My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Charlie Chase

Honky Tonk Angels and Texas Troubadours, a look at Loretta Lynn’s singing partners

In the mid 1980s, Dolly Parton came up with the idea of an album pairing herself with her contemporaries Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.  But for one reason or another, it just never came together for nearly a decade.   Finally, during the country boom of the early 90s, the project came to life. Produced by Dolly Parton and Steve Buckingham, Honky Tonk Angels was a celebration of the sounds of yesterday and a less-than-subtle reminder of the abundance of talent being overlooked by country radio at the time. One single from the album stalled at #68 on the country singles chart in 1993 (a second failed to chart at all), but the album itself would land at #6 on the sales-based albums chart, and would go on to be certified gold, proving the continued demand for legendary stars.

Honky Tonk Angels opens with a graceful take on ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’, the song that made Kitty Wells a star.  Kitty is even featured as a vocalist here in the song’s second verse, and provides harmony for the rest of the track, to great effect.  Another country female vocalist standard, ‘I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know’, originally a hit for the Davis Sisters, is given the rootsy treatment of a scaled back arrangement and resonant harmonies.  Wells isn’t the only star to make a guest appearance on the album.  Patsy Cline’s vocal is added electronically to a cover of ‘Lovesick Blues’, allowing the departed songstress to take the lead vocal while the trio of Parton, Lynn, and Wynette provide harmony vocals as well as a few cat calls and ad-libs to give the track a live feel.

A music video was made for the punchy version of ‘Silver Thread and Golden Needles’ to promote the album, featuring a veritable who’s who of Music City and beyond as potential suitors turned away by the ladies.  You’ll see Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Chase, Ralph Emery, Bill Anderson, Jim Nabors, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Stuart, and Ronnie Milsap all make cameo appearances.  Chet Atkins is the only visitor finally allowed in. A rousing version of the country-gospel standard ‘Wings of a Dove’, originally a hit for Ferlin Husky in 1960, provides some of the disc’s best harmony moments.

All three contribute an original song here as well.  Loretta offers up the optimistic ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great’ while Tammy contributes ‘That’s The Way It Would Have Been’, a melancholy tale of chances lost and unrequited love.  Dolly’s song is the gospel-tinged ‘Let Her Fly’, a song mourning the death of her mother, but celebrating her reunion with God.  Such is the spirit of Dolly Parton, and all three of these exceptional women, and their three sole-compositions tell you volumes about them, just as the maker intended.  Closing with another country standard, an updated take on Tex Ritter’s ‘I Dream of a Hillbilly Heaven’, complete with recitations and plenty of shout-outs.

In true form, all three legendary ladies deliver the goods on Honky Tonk Angels, and offer their own unique input to the sound and the material.  This provides not only an album of traditional country music listening pleasure, but a lesson in how to do it from the architects of the modern country music sound.

Read more of this post