My Kind of Country

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

Classic Rewind: Joey + Rory – ‘Are You Washed In The Blood’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Drive Me Wild’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Six Days On The Road’

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘Get Whatcha You Got And Go’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Treat Her Right’

Classic Rewind: Glen Campbell – ‘Honey Come Back’

Album Review: Sawyer Brown – ‘Outskirts Of Town’

1993 saw the release of the band’s third and final Gold certified album. The material was all in-house, and Mark Miller and Mac McAnally provided solid production.

Things got off to a great start with the chart-topping lead single ‘Thank God For You’, a warm and likeable mid-tempo number written by Miller and McAnally, which still stands up well. ‘The Boys And Me’ (about enduring friendship groups) from the same writing team peaked at #4, and is enjoyable. There is also a ‘dance re-mix’, aimed at the then-popular line dance market. Tis feels regrettably self-indulgent now, if less offensive than much of what passes for everyday radio fare today.

In contrast the title track, written by band members Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard and Duncan Cameron, barely squeezed into the top 40. That’s a shame, because it’s a very nice song, a harmonica-led story song about a farmer who stays in his dying small town. I liked it better than the fourth and final single, the Miller-penned ‘Hard To Say’, even though the latter revived the band’s hitmaking ways, with a #5 peak. It’s perfectly pleasant, just not very memorable.

Dana McVicker had had a short and not very successful career attempting to make it as a star, with one album and a few low charting singles on Capitol in the late 80s. Her husband Michael Thomas was one of the musicians in Reba McEntire’s road band who was tragically killed in the 1991 plane crash. Sawyer Brown recruited her to duet on ‘Drive Away’, a somewhat rock/AC leaning ballad Miller wrote with Bill La Bounty, which is a highlight. Her gravelly alto is distinctive and powerful, and like Sawyer Brown she had got her Start on Star Search.

‘Farmer Tan’ (a Hubbard-Miller co-write) is a sympathetic, gritty look at the tough life of a famer about to be evicted, while the pair’s ‘Listenin’ For You’ is quite attractive. They were joined by Cameron to write ‘Eyes Of Love’, a nice love song about making it through the hard times.

Hubbard’s ‘Hold On’ is a beautiful ballad tenderly addressing an aged mother or grandmother. Also very good is the brisk ‘Heartbreak Highway’, which has an electrified bluegrass feel, thanks in part to Cameron’s mandolin and dobro.

Other than the aforementioned dance mix, the only song I could do without is the poppy ‘Love To Be Wanted’.

The album was followed by a second Greatest Hits collection, which spawned two more top 5 hits, ‘This Time’ and ‘I Don’t Believe In Goodbye’.

This is a very good album which is Sawyer Brown at their best.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Round Here’

Classic Rewind: Gene Watson and the Gatlin Brothers – ‘Lord, Help Me’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Wantin’ And Havin’ It All’

The song starts two and a half minutes in.

Classic Rewind: Rodney Crowell – ‘The Last Waltz’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Hard To Say’

Classic Rewind: Suzy Bogguss – ‘Night Rider’s Lament’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘The Boys And Me’

Album Review: Joey Feek – ‘If Not For You’

The solo album recorded by the late Joey Feek for Sony in the 1990s was briefly available from the retailer Overstock back in 2009, under the title Strong Enough To Cry, and I reviewed it then. It has now been repackaged with a new title, and made more widely available. Here is that original review:

Joey + Rory were my favorite duo on 2008’s Can You Duet, but I felt a little guilty about hoping they would win, because I couldn’t help feeling Joey was really a solo singer, with Rory just there to support her. I would have been perfectly happy if she had built on the exposure of the TV show to release a solo record, but of course the pair went on to record one of the best albums of 2008 in The Life Of A Song.

Before Can You Duet, though, Joey was indeed a solo singer. Before she married Rory, she was signed for a while to Sony Records, who dropped her without releasing any material, and in 2005 she recorded a solo album. It was originally released on the couple’s own Giantslayer Records; available as a digital download after Can You Duet was aired; and when Joey + Rory were signed to promote retailer Overstock, they cannily managed to persuade the store to stock the album in CD format.

I have just managed to get hold of a copy, and I’m not disappointed. The songs are not as good as those on the exceptional The Life Of A Song, but there is a pretty good selection, and overall this is a good album by one of the best female country singers to emerge in the last decade. Joey has one of those voices that could really only be country, with a distinctive timbre.

The album kicks off with a few bars from the classic ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’, sung by Joey’s mother June Martin (who has a pretty good, slightly old-fashioned voice) accompanied by her father Jack. Further snippets from this recording are inserted between a few of the other tracks. Technically, the album starts with Joey inviting her parents to play the song, and ends with them all chatting and giggling in the studio. This was probably intended to underscore the charming home-made feel of the project, but comes across as a little self-indulgent, and by the second listen I was distinctly irritated. This aside, there is a strong family element to the record. Although Rory does not sing on it, the harmony singers include June Martin and Rory’s daughter Heidi, and even Rufus, the family dog, gets in on the act. Rory produces (with one Bill McDermott), and of course contributes his songwriting talent.

The best songs are the title track and ‘See You There’, which are the first (real) track and the penultimate one. ‘Strong Enough To Cry’ is an excellent song co-written by Rory with veteran songwriter Max D. Barnes, and showcases Joey’s excellent voice; this cut could easily be a hit single. ‘See You There’ is almost too personal, and may be too much for some, as it tells the story of the early death of Joey’s brother; some of the detail feels rather like trespassing on someone else’s private grief, and some of the rhymes feel a little too obvious, but the song has a real emotional impact. Joey and Rory wrote this song together, as they did ‘Nothing To Remember’, a charming song with a pretty tune and a good hook (“I’d rather have something to forget than nothing to remember”).

Joey’s voice is capable of lifting lesser material so that it sounds better than it actually is. Examples here are the slightly repetitive and rather mundane ‘That’s Important To Me’, where Joey’s obvious commitment to the song, which she co-wrote with Rory and Tim Johnson, does just that. Similarly, ‘Like A Rodeo’ offers an unremarkable metaphor for life with a gentle melody, but is really beautifully sung. Oddly, co-writer Paul Overstreet is prominently credited for harmony vocals on this (to the extent that I was expecting a full-scale duet before I heard the track), but is barely audible. Joey’s soaring vocal over an acoustic guitar backing also lifts ‘Southern Girl’, written by Rory with Tim Johnson, obviously for Indiana-born Joey as she declares herself the titular southern girl by adoption.

‘Red’ is a bit of a mixed bag of a song. Lyrically, it’s one of those songs about being country, but at least it’s not first-person, and it has a reasonable amount of specific detail. Musically it is urgent and uptempo, with barks from Rufus in the chorus (just few enough to be cute), and some rather dubious echo effects and whoo-ing I could have done without. It would probably go down well live, and I quite enjoyed it, though perhaps in a slightly guilty-pleasure way.

There are only a handful of songs not written by Rory on this release. The best of these is the engaging ‘The Cowboy’s Mine’ (from the pens of Tim Johnson and Jim McCormick). Lyrically, imagine a meld of ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man’, the opposite of ‘Cheater, Cheater’, and a postive prequel to ‘Last Call’, as the protagonist shows up at the bar to collect her man and pay off his bill. It has a delightfully old-fashioned feel. ‘When The Needle Hit The Vinyl’ offers a nice change of pace, but is more memorable for the crackling vinyl sound effect at the end than for the song itself. I liked the intense ballad ‘If Not For You’ (as close as Joey gets to AC rather than country) more the first time I heard it than I did on repeated listens.

Overall, if you like Joey + Rory’s The Life Of A Song, you’ll like this – but not as much.

Grade: B+ (2017 note: I think I would now call this an A-)

Thanks to Brody for helping me get hold of it.

joeymartin1

Classic Rewind: Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers – ‘Six Pack To Go’

Classic Rewind: Ricky Skaggs – ‘Walkin’ In Jerusalem’

Classic Rewind: Sawyer Brown – ‘Thank God For You’

Classic Rewind: Patty Loveless – ‘Wicked Ways’

Album Review: Sawyer Brown – ‘The Boys Are Back’

The neotraditional revival and the rise of the Class of 1989 might have put paid to the career of Sawyer Brown, as they did those of many of their contemporaries, but instead 1989 was to see Sawyer Brown reinventing themselves. They had had bigger radio hits before, but their energetic and credible cover of the George Jones hit ‘The Race Is On’ showed a new side to the band. It was a #5 hit.

The to follow ups were less successful, languishing in the 30s. ‘Did It For Love’ probably deserved better; it’s an engagingly delivered com-pendium story song about life choices – getting married, single motherhpood and volunteering to fight in Vietnam. The lyrics are awkwardly phrased and in places meaningless (“It was the rage of the age and the hour of the main attraction”), but the earnest vocal and catchy tune sell it. ‘Puttin’ The Dark Back Into The Night’, another catchy story song, is less effective, with rather intrusive percussion.

A cover of Steve Earle’s blue-collar ‘Getting’ Tough (Good Ol’ Boy)’ suits Miller’s voice very well, and this is a real highlight, second only to ‘The Race Is On’. The very best track, though, is the closing ‘Passin’ TRain’, a gently reflective tune written by the band’s keyboard player Gregg Hubbard. Frustratingly, it appears to be missing from the iTunes version of the album.

‘Good While It Lasted’ is a pleasant MOR ballad, and ‘I’m Gonna Miss You After All’ a fair country one, but neither will stick in the memory very long. The mid paced ‘Rosie Knows’ is okay, and I quite enjoyed the country rocker ‘Hey Hey’ despite a disposable lyric. The train themed ‘Locomotive’ is boring. ‘The Heartland’ has some nice traces of fiddle, but the song itself is dull.

Overall, their sound was staring to be gritter and less polished, but Mark Miller’s songwriting was still a work in progress (at least lyrically). They were improving, but still not quite there yet.

Grade: C+