ was written by John Scott Sherrill and Thomas Cain.

Christian Contemporary songwriter (and later an artist in that genre himself) Chris Rice wrote ‘Already There’, a beautiful tender ballad about heaven.

‘This Old House’ is not the Stuart Hamblen classic but a pleasant mid-paced song about a real home, written by Greg Davis and John Randall Dennis.

‘Peace Within’ is a Christian country standard, written by Dickey Lee, Allen Reynolds and Susan Taylor. The girls had previously released their delightful version of this song on their Family Faith album, together with gospel favorite ‘Precious Memories’ and the uplifting hymn ‘Love Lifted Me’. Also repeated is a gorgeous soulful reading of ‘Amazing Grace’, performed as a duet with Larnelle Harris, a Southern gospel singer with a rich voice.

The album closes with the traditional ‘Motherless Child’, performed as an ethereal accappella tune.

Some of the production is a bit dated now, but it is not unpleasant. The girls are in great voice and this is an excellent religious album with some country elements.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner – ‘Trouble In The Amen Corner’

Classic Rewind: Vern Gosdin – ‘Do You Believe Me Now?’

Classic Rewind: Forester Sisters – ‘Old Enough To Know’

Classic Rewind: Alan Jackson – ‘Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow’

RIP Chuck Glaser: Classic Rewind Tompall and the Glaser Brothers – ‘Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again’

Thanks to Ken Nelson for letting us know that Chuck Glaser, the last surviving member of Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, has died. More here:

Paul Dennis’s Country Heritage feature on Tompall:

This was the brothers’ last ever performance together, in 1990:

Classic Rewind: Jamey Johnson – ‘I Wonder Do You Think Of Me’

A tribute to Keith Whitley.

Album Review: Taylor Alexander – ‘Good Old Fashioned Pain’

20 something Taylor Alexander appeared briefly on The Voice a couple of years ago. A country singer-songwriter from Georgia with folk elements, he has released his debut album independently. He has a pleasant warm, slightly raspy voice.

The album opens with the title track, a solid but rather too loud country rocker. To be honest I would expect a song called ‘Good Old Fashioned Pain’ to have a more traditional sound than this more muscular sound, but it isn’t about emotional pain but the physical sort after hard work. In similar style is the pacy ‘Passing Lane’. These are the most radio-friendly tracks. ‘Break My Heart Tonight’ is a solid honky tonker which I enjoyed a lot.

Much better is the gently regretful philosophical ‘I Never Ask For Nothin’’ about a diffident man who remains unrewarded:

I didn’t want the trouble
I didn’t want to make a fuss
There’s just two kinds of people
The haves and the have-nots
I’d never ask for nothin’
So nothing’s what I got

She was all I’d ever wanted…
I guess I could have asked her
It was probably worth a shot
I never asked for nothin’
So nothing’s what I got

It’s gonna take a little water for a seed to grow
And there ain’t a door I ever heard of
That opened on its own
So asking you just might receive
More often times than not
I never ask for nothin’
So nothing’s what I got

I had this dream where I’m invited
To the house of God
The porch light’s shining
But the front door is locked
And I just stood there wondering
If I should ring the bell or not
I never ask for nothin’
So nothing’s what I got

A pretty harmony ornaments the folky melody of this charming song.

‘Real Good At Saying Goodbye’ is a very nice song with a lilting tune about a man who is the ‘running kind, never satisfied’.

‘It Don’t Matter To The Rain’ is a pleasant folky philosophical number which is quite good. I also liked Another favorite is the gently plaintive ‘Hole In The Wall’, about a poorly maintained but cheap home:

It sure ain’t where my heart is
Just where I keep my stuff

‘Wishing My Life Away’ is another reflective number about taking advantage of life’s opportunities, with some nice steel and harmonies from a female singer:

Life’s a race you won’t mind finishing dead last
When you wake up one morning wondering where the years have gone
You might get what you wish for after all

‘I Guess I Moved On’ is more positive, in a slightly resigned way, about realizing suddenly one has gotten over an ex:

Pain can be funny that way
You blink and it’s gone
While I was looking away
I guess I moved on

The set finishes up with another highlight, the wry piano-led ‘Sorry For Growing Up’:

Grown men go on diets and go easy on the cheap beer
And grown men take vacation only every other year
Lord they got all kinds of money but got no time to spend it
And when a grown man dies they talk about how much he lived

Well, I’m sorry for the times I kept you up at night
For every ruined t shirt and the dirt I drug inside
But if there’s anything I could take back
Of all the things I did
I’m sorry for growing up
I won’t do it again

This is a really nice singer-songwriter album on the folky side of country. Highly recommended.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Forester Sisters – ‘(I’d Choose) You Again’