My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Bob Chatman

Album Review: Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – ‘Porter Wayne and Dolly Rebecca’

porter wayne and dolly rebeccaPorter and Dolly’s fourth album together was released in March 1970. Like its predecessors it was produced by Bob Ferguson.

There were two hit singles, both reaching the top 10. The duo’s version of country standard ‘Just Someone I Used To Know’ is one of the several definitive takes on the song, and although the production feels just a little dated, Dolly’s lead vocal backed by Porter’s harmony is perfect. In comparison, Dolly’s composition ‘Tomorrow Is Forever’ is forgotten today, but it is pretty good. It is a plaintive sounding love song about moving on together after some separation.

It is one of no less than six Parton tunes on the album, signalling Porter Wagoner’s debt to his young musical partner was not just for her singing or her glamorous stage presence. The melody of ‘Mendy Never Sleeps’ has a minor keyed folky-Beatles melancholy, and is about a teenage wild child who comes to a tragic end, written from the point of view of her parents. It’s an interesting perspective for Dolly (then only 24 herself) to choose to explore. ‘Silver Sandals’ is also a lament for a dead child, in this case a sentimental religious tune about a physically disabled girl which may try a little too hard to pull on the heartstrings.

The sassy ‘Run That By Me One More Time’ is charming as a married couple bicker, and my favourite track after ‘Someone I Used To Know’:

Run that by me one more time
To make sure that I heard you right
I hope you don’t expect me to believe that line
I might be crazy, but I ain’t dumb
And I know a lie when I hear one
Would you run that by me one more time?

Dolly: Well, you’re late again, I see
What’s your excuse this time?
Don’t you try to kiss and make up
When you smell so strong from wine

Porter: Well, I’m not late, the clock is wrong
You need to wind Big Ben
Honey, that’s not wine you smell
That’s aftershave for men

Also very good is ‘I’m Wasting Your Time And You’re Wasting Mine’, as another couple decide to call it quits.

Dolly and her aunt Dorothy Jo Hope co-wrote ‘It Might As Well Be Me’, a good song about an impending breakup. Dorothy Jo also wrote the earnest ‘We Can’t Let This Happen To Us’, about a couple determined to save a marriage threatened by their busy lives. Uncle Bill Owen contributed ‘No Love Left’, a pleasant mid-tempo song about accepting that a relationship has reached its natural end.

The nostalgic ‘Forty Miles From Poplar Bluff’, written by Frank Dycus, is reminiscent of some of Dolly’s own songs about her childhood, although the story’s Missouri setting is less desperately poor, and there is a more robust arrangement complete with horns.

The pretty ‘Each Season Changes You’ has bluegrass origins, but gets a more polished arrangement here (with yet more horns).

While the album is not available digitally, the tracks are all to be found on the second disc of the superb Bear Family box set.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Merle Haggard – ‘A Tribute To the Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World, Or My Salute To Bob Wills’

Unlike the Jimmie Rodgers tribute which celebrated a long dead and distant figure, this 1970 album was a tribute to a man still alive, and only about ten years removed from having been a viable recording artist.

Even so, by 1970 Western Swing was largely dead as a chart force, the only such artist still charting hit records being Hank Thompson, who had adapted his small-band swing sound into a more contemporary sound with some swing overtones. Spade Cooley was dead (after a stretch in prison for the murder of his wife) in prison, Tex Williams had become a Las Vegas lounge act, and Bob Wills himself had been traveling with a vocalist and using whatever house bands were available, few of whom had any real feel for western swing.

Meanwhile, hot on the heels of “Okie From Muskogee” (and a long string of other major hits), Merle Haggard had emerged as the biggest name in country music, releasing three albums (plus an album featuring his band) between the Jimmie Rodgers tribute and this album.

There would seem to be little to connect the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills. Jimmie’s music was that of the Great Depression, hard times and scraping by. Bob Wills’ music was, first and foremost, music for dancing and most of Bob Wills’ venues were dance halls. Both, however, were largely based in the blues. Moreover the two musical forces connected in Haggard’s music, probably because Wills was based in California for many years and his music was the music of the dance halls that Haggard heard growing up.

Emboldened by the success of the Rodgers tribute, Haggard set about working on a tribute to Bob Wills, producing three very commercially successful albums (two of them live albums) before pushing producer Ken Nelson into letting him produce another commercially questionable album. To prepare himself for the project, Haggard learned how to play fiddle, and, within a month of doing so, he started planning the album.

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