My Kind of Country

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

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Album Review: Doug Stone – ‘Doug Stone’

dougstoneReleased towards the end of the New Traditionalist movement, Doug Stone’s eponymous debut is his best and most traditional album. The Epic album was produced by Doug Johnson and featured top-notch songs and an impressive roster of musicians including Mark O’Connor, Mac McAnally, and Paul Franklin. The album’s first single was the superb country weeper “I’d Be Better Off (In A Pine Box)”, an indulgent tale of self-pity written by Johnny MacRae and Steve Clark. Songs like this are the reason many people dislike country music, but they are also the reason so many of us love it so passionately. Stone knocked it out of the park on his first try; although he released many songs after this that I thoroughly enjoyed, nothing ever matched this masterpiece. It peaked at #4 but deserved to go to #1, and I’ve often thought it might have become a top charter if it had been held back and released after Stone had built up some name recognition, instead of being the first out of the box. But chart position aside, it’s a great record.

The rest of the album is almost as good. Doug’s follow-up single “Fourteen Minutes Old” is another break-up song despite its uptempo arrangement. Written by Dennis Knutson and A.L. “Doodle” Owens, it topped out at #6. The Harlan Howard tune “These Lips Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye”, another favorite of mine, fared slightly better by reaching #5. Stone finally reached #1 with the album’s fourth and final single, “In A Different Light”, which was written by the great Bob McDill along with Dickey Lee and Bucky Jones. It is the album’s least traditional song, but its biggest hit, perhaps foreshadowing country music’s imminent shift back to a more pop-oriented sound. It also allowed Stone to showcase his skills as a balladeer and it cast the template for many of his future hits.

I’ve often second-guessed record label choices for singles, but in the case of this album I think that Epic got it right. The album’s remaining songs are good, but not as strong as the ones sent to radio. “Turn This Thing Around” is not quite as good as Keith Whitley’s version from the year before. “High Weeds and Rust”, my least favorite song here, was later covered by its songwriter David Lee Murphy. Producer Doug Johnson’s “We Always Agree On Love” isn’t quite as strong as the rest of the album, but I really liked Randy Boudreux’s “My Hat’s Off To Him” and “It’s A Good Thing I Don’t Love You Anymore” by Bobby P. Barker and Keith Palmer.

I was still in college when this album was released and it certainly does not seem like nearly a quarter of a century has passed since then. In listening to the album again, though, it’s age is sometimes betrayed by the electronic keyboard arrangements, which were considered cutting-edge at the time but seem quite dated today. Thankfully, producer Doug Johnson avoided being too heavy-handed with them, and they are not as intrusive as the keyboard arrangements on other records of the era. It is however, the album’s sole flaw, albeit a minor complaint overall. Albums this good were not uncommon in the early 90s, and thus were sometimes easy to take for granted. This one is especially worth dusting off and listening to again, particularly for those fans who have become disillusioned with the current state of mainstream country. Inexpensive copies of Doug Stone are easy to find.

Grade: A

Spotlight Artist: Doug Stone

Doug StoneDoug Stone was born Douglas Jackson Brooks in Marietta, Georgia, on 19 June 1956, and he grew up in Newnan, Georgia (also home town for Alan Jackson). His mother, a singer, taught him to play guitar as a child, and as a child performer he once opened for Loretta Lynn. A high school dropout, through his teens and 20s he worked as a mechanic while playing clubs in Georgia, and he was over 30 by the time he signed a deal with Epic Records in 1989. It was at this point that in order to avoid comparison with another new artist, Garth Brooks, Doug adopted the stage name Stone. Producer Doug Johnson was instrumental in Stone getting that deal, and he went on to work with him on his best recordings.

It had taken years to get to that stage, but now his success was immediate. His debut single, the modern classic ‘I’d Be Better Off (In A Pine Box)’ reached the top 5 on the Billboard country chart and won the singer a Grammy nomination. It propelled his debut album to platinum certification, and a string of hit singles followed. His soaring honey-tinged voice was particularly effective on big ballads, but he was able to root them in the neotraditional style of the early 90s.

Major heart surgery in 1992, a heart attack in 1995, a stroke in 1996 and other serious health issues contributed to his career not progressing quite as strongly as it might have done, but he still enjoyed a number of hits on Epic and sister label Columbia in the early to mid 90s. After his career slowed down, he recorded for Atlantic and then several independent labels.

It is a few years since he was last in the recording studio, but he is still actively touring. Like many country stars, he has also tried some acting, most prominently starring in Disney’s family friendly Gordy in 1995.

His personal life was at times as troubled as his physical health, with a documented problem with alcohol, several failed marriages and difficult relationships with his children. However, the best of his music stands as some of the best of the 1990s. Over the course of this month, we will examine his career to date.

Week ending 8/24/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

Doug+Stone1953 (Sales): Hey Joe!— Carl Smith (Columbia)

1953 (Jukebox): It’s Been So Long — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): It’s Been So Long — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1963: Ring of Fire — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1973: Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man — Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn (MCA)

1983: Love Song — The Oak Ridge Boys (MCA)

1993: Why Didn’t I Think Of That — Doug Stone (Epic)

2003: It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere — Alan Jackson with Jimmy Buffett (Arista)

2013: Cruise — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

2013 (Airplay): Don’t Ya — Brett Eldredge (Atlantic)

Week ending 2/9/13: #1 singles this week in country music history

dougstone1953 (Sales): Eddy’s Song — Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1953 (Jukebox): I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes — Goldie Hill (Decca)

1953 (Disc Jockeys): I’ll Go On Alone — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1963: The Ballad of Jed Clampett — Flatt & Scruggs (Columbia)

1973: She Needs Someone To Hold Her (When She Cries) — Conway Twitty (Decca)

1983: Inside — Ronnie Milsap (RCA)

1993: Too Busy Being In Love — Doug Stone (Epic)

2003: 19 Somethin’ – Mark Wills (Mercury)

2013: Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain) — Gary Allan (MCA)

2013 (Airplay): Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain) — Gary Allan (MCA)

Week ending 2/11/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: Give Me More, More, More of Your Kisses — Lefty Frizzell (Columbia)

1962: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1972: One’s On The Way — Loretta Lynn (Decca)

1982: Lonely Nights — Mickey Gilley (Epic)

1992: A Jukebox With a Country Song — Doug Stone (Epic)

2002: Good Morning Beautiful — Steve Holy (Curb)

2012: You — Chris Young (RCA)

Week ending 2/4/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: Give Me More, More, More of Your Kisses — Lefty Frizzell (Columbia)

1962: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1972: Carolyn — Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1982: The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known) — Juice Newton (Capitol)

1992: A Jukebox With a Country Song — Doug Stone (Epic)

2002: Good Morning Beautiful — Steve Holy (Curb)

2012: I Don’t Want This Night to End — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

Week ending 5/28/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: I Want To Be With You Always — Lefty Frizzell (Columbia)

1961: Hello Walls — Faron Young (Capitol)

1971: I Won’t Mention It Again — Ray Price (Columbia)

1981: Seven Year Ache — Rosanne Cash (Columbia)

1991: In A Different Light — Doug Stone (Epic)

2001: Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You — Brooks & Dunn (Arista)

2011:Heart Like Mine — Miranda Lambert (Columbia)

Album Review: Diamond Rio – ‘Love A Little Stronger’

The success of Diamond Rio’s first album caused the band to return to the studio to record the follow-up a little sooner than they would have liked. By their own admission, Close To The Edge was a somewhat rushed affair, though I thought it was an enjoyable album. It achieved gold status, but that was considered somewhat of a failure in the early 90s, especially after following a platinum debut. As a result, the band took more time in recording their third album, Love A Little Stronger, which was released in July 1994, nearly two years after Close To The Edge’s release.

Love A Little Stronger was produced by Tim DuBois and Monty Powell, as Diamond Rio’s first two albums had been. This time, however, they were joined by another co-producer, Mike Clute. The title track was the first single released, and it was also the album’s biggest hit, peaking at #2. It was the band’s first trip into the Top 10 since the previous year’s “Oh Me, Oh My Sweet Baby” topped out at #5. Written by Chuck Jones, Billy Crittenden and Gregory Swint, “Love A Little Stronger” has a slightly more polished sound than the band’s previous work. The second single, a cover of Dennis Linde’s “Night Is Falling In My Heart” — one of my favorite Diamond Rio songs — also has some glossy production but it also allows the band to show off their impressive harmony skills. It reached #9 on the Billboard country singles chart.

Love A Little Stronger followed Close To The Edge’s pattern of producing two top ten hits followed by two lower-charting singles. “Bubba Hyde”, a somewhat hokey semi-novelty song about a straight-laced guy who undergoes a personality transformation on Friday nights, only made it to #16, while the excellent “Finish What We Started”, written by producer Monty Powell with Mike Noble, stalled out at #19. This one definitely deserved to chart higher.

The collection also includes some very good album cuts, such as “Into The Wild Blue Yonder”, which I would have released as a single in lieu of “Bubba Hyde”. “Into The Wild Blue Yonder” seems tailor-made for radio, but was perhaps overlooked because it was felt that radio would be more receptive to a more uptempo tune. “Gone Out Of My Mind” is one of those songs that has been recorded a number of times without ever becoming a big hit. It had previously been included as an album cut on Steve Wariner’s 1989 album I Am Ready. I still consider Doug Stone’s 1998 rendition to be the definitive version, but Diamond Rio’s take is quite good as well. “Appalachian Dream” follows the precedent established by Diamond Rio’s previous two albums, of including one instrumental track to allow the band to show off their picking skills. The album closes with the somewhat somber but quite enjoyable “Kentucky Mine”.

I’ve always been a casual Diamond Rio fan, and didn’t pay much attention to the band in the 90s, aside from what I heard from them on the radio. But as is often the case, the radio hits don’t tell the whole story. Love A Little Stronger is a solid collection, with no weak tracks aside from “Bubba Hyde”. Like the band’s eponymous debut album, it reached #13 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and earned platinum certification. It is still easy to find from vendors such as Amazon at reasonable prices.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Doug Stone – ‘Addicted To A Dollar’

Album Review: Steve Wariner – ‘I Am Ready’

During his six-year stint with MCA Records, Steve Wariner racked up an impressive eight #1 hits, and all of his single releases during that period made the Top 10, with the exception of “There For A While”, his final release for the label. But despite his success at radio, his album sales remained modest. By the time he signed with Arista in 1991, he was ready, as his debut album for the label boldly proclaimed, to finally take his career to the next level. He teamed up with Scott Hendricks and Tim DuBois, for I Am Ready, which sounds fresher and more energized than Steve’s last few albums for MCA.

Steve wrote or co-wrote half of the album’s ten songs, though the biggest hits were provided by outside songrwiters. First up was “Leave Him Out Of This”, a passionate plea to a lover to let go of the past. Written by Walt Aldridge and Susan Longacre, the steel guitar-drenched track with background vocals provided by Vince Gill, climbed to #6 in Billboard. It was succeeded by a cover of Bill Anderson’s 1960 hit “The Tips Of My Fingers”. The song had been recorded many times in the past. Anderson’s original version had peaked at #7. In 1963, Roy Clark resurrected it and took it to #10, and in 1975 Jean Shepherd took it to #16. Steve’s version, like Eddy Arnold’s 1966 rendition, reached #3. It’s my favorite track on the album and the best single of Wariner’s career. “A Woman Loves” didn’t score quite as high, peaking at #9, but it is probably the best remembered track from this collection, thanks to a lot of recurrent airplay.

Two more singles were released — the presumably autobiographical or at least semi-autobiographical “Crash Course In The Blues” and the beautiful but not radio-friendly ballad “Like A River To The Sea”. Both singles peaked in the 30s. Steve had a hand in writing both, and was in fact the sole writer of “Like A River To The Sea”. Both tracks also allowed him to show off his guitar-playing skills.

Over the years, Steve’s music has had a tendency to lean strongly towards adult contemporary at times. By and large this is not the case with I Am Ready, with the exception of “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right”, a very generic and nondescript number that is the weakest link in this collection. The others, such as the opening track “On My Heart Again” to “When Will I Let Go” are solid mainstream 90s country, though “My, How The Time Don’t Fly” is a bit on the bland side.

The underrated gem in this collection is “Gone Out Of My Mind”, a new-at-the-time number that sounds like it hails from a bygone era. Written by Bob Morrison, Gene Dobbins and Michael Huffman, it is the most traditional song on the album. It was covered by Doug Stone in 1998 for the multi-artist collection Tribute To Tradition, but sadly, it failed to crack the Top 40. I prefer Doug’s version to Steve’s, but this is a beautiful song no matter who is singing it, the type of song that made me fall in love with country music.

Country music in the early 90s was just beginning to flex its commercial muscle, and Steve like most other artists who were still getting radio airplay at the time, benefited from the rising tide. After 13 years as a major label recording artist, he finally scored a gold album. The fact that an album that only reached #28 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart could sell 500,000 units is a somewhat grim reminder of how much stronger country album sales were 20 years ago than they are now.

I Am Ready
is Steve Wariner at his very best. If there is only room for one of his studio albums in your collection, this is the one to get. It is still easy to obtain from Amazon and used copies are very inexpensive.

Grade: A

I bet you’re in a bar, listening to a country song …

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved country music. I’ll admit that I wandered into the genre in the 1990s, like most, a fairweather fan of hugely popular acts, and didn’t know anything about its past. It wasn’t long before country music, with its charm, simplicity, and oh-so-relatable themes had won me over completely. I’ve since spent a great amount of my time listening to and learning the makings of and history of country music. Likewise, I’ve began to love every cliche’ image commonly found in the country song, and I’ve made it a point to familiarize myself, at least to some degree, with everything from the neon signs of the smoke-filled barrooms to the wide open fields and even the prison cells.

Luckily, I’ve had no experience with prison cells (except what I see on Lockdown), and though I have enjoyed the view, I’ve not spent any great amount of time in corn fields either. No, my time under the country music atmosphere has mostly been spent at any number of watering holes on the east side of the Mississippi River. I can honestly say I know just how great it feels to plant your tired ass on a bar stool and order up a remedy for your broken heart. As any of my friends will tell you, the first thing I like to do upon arrival in a new city is to go visit their various restaurants and pubs. And then, after some sight-seeing or event-going, I’m usually the first one ready to sample the liquor at a different establishment the next night. I enjoy people, I enjoy socializing, and without sounding too god-awful pretentious, the modern-day bar scene is really the last bastion of the kind of face-to-face networking and general person to person contact that has all but vanished from society. How much of your contact with other people is limited to your time behind a screen, be it computer or cell phone?

For that reason alone, the occasion of listening to a great song with a room full of friends and strangers is a satisfying feeling. At least it is to me. But I’ve also found that atmosphere affects your listening experience, sometimes to the point that it can color your like or dislike for certain sounds and lyric combinations. Some songs just sounds better in different places. This is why I always stay put in those clubs that have elected to provide one of those dandy TouchTunes jukeboxes, instead of the now-standard karaoke deejay. Lately I’ve noticed there’s usually only a handful of us brave enough to risk alienating themselves to the entire room by taking the long walk over to that screen and choosing a handful of songs. I could categorize us, but I won’t. Depending on where we’ve stumbled into, I’m still likely to find another protege of Alan Jackson’s instructions to not rock the jukebox.

The American Legion’s Post 471 in Portsmouth, OH has an excellent club right downstairs from their meeting house. Now, most weekends, you’ll find the locals belting out the hits themselves, but if you go in on a weekday, you’re likely to find a nice little lady playing country sounds on that digital jukebox. And you’re just as likely to see me standing in line, dollar bills in hand, behind her waiting my turn to fill the room with my own favorite country songs, and even a few that aren’t so country. But they fit my mood at the time, so they work just as well as my country standards. On my most recent outing, I decided to jot down the songs I was playing on the old jukebox and wondered if everybody has pet songs to play on the jukebox, or just to a room full of people in general. I know I like to show off what I consider my own good taste in music, and I’ll bet you do too. Here’s what I played this week:

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Album Review: George Jones – ‘Step Right Up 1970-1979: A Critical Anthology’

George had become disillusioned with Pappy Daily’s business practices. His marriage to Tammy Wynette in 1969 encouraged him to make the momentous decision to move to her label Epic, and to co-opt her producer Billy Sherrill. George was forced to buy himself out of his Musicor contract, but it was money well spent, even though his chart record remained somewhat inconsistent. George’s move to Epic saw him at the peak of his vocal prowess, married to Billy Sherrill’s smooth, Nashville Sound production.

This superb compilation contains six of George’s last tracks for Musicor, and over 20 of the finest tracks he recorded in his first eight years on Epic. These were the years of his troubled marriage to and divorce from Tammy Wynette, and the years his intensifying battles with drugs and alcohol earned him the inglorious nickname ‘No Show Jones’ and saw his health break down, but in the studio George Jones was creating magic and leading up to what many will call his finest moment on record. Step Right Up mixes classic hits with some well-chosen lesser known album cuts. The material is almost uniformly great here, concentrating on the sad songs at which George Jones has always excelled. Vocally George does not put a foot wrong, although some aspects of the production, mainly the backing vocals, now sound a little dated. The only reason to debate whether this album is worth buying is whether you might not try to get hold of the constituent albums, at least some of which are available on CD reissues.

George’s first single of the 70s, as he approached the end of his time with Musicor, was ‘Where Grass Won’t Grow’, a bleak, echoey tale of rural poverty in Tennessee,

Trying to grow corn and cotton on ground so poor that grass won’t grow

culminating in the death of the protagonist’s wife, buried in that same soil. The song, written by George’s old friend and drinking partner Earl Montgomery, was perhaps too downbeat to chart higher than the lower reaches of the top 30, but its quality led it to become regarded as a classic Jones record.

The exquisite expression of emotional devastation in ‘A Good Year For The Roses’ (written by Jerry Chestnut) is one of George’s most masterly vocal performances, reaching #2 on Billboard.

A handful of less well-known late Musicor cuts are also included. The tender steel-laced ballad of love for the protagonist’s motherless child, ‘She’s Mine’, co-written by George with Jack Ripley, was a top 10 hit. Slightly less successful, peaking at #13, was a great Dallas Frazier/Sanger D Shafer composition ‘Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong’, in which George manfully tries to pretend everything’s alright and his wife isn’t cheating on him, unusually featuring the Jones Boys’ backing. Another Dallas Frazier song (this time with A L Owens), ‘She’s As Close As I Can Get To Loving You’, has another great lead vocal, but is marred by excessive Nashville Sound backing vocals. Wayne Kemp’s ballad ‘Image Of Me’ has the protagonist confessing his shame that he has “dragged down” a simple old-fashioned country girl and made her into a honky-tonk angel, with another very fine vocal performance. Earl Montgomery’s ‘Right Won’t Touch A Hand’, a passionate confession of regret for jealousy which destroyed a relationship, was yet another top 10 hit in 1971.

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Classic Rewind: Doug Stone – ‘I’d Be Better Off In a Pine Box’

This was one of the first country songs I remember really loving.  Somehow the melody just sucked me in and I didn’t even know how dark the lyrics really were until I was much older.  There are lots of 90s country songs like that for me, those I memorized and then later learned what they meant.  One of my favorite things about this video is the audience is made of country music legends – you’ll see Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Bill Anderson, Janie Fricke, John Conlee, Little Jimmy Dickens, and many more – and they are all in the moment, enjoying the song.   I’m right there with ’em.

Album Review: Kim Williams – ‘The Reason That I Sing’

williamskimI’ve mentioned before that I always enjoy hearing songwriters’ own interpretations of songs which they have written for other artists. The latest example comes from Kim Williams, a name you should recognize if you pay attention to the songwriting credits. Kim has been responsible for no fewer than 16 number 1 hits, and many more hit singles and album tracks over the past 20 years. Now he has released an album containing his versions of many of his big hits, together with some less familiar material.

The album is sub-titled Country Hits Bluegrass Style, although the overall feel of the record is more acoustic country with bluegrass instrumentation provided by some of the best bluegrass musicians around: Tim Stafford (who produces the set) on guitar, Ron Stewart on fiddle and banjo, Adam Steffey on mndolin, Rob Ickes on dobro, and Barry Bales on bass, with Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford providing harmony vocals. Kim’s voice is gruff but tuneful, and while he cannot compare vocally to most of those who have taken his songs to chart success, he does have a warmth and sincerity which really does add something to the songs he has picked on this album.

Kim includes three of the songs he has written for and with Garth Brooks, all from the first few years of the latter’s career. ‘Ain’t Going Down (Til The Sun Comes Up’), a #1 for Garth in 1993, provides a lively opening to the album, although it is one of the less successful tracks, lacking the original’s hyperactivity while not being a compelling or very melodic song in its own right. ‘Papa Loved Mama’ is taken at a slightly brisker pace than the hit version, and is less melodramatic as a result – neither better nor worse, but refreshingly different. ‘New Way To Fly’, which was recorded by Garth on No Fences, also feels more down to earth and less intense than the original, again with a very pleasing effect.

The other artist whose repertoire is represented more than once here is Joe Diffie. The lively western swing of ‘If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets’ (written with Ken Spooner) with its newly topical theme of being well and truly broke is fun. Although ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ (from the 1992 album Regular Joe) was never released as a single, this tender ballad about separation from a loved one has always been one of my favorite Joe Diffie recordings. Kim’s low-key, intimate version wisely avoids competing vocally, but succeeds in its own way.

One of my favorite hit singles this decade was ‘Three Wooden Crosses’, a #1 hit for Randy Travis in 2002, which Kim wrote with Doug Johnson. A movie based on the story is apparently in development. I still love Randy’s version, but while Kim is far from the vocalist Randy is, this recording stands up on its own terms, with an emotional honesty in Kim’s delivery which brings new life to the story.

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Album Review: Skip Ewing – The Hits Vol I

skipewingRemember Skip Ewing? He was briefly a star in his own right, scoring four top 10 country hits in 1988-1989. When his singing career fizzled out in the 1990s, he turned to life as a professional songwriter, and this proved to be a great career decision. Skip has had several hundred cuts by other artists, many of them big hits. He hasn’t recorded for over a decade, apart from playing Reba McEntire’s duet partner on the radio version of ‘Every Other Weekend’ (one of his own compositions), and a rather odd-sounding album for children.

He has now released this album, apparently the first of three along similar lines. It is not a conventional Greatest Hits album, rather it contains a mixture of re-recordings of his early hits and his own versions of songs made famous by others. Skip is not one of the outstanding vocalists, but his voice has an urgency and commitment which is very effective, and a very listenable tone. Musically, he was never a hardcore traditional artist, but his style is what I would categorize the acceptable face (or sound) of pop-country, with production which is never too heavy.

The retreads of his own hits both come from Skip’s excellent debut album, The Coast Of Colorado, released in 1988 on MCA. This is no longer commercially available, but it may be possible to find used copies. (Notable tracks include the first versions of some of Skip’s best songs – the desperately sad ‘Autumn’s Not That Cold’, subsequently recorded to great effect by Lorrie Morgan, and the more measured regret of ‘A Lighter Shade Of Blue’, which has been covered by both Reba McEntire and Shelby Lynne). The urgent, pop-leaning ‘Your Memory Wins Again’ was Skip’s debut single, which reached #17; this is probably the track I enjoyed least on the original record, and is only okay here. Infinitely better is the excellent story song, ‘The Gospel according To Luke’, which squeezed into the top 10 in 1989. This track is preceded by a spoken introduction explaining the inspiration behind the song.

I have always been interested in hearing songwriters tackling their own material, since even if they are not as good technical singers as the artist who brought the song to a wider audience, they can sometimes bring a unique personal connection to the song. Excellent examples here are Skip’s treatment of two songs which provided Bryan White with enormous hits in the 90s, ‘Someone Else’s Star’ and ‘I’m Not Supposed To Love You Anymore’. The hit versions were a little too melodramatic for me, but Skip brings an intimate reading which makes them sound like new (and great) songs. I was surprised to find these ended up being my favorite tracks on this release (with ‘The Gospel According To Luke’), closely followed by ‘Love, Me’. Skip can’t challenge Collin Raye’s vocal on the latter song, but his version is nonetheless immensely engaging. This is an instance where the song’s original inspiration by Skip’s own family means his recording has a real emotional authenticity.

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