My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Eddie Miller

Album Review: Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen – ‘Bakersfield Bound’

chrishillmanAlthough not marketed as such, 1996’s Bakersfield Bound is, in many ways, a Desert Rose Band reunion album, as it finds Chris Hillman working with both Herb Pedersen and DRB steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness again. The music is decidedly more traditional and less commercial than anything that the Desert Rose Band ever attempted and that may be why Hillman and Pedersen avoided labeling it as such.

Despite its title and Hillman’s and Pedersen’s west coast roots, this is not, strictly speaking, a salute to the Bakersfield sound in the same vein as many of the tribute albums that have been released since Buck Owens died in 2006. There is a healthy dose of Bakersfield, to be sure, but there are plenty of non-Bakersfield influences as well. Hillman and Pedersen harmonize on the albums 13 tracks in ways that are in reminiscent at times of The Everly Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, and the Willburn Brothers as well as Buck Owens and Don Rich. The album’s first track “Playboy” was written by Eddie Miller, who was more famous for having written “There She Goes” for Carl Smith, “Thanks a Lot” for Ernest Tubb, and “Release Me” which was recorded by Kitty Wells and countless others. Hillman and Pedersen effectively channel The Louvin Brothers with an excellent cover of “My Baby’s Gone”. Also excellent is their version of “Lost Highway”, a 1948 composition by Leon Payne, which was most famously recorded by Hank Williams in 1949..

Perhaps the most surprising cover here is “Time Goes So Slow”, a beautiful waltz that was written by Skeeter Davis and Marie Wilson, which finds Herb Pedersen harmonizing at what has to be the very top of his register.

These songs aside, the meat and potatoes of this album are the Bakersfield tunes, which pay tribute to such legends as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Owens is saluted with covers of “He Don’t Deserve You Anymore”, “There Goes My Love”, and “Close Up The Honky Tonks”, which was written by Red Simpson. Haggard is represented by a cover of the Hank Cochran and Glenn Martin-penned “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)”. The album closes with two Hillman co-writes, “Just Tell Me Darlin'” and the title track.

This an outstanding album with impeccable song choices and excellent singing and picking throughout. It’s virtually impossible to select any favorite tracks, because they are all so good. It is a must-have for fans of Chris Hillman, The Desert Rose Band, and fans of roots music in general.

Grade: A+

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Album Review: Marty Stuart – ‘Tempted’

Marty Stuart’s second release for MCA was released in January 1991. Like its predecessor, Tempted was produced by Richard Bennett and Tony Brown, and contained a balance of some of Marty’s original compositions and some well-chosen covers that paid homage to country music’s past. It is a little less rockabilly-oriented than Hillbilly Rock, with more emphasis on harmonies and more prominent use of the steel guitar.

The first single “Little Things” was written by Marty and Paul Kennerley. It follows the same template as “Hillbilly Rock” and matched that song’s chart performance, peaking at #8. It was, in fact, Marty’s first Top 10 since “Hillbilly Rock” and his second Top 10 overall. He stumbled slightly with the next release, the ballad “Till I Found You”, which was written by Paul Kennerley and Hank DeVito. It just missed the Top 10, peaking at #12. I’ve always found the song a bit lacking in energy and it’s my least favorite track on the album. Much better is the title track, another Stuart-Kennerley composition, which reached #5, becoming Marty’s highest charting single as a solo artist. It is my favorite of all of Marty’s mainstream singles. “Burn Me Down”, a rockabilly number written by Eddie Miller was the album’s fourth and final single. It too reached the Top 10, topping out at #7.

With the exception of the title track, the real meat of this collection is in the album cuts. Most Stuart albums include a Johnny Cash tune, and Tempted is no exception. This time he chose to cover “Blue Train”. It is a decent performance but even those unfamiliar with the original will instantly recognize it as a Johnny Cash song. It just underscores how difficult it can be to put one’s own mark on an iconic figure’s song, though the intent seems to be to pay tribute to Cash, rather than to reinterpret his work. “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” which opens the album was written by Bill Monroe and Hank Williams and serves as notice to the listener that Marty Stuart was more than just a mere hillbilly rocker, with a deep respect for country music’s heritage. “Paint The Town Tonight” with its heavy emphasis on the Telecaster and steel guitar is a Stuart original composition that is reminiscent of Buck Owens. It really should have been released as a single. “Half a Heart” is a straightforward country number that is one of two tunes on which Marty collaborated with the then very popular songwriter Kostas. It too should have been released as a single. The album closes with the fiddle-led hoedown number “Get Back To The Country”, which surprisingly was written by Neil Young, a name not normally associated with traditional country music.

Tempted is the best of Marty’s major label efforts, with nine excellent tracks (“Till I Found You” is the only one that falls a bit short) and marks the peak of commercial success. It was his second gold album and the most well received by country radio. It is his only album to contain more than one Top 10 hit. Unfortunately, after “Burn Me Down” he would never again reach the Top 10 as a solo artist, although two collaborations with Travis Tritt did chart inside the Top 10. Tempted is easy to find and worthy of inclusion in any country music fan’s collection.

Grade: A

Album Review – Patsy Cline – ‘Walkin’ Dreams: Her First Recordings Volume One’

In 1989 Rhino Records licensed Patsy’s recordings for the Four Star label, and released three compilation albums. This first volume concentrates on her very earliest sessions, with thirteen songs recorded between 1955 and 1957, with one later track added on for contrast. The selection offers an intriguing glimpse into a young artist struggling to find her musical direction. The earliest cuts reveal Patsy’s hillbilly roots in a way her more sophisticated later work perhaps glosses over.

Much has been written criticising label boss Bill McCall, but one benefit resulting from Patsy signing with him was that she was teamed up with producer Owen Bradley right from the start, and her first sessions were at Bradley’s Quonset studio in Nashville. Less beneficially, she was restricted to songs published by Four Star, but that did not mean that her material was poor, even the songs credited to McCall himself under the pseudonym W S Stevenson (I understand that in many cases these copyrights were purchased from the real writers). Indeed, an early highlight is the opening track, recorded at Patsy’s very first recording session on June 1, 1955, ‘A Church, A Courtroom And Then Goodbye’, which is credited to Stevenson and Eddie Miller. This song was suggested for Patsy by Ernest Tubb, and is a very traditional country song typical of its period with prominent fiddle, recounting the sad tale of a hurried marriage followed by divorce. Even at this early stage of her career, it was clear that Patsy had a great voice, and a natural ability to convey emotion, as she declares,

I hate the sight of that courtroom
Where man-made laws push God’s laws aside

The B-side of that single, which was recorded at the same time, was the sprightly ‘Honky Tonk Merry Go Round’, with Patsy sounding as though she is biting back laughter despite a lost-love lyric. A third song recorded at this first session, another Miller/Stevenson credit to be released as a single, was the excellent cheating song, ‘Hidin’ Out’, with honky tonk piano.

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