My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Buddy Jewell

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+

Album Review: Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White – ‘Hearts Like Ours’

skaggs whiteThe Skaggs and White families have been performing and recording together for decades, so it’s a little surprising that up to now there was never an full-length collaborative album featuring just Ricky and Sharon. They seek to rectify that oversight with the release of Hearts Like Ours, which became available on September 30th. There aren’t any real surprises in this release which fails to break any new ground, despite being a solid effort with many enjoyable efforts.

Produced by Ricky and released on the Skaggs Family Records imprint, the album consists of mostly duets, with a few Sharon solo numbers and plenty of fiddle and steel. The overall message is positive; there are no drinking, cheating or three-hanky songs to be found, although the album might have benefited from one or two of those. It opens with an excellent cover version of “I Run To You”, which doesn’t stray far from the original Marty Stuart and Connie Smith version. Almost as good is their rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”, which was a Top 5 hit for Emmylou Harris and Don Williams in 1981. The couple also covers their own 1986 hit “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This”, which is well done, but as is usually the case with re-recordings, it does not compare to the original version.

Neither “When I’m Good And Gone” nor “I Was Meant To Love You” is a duet; Sharon takes the lead and Ricky sings harmony on both songs which were written by Leslie Satcher; the former being co-written with Buddy Jewell who had brief shot at country stardom in the early 2000s. Another former country star, Barbara Fairchild wrote “It Takes Three”, which is a little too saccharine for my taste. Although I enjoyed the title track, another Marty Stuart/Connie Smith composition that features lead vocals from Sharon and harmony from Ricky, it was not quite as good as I thought it would be. I’d like to hear the songrwiters perfrom this one.

The songwriting team of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz wrote some of my favorite songs back in the 80s, so it is no surprise that their “Hold On Tight (Let It Go)” is the best song on the album (with “I Run To You” running a close second). “No Doubt About It”, the album’s sole bluegrass track, is also quite good. The two Christian-themed songs, “Reasons To Hang On” and “Be Kind”, have to be classified as missteps, albeit slight ones. I enjoy religious music, but the Skaggses have an unfortunate tendency to venture into contemporary Christian territory when more traditonal gospel would play more to their strengths.

Though I wanted to like this album a little more than I did, overall its strengths outweigh its weaknesses and fans of Ricky Skaggs and The Whites will find much to enjoy.

Grade: B+

Week ending 7/20/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

johnny cash - at folsom prison1968: Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (Columbia)

1973: Jeanne Pruett – Satin Sheets (MCA)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Billy Ray Cyrus – It Won’t Be the Last (Mercury)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: Buddy Jewell – Buddy Jewell (Sony)

2008: Taylor Swift – Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2013: Florida Georgia Line – Here’s To the Good Times (Republic Nashville)

Album Review: Chris Young – ‘The Man I Want To Be’

Chris Young gained national exposure, and a consistent fan-base, when he won the fourth season of the USA Network’s Nashville Star singing competition. Only season one’s winner, Buddy Jewell, had gained any real traction with country radio – and even his was very short-lived. Some contestants, notably Young and Miranda Lambert, were releasing music to some critical fanfare, but country radio was initially hesitant of both artists’ singles.

Winning Nashville Star landed Young a contract with RCA Nashville, and the label stuck with him through 3 failed single releases over a nearly three-year span between ‘Drinking Me Lonely’, a stellar self-composed ballad Young whips out his falsetto to belt, and the breakthrough #1 hit ‘Getting You Home’. It should be noted though, that RCA didn’t ship Young’s second album, The Man I Want To Be, until ‘Getting You Home’ was established as a major hit with country radio. Now, with back-to-back chart-toppers and respectable sales numbers, Young is poised to be the next big thing for new traditional country.

The song that launched the album, or put it on the shelves at least, is a slow-burning number guided by a rolling steel guitar and a singable melody. A woman’s fantasies are realized here, which could be a major reason for its success. Whether or not it’s your desire in life to put on, and then slip off, your little black dress doesn’t even really matter when you hear it anyway – it’s a pleasing song to the ears, and a welcome addition to country playlists since its release.

‘Voices’, this album’s lead single faltered during its first run and barely made the top 40. It has been re-released as the lead single to the EP of the same title released in May. Chris’ new-found name recognition with a larger section of the country audience has already helped to propel the keep-your-head-on-straight song to a still-rising peak of a few slots higher than its first time out.

Waylon Jennings’ 1986 hit ‘Rose In Paradise’ is reprised as a duet with Willie Nelson. Here, the two stay close to Waylon’s own take on his final #1, only slightly slowing the tempo and moving the guitars farther back in the mix to allow the vocals more room to be heard. Young’s voice becomes a commanding baritone with material as substantial as this, and his chops deserve more. Willie’s coming in on the second verse – apparently to fill in the gaps a man of Young’s generation doesn’t know – give this story of a banker’s wife running off with the gardener song a small-town legend feel.

The more traditional offerings seem to get by on so much sentimental emotion that they get lost in a shuffle of the rest of the like-minded songs. ‘It Takes A Man’ relies far too much on its predictable, but marketable hook to allow me to really like it. ‘The Shoebox’ gives nuggets of advice amid a light ensemble of acoustic instruments, but the aesthetic far outweighs the message in the lyrics. Likewise was the title-track and second #1 hit.  ‘The Man I Want To Be’ has a stone-country sound, with fiddles, steel, and even a light honky tonk piano thrown in; but here, the narrator is asking God to make him into a ‘better man’, the ‘man he wants to be’, never giving any glimpse into the man he is or why he wants to change.

The Man I Want To Be won’t go down as a landmark release for Chris Young outside its opening the door to mainstream success, but it proves another young man to be able and ready to “just try those shoes on”, as Alan Jackson might say. Nobody can fill ’em, but I think Chris Young has what it takes to try them on for size.

Grade: C+