My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Burt Reynolds

Album Review: Tammy Wynette – ‘Heart Over Mind’

515m5b-5vol-_ss500There comes a point in even the most respected and revered artist’s career when the hits stop coming. Tammy Wynette’s commercial success began tapering off in the 1980s. 1985’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, a duet with Mark Gray, was her last Top 10 record. 1987’s Higher Ground found her embracing the New Traditionalist movement. That disc spawned two Top 20 hits. 1989’s Next To You was in many ways a throwback to the style for which she was known in the 1960s and 1970s. Neither of that album’s two singles reached the Top 40. Wynette never stopped trying to get back to the top of the charts, and her label, to its credit, stuck by her. 1990’s Heart Over Mind, produced by Bob Montgomery, was an attempt to modernize her sound without sacrificing the element that made her identifiable and unique. And for a brief moment, it appeared that the strategy might actually work.

The album’s lead single “Let’s Call It a Day Today” was one of those tear-jerkers that Tammy sang like no one else could. It finds her packing her things and plotting her escape from a floundering marriage while her soon-to-be ex sleeps. Her voice was showing some signs of age, but the production was contemporary and fresh. And country radio, which had ignored her last several releases, seemed to be paying attention. I heard the record quite a lot on my local station when it was first released. Unfortunately, it soon lost its momentum and topped out at #57. The songs lyrics make reference to the couple’s children and imply that Wynette is taking them with her, but the video which was directed by Tammy’s former lover interest Burt Reynolds, shows her leaving them behind, casting her in a slightly less sympathetic vein.

The second single “I’m Turning You Loose” is a light-hearted uptempo kiss-off written by Sonny Throckmorton and Curly Putman. It failed to chart. The third and final single “What Goes With Blue” is another uptempo number which finds Tammy picking out a wardrobe as she prepares to re-enter the dating scene. It charted at #56. It is the fourth song on the album and I’ve always thought of it as the follow-up to the story told in the album’s third track, “Suddenly Single”, a ballad which finds Tammy still picking up the pieces following a break-up.

Although it produced no hits, Heart Over Mind is a consistently strong effort from beginning to end, from the bouncy title track to “Half the Way Home”, a poignant look back at al lifelong friendship, and “If You Were The Friend”, which finds Tammy agonizing over whether to tell her best friend that her husband is cheating on her, and wondering what the friend would do if the situation were reversed.

Heart Over Mind was valiant effort to regain Wynette’s commercial momentum, but sadly it confirmed for once and for all that radio was through with her. With the exception of “Where’s The Fire”, which is ill-suited for Tammy’s voice, there are no missteps. Although she continued to record until almost the end of her life, this was her final solo album. Her subsequent releases were all collaborative efforts: 1993’s Honky Tonk Angels teamed her up with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, 1994’s Without Walls found her singing with a variety of guest artists from both within and outside the country music community, and 1995’s One reunited her with George Jones. Epic also released a three disc boxed set, Tears of Fire, in 1992 to commemorate Wynette’s 25 years with the label. None of the tracks from Heart Over Mind were included, and it’s highly likely that this album was overlooked by some fans. It’s well worth a listen if you’ve missed it.

Grade: A

Advertisements

Favorite Country Songs Of The 80s: Part 6

Here are some more songs from the 1980s that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records:

Memory Machine“– Jack Quist
This 1982 song about a jukebox reached #52. I don’t know anything about Jack Quist other than that he originally was from Salt Lake City, but I am familiar with the song’s writer Ted Harris as he wrote such classics as “Paper Mansions” and “Crystal Chandeliers”.

eddie rabbittOn Second Thought” – Eddie Rabbitt
Released in 1989, this song peaked at #1 in early 1990. This was Eddie’s most traditional sounding hit and my favorite of all of Eddie’s recordings.

Don’t It Make Ya Wanna Dance” – Bonnie Raitt
This song was from the soundtrack of Urban Cowboy and reached #42.

Right Hand Man” – Eddy Raven

Eddy had sixteen consecutive top ten records from 1984-1989. This song is my favorite although it only reached #3. Eddy would have five #1 records during the decade with “Joe Knows How To Live” and “Bayou Boys” being the biggest hits.

She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft)” – Jerry Reed
There are few artists that could get away with recording a song with such a title but Jerry Reed was that one of a kind who could. The song reached #1 in 1982, one of Jerry’s few #1 records. There are those who consider Jerry to have been the best guitar player ever (Chet Atkins among them). Jerry passed away a few years ago perhaps depriving the genre of its greatest all-around talent.

Read more of this post

Country Heritage Redux: Dick Feller

An expanded and updated version of an article originally published by The 9513.

About eight years ago I was attending a performance by the late great Vermont singer/songwriter Bernie Whittle when he launched into “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore.” I wasn’t familiar with the song but it seemed to me that it could have come from the pen of only one writer – Dick Feller. A little research confirmed my assumption.

Dick Feller was never a big recording star, but during the 1970s he provided numerous hits for other people. Possessed of rare wit and sensitivity (a product of his rural Missouri upbringing), Feller could write poignant ballads and novelties with equal facility. For a period of time, he was a staff writer for Johnny Cash. Prior to that, he was the touring band leader/lead guitarist for Warner Mack. He even played lead guitar on most of his own recordings and appeared as guitarist on sessions by a number of other artists, including Mel Tillis and Mike Auldridge. From my exposure to Dick’s guitar playing, I rate him just barely below the Chet Atkins class as a fingerpicker guitarist.

Among Feller’s serious songs, John Denver hit with “Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)” (#10 Country / #36 Pop), Johnny Cash had success with “Any Old Wind That Blows” (#3 Country) and “Orleans Parish Prison” (#52 Country), and Ferlin Husky recorded “A Room For A Boy – Never Used,” (#60 Country) a song that should have been a much bigger hit than it was.

I’m not sure whether to classify Dick’s biggest copyright as serious or humorous, but there are few songs more familiar than “East Bound and Down,” a huge country hit (#1 Cashbox /#2 Billboard) for co-writer Jerry Reed that was featured in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit, and received continuous play by country bands everywhere for at least the next 25 years. I know of at least 33 cover versions, most recently by the Road Hammers.

Despite his facility with the serious songs, Dick Feller seemed to prefer looking at the humorous side of life with his music. Songs such as “Lord, Mr. Ford” (a #1 Country hit for Jerry Reed) and “The Night Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel For Single Girls Burned Down” (a minor hit for Tex Williams) seemed more in keeping with that outlook.

He issued three albums during the 1970s with four songs charting on Billboards Country charts : “The Credit Card Song” (#10), “Makin’ The Best of A Bad Situation” (#11), “Biff, The Friendly Purple Bear” (#22 – a song that appeals to all ages), and “Uncle Hiram and the Homemade Beer” (#49). The first three saw some action on Billboards Pop charts, as well.

Feller mostly wrote on his own, but when he did co-write, it was usually with writers who shared his humorous outlook on life, such as Sheb Wooley (a/k/a Ben Colder), Jerry Reed and most notably the late, Atlanta humorist Lewis Grizzard. Dick toured with Grizzard and was the opening act for the “Evening With Lewis Grizzard” stage show. Their most notable musical collaboration was “Alimony,” a subject Grizzard knew well.

In addition to the aforementioned artists, Dick Feller’s songs have been recorded by a diverse group of artists that include Bobby Bare, The Kingston Trio, Ray Stevens, Earl Scruggs, Mac Davis, Lee Greenwood, Ed Bruce, Burt Reynolds, Julie Andrews, Arthur Godfrey, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Aaron Tippin, June Carter Cash and countless others.

Wouldn’t you love to hear Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley or George Strait tackle these lyrics:

I stepped out of the shower and I got a good look at myself
Pot bellied, bald-headed, I thought I was somebody else
I caught my reflection in the mirror of the bathroom door
I just don’t look good naked anymore!

So… I’m goin upstairs and turn my bedroom mirror to the wall
I hung it there back when I was trim and tall
I’d stand there and smile and flex and strut until my arms go sore
But I just don’t look good naked anymore!

From “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore”, available on Centaur Of Attention.

Discography

The Dick Feller discography is pretty slim but each album is filled with wry (and sometimes silly) humor, clever lyrics and songs full of profound thoughts, sometimes disguised as humor

VINYL
All vinyl, of course, is out of print but worth hunting down. To the best of my knowledge Dick Feller issued only four vinyl albums

Dick Feller Wrote… (United Artists, 1973)
No Word On Me (Elektra, 1974)
Some Days Are Diamonds (Elektra/Asylum, 1975)
Audiograph Alive (Audiograph, 1982)

DIGITAL
Centaur Of Attention (Cyberphonic, 2001)
Although originally released as a CD, it currently is available only as a digital download from http://www.cdbaby.com. The album contains versions of all four of Dick’s charted hits, plus some other humorous songs

Check out www.dickfeller.com for more information on Dick Feller.

Album Review: Dolly Parton – ‘Burlap & Satin’

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to reveal that this was the first Dolly Parton album I ever purchased. Though I’m not as enamored of it as I was back in 1983, I still have a soft spot for it which makes it a little hard for me to evaluate it with a critical ear. Nevertheless, I shall it give it my best shot.

As the title implies, this album was an attempt provide a balance between pop and country and to appeal to Dolly’s fans in both camps. After a series of mostly bland pop albums, Burlap & Satin was a partial return to a more country sound. There are six Parton original compositions in the collection, some of which had been written for the soundtrack of her recent film, 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. When none of the songs ended up being used for the film, Dolly decided to record them anyway and include them on her next album. The album’s sole single was the very pop-sounding “Potential New Boyfriend”, which was written by Steve Kipner and John Lewis Parker. There is nothing even remotely country about this track, with its typical heavy-handed 80s production. It seemed pretty cool back in 1983 but it hasn’t aged very well. Country radio wasn’t terribly impressed; the single barely cracked the Top 20 there, although it did do well on Billboard’s Dance chart, peaking at #13. After that, RCA seemed to lose interest in promoting the album and didn’t release any subsequent singles, which is a shame because there were several worthy candidates among the album cuts.

The upbeat “Jealous Heart”, one of the six tunes written by Dolly, is one of my favorites in this set and probably would have performed well as a single. Ditto for “One Of Those Days”, which, with its prominent steel guitar track is the most country-sounding offering here. “A Gamble Either Way” is an attempt to provide a back story for Miss Mona, the character Dolly played in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, while “A Cowboy’s Ways” was apparently meant for Burt Reynolds to sing in the film. The best track on the album, however, is the beautiful and underrated “Appalachian Memories”, which tells the story of a poor Appalachian farm family that moves north in search of a better life, only to find that the prospects there weren’t as bright as they had hoped. A slightly re-tooled version, retitled “Smoky Mountain Memories” appears on Dolly’s 1994 live album Heartsongs.

Not surprisingly, the satin portion of the album works less well than the burlap. Among the pop tunes included are the lyrically light opening cut “Ooo-Eee”, which is about as close to a song about nothing that I have ever heard, and a cover of the classic “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On.” The latter had been first released by Hank Locklin in 1949. That version failed to chart, but a 1958 re-recording made it to #5. Dolly’s version is very synthesizer-heavy, and her performance and that of the background singers provides a very dreamy, almost spacy kind of sound. It was apparently an attempt to make the country classic into a contemporary pop song, but it simply does not work. A cover of another country classic, a remake of “I Really Don’t Want To Know”, fares much better. Originally a pop hit in 1953 for Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Arnold’s version topped the country charts later that same year. The main instrument on Dolly’s version is the synthesizer, but it is much less intrusive than on “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On”, and does not sound particularly un-country by 1983 standards. Willie Nelson makes an appearance as Dolly’s duet partner. The two had scored a Top 10 hit the previous year when Willie’s vocal was added to “Everything’s Beautiful”, which Dolly had recorded for Monument Records some fifteen years earlier. The success of that single inspired them to join forces again for “I Really Don’t Want To Know.” They sound terrific together and it’s unfortunate that they didn’t do more duets together.

The album closes with the upbeat gospel tune “Calm On The Water”, which Dolly borrowed from a decade later when she wrote another gospel number “High and Mighty”, which was included on her 1993 album Slow Dancing With The Moon.

Burlap & Satin may have its flaws, but it is one of Dolly’s better efforts from an era which admittedly, is not representative of her best work. It was released on a 2-for-1 CD in Europe along with 1985’s Real Love. That version is now out-of-print but is available at obscene prices from third-party sellers on Amazon. Digital versions are available more economically from Amazon MP3 and iTunes.

Grade: B

Spotlight Artist: Dolly Parton

“Dolly Parton came from the mountains of Tennessee.  And she brought them with her.”  

That’s one of my favorite (and Dolly’s too) in the countless digs taken by the singer and scores of others over the years on the breadth of Dolly Parton’s famous figure.  Dolly wears the Smoky Mountains not just on her chest, but in her heart as well.  Even as she became one of the biggest stars in the world in the 1980s , and a pop culture icon, she has always remained a grounded, approachable country girl.  Recent years have seen her go back to her musical roots with a stunning trilogy of bluegrass albums, but not before she broke more chart and sales records than I can list here as one of the most consistent and best-selling mainstream country and pop stars of her generation.

Born Dolly Rebecca Parton, the fourth of twelve children to Avie and Robert Parton, on January 19, 1946, the young Dolly picked up her musical ambitions at an early age.  She began singing to a yard full of chickens and siblings by age 4, when she also began writing her first melodies and rhymes.  By age 9, she was appearing on a local Knoxville variety radio show, and by 13, had recorded her first single for the small Goldband Records, titled “Puppy Love”.  That record led to her first Opry appearance in 1959.  It would be another 5 years, following her high school graduation, before Dolly went to Nashville full-time to pursue her dreams.  There, she was signed to Fred Foster’s Monument label, primarily as a pop singer.  After having success as a songwriter on the country charts with “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” and “Fuel to the Flame” – both top 10 hits – Foster decided to pitch her to the country market.  Her first country singles didn’t blaze up the charts, but did get Music Row to talking about the curvaceous blonde with the bubbly personality and distinctive voice.

Through those first singles, Dolly caught the attention of country star Porter Wagoner, who at the time had his own syndicated network television show.  She joined the cast of The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967, where she earned her first taste of national recognition.  It was also through Porter that Dolly signed to RCA Records, her label home for the next 17 years.  By 1970, Dolly had scored 6 consecutive top 10 hits as Porter’s new duet partner, but was just beginning to blossom on her own.  A cover of Jimmie Rodger’s “Mule Skinner Blues” became her first solo top 10 that year, before she hit pay dirt with her own composition, “Joshua” going all the way to the top.  From there, Dolly began a run of hit singles that would continue for the next two decades.  But in 1974, she made the decision to exit Wagoner’s show, leaving the host more than disgruntled at her departure.  Wagoner later sued Parton for a sum of approximately $1 million.  In the midst of her leaving, Dolly penned one of the most hauntingly beautiful – and most successful – love songs of our time to tell Porter how she felt.  “I Will Always Love You” has since hit the top spot on the country charts twice for Parton, and was the most-played pop song of 1993, thanks to Whitney Houston’s recording.

Throughout the rest of the 1970s, Dolly continued to churn out hits.  In 1977, she changed management teams and set her sights on the bright lights of Hollywood and the recognition that comes with crossover hits.  True to her word, her first attempt at crossing over, the timeless “Here You Come Again” went to #3 on the pop charts and held a lock on the country top spot for a month.  The album it came from also became Dolly’s first platinum album, but she was far from finished with million-sellers or the pop charts.  She racked up 2 more top 40 pop hits as the 1970s became the ’80s, before releasing the biggest hit of her career so far with the title track to her first motion picture.  “9 to 5”  hit #1 all across the board, and also earned Dolly her first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (she would repeat this nomination in 2006, though she lost both times).

As the 1980s dawned, Dolly Parton was a household name, thanks in no small part to countless mentions on late night talk shows like Johnny Carson, where during one appearance the late night king opined “I’d give a year’s pay to peek under that sweater” to an absolutely giddy Parton in the guest chair.  Following her co-starring role in 9 to 5, alongside the incomparable Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, she would star with Burt Reynolds in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, with Sylvester Stallone in the universally panned Rhinestone in 1984, and then with a host of strong female leads like Julia Roberts, Sally Field, and Shirley MacLaine in 1989’s now-classic Steel Magnolias.  During this period, Dolly’s chart success became more spotty, but she was still racking up hits throughout the decade, and ended the ’80s one a strong note with her best album in ages, and a pair of #1 hits.

Relegated to the status of elder statesman by the ’90s boom, Dolly would continue releasing new music, and charted another chart-topper in 1992, in a duet with Ricky Van Shelton.  She continued to regularly release new music, though radio was becoming less and less interested in her singles.  A 1998 album of contemporary country sounds failed to chart any singles, and Dolly took a sabbatical from contemporary country for nearly a decade afterwards, turning her attention to bluegrass and remakes of patriotic songs as well as standards.  She returned to mainstream country in 2008 with the much-heralded Backwoods Barbie, though still didn’t garner much love from country radio.  A 2006 “duet” with Brad Paisley, where Parton’s vocals are limited to high-in-the-mix harmonies, earned her the final #1 of her career so far.  “When I Get Where I’m Goin'” became the 25th chart-topper of her career, a record at the time, and she is now tied with Reba McEntire as the female artist with the most career #1’s.

Building more than just a multimedia empire with her music and movies, Dolly has branched out in more venues than just about anyone else in show business.  In 1985, she opened her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Now in its 26th season, the park continues to grow and sees more than 2 million visitors annually.  She has also created the Imagination Library, which provides books to children from birth to age 5, in an effort to kickstart in them a love of reading the printed word.

Still busier than ever, Dolly recently wrote the music for a Broadway adaption of 9 to 5, which earned her first Tony nominations, and has just released her first new album in 3 years.  We’ll be looking over the many aspects of her storied career throughout July.  So keep reading as we explore the life and times of country music’s most beloved and most colorful character.