My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Donny Lowery

Album Review: Alabama – ‘Feels So Right’

61l1zC9YGNL1981’s Feels So Right was Alabama’s fifth album overall and their second for RCA. The band once again co-produced the album with Harold Shedd and Larry McBride, the team that had made their major label debut album a runaway success. It sold more than 4 million copies — twice as many as the highly successful My Home’s In Alabama, and spawned three #1 country hits. It also found the band making inroads on the pop charts for the first time, with both the title track and “Love In The First Degree” landing in the pop Top 20. The latter has always been one of my favorite Alabama songs; I was just getting interested in country at the time and it was one of the few songs played on Top 40 radio that I could enjoy. I like the first single “Old Flame” slightly better, though. The most country-sounding of the three singles, it was written by Donny Lowery and Mac McAnally and was always one of the most popular numbers in the band’s live shows.

I have to admit that prior to preparing for this review, I had never heard an Alabama album all the way through. Although I enjoyed most of the band’s radio hits, I was more of an Oak Ridge Boys fan in those days and had limited financial resources for buying albums. My prep work has underscored that it’s almost always a good idea to dig a little below the surface beyond an act’s hit singles. Listening to the full album exposes another side to Alabama that is much more diverse than what could be heard from them on the radio. Always considered to be on the more progressive end of the country music spectrum, the album cuts are often more traditional, although there are also some cuts that were a little too Southern rock for country radio.

“Ride The Train”, written by Teddy Gentry, is a great number with a lot of fiddle and harmonica and great harmonies and far too country for country radio in 1981. “Woman Back Home” was also too traditional for a radio single in 1981, though it would probably have done well about a decade later, if given a chance. “Burn Georgia Burn” gives Teddy Gentry a turn to sing lead, and the Southern rock laced “See The Embers, Feel The Flame” gives Jeff Cook a chance to do the same. Both are very good vocalists and it’s a shame that neither got a chance to sing lead more often; I’ve always thought that groups that let more than one member sing lead, like The Statler Brother and The Oak Ridge Boys, were more interesting than those that featured the same lead singer every time.

The album has mostly stood the test of time well, although its age is occasionally betrayed by some of the production choices. Many of the tracks feature a string section, although they are relatively restrained for the most part. The album is less slickly produced than many from this era, with the exceptions of the tracks “Hollywood” and my least favorite track “Fantasy”, a late 70s-sounding number that sounds like it would have been a big hit for The Bee Gees.

Feels So Right, is by and large a very enjoyable album and a pleasant surprise that has shown me that I have a lot of work to do to catch up on what I’ve been missing out on for the past 35 years.

Grade: A

Album Review – Dan Seals – ‘Won’t Be Blue Anymore’

For 1985’s Won’t Be Blue Anymore, Dan Seals moved from Liberty to Capitol where he would record his next four albums. He retained producer Kyle Lehning, but brought in Paul Worley to assist this time around.  The results were spectacular, as Won’t Be Blue Anymore became Seals’ first #1 album, as well as his initial release to turn out three consecutive #1 singles, the beginning in a string of nine straight chart toppers.

Lead single “Meet Me In Montana” found Seals teaming up with Marie Osmond, who was enjoying a string of moderate success herself on Capitol/Curb at the time. Written by Paul Davis following a visit to Kalispell, Montana, his idea of the perfect place for a romantic rendezvous, the song was Seals’ first chart topper and Osmond’s second, after “Paper Roses” in 1973. It also won the pair CMA Duo of the Year honors in 1986. I love the simple elegance of the song, and Osmond’s gorgeous vocal. They play their individual parts perfectly.

Even more successful was the project’s sophomore single, Paul Davis and Jennifer Kimball’s “Bop,” a horn drenched number that also peaked at #42 on the U.S. Hot 100 and #10 on the Adult Contemporary charts. A testament to the song’s popularity, it won CMA Single of the Year honors despite some very formidable competition.  I’ve always enjoyed “Bop,” probably the campiest record not recorded by Dolly Parton at the time. The story of wanting to go dancing with your lady is timeless, as is Seals’ vocal, and they help offset the cheesy horns just enough to keep the track from feeling grating.

“Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold),” the third single, is by far the strongest of the three and perfectly showcases Seals in his signature acoustic style. Co-written by Seals and Bob McDill, “Glitters” wins because of its touching story, about the relationship between a father and daughter who are dealing with her absentee mother:

Little Casey she’s still growing and she’s started asking questions
And there’s certain things a man just doesn’t know
Her birthday came and you never even called
I guess we never cross your mind at all

Written by Seals, “Headin’ West” is an excellent dobro-accentuated bluegrass thumper that wouldn’t be out-of-place on Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged. It’s rare to hear such an upbeat track from Seals, and he pulls this style off with ease.  The title track, another Seals original, finds him channeling of the era Ricky Skaggs, with spectacular results. I love the inviting nature of the naked dobro opening, the way it exquisitely frames his straightforward vocal.  I also love John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road”, if only for the sinister sounding opening. The intriguing mystery of the shadowy opening music bed lends itself perfectly to the overall track and invites the listener in to hear the whole song.

Won’t Be Blue Anymore missteps in the middle, turning in mediocre variations on well-worn themes. “Your Love,” composed by Beckie Foster and Tommy Rocco, is a typical your-love-saved-me type ballad, while Wendy Waldman and Donny Lowery’s “You Plant Your Fields” is a boring ode to farm life.  “Still A Little Bit of Love,” from the pens of Jim Scott and Walker Inglehart, is the most pop-leaning track in both production and vocal performance, and while good, its only noteworthy for extrapolating a slick performance from the dobro. “So Easy To Need” is much the same, another good track, but nothing truly outstanding.

“City Kind of Girl” closes the album on a strong note, and uses the same guitar lick Rosanne Cash would employ on “If You Change Your Mind” from Kings Record Shop two years later. Written by Robert Gundry, “City Kind of Girl” is another age-old theme, country boy dating city girl, but Seals infuses it with sincerity, and his twangy vocal helps set it apart from the rest in this sub-genre.

Overall, Won’t Be Blue Anymore is a wonderful collection of songs and the first true showcase of Seals’ artistic excellence. A testament to Seals’ vision as an artist, most of these songs still hold up well today and unlike some of his previous solo efforts, this remains essential listening. The physical album is out of print, but easily available digitally.

Grade: A